Whenever the 1979 Steven Spielberg comedy "1941" comes up in conversation . . . which is, admittedly, not that often . . . a common complaint about the movie seems to be that, at nearly two hours, it's just too darn long.

An elaborate slapstick comedy that isn't as funny as it should be, "1941" features an ensemble cast that includes an array of familiar faces - John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Toshiro Mifune, Christopher Lee, etc. - in a story of wild panic in Los Angeles when a Japanese submarine is spotted off the Pacific coast during World War II.The film begins with Spielberg spoofing the opening scene of his first big hit, "Jaws." But mostly, "1941" is built around the destruction of huge sets, ranging from the downtown business district to a carnival on the pier. The climax, the film's final punch line, is the sight of Ned Beatty's house falling off a cliff. And all of this is accompanied by a rousing John Williams score, which seems to be spoofing John Philip Sousa.

While "1941" does have some bright comic moments (most provided by Belushi, who seems to be rehashing his character from "National Lampoon's Animal House"), there just aren't enough of them to sustain its 118-minute length.

It feels longer.

After a while, it's tiring to watch.

So what should come across my desk the other day but a press release from Universal Home Video announcing a videotape reissue of "1941" - a widescreen director's cut - that is even longer than the original. Would you believe, nearly 2 1/2 hours! (It arrives in stores on Feb. 3, retailing at $19.98.)

What's next? The director's cut of "Always"?

- WITH A SONG IN MY VCR . . . : We may be getting a new "1941," but we're losing "Kiss Me Kate," "The Pirate," "It's Always Fair Weather," the original "Jazz Singer" and a bevy of films starring Gene Kelly, Esther Williams, Mario Lanza, Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland, Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy films, etc.

MGM/UA Home Video has announced that it is placing some 100 classic musicals on moratorium (a fancy way of saying they are going "out of print").

This doesn't include the more wildly popular classics in the MGM musical library, of course: "Singin' in the Rain," "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," "On the Town," "An American in Paris" - most of the best-known titles will remain available.

But MacDonald-Eddy fans who haven't gotten around to purchasing "New Moon" or "The Girl of the Golden West," or Rooney-Garland fans who have yet to buy "Strike Up the Band" or "Girl Crazy" may be disappointed if they don't get them soon.

Why are they doing this? It's hard to say, but my cynical mind says there's only so much room on video store shelves these days, and MGM may be doing this to make room for newer video releases - those that the studio will have of its newer movies, now that the studio is back in the filmmaking business.

- STILL IN BONDAGE: Speaking of upcoming MGM/UA Home Video movies, what does the title of the new James Bond movie mean?

"Tomorrow Never Dies."

Does that mean yesterday does die?

Does it mean that the past is dead because it's over and done? And the future is alive because it's ahead of us?

Actually, the future isn't really alive until it gets here. So, "Tomorrow" isn't any more alive than "Yesterday."

Only "Now" is alive.

I'm getting a headache.

- GOING DOWN WITH THE SHIP: "Titanic" may be the most expensive movie of all time, but it is not the first to deal with the 1912 seafaring tragedy.

The first such film was released just a month after the disaster itself, a silent one-reeler called "Saved from the Titanic," starring an actual survivor, Dorothy Gibson.

More famous, however, are "Titanic," a good 1953 drama starring Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb, and the even better docudrama "A Night to Remember," a 1958 British film with Kenneth More. And just last year, a network TV movie starred George C. Scott . . . and seemed to go on forever.

The less said about the 1980 Jason Robards yarn "Raise the Titanic!" the better.

But if you plan to see James Cameron's new version, you'll definitely want to see it on the big screen. Something is likely to be lost when his "Titanic" goes to video.

- QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Michael Ironside, co-star of the ultraviolent sci-fi big-bug thriller "Starship Troopers":

"I don't think this is a violent film. And I'm a dove, I don't believe in violence or solving things with authority. But I do not identify with this world. If you think that this world is real and that those lives are actually being lost, then there's a problem. But I don't think that's a realistic situation.

" `The Killing Fields,' that's a violent film. This? This is an amusement park."

- QUOTE OF THE WEEK II: Sigourney Weaver, currently starring in the fourth "Alien" movie, "Alien Resurrection":

"Yes, I know I said I'd never do another one. But I was totally seduced by the script, which was quite brilliant. I was the most skeptical person in the world and I certainly didn't feel the need to go back and do something I'd done already, but this time what they presented to me was very different and very challenging."

- QUOTE OF THE WEEK III: Michelle Pfeiffer, whose most recent film was "A Thousand Acres," about the much-talked about possibility of a "Catwoman" movie, with Pfeiffer reprising her "Batman Returns" character:

"I just loved that character. She breaks just about every taboo that is instilled in women. There is a beauty and an elegance and a sexuality about this woman which at any moment could turn dangerous. I see her as a statement about women coming into their own power - she broke the rules.

"I'd love to do (a `Catwoman' movie). I've heard about it. I'd love to do it. I am just amazed by this woman."