Category Archives: 1959

Blu-Ray Review: Operation Petticoat (1959).

Directed by Blake Edwards
Screenplay by Stanley Shapiro and Maurice Richlin
From a story by Paul King and Joseph Stone
Cinematography: Russell Harlan, Clifford Stine
Film Editors: Ted Kent and Frank Gross

Cast: Cary Grant (Commander Matt Sherman), Tony Curtis (Lieutenant Nick Holden), Joan O’Brien (Nurse Dolores Crandell), Dina Merrill (Nurse Barbara Duran), Arthur O’Connell (Tostin),Virginia Gregg (Major Edna Heywood), Gavin MacLeod (Hunkle), Gene Evans, Marion Ross, Dick Sargent

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There was a time in the 70s and 80s when it seemed like Operation Petticoat (1959) was on TV every three minutes. It was perfect for a rainy Sunday afternoon. Who knows how many times I’ve seen it.

What’s interesting to me is, the script itself doesn’t seem all that funny. It depends on the appeal and natural humor of its cast — mainly the two leads, Cary Grant and Tony Curtis — to keep it going and make sure it’s actually funny. And at that, they certainly succeed.

Grant’s the commanding officer of the USS Sea Tiger, a brand new sub that has a very hard time getting into the war. Sunk by the Japanese before it’s ever really set sail, the Sea Tiger is pretty much written off till Grant convinces his superior officer to let him try to get it seaworthy. Grant ends up with an aide (Curtis) who turns out to be quite a scrounger — his cons and schemes provide what’s needed to get the sub ready to move on to Australia for more thorough repairs.

Along the way, a group of women are taken on as passengers (leading to the usual inconveniences), a shortage of primer results in the Sea Tiger being painted pink, and it’s almost sunk by the US Navy (the radio doesn’t work). And, of course, some of the sailors and nurses fall in love.

Believe it or not, much of what transpires in Operation Petticoat was based on real events — even the pink submarine.

The cast is terrific. Grant and Curtis are everything you’d expect. Joan O’Brien and Dina Merrill are quite good as some of the nurses who join the crew of the Sea Tiger. I love Virginia Gregg, who you’ll find in a ton of Dragnet episodes. Gavin MacLeod and Gene Evans are quite funny. And Marion Ross of Happy Days turns up.

There’s a funny scene with Tony Curtis trying to round up stuff for a New Year’s Eve party. He and Gavin MacLeod steal a pig from a villager, then have to pass it off as a sailor to fool MPs and get it on base. It’s every bit as silly as it sounds, but Curtis makes it work. Watch a few Tony Curtis movies from the 50s, and I promise you’ll come away impressed.

You’ll also be impressed with Olive Films’ Signature Edition of Operation Petticoat. The picture was shot in Eastman Color — it was going to be B&W, but when Cary Grant enlisted, color film stock and a few more dollars were added to the budget. Eastman Color can be an ugly thing, harsh-looking at times, but Olive keeps it in check. Grain is consistent, the blacks are strong and the 1.85 framing’s dead on — easily the best I’ve ever seen this movie look. It comes with a slew of extras — a commentary, interviews and more — everything you need to really wallow in this charming little service comedy. Recommended.

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Filed under 1959, Blake Edwards, Cary Grant, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Olive Films, Tony Curtis, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray News #176: The Wasp Woman (1959).

Directed by Roger Corman
Starring Susan Cabot, Anthony Eisley, Barboura Morris, William Roerick, Michael Mark, Lynn Cartwright

The Wasp Woman (1959) was produced and directed by Roger Corman and stars Susan Cabot and Anthony Eisley (who turns up in several episodes of Dragnet). It was written by character actor Leo Gordon. He’s not in it, but his wife Lynn Cartwright is. The budget was around $50,000. The Wasp Woman in the movie looks nothing like the incredible poster art.

This is already available on Blu-Ray from Retromedia. I’m looking forward to seeing what extras Scream Factory will include in their version, coming in October.

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Filed under 1959, AIP, DVD/Blu-ray News, Leo Gordon, Roger Corman, Shout/Scream Factory, Susan Cabot

Blu-Ray News #173: Retromedia Goes To The Drive-In.

Fred Olen Ray’s Retromedia has been putting some good stuff out on Blu-Ray —from Lugosi Monograms to early AIP stuff and beyond. But it’s really hard to sort out what’s available. Here’s a couple things I’ve tracked down. They’re currently available from Amazon.

Wasp Woman/Beast From Haunted Cave (both 1959)

This one I covered over a year ago. The Wasp Woman was produced and directed by Roger Corman and stars Susan Cabot. It was written by character actor Leo Gordon. The budget was around $50,000. Beast From Haunted Cave was directed by Monte Hellman and written by Charles Griffith. It’s a remake of Naked Paradise (1957) with a monster dropped in the middle of it. These actually played as a double feature back in ’59.

Teenagers From Outer Space/Attack Of The Giant Leeches (both 1959)

Teenagers From Outer Space was an independent picture directed by Tom Graeff and released by Warner Bros., who paired it with the second Godzilla movie.  Attack Of The Giant Leeches was from AIP. Leo Gordon wrote it and Bernard L. Kowalski directed. It stars Ken Clark, Yvette Vickers and Jan Shepard.

Next up: Lugosi and Karloff on Poverty Row.

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Filed under 1959, DVD/Blu-ray News, Leo Gordon, Monte Hellman, Retromedia, Roger Corman

Blu-Ray News #166: Hammer Vol. 3 – Blood And Terror.

Indicator has announced their upcoming boxed set Hammer Volume 3 Blood and Terror. It gathers up four non-horror pictures from Hammer’s glorious do-no-wrong period. The set includes —

The Camp On Blood Island (1958)
Directed by Val Guest
​S​tarring Carl Möhner, André Morell, Edward Underdown, Walter Fitzgeral​d, Barbara Shelley, Michael Ripper

Yesterday’s Enemy (1959)
Directed by Val Guest
Starring Stanley Baker, Guy Rolfe, Leo McKern, Gordon Jackson

The Stranglers Of Bombay (1959)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Guy Rolfe, Jan Holden

The Terror Of The Tongs (1961)
Directed by Anthony Bushell
Starring Geoffrey Toone, Christopher Lee, Yvonne Monlaur

POWs, firing squads, Thuggee cults, Chinese crime families — this set’s got something for everyone.

Chung King (Christopher Lee): “Have you ever had your bones scraped, Captain? It is painful in the extreme I can assure you.”

As a kid, The Terror Of The Tongs haunted me for days after catching it on TV. Yesterday’s Enemy is one of the best films Hammer ever did. The Camp On Blood Island and The Stranglers Of Bombay (in Strangloscope!) are both wonderfully exploitive. Coming in July. It’s gonna be great.

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Filed under 1958, 1959, 1961, Christopher Lee, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Terence Fisher, Val Guest

DVD/Blu-Ray News #165: Odds Against Tomorrow (1959).

Directed by Robert Wise
Starring Harry Belafonte, Robert Ryan, Shelley Winters, Ed Begley, Gloria Grahame

Greed, lust, corruption, murder — film noir can pack about every sin, vice and crime you can think of into about 90 minutes of goodness. That’s why I love em so much. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) goes a step further and stirs in a big fat helping of hatred. You could easily say it’s a movie about racism, but it goes deeper than that. Robert Ryan’s character just plain hates — everybody. He’s a guy with absolutely zero to recommend him. Where did such a kind-hearted (by all accounts) man go to dredge up all this nasty stuff?

A couple of despicable crooks (ex-con Ryan, ex-cop Ed Begley) bring a black man (Harry Belafonte) in on their bank job. Everything goes to hell, as it always does in these kinds of things, and we get to watch. It’s a gritty, tough and terrific picture — and it packs quite a wallop. Robert Wise did this before directing West Side Story (1961). And while in some ways the two movies couldn’t be more different, they both give us a look at what kind of damage hate can do. It was Wise’s last film in black and white.

The score by John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet is terrific, and the album of the MJQ performing it (Music From Odds Against Tomorrow) is unbelievably cool. The actual film score was also released.

Olive Films is bringing this out on both DVD and Blu-Ray in May. I’m on a bit of a crime picture/noir binge right now, spurred by the incredible Shield For Murder (1954), so I’m really stoked to learn this is on the way. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1959, DVD/Blu-ray News, Gloria Grahame, Olive Films, Robert Ryan, Robert Wise, United Artists

Blu-Ray News #163: The Tingler (1959).

Directed by William Castle
Written by Robb White
Starring Vincent Price, Judith Evelyn,  Philip Coolidge, Darryl Hickman, Patricia Cutts, Pamela Lincoln

There’s about to be an open slot on my Blu-Ray Want List — The Tingler (1959) is coming from Scream Factory in August.

It’s maybe William Castle’s most whacked-out and outrageous movie of all. And that’s sayin’ something. A slug-like creature lives in our spines and grows when we’re scared; only screaming will keep it from killing us. And when one of these things (removed from a dead lady’s back by researcher Vincent Price) gets loose in a movie theater, the real audience got buzzed by little whirring motors attached to their seats. That, my friends, is why William Castle is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers.

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Castle with some of his Tingler cast.

Scream Factory has done a masterful job with all the old horror pictures they’ve put out, and I’m sure this one will be a real beauty — with all sorts of cool extras. God, I can’t wait!

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William Castle and Joan Crawford plugging Strait-Jacket.

Strait-Jacket
Directed by William Castle
Starring Joan Crawford, Diane Baker, George Kennedy, Leif Erickson

And if that’s not enough, Castle’s Strait-Jacket (1964) has Joan Crawford as an axe murderer who’s released from the nuthouse. Oddly enough, as soon as she gets out, people start getting chopped up. Scream Factory’s bringing the Psycho-inspired Castle masterpiece out at the same time as The Tingler.

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Filed under 1959, 1964, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Joan Crawford, Shout/Scream Factory, Vincent Price, William Castle

Blu-Ray News #151: Jack The Ripper (1958).

Directed by Robert Baker and Monty Berman
Starring Lee Patterson, Eddie Byrne, Betty McDowall

Our friends at Severin Films have put together a killer Blu-Ray edition of the 1959 exploitation classic Jack The Ripper (1959) — that includes three versions of the movie: the British Version from a 1080 telecine, the U.S. Version from a 2K scan of an archival print, and on a bonus DVD, the European Version pieced together from the British Version and the only known tape source of the racier/gorier scenes (the original film elements have evidently been lost).

There’s also a slew of extras. Oh, that bonus DVD is part of a limited (1,500 copies) Black Friday edition, so put down the Thanksgiving leftovers, stay away from the mall, and be sure to order one before they’re gone. David Gregory has been working on this title for quite a while, and it’s gonna be terrific.

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Filed under 1959, DVD/Blu-ray News, Paramount, Severin Films