A belated entry for…
Initiated by Shadowplay
“This war’s gonna have a head on it”
Frank Tashlin’s final film as director is a Bob Hope picture, appropriate since Hope gave Tashlin his big break into live-action directing in the first place with Son of Paleface. Tashlin was only 59 when this came out, younger than Hope, but would only live a few more years. It’s a shame to have lost him so young, since his style kept changing with the times – would’ve been a trip to see a Tashlin picture in the 1980’s. From The Girl Can’t Help It to Caprice, Tash’s films have seemed very of-their-time – until this one, which feels stodgy and old-fashioned.
Why is this? My guess is old buddy Bob Hope. The credited writers are responsible for some TV episodes and the goofy crystalline sci-fi flick The Monolith Monsters but this has Hope written all over it. It wants to be a comedy, but it can’t make any jokes at the military’s expense – not in ’68 with Hope a political right-winger who probably spent more time than any other entertainer performing for U.S. troops. It’s more consistent a story than most Tashlin movies but it lacks all the good gags – the best jokes are the couple that Hope makes at the expense of his beloved partner Bing Crosby – and any comic momentum is killed at the end with a dry ten minutes of flag waving. So you could say it fails as a comedy since it pulls so many punches, or more generously, that it’s a light military drama with a bit of humor.
Hope’s buddy Calvin Coolidge Ishamura, played by Mako of Conan the Destroyer and Pacific Heights – the movie is very tolerant of Japanese-Americans, if not Japanese-Japanese.
Makeshift beer fridge:
The premise is simple: the Japs sunk a boat delivering beer to the army/navy base and Hope schemes to recover it, following the tides to find drifts of beer cars which he passes out to friends and hides from others. Not caring much about military matters, I didn’t realize until late that there’s a whole army vs. navy rivalry on the base (or is it two bases?) which would’ve cleared up some mysteries – like friendly, clean-looking (but with spooky eyes) lieutenant Jeffrey Hunter (below with Hope), don’t know if he’s a rival, a superior, or just a buddy. This turned out to be a late film for Jeffrey Hunter (also Jesus in King of Kings) as well – his career was cut short by a fatal stroke the following year.
The other allowable topic for comedy besides beer is girls. The group sends for nurses, imagining a team of sexy young girls arriving on the island, but all they get is a wild-haired Phyllis Diller, my favorite person in the movie. Hope gets a flashback-provoking love interest in the form of Gina Lollobrigida (of Dassin’s The Law), and I already can’t remember what Mylène Demongeot (of those 1960’s Fantomas movies) was doing there.
The new nurses: imagined
The new nurses: actual
Tashlin has to sneak in one line about television – something about reruns, I forget the context, and he manages to close the picture on a Tashlinesque piece of live-action cartoonery, Hope pulling a captured submarine with his rowboat. I assume there’s a metaphor there.