DVD Review: McHale’s Navy & McHale’s Navy Joins the Air Force

There’s a frustrating moment when you collect all the season sets of a TV series only to find out they’re putting out a complete series boxset with a bonus DVD. Sometimes the bonus DVD isn’t that amazing. An interview with an actor who had a friend that was featured in a deleted scene isn’t that desirable. But other times the bonus feature is a necessity for fans. Shout! Factory released McHale’s Navy: The Complete Series footlocker last fall. Along with all four seasons in a footlocker box, there was a bonus of the two feature films about the crew of the PT-73. Luckily none of the devoted fans had to grouse too long. Shout! Factory has released McHale’s Navy & McHale’s Navy Joins the Air Force as a DVD to add to the season sets.

Nowadays fans of TV shows talk about their shows wrapping up and producing a feature film. This was the fate of Firefly and the dream of Community viewers. However there once was a time when TV shows were turned into feature films while they were still in primetime. Back in 1964 McHale’s Navy was doing well on the TV dial. The misfit crew of the small PT boat were zipping around the South Pacific pulling off scams and taking out Japanese forces. But there was one thing missing from the series: color. McHale’s Navy (1964 – 92:50) brought the series to the big screen with the blue sea and green tropical forest. The episode played like a longer version of the half hour sitcom minus the laugh track. McHale (Marty‘s Ernest Borgnine) enjoys helping out the local orphanage with the extra cash the crew collects from a gambling scam involving recreating week old horse races. Gruber (Carl Ballantine) and Tinker (Billy Sands) screw up by inviting way too many marines into the big bet. Everything goes bad and the crew only gets a minor reprieve when Ensign Parker (Tim Conway) shoots down what he thinks is a Japanese Zero. Turns out the “kill” is a plane carrying Captain Binghamton (Joe Flynn). Basically McHale and his crew have a short time to make up the cash. Complicating matters is Parker getting involved with Claudine Longet. The Rolling Stones once wrote a song about her.

McHale’s Navy Joins the Air Force (1965 – 90 minutes) is a bit of a mystery since it doesn’t feature McHale. The movie was shot between seasons three and four. The simple story is that Ernest Borgnine was off making the Oscar nominated The Flight of the Phoenix. This means the film is all about Ensign Parker on the loose. He and the crew of the PT-73 (including the return of Gavin MacLeod) head to Australia to deliver Binghamton to an important war conference. However things get weird when the harbor is full and the PT-73 must dock against a Soviet warship. The crews mingle and booze is devoured. A drunk Parker ends up first swapping his uniform for a Soviet Sailor’s outfit. This leads to him ducking security by swapping his uniform with the uniform of an Air Force officer (That Girl‘s Ted Bessell). In this mistaken identity adventure, Parker takes over the Air Force Base while the real leader is on a boat heading to the Soviet Union. There’s a lot of comedy as Parker and Binghamton must locate the missing commander or end up in the brig. The movie is funny in the goofy ’60 uncool comedy way. The lack of McHale is evident since there’s no real adult in charge of the mayhem. This is mainly about Conway and Flynn being slapstick partners. What’s interesting about this film is that soon after Bessell would land another military comedy gig on Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.

McHale’s Navy & McHale’s Navy Joins the Air Force were odd to catch on TV in the 70s since they felt like episodes that had forgotten to end. Fans of McHale’s Navy should find both films entertaining and illuminating as they can see the crew in color. Both movies are funnier than the lame remake starring Tom Arnold. Ultimately it is a relief to have the cinematic double feature next to the season sets of McHale’s Navy.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer is amazingly clean. You get all the details of life on PT-73. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. You’ll hear all of Binghamton’s screams.

No bonus features.

Shout! Factory presents McHale’s Navy & McHale’s Navy Joins the Air Force. Directed by: Edward Montagne. Starring: Ernest Borgnine, Tim Conway, Joe Flynn and Ted Bessell. Boxset Contents: 2 movies on 1 DVD. Released: February 16, 2016.

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