Operation Petticoat (Blu-ray Review)

Olive Films has done a terrific job with the high definition transfer of Operation Petticoat. Cary Grant is the commander of a wheezy old submarine which he gets underway and operational through his conniving junior officer, Tony Curtis.  In a series of improbable but acceptable situations, the sub takes on as passengers five army nurses, a few Filipino families including expectant mothers, and a goat.  Some of the situations are predictable, such as those arising when chesty nurses meet seamen in a sub’s narrow corridors. At first, this odd group of characters seems poised to eternal conflict, but as it happens in these comedies, they soon learn to complement each other and become indispensable as a team.


The film doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, it knows its strengths are in these great characters and the actors behind them. How could you not love that pale pink Sea Tiger?!  As a major Cary Grant fan, I find it quite difficult to dislike anything which he is cast, but this film proves itself to be one of those you can watch over and over again. From the quick wit to the more wholesome and sweet moments, this is a sweet story about a poor ship struggling to get by on what it has. Hilariously, it is short on both red and white paint, and thus we are left with a ship unlike any other and the crew to match. Edwards’ work is always interesting to me as a woman in 2017, watching how certain scenes play due to the female character and their jobs or roles. This film stands out to me in particular as these nurses, these educated women are portrayed very simply. What isn’t so funny about this is that it isn’t all that different than how many films portray intelligent women today, focusing mostly ( or only) on their romantic side rather than their true identities.

“Operation Petticoat” is shot with an opening and closing flashback.  The comedy runs more than two hours and could be cut, but doesn’t seem to drag. These scenes don’t mean much, although otherwise the film is rich in humor and is an enjoyable time.

Cary Grant, oh my! He truly is an actor who can have you in stitches simply from a glance. His lack of reactions gives us so much more than if he had done a silly little jig. He needs no jokes, he just is truly funny. He plays this film very understated and it works well in his favor. Tony Curtis is a great addition to Grant’s humor. He is equally charming and has great comedic timing in this film. They are aided by such a peppy and light score that refrains from turning the story into a cartoon, thanks to David Rose. Blake Edwards is the skilled director to manage a funny rather than silly story and take the very best from his actors.


Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Original aspect ratio:  1.85:1

Clarity/Detail: The new high-definition digital restoration makes this film look like it never has before. It is a very saturated film and every shot looks clear and vibrant and beautiful.

Depth: This film has good depth to it, shadows are cleanly cast in both the bright and sunny scenes as well as the darker indoor ones adding more dimension. 

Black Levels: Black levels are deep and dark and I did not witness any crushing within the film. There are great saturation and contrast levels in so many of the shots and the deep black really add to the film. 

Color Reproduction:  THis film is so wonderfully colorful and the saturated and somewhat high contrast of it looks great due to this new restoration. 

Flesh Tones: Skin is natural continuously throughout the film. Facial features are much more apparent in close-ups and medium shots.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean, very minor noise witnessed in this film. 


Audio Format: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: this is a well-balanced film, never overwhelming. The score and dialogue don’t compete and I never found myself turning it up or down for certain scenes. 

Low-Frequency Extension: As a war film your subwoofer definitely is in use. Deep shots and explosions are peppered throughout the film and have good dynamic range.

Surround Sound Presentation: n/a

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear whether someone is yelling or whispering. 


• Audio commentary by critic Adrian Martin

• “That’s What Everybody Says About Me” – with Jennifer Edwards and actress Lesley Ann Warren

• “The Brave Crew of the Petticoat” – with actors Gavin MacLeod and Marion Ross

• “The Captain and His Double: Cary Grant’s Struggle of the Self” – with Marc Eliot, author of Cary Grant: A Biography

• Universal Newsreel footage of Cary Grant and the opening of Operation Petticoat at the Radio City Music Hall

• Archival footage of the submarine USS Balao, which doubled as the USS Sea Tiger in Operation Petticoat

• Essay by critic Chris Fujiwara


Operation Petticoat is a loveable fil you can see time and time again. The great cast of characters is odd, but endearing. This film is so much fun, but not too much more (what do you expect from a pink Sea Tiger?). It is one of those classic movies that you can cuddle up to and have a good chuckle thanks to Cary Grant and Tony Curtis and their countering wit and charm.

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