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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This episode served as the original pilot for McHale's Navy. But don't
expect Tim Conway nor Joe Flynn here. In fact Lt. Commander Quinton
McHale (Ernest Borgnine) is the commanding officer of the navy PT boat
island base, Taratupa. In the late spring of 1942 the Japanese bombed
the base, when it was over it was devastated, only out 150 men, 18
survived. They kept in hiding of Japanese patrols, till Lieutenant
Durham (Ron Foster) parachutes onto the island. His job is to get
Taratupa back into action, but it's an up-hill job.
The men have gone native and one of them has even started a native laundry service, and McHale has a still and makes moonshine for the men and the natives too. McHale is buddy buddy with the native chief and even bathes with him.McHale is afraid of losing any more men, he's just concerned about their survival and getting rescued. That is till they receive orders about protecting a Marine battalion pinned on a beach and an enemy cruiser is planning to attack the beachhead in the morning. They are ordered to use all boats they have to protect the beachhead. But since the Japanese has sunk all their boats, what McHale does capture a Japanese PT boat, who has come to patrol the island. McHale doesn't plan to use the boat to evacuate the battalion, but to attack and destroy the Japanese cruiser. His plan is that since they're on a Japanese boat, flying a Japanese flag, that they can get close enough to torpedo the cruiser.
This is a dramatic war story interlaced with humor. Only the relationship with the local native chief, and their still and laundry businesses are retained in the show that eventually made it on the air as "McHale's Navy". Beside Borgnine the only other actors that made it to the series were Gary Vinson as Christy and John Wright as Willy. Other than those three actors this is a completely different cast. It's very good and while the show it will eventually be is an old favorite of mine, I wonder why this pilot didn't get picked up. It would have made an interesting series.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Alcoa Premiere: SEVEN AGAINST THE SEA 1962
Alcoa Premiere was an anthology series that ran for 60 episodes between 1961 and 1963. The series was hosted by Fred Astaire who gave a brief comment at the start and end of each episode. The series attracted up and coming actors as well as many established Hollywood types. These included, Dana Andrews, George Kennedy, Ernest Borgnine, Cliff Robertson, Shelly Winters, Mickey Rooney, Anne Francis and Robert Redford. Big screen directors were also involved with the likes of, John Brahm, Joseph Pevney, Robert Florey and John Ford.
This was the original pilot for the 1960's service comedy hit, McHale's Navy. This one however is played as a straight up war production.
It stars Ernest Borgnine as the commander of a PT-Boat squadron based in the Solomon Islands in early 1942. The Japanese send a heavy cruiser down "The Slot" from Rabual one night to shell the base. All of Borgnine's PT Boats are sunk and only 18 men out on 150 survive.
Borgnine and the other survivors hide out in the interior of the island. They become friendly with the island natives. There is a brisk trade between the natives and McHale's sailors. Being an enterprising bunch they soon have a still set up to make booze. Everything is salvaged from the wrecked base that can be put to good use.
The Navy, not hearing from the base for some time, decide to parachute an officer, Ron Foster, onto the island. Foster is to get the base up and running and back in the war. Foster is of course in for a rude surprise. There are no PT Boats except those at the bottom of the harbour. Foster is not impressed with the complete lack of discipline among the men. Likewise, he is not happy with Borgnine's refusal to even think about getting back in the fight.
Foster, who brought a radio with him, gets orders to rescue a Marine unit trapped on another island. The lack of any waterborne transport to make this rescue, does not dawn on headquarters. Foster finally lights a fire under Borgnine who comes up with a plan. The Japanese send a recon aircraft over the island every day. Borgnine makes sure that this time, the Japanese see the base has been re-occupied.
The Japanese now send a small torpedo boat to check out the island. Borgnine and his boys bushwhack the Japanese and capture the torpedo boat. They quickly arm the craft with a few of their own torpedoes and set sail to save the trapped Marines.
They discover that the Japanese have sent a heavy cruiser down from their base at Rabual to shell the Marines. Borgnine knowing first-hand what the Marines are in for, decides to intercept said cruiser. He hopes to save the Marines from being slaughtered. The cruiser mistakes the torpedo boat as one of their own. This is what Borgnine wanted. He closes in and slips a pair of fish into the Japanese warship, sinking same. The unit is back in the war.
The studio decided to rework the idea into a half-hour comedy instead of the hour long war drama. It became a decent sized hit and ran for 138 episodes over five years.
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