Films on Friday

McHale's Navy.jpg

There are very few television shows that were so popular during their run that they released movies theatrically while they were still airing on the small screen. Notably, the introduction of the character of Quinton McHale, as portrayed by Ernest Borgnine, was in an episode of Alcoa Premiere, hosted by Fred Astaire, called "Seven Against the Sea." Even more notably, the show was a drama about the crew of a PT Boat surviving on a Japanese-occupied island in the World War II-era Pacific Ocean. Six months later, the one-off became a regular part of the line-up for CBS, still starring Ernest Borgnine, but as a situation comedy, co-starring such icons as Joe Flynn, Tim Conway, and Gavin McLeod. McHale's Navy aired for four years, from 1962 to 1966.  138 episodes were made.  AND, in the middle of it all, two movies.  The first, simply called McHale's Navy, was released in 1964, was basically a larger-scale episode of the television show filmed in brilliant color.

The second movie was McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force. Released in 1965, the film sequel of the television show stands out for a few reasons - most notable in the absence of McHale himself. Ernest Borgnine does not make an appearance at all. The budget of the film was so low, the producers did not feel they could afford Borgnine's rate, so it's been said they never even asked him if he wanted to participate.  And he couldn't have anyway, since he was busy filming Flight of the Phoenix.  You'll have to watch both war films yourself to see decide which is the better film. And maybe we shouldn't mention this, but McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force was set "Somewhere in the South Pacific 1943," and there was no such thing as an independent arm of the United States military as the Air Force until 1947. Honestly, you'd think the guys at McHale's Navy would have done their research!