A bit of romance and comedy on the high seas courtesy of Olive Film’s Blu-ray output
Operation Petticoat is a delightful comedy starring Cary Grant and Tony Curtis. The 1959 film was helmed by director Blake Edwards, who would later go on to direct Breakfast At Tiffany’s and The Pink Panther. Earning an Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Operation Petticoat is full of laughs and features a big cast of supporting players. Among others, the cast includes eventual television stars Dick Sargeant of Bewitched fame, Gavin MacLeod of The Love Boat, and Marion Ross of Happy Days.
The U.S.S. Sea Tiger is a submarine on its last legs in 1941, needing extensive repairs and new equipment. Captained by Matt Sherman (Cary Grant), the man has all he can deal with in Lieutenant Nick Holden (Tony Curtis). Nick Holden joined the Navy to land a rich wife and live an easy lifestyle. He gets assigned to the Sea Tiger despite no submarine training or any combat experience. Holden is more comfortable with a set of golf clubs and expensive clothes than the inside of a submarine. His commitment to the Navy might be questionable but no one questions that Holden is a slick operator looking out for himself.
Holden is named the sub’s supply officer, quickly proving his worth by securing the necessary equipment through underhanded and unethical means. While Sherman grudgingly accepts Holden’s shenanigans, the conflict between them drives much of Operation Petticoat’s best bits. Cary Grant plays the disapproving father figure to Curtis’ smart-aleck schemes. The pairing works surprisingly well for the screen legends, sharing an easygoing timing.
Through a series of misadventures the submarine picks up five army nurses stranded on a Pacific island, introducing chaos into the all-male world of the submarine’s crew. The comedy finds a natural rhythm as Holden begins romancing one of the nurses, leading to predictable trouble on the sub. Probably the most famous scene from this film is when the sub has to be painted entirely in pink, a humiliation for the crew when it docks.
Operation Petticoat’s humor is definitely rooted in the mores of its time, which some might find awkward. The banter between the sub’s crew and the female nurses is from a different time, when expectations for a woman’s role were much different. Holden is an unrepentant womanizer but his character is portrayed as smarmy to begin with, a man you can’t trust on anything. There are some dated stereotypes you don’t find much more in modern entertainment, though they are innocuous and largely harmless in Operation Petticoat.
Operation Petticoat is an enjoyable Hollywood comedy of its period with a solid premise, a piece of nostalgia featuring one of Hollywood’s biggest-ever stars in Cary Grant.
Olive Films has licensed Operation Petticoat from Paramount. This appears to be a new transfer commissioned by Olive Films – it resembles a number of their other Blu-ray releases. Sadly, they had to use unrestored elements marred by a multitude of scratches and nicks to the film print. The two-hour main feature is encoded in AVC at respectable bitrates, preserving the film-like grain’s integrity. It is presented in a standard 1.78:1 aspect ratio preserving its intended composition. If I had to make a wager on it, this transfer does not appear to be derived from the original camera negative but possibly an interpositive.
Olive Films has been hands-off in their approach to new film transfers, usually preferring to scan at 2K resolution the best elements they can license. A label like Criterion would have likely employed manual scratch removal on a print in this condition as it is peppered by white scratches and specks in multiple scenes. The good news is that Olive Films did not filter the transfer, bringing out decent resolution and color rendition from the Eastman Color stock. Is everything sharp and vivid like the newest film scans made at 4K resolution? No, but Operation Petticoat looks substantively better in terms of clarity and definition that it ever has on home video.
Paramount was certainly not going to restore Operation Petticoat for Blu-ray, so one has to view this BD as Olive Films rescuing the film for posterity. It provides a pleasant viewing experience for an older film as long as one can overlook the print damage.
In much better shape than the video transfer, the film’s mono soundtrack with music by David Rose sounds excellent. Showcased in a fine 1.0 DTS-HD MA with perfect fidelity, the LFE is surprisingly potent for the vintage audio. The comedy uses a variety of light music to complement the film’s humorous tone.
Like many other Olive Films’ Blu-rays, this one has no subtitles.
No supplemental features are included. The disc itself does have art on it and a small leaflet promoting other Olive Films’ BDs is included. Olive Films avoids flimsy eco-cases, instead using a sturdier case with no holes and square edges.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.