(director/writer: Richard Murphy; screenwriter: from a story by Herbert Margolis and William Raynor; cinematographer: Charles Lawton Jr.; editor: Charles Nelson ; music: George Duning; cast: Jack Lemmon (Lt. Rip Crandall), Ricky Nelson (Ensign Tommy Hanson), John Lund (Commander Vandewater), Chips Rafferty (Patterson), TomTully (Capt. McClung), Warren Berlinger (Sparks), Mike Kellin (Chief Mate MacCarthy), Joby Baker (Josh Davidson), Alvy Moore (Johnson), Patricia Driscoll (Maggie), Richard Anderson (Lieutenant Foster); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Fred Kohlmar; Columbia; 1960)

A muddled WW2 slapstick comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A muddled WW2 slapstick comedy about the secret mission of a broken-down sailing ship in the South Pacific. The film can’t decide if it should be serious or comical, as it blends both genres together without either proving to be better. Richard Murphy (“Three Stripes in the Sun”) is the writer and director of this disappointing film, that sinks a mostly fine cast with its leaden screenplay. It’s taken from a story by Herbert Margolis and William Raynor, that is supposedly true. While stationed in 1943, in Brisbane, Australia, the competent Lt. Rip Crandall (Lemmon) is given command of the run-down USS Echo and its inexperienced motley crew. His mission is to bring the tub to the Japanese-held South Pacific islands. Rip’s second in command is the young pup Ens. Tommy Hanson (Ricky Nelson). When in enemy waters, surrounded by the Japanese fleet, the sailors learn that the Echo is to drop off an Australian observer (Chips Rafferty) at Port Moresby in New Guinea just before the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. To prevent the viewer from dozing off while waiting for the climax, there are several naval adventures that are handled in a comical way. All are only slightly amusing, the exception is the poorly orchestrated gross hand-to-hand combat one with the Japanese. At the Naval base in Brisbane, a thin slice of romance is tossed in, as there’s the Aussie service woman Maggie (Patricia Driscoll) becoming Rip’s romantic interest. At least Jack Lemmon’s there to make this routine service comedy almost passable as a minor diversion, that is if you can stop critiquing it for being so lame. Later on it was the inspiration for a short-lived TV series, that was sunk because it was no McHale’s Navy. The teen singing idol son of TV stars Ozzie and Harriet Nelson croons “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans.” The kid with no personality proves he can sing much better than he can act.

The Wackiest Ship in the Army Poster

REVIEWED ON 7/9/2017 GRADE: C+    https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/