Category Archives: Olive Films

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)

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 Review: Return Of The Ape Man (1944).

Directed by Phil Rosen
Produced by Sam Katzman & Jack Dietz
Story & Screenplay by Robert Charles
Cinematography: Marcel Le Picard

Cast: Bela Lugosi (Professor Dexter), John Carradine (Professor John Gilmore), George Zucco (Ape Man – credits only), Frank Moran (Ape Man), Teala Loring (Anne Gilmore), Tod Andrews (Steve Rogers), Mary Currier (Mrs. Hilda Gilmore), Ernie Adams (Willie The Weasel)

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The Monogram Nine, a handful of low-budget pictures Bela Lugosi made for Sam Katzman and Monogram Pictures in the mid-40s, are nobody’s idea of quality cinema, but they’re certainly entertaining. Some say Return Of The Ape Man (1944) is one of the worst of the bunch, but so what — it’s a blast.

Bela Lugosi is Professor Dexter, a noted scientist messing around with freezing people. He and his assistant, Professor John Gilmore (John Carradine), thaw out a bum they’ve had frozen in the basement for four months. To prove that people can be kept frozen for extended periods of time, then thawed out safely, Dexter and Gilmore travel to the Arctic in search of a frozen prehistoric man to defrost. They finally find one and bring it back to Lugosi’s basement/laboratory.

They’re able to revive him — after Lugosi thaws him out with a blowtorch, but soon realize he’s an “unmanageable brute” (I’m lifting a Lugosi line from Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein). Lugosi’s solution is to transplant a certain portion of a modern man’s brain into the Ape Man’s skull. From here, Lugosi’s plans go completely off the rails and lead to the kind of supreme mayhem the Poverty Row studios were so good at cooking up.

I love Return Of The Ape Man. It’s so ridiculous, so cheap and so short — what’s not to like? Lugosi’s terrific. He always had a way of making the non-logic of these things almost work. Almost. Once John Carradine questions Lugosi’s methods, we just know he’s a goner — but he’s great at doing his John Carradine thing in the meantime. John Moran is a hoot as the Ape Man — bending bars, breaking stuff, choking people, etc. George Zucco was originally given the part, but he got ill and Moran took over. Why Zucco still gets third billing is anybody’s guess. Some say he’s actually in a shot or two (on the table when the Ape Man is first thawed out). Others say it was in his contract. My theory is having three low-budget horror stars in one movie was too good a thing to pass up. Wonder if Zucco was paid for his name on the poster? Philip Rosen’s direction is clunky, for lack of a better word, at least party due to the tight schedule and budget.

I’ve never seen Return Of The Ape Man looking good. And while this Olive Blu-Ray leaves plenty to be desired, this is far and away the nicest version I’ve come across. The contrast and grain are inconsistent, there’s some damage here and there, and it’s a bit soft in places — 16mm, maybe? — but that’s all part of the experience. A movie like this is supposed to look a little ragged, in my opinion, and I’m so glad Olive Films didn’t hold out for better material. It might’ve never happened, and that would be a real shame. This way, every magnificent flaw is preserved in high-definition, which is the way I like it.

Recommended, along with the rest of the Monogram Nine. By this way, this is not a sequel to the previous Lugosi/Monogram picture, The Ape Man (1943).

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Filed under Bela Lugosi, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, George Zucco, John Carradine, Monogram 9, Monogram/Allied Artists, Olive Films, Sam Katzman

Blu-Ray Review: The Stranger (1946).

Directed by Orson Welles
Produced by Sam Spiegel (S.P. Eagle)
Screenplay by Victor Trivas, Decla Dunning, Anthony Veiller, Orson Welles (uncredited), John Huston (uncredited)
Cinematography: Russell Metty
Film Editor: Ernest J. Nims
Music by Bronislau Kaper

Cast: Edward G. Robinson (Wilson), Loretta Young (Mary Longstreet Rankin), Orson Welles (Charles Rankin/Franz Kindler), Richard Long (Noah Longstreet), Philip Merivale (Judge Longstreet)

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Folks have a tendency to shrug off The Stranger (1946) as a lesser Orson Welles picture. After all, he took it on in an attempt to show he could make a movie according to the Hollywood rules — with the idea that it would put him back on the studios’ collective good side. There are two things wrong with all this. One, while the movie came in a day early and under budget and was indeed a box-office success, it didn’t boost Welles’ employability. And two, to blow off The Stranger deprives you of a really good movie.

Welles is a teacher at a New England prep school, with the supreme good fortune of being married to Loretta Young. He’s also a notorious Nazi war criminal who fled to the States, somehow managing to remove any evidence that might identify him — except for his unusual hobby/obsession: clocks.

Then one day, Nazi hunter Mr. Wilson (Edgar G. Robinson) arrives in Harper, Connecticut — and learns of a school teacher who’s been working on the old church clock in the town square.

Charles Rankin/Franz Kindler (Orson Welles): “Who would think to look for the notorious Franz Kindler in the sacred precincts of the Harper School, surrounded by the sons of America’s first families? And I’ll stay hidden… till the day when we strike again.”

As much as I appreciate Citizen Kane (1941) and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), I really love the way Welles handled more lurid material like Touch Of Evil (1958), The Lady From Shanghai (1947) and this one. The trappings here are certainly more upscale than the border town in Touch Of Evil, but the deep shadows, striking camera angles and long takes create a similar sinister mood. (Both films were shot by Russell Metty.) Don’t be misled — this is very much an Orson Welles movie.

The Stranger went into the public domain in the 70s, and fans of the movie have been subjected to all sorts of nasty-looking VHS tapes and DVD over the years. To see Welles and Metty’s incredible visuals run through the video thrashing machine is a heinous thing indeed. I’m happy to report that the Blu-Ray from Olive Films looks fine. It’s not gonna be the thing you throw on when you want to show the neighbors how nice your TV is, but it lets you appreciate the rich contrast and deep focus that make the movie as effective as it is. There are other Blu-Rays of the picture out there, and while this one’s a tiny bit softer than some of the others, it’s a bit darker, too — which seems more in line with how the film should look. The grain’s there, as it should be. The audio is sharp and clear. Extras include an audio commentary by Nora Fiore and the original trailer.

This is a nice package — and a really terrific movie (that made a huge impact on me as a kid). Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Olive Films, Orson Welles

DVD/Blu-Ray News #147: Return Of The Ape Man (1944).

Directed by Phil Rosen
Starring Bela Lugosi, John Carradine, George Zucco

More Poverty Row horror makes its way to Blu-Ray — Return Of The Ape Man (1944), one of the infamous Monogram 9.

The nine pictures Lugosi made for Sam Katzman at Monogram between 1941 and 1944 are filled to the brim with cheesy goodness. To have them turn up in high definition is a dream come true — thanks, Olive! For fans of this kind of stuff, this is absolutely essential.

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Filed under Bela Lugosi, DVD/Blu-ray News, John Carradine, Monogram 9, Monogram/Allied Artists, Olive Films, Sam Katzman

DVD/Blu-Ray News #146: The Vampire’s Ghost (1945).

Directed by Lesley Selander
Starring John Abbott, Charles Gordon, Grant Withers, Peggy Stewart, Adele Mara

Neither Republic Pictures nor director Lesley Selander made many horror movies. Which makes The Vampire’s Ghost (1945) something worth seeking out. Add to that the fact that it’s got both Peggy Stewart and Adele Mara in it, with a story from the great Leigh Brackett, and it’s not to be missed.

The Vampire’s Ghost is making it way to DVD and Blu-Ray thanks to Olive Films in time for Halloween.

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Filed under DVD/Blu-ray News, Lesley Selander, Olive Films, Republic Pictures

Blu-Ray News #142: Operation Petticoat (1959).

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Directed by Blake Edwards
Starring Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, Joan O’Brien, Dina Merrill, Gene Evans, Dick Sargent, Arthur O’Connell, Virginia Gregg, Gavin MacLeod, Madlyn Rhue, Marion Ross

Olive Films has announced a retooling of their Olive Signature series, beginning with their November releases. From now on, these titles will be Blu-Ray only and limited to just 3,500 copies. With this announcement comes the news that previous Olive Signature titles are now out of print.*

One of the first titles in the new Signature line is Blake Edwards’ Operation Petticoat (1959), a charming, goofy service comedy that benefits greatly from having Cary Grant and Tony Curtis in the conning tower. It’s also got Virginia Gregg in it, a personal favorite who was always terrific on Dragnet.

Operation Petticoat was originally to be shot in B&W for about a million bucks, but when Grant came aboard, Eastman Color and an extra two million were added to the mix. The picture turned out to be a massive hit, making a ton of money for Grant who had a percentage deal — and spawning a later TV series with Jamie Lee Curtis in it.

This used to surface on TV all the time when I was a kid, and I could never pass it by. Highly recommended.

• That includes High Noon (1952), John Ford’s The Quiet Man (1952) and The Night Of The Grizzly (1966).

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