Category Archives: Universal (-International)

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 #172: Creature From the Black Lagoon: Complete Legacy Collection (1954-1956).

Universal has announced that their Creature From The Black Lagoon – Complete Legacy Collection set is coming to Blu-Ray. It includes Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954), Revenge Of The Creature (1955) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956). The first two were in 3-D and directed by the great Jack Arnold (and feature Nestor Paiva).

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Revenge is finally making its way to Blu-Ray in 3-D. For me, the great benefit of this set will be having all three pictures in their original 1.85 aspect ratio. While the first two are among my all-time favorite films — and I’ve got a pile of Creature toys to prove it, Walks Among Us is a mess. But I’m looking forward to revisiting it in high definition. This stuff is essential, folks.

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Filed under 1954, 1955, 1956, 3-D, DVD/Blu-ray News, Jack Arnold, John Agar, Julie Adams, Nestor Paiva, Richard Carlson, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray Review: The Night Walker (1964).

Produced & Directed by William Castle
Screenplay by Robert Block
Director Of Photography: Howard E. Stine
Music by Vic Mizzy

Cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Irene Trent), Robert Taylor (Barry Morland), Hayden Rorke (Howard Trent), Lloyd Bochner (The Dream), Judith Meredith (Joyce), Rochelle Hudson (Hilda), Paul Frees (Narrator)

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I love William Castle. There’s something about his movies that’s just Fun. It’s easy to see it in the gimmick-y things like The Tingler (1959) or 13 Ghosts (1960). But it’s there in the noir-ish The Whistler (1944), the whacked-out Biblical “epic” Slaves Of Babylon (1953) — just imagine: Sam Katzman tackles the Old Testament and includes a dance number by Julie Newmar, and everything in-between.

Throughout a Castle movie, it’s like he’s whispering in our ear, “I know this is really ridiculous, but ain’t it great?”

Yes, Mr. Castle, it is great

Robert Taylor, William Castle and Barbara Stanwyck at a party for The Night Walker.

By the time he got to The Night Walker (1964), Castle had stored the gimmick machine in his garage. The ballyhoo was still over the top, with Castle hamming it up in the preview trailer and some sort of monster appearing on the poster, but nowhere in the movie. But that was pretty much it.

If anything, the gimmick to The Night Walker is its cast. Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor had been married from 1939 to 1951, so there was an odd, gossip-y appeal to seeing these two big stars “together again” (as the poster boasted). Then there’s the weirdness of Hayden Rorke,  Dr. Bellows on I Dream Of Jeannie, unrecognizable (to say nothing of hideous and creepy-looking, above) as Stanwyck’s blind, rich, obsessive, jealous and severely-burned husband.

Robert Bloch, who wrote the novel Psycho, cooked up a pretty good murder plot, dressed up in all sorts of psychological dream-interpreting mumbo-jumbo. Like Stanwyck, we aren’t sure what’s real and what’s a dream. A cool prologue, narrated by the great Paul Frees, kicks things off with talk of nightmares and sex and desires and dreams and stuff.

I’m not going to spoil the plot for ya. A lot of it doesn’t make any sense, anyway.

One of the picture’s strongest points is its score by Vic Mizzy, who also did The Munsters and The Ghost And Mr. Chicken (1966). His work here is slightly reminiscent of those, with a cool guitar riff doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Then there’s the camera work by Howard E. Stein. He shot a staggering amount of TV in the 50s and 60s. His limited feature work includes several of Castle’s later pictures, along with MASH (1970) and The Poseidon Adventure (1972). He masterfully manages what we can, and can’t, see in the shadows. And that’s crucial to a movie like this.

Which brings us to the new Blu-Ray from Scream Factory. It’s beautiful, offering up Stine’s work with stunning clarity. The grain and contrast are perfect. The audio is dead on, giving Mizzy’s score plenty of punch. Then there’s a nice batch of extras: the trailer, a commentary and a hefty still gallery. This is a terrific release, and while The Night Walker isn’t what I consider one of Castle’s best, the presentation easily elevates it to Essential status.

One more thing. The set decorator on The Night Walker was John McCarthy, Jr. He was at Republic for years, working on everything from The Crimson Ghost (1946) to Trigger, Jr. (1950) to The Quiet Man (1952). He stayed at the studio to the bitter end, then worked in TV — Cimarron City, M Squad, Frontier Doctor, etc. McCarthy ended up at Universal, working on features like The Shakiest Gun In The West (1968), Coogan’s Bluff (1968) and The Hellfighters (1969) and TV shows such as Leave It To Beaver, The Munsters and two of my favorites, Dragnet and Adam-12. The fact that he worked with Republic, William Castle and Jack Webb shows he must’ve been good, quick and dependable.

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Filed under 1964, Barbara Stanwyck, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International), William Castle

Blu-Ray News #149: Charley Varrick (1973).

Directed by Don Siegel
Starring Walter Matthau, Joe Don Baker, Felicia Farr, Andy Robinson, Sheree North, Norman Fell, William Schallert, John Vernon, Bob Steele

I love the good old US of A, but there’s one thing where the rest of the world has us beat — outside the US, you can find a Blu-Ray of Don Siegel’s incredible Charley Varrick (1973). Still no hi-def release here, and our only DVD release was full-frame. No wonder the rest of the world hates us. I’ve proclaimed my undying love for this movie many times before, it’s one of my favorites, easy, from one of my favorite directors.

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So when I saw it pop up on blu-ray.com, I was overjoyed. This time, Indicator/Powerhouse Films in the UK have announced Charley Varrick on Blu-Ray coming in January with a slew of terrific-sounding extras. The Indicator/Powerhouse release is limited to 3,000 copies. Essentially, this thing is essentially essential.

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Filed under 1973, Andy Robinson, Don Siegel, DVD/Blu-ray News, Joe Don Baker, Universal (-International), Walter Matthau, William Schallert

Blu-Ray News #148: The Night Walker (1964).

Directed by William Castle
Screenplay by Robert Bloch
Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Taylor, Judith Meredith, Hayden Rorke, Lloyd Bochner

Halloween’s the perfect day for an announcement like this. Scream Factory is bringing The Night Walker (1964) from the great William Castle to Blu-Ray in early 2018. (To me, William Castle owns Halloween.)

This was Barbara Stanwyck’s last theatrical film, and it found her co-starring with her ex-husband Robert Taylor. William Castle had a good script from Robert Block to work with, and the result is one of his best movies. It’ll be a real treat to see Harold Stine’s 1.85 photography in high definition. Not sure what extras, if any, are planned (but I can recommend someone for a commentary). Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1964, Barbara Stanwyck, DVD/Blu-ray News, Robert Taylor, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International), William Castle

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)

Blu-Ray News #146: The Old Dark House (1932).

Directed by James Whale
Starring Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Gloria Stuart, Charles Laughton, Lilian Bond, Ernest Thesiger, Raymond Massey

I’ve been on a bit of a Karloff kick lately — just watched Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947) for the umpteenth time, and I’m making my way through that Mill Creek set of Columbia Karloff pictures, so I was happy to see that Cohen Media has announced The Old Dark House (1932) for Blu-Ray — from a 4K restoration.

Universal kept The Old Dark House out of circulation for years, and it was on its way to becoming a lost film. Director Curtis Harrington pressured Universal to dig it out, dust it off and let people see it. We all owe him for that. Can’t wait to see how this looks.

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Filed under Boris Karloff, DVD/Blu-ray News, James Whale, Universal (-International)