November 29, 2017

Blu-Ray Review: OPERATION PETTICOAT - Olive Signature Edition

Starring Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, Joan O'Brien, Dina Merrill, Gene Evans, Dick Sargent, Arthur O'Connell, Virginia Gregg, Gavin MacLeod, Marion Ross. Directed by Blake Edwards. (1959, 120 min).

Considering our current cultural climate, there's a scene in Operation Petticoat you probably couldn't get away with today.

The film was a massive hit when first released, with good reason. Its premise - the turmoil caused by five rescued Army nurses onboard a submarine during WWII - is the perfect concept for the type of sex comedies being produced at the time. And who better to helm a farce like this than Blake Edwards, arguably one of the masters of the genre?

Operation Petticoat isn't strictly a sex comedy, though. If you squint real hard, you might even see a tenuous influence on such later, more subversive, war comedies as Kelly's Heroes and M*A*S*H. Still, it's primarily a fluffy farce, and a pretty entertaining one at that. It helps, of course, that one keeps-in-mind when this was made, a time when Tony Curtis aggressively insinuating himself on a reluctant Dina Merrill was perfectly okay...even amusing. You probably couldn't get away with a scene like that today, at least if you're trying to play it for laughs.

Commander Sherman discovers - the hard way - the difference between a scotch and a lab sample.
I'm overly analyzing the movie, of course, but today's sudden awareness of sexual harassment - a new incident seemingly pops up every day - did cross my mind during this scene. No, it doesn't ruin the movie or anything. Just an observation, nothing more.

Elsewhere, the crew leers at the nurses like cartoon wolves, fake being ill so they can be "treated" and hold a raffle to see who gets to lend these ladies their clothes. Later, these nurses' girdles, stockings, bras & panties are required to save the day. The film ain't exactly subtle, but it isn't misogynistic or sexist, either, and to label it as such would be unfair, even by modern finger-pointing standards. The female characters aren't objectified bimbos, and with the exception of Cary Grant's role as Commander Sherman, it's mostly the male characters who're one-dimensional stereotypes.

" petticoat in there."
Still Operation Petticoat remains genuinely funny and a congenial good time, with charming performances and witty dialogue (and plenty of amusingly risqué double-entendres). As with previous releases in the Olive Signature series, this disc includes a lot of interesting bonus features, even if most of the brand new material isn't directly related to the movie itself. It's a big upgrade from the previous bare bones release and worth picking up for classic movie buffs.

"That's What Everybody Says About Me" - About director Blake Edwards, featuring daughter Jennifer and actress Leslie Ann Warren.
"The Brave Crew of the Petticoat" - New interviews with Gavin MacLeod and Marion Ross.
"The Captain and His Double: Cary Grant's Struggle of the Self" - Biographer Marc Eliot discusses Grant's upbringing and career.
NEWSREEL FOOTAGE - The film's opening at Radio City Music Hall, attended by Cary Grant
ARCHIVE FOOTAGE - The USS Baloo (the "Sea Tiger" of the film)
ESSAY - By film critic Chris Fujiwara (both a slide show and printed in the supplemental booklet) 

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