Monday, May 20, 2013

Off the Cuff Movie Review - Operation Petticoat

   If you've read many of my off the cuff reviews, you've probably gotten the idea that I like Cary Grant movies. This film is one of his later comedies, set during the beginning phase of World War II, but it ends in the modern day (for when the film was released). It co-stars Tony Curtis - I've already quoted or paraphrased him from this film in another post. 
     Anyway, Grant & Curtis are Navy officers aboard the submarine Sea Tiger, which got sunk in port within days of the war's outbreak. Captain Sherman (Grant) wants to get his boat repaired and back into the war, while Acting Supply Officer Lt Holden (Curtis) wants to get back to Hawaii, so he can marry his rich fiancee. Events conspire to make it difficult for either to get what they want, but Lt Holden manages at every turn to steal or bamboozle his way into "a better deal than what I've got now". By the film's end, one of them gets what he wants, while the other changes his mind about his goal. Along the way, a goofy cast of characters from the crew of the sub to South Pacific locals, to a group of stranded Army nurses create one headache after another for Sherman, and every move Holden makes to get them out of one jam gets Sherman deeper and deeper in Holden's constant scamming. It's hilarious to watch the usually calm & suave Grant play the progressively more perplexed and bewildered Capt. Sherman, to the point you wonder who's really running the boat. Despite the serious backdrop of the war, the film manages a breezy and fun-filled tone throughout. There's romance in the air for both Holden and Sherman, and even the ship's comically misogynist chief mechanic ("It's either her or me in this engine room!" he demands) warms up to the presence of the women. When the boat ends up being painted pink (it makes sense in context) suddenly both sides are out to get the Sea Tiger, assuming it's a trick of the other side. It takes all of Sherman's and Holden's wiles to get them out of this one. 
     There is nothing in this movie that I would caution parents about letting kids watch. A few sailors go shirtless, but it is because they're working, not showing off. The women are stared at appreciatively, but there's no leering or off-color talk. Lt Holden's scamming gets tolerated by Capt Sherman only because it is a practical necessity - the rest of the crew are concerned about getting caught stealing so much stuff, but agree that they will have to give up the ship as unsalvageable without it. Two characters kiss, but only briefly. No one gets hurt any worse than getting knocked into the water by a clumsy nurse. 
    My boy's favorite line from the film, which you'll have to watch to understand: "What happened?"  "We sunk a truck!"

      Now, this movie's setup is a great template for an adventure or even a campaign theme. This idea will work better in a game world with modern or future technology, but I suppose it could be made to work in a low-tech fantasy setting. The setup is that the characters are the crew of a vessel, which by reason of outside circumstances, must keep on the move - finding themselves behind enemy lines seems a good idea. Complications should include extensive damage to the vessel and the scarcity of repair parts, an enemy that harasses them  rather than conducting all-out assaults, crew or passenger issues that force side-trips and unreliable or too-brief access to repair facilities. The movie above plays this for laughs, but it could be made into a very serious scenario. Depending upon how far the vessel has to go, or the danger of the area to be traversed, this set-up could last for many game sessions.

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