McHale's Navy-The Movies (Blu-ray) (1964)

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Released 10-Nov-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio & Animation-Limited caricature animation plus main title theme
Gallery-Photo and Poster : Total of 37 for both films.
Isolated Effects Track-Plus music
Isolated Musical Score-Plus effects : Excellent Jerry Fielding score.
Booklet-Attractive 8 page insert, with pics, plot and background.
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1964
Running Time 183:10
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,4 Directed By Edward Montagne

Madman Entertainment
Starring Ernest Borgnine
Tim Conway
Joe Flynn
Bob Hastings
Gary Vinson
John Wright
Carl Ballantine
Billy Sands
Edson Stroll
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $39.95 Music Jerry Fielding
Axel Stordahl

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 mono
Isolated Score & Effects Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Some left field releases turn up on Blu-ray. While so many great films of the past are yet to be given a Blu-ray rebirth, here we have not one, but two McHale's Navy films. I hope that the fans of the original TV series, and of the two feature films which were originally made under the franchise, line up to buy this Madman release. Maybe there are hordes of Ernest Borgnine fans out there just waiting to snap up this double treat, although Borgnine appears in only the first feature. The time is certainly opportune, with ninety-three year old Borgnine set to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony to be held on January 30th. Ernie is certainly a worth recipient of the SAG honour. Winning an Oscar and a BAFTA as Best Actor for 1955's Marty, Borgnine also appeared in dozens of films including From Here to Eternity, Bad Day at Black Rock, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, The Dirty Dozen and The Poseidon Adventure. In the course of his career he has acted with, and occasionally opposite, Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Bette Davis, Spencer Tracy, Kirk Douglas, Joan Crawford, Anthony Quinn and Gary Cooper. If that isn't enough, he sang and danced in a musical, The Best Things in Life are Free, starring opposite Gordon MacRae, Dan Daily and Sheree North ... and was also famously, if briefly, married to the atomic Ethel Merman!

     The original black and white McHale's Navy TV series aired in the United States for four seasons, from October 1962 through to April 1966. Unusual at that time for a sitcom, this was not a domestic TV comedy and no doubt that accounted for some of its great popularity not only in the U.S., but also overseas, including Australia. Checking the local TV guides I note that the original series is at present in re-runs on Australian TV. The TV director was Edward J. Montagne, who is also producer and director for both of these feature films. After the success of the first TV season Universal decided to make a feature movie, McHale's Navy, with the same cast but in colour. Then, after that success and the continuing popularity of the second TV season, a second feature was planned, McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force. Borgnine was busy working on the feature movie Flight of the Phoenix (1965) directed by Robert Aldrich and starring James Stewart. Rather remarkably, Universal decided not to wait for McHale’s star, and made the second feature without him. The following year a third feature was mooted, but by this time Borgnine had decided that he wanted less comedy in his career and more drama, and the third McHale feature was never made. In 1997 a new film entitled McHale's Navy appeared starring Tom Arnold, in which Ernest Borgnine played a Pentagon security chief.

     With Edward J. Montagne at the helm, the first feature, McHale's Navy, never strays far from its sitcom roots. With writers formerly credited with the likes of H.R.Pufnstuf, The Bugaloos, My Little Margie, The Red Skelton Show and The Mickey Rooney Show, the film is almost an extended entry in the TV series. All the crew members of PT-73 are on hand, with Ensign Parker (Tim Conway) bumbling and bungling as before and Captain Binghamton (Joe Flynn) having his horn-rimmed spectacles askew at every opportunity. I know Conway is, in some quarters, regarded as a great comic, but here he becomes tiresome and irritating. Only his Australian jockey bit late in the film raises a smile. Other crew members including Carl Ballantine, Gary Vinson, Billy Sands and Gavin MacLeod (Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Love Boat) are there to mug and double-take ad nauseum. Playing Virgil, handsome Edson Stroll, the singing, ice-skating Prince of Snow White and the Three Stooges, is the most normal of the bunch. Stroll, today still professionally active, has done a commentary on the recent U.S. third season release of The Twilight Zone. The nonsense of a plot involves 1943 wartime capers in the Pacific islands, with the crew entering a camouflaged Australian horse in a race in order to repay a debt to trader George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke), with terrible accent and a white suit. If the horse doesn't win and supply the cash, then McHale will have to marry aging island painted lady, Margot Monet, played by Jean Willes (The Cheyenne Social Club). Also along, and I can't for the life of me remember why, is Claudine Longet (The Party), least known as an actress, better known as a recording artist, even better known as former wife of singer Andy Williams, and downright infamous for shooting dead her ski legend lover Spider Sabich in 1976 while still married to Williams. She got off! She deserved shooting for her performance in this film. The horse gives the best performance - by far!

     A little more interesting is the second feature McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force. McHale himself is absent, a brief mention of the absence of "the Skip" is made in early dialogue, as is Carl Ballantine. As a result the writers have concentrated on the characters played by Tim Conway and top-billed Joe Flynn. There is slapstick galore but the intricate, possibly too intricate, plot does have elements of satire that provide a bit more interest than the straight buffoonery of the first film. There is comedy based around a twice borrowed Russian uniform, Conway being one of the masqueraders, and a later donning by Parker of a female nurse's uniform. Of course Binghamton is always the one who suffers as a result of Parker's bunglings, and the slapstick once again becomes tiresome through repetition. Reliable character actor Tom Tully is embroiled in the frantic escapades.

     In their Blu-ray reincarnations, these two films mainly look remarkable, adding much to any enjoyment one may derive. There actually are three levels of quality. The worst is any scenes involving rear projection, and these are numerous. The technique is glaringly obvious, and the quality of the image grainy and lacking in general quality. Then there are the scenes shot, if not "on location", at least not on the customary McHale set on the Universal lot. Particularly in the first feature, these scenes are clear and sharp, but not as rich as the best footage. The highest quality comes in the interior scenes, anything shot directly on the McHale set, familiar to anyone who has taken the tour of Universal Studios. These are extremely sharp, clear and full of colour, and happily constitute the great bulk of both films. In the case of some of the actors, including Borgnine and Jean Willes, perhaps there is too much clarity. Willes, who has played a mighty long line of hookers and tarts, has never before looked quite so plastered and painted!

     Fans of McHale's Navy, and hopefully there are many, will get much pleasure from these two lengthy outings by the happy sailors of McHale's Navy, captured in glowing high definition colour.

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Transfer Quality


     The 1080p High Definition image is presented at the ratio of 1.78:1, in a 16x9 transfer. Fans of the old TV series will be astonished at the clarity and brilliance of the images they see. The transfer is generally excellent, with only the processed shots marring the overall quality.

     Detail is stunning in the daylight scenes, with the rare darker scene retaining very pleasing detail. Grain is very minimal, as were MPEG artefacts. There is the occasional film blemish, such as the odd vertical scratch, but these are extremely rare.

     Although there is a slight variation in the first feature, the colour is generally dazzling, I am even tempted to say "fabulous". The appropriate tropical splash of vivid colour is tempered by skin tones which are extremely impressive. With the clarity of the 1080p transfer, make-up, on both men and women, is very noticeable at times.

     There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     There are two audio streams, with the default being English Dolby Digital LPCM. The slick claims that the stream is stereo, but I could only find 2 track mono. There is a second stream which contains the isolated music and sound effects. This stream is Dolby Digital 2.0, and again mono.

     The dialogue was brilliantly clear, always easy to understand and without sync problems. Don't look for, or listen for, any subtleties. The sound is loud, sharp and clear, with no apparent blemishes or drop-outs.

     The musical score, credited to Jerry Fielding (The Wild Bunch), is rousingly played and brilliantly recorded, despite the mono limitations. The emphasis on brass gives a huge injection of vitality into the antics on screen. At times you'd think we had the Billy May band on hand. The well known main title theme, The McHale's Navy March, was written by Axel Stordahl, the composer arranger responsible for catering precisely to Frank Sinatra’s unique qualities at Columbia, as well as for Sinatra’s first four sides after the singer's move to Capitol. Strangely Stordahl does not get a mention in the credits of either film. For curiosity sake I watched an episode of the original series telecast this morning, and Stordahl was credited with the main title theme.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu

     The menu is over a graphic utilising the cartoon caricature cover art, with limited animation of bobbing heads and moving limbs. The left-hand of the image is the first feature, and the second is on the right-hand side. The McHale's Navy March is heard.


     There is an eight page booklet included as an insert. The cover reproduces the cartoon art on the slick, and there are two full-page portraits, one of Ernest Borgnine and the other of Joe Flynn with Tim Conway. The remaining five pages are informative and well written, giving some accurate background information, but spending far too much space simply re-telling the plots of both films. Six thumbnail pics from the movies break up the text.


     For each film there is a series of photographs, mainly black and white stills and publicity shots, with a couple in colour, plus three poster reproductions. There are eighteen images for the first movie, and nineteen for the second.

Set Up

     The viewer has the choice to view the film with regular audio; or view the film with isolated Jerry Fielding music score and effects track.


    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    These two films have never had a DVD release in either Region 1 or Region 2. Both had a VHS release in the U.S. in 1998, but nothing since then.These tapes are now retailing, through Amazon, at $140 for McHale's Navy and $84.43 for McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force ! This local Madman release is obviously a bargain.


     Fans of McHale's Navy will know what to expect, and it is here in bucket loads. The buffoonery and blustering will tire non admirers, but for the faithful this High Def look at McHale and his crew will be a double-headed delight, even if "the Skip" is missing from the second feature. The image is a dazzling, sunny treat, and the mono sound is sharp and clear. Definitely one for the fans, who will love it.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
R4 DVD - cztery
aspect ratio - cztery