Judge Clark Douglas has the finest petticoat collection in town.
Our review of Cary Grant 4-Disc Collector's Set, published February 4th, 2008, is also available.
It all started when they smuggled five girls aboard their submarine!
"A woman just shouldn't mess around with a man's machinery."
Facts of the Case
The year is 1941, and U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Matt Sherman (Cary Grant, Charade) has been tasked with commanding the USS Sea Tiger, a badly damaged submarine in need of repair. Due to the condition of the sub, most of the original crew members have been transferred. However, the Navy makes an effort to send Sherman all the help they can find. One of the new crew members is Lieutenant Nick Holden (Tony Curtis, Some Like it Hot), a wealthy playboy who has joined the military for entirely superficial and selfish reasons. Naturally, his casual, lazy demeanor doesn't sit particularly well with the eternally by-the-book Sherman, and the two clash quite frequently during Holden's early days aboard the ship. They never quite manage to get along, but eventually both men become occupied by more pressing matters. Sherman has agreed to rescue a handful of Army nurses stranded in Australia, and he knows that having a handful of women onboard a submarine with a large number of men could prove problematic. To make matters worse, the submarine soon finds itself being pursued by Japanese forces, despite the fact that it's hardly in fighting condition.
As WWII comedies go, Blake Edwards' Operation Petticoat is among the silliest and most lightweight. The plot is exceptionally thin and contrived, and the comic scenarios the film concocts require a considerable suspension of disbelief. None of that really matters, however, because Operation Petticoat never once asks to be taken seriously. It's a fun, playful movie anchored by a pair of fun, playful performances, and expecting anything more than that is a recipe for disappointment. If simply watching Cary Grant and Tony Curtis effectively employ their charisma and comic timing sounds like a decent way to spend a couple of hours, then you're in luck.
As the title suggests, Operation Petticoat might as well be called Wacky Hijinks: The Movie. Nearly all of the film's running time is occupied by a series of silly confrontations, silly wartime strategy, and silly pranks. For instance, consider the sequence in which Holden is caught stealing a pig from a Filipino farmer. Sherman recognizes that the situation needs to be resolved quickly and quietly, but also sees this as an opportunity to really irritate his chief rival. So, he brings the poor farmer to Holden's quarters and begins handing him all of Holden's most prized possessions as payment. Holden is in no position to argue, of course, so he's left to despair as his precious trinkets are cheerfully given away. The scene goes on for an eternity, which would be a detriment if we were actually invested in the ongoing narrative. However, the film realizes that what we're really interested in is watching the two leads spar with each other, so that's what we get.
Cary Grant is clearly too old for the part he's playing, but the film makes a half-hearted effort at excusing that fact by having the whole film play as a flashback (a pair of bookend sequences are set nearly twenty years after the events of the film). They needn't have bothered, really. In a film filled to the brim with so many silly elements, Grant's age is hardly a problem. He's absolutely as charming and funny as he needs to be (despite the fact that he's in the "straight man" role), even if he's never too convincing as a military leader. Tony Curtis has always been a bit more hit-and-miss for me, but he's on his game this time around, preening for the camera and veering satisfactorily between nervous fretfulness and amusing smugness. A handful of talented supporting players turn up (Joan O'Brien, Dick Sargent, Virginia Gregg), but Grant and Curtis own the film.
Operation Petticoat (Blu-ray) has received a strong 1080p/1.78:1 transfer. The film looks relatively good considering its age, despite a few scenes which look just a bit weathered. Detail is exceptional throughout, allowing viewers to appreciate the amusingly claustrophobic set design. A fairly heavy amount of grain is present, but there's no evidence of significant DNR. The DTS HD 1.0 Master Audio track is decent enough, but there isn't much to write home about in the mix itself. Despite the WWII setting, this is largely a dialogue-driven film. The energetic score by David Rose sounds crisp and clean, too. Sadly, no supplements whatsoever are included on the disc.
Silly, likable and briskly-paced, Operation Petticoat is a pleasant trifle. The Blu-ray release has nothing to offer in the supplemental department, but it looks and sounds decent.
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