Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Tonight's Movie: Francis in the Navy (1955) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Donald O'Connor's six-film run as Peter Stirling in the Francis the Talking Mule movies concluded with FRANCIS IN THE NAVY (1955), available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

FRANCIS IN THE NAVY is part of a seven-film Francis the Talking Mule Collection from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. I've reviewed all of the prior Francis films in the set over the course of several months; links are provided at the end of this review.

The final movie in the set features a new leading man, Mickey Rooney. I'll be reviewing that film, FRANCIS IN THE HAUNTED HOUSE (1956), at a future date.

FRANCIS IN THE NAVY follows the typical Francis formula, but while it may be fairly predictable, the film is made more enjoyable by a fun cast which includes Martha Hyer, Richard Erdman, Clint Eastwood, David Janssen, Martin Milner, Jim Backus, and Virginia O'Brien.

This time around Peter is still in the army when he receives an SOS from his old pal Francis, who is about to be sold by the Navy as surplus.

Peter intends to rescue Francis, but when he shows up he's mistaken for a sailor who looks just like him, named Slicker Donevan.

Between insisting he's not Slicker and that he's trying to save a talking mule, Peter's an easy candidate for the psych ward.

By this point the situations in the Francis films were easy to anticipate, to the point it's assumed the audience is in on the joke when Peter is seen doing arts and crafts in the psych ward again -- though at least having O'Connor play two characters was a novel twist!

They're not particularly scintillating films, yet I find they're pleasantly undemanding viewing after a long workday, and the Universal Pictures casts are always interesting.

The films in the series often provide an opportunity to see actors, including Eastwood and Janssen, on their way up the career ladder; indeed, three years later Hyer would receive a Best Supporting Actress nomination for SOME CAME RUNNING (1958). Janssen, incidentally, also appears in the final film in the Francis series in a different role.

FRANCIS IN THE NAVY was directed by Arthur Lubin from a story and script by Devery Freeman. The movie runs 80 minutes.

The FRANCIS IN THE NAVY Blu-ray is from a brand-new 2K master. As with the other Francis movies, the black and white photography by Carl E. Guthrie is quite ordinary, but the Blu-ray itself looks and sounds great.

The disc includes a newly mastered trailer and a commentary track by Lee Gambin and Anthony Nelson.


Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray collection.


Blogger Rick said...

This was the first FRANCIS film I ever saw and the only one I saw in a theater. I was 11 years old. At the time, I was modestly amused but nothing special.

Maybe the weirdest thing about that first viewing is what did NOT connect in my brain. Though I watched MR. ED on TV every week at the time, it never occurred to me that it was a rip-off of the FRANCIS movies. To my young mind, we just had a couple of stories about talking equines. Probably there were a million of 'em.

I rewatched the film a couple of years back and this time was struck by a weird and even kind of icky element which flew right over me in 1961. Yes, it's nice that Donald O'Connor plays two roles, but it is weird beyond comfort that Hyer falls for a guy who looks EXACTLY like her brother. I mean...did no one think about this at the time?

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Barry Lane said...

I saw all the Donald O'Connor Francis films at the time of their release. Thought they were charming, but passed on Rooney.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Interesting point about Hyer and the O'Connor lookalikes, Rick! Enjoyed your memories of seeing the films. I watched MR. ED reruns on TV but to my knowledge I only saw once Francis film growing up (FRANCIS JOINS THE WACS).

Glad to know you saw these, Barry. I tend to appreciate Rooney in limited doses and am not big on haunted house films, so we'll see about the last film in the series...want to check it out to be complete!

Best wishes,

9:14 PM  

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