Don’t Give Up the Ship (1959)
Director: Norman Taurog
Starring: Jerry Lewis, Dina Merril, Diana Spencer, Mickey Shaughnessy, Robert Middleton, Gale Gordon, Mabel Albertson & Chuck Wassil
Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
Unbelievably based on an actual incident, Don’t Give Up the Ship stars Jerry Lewis (The Nutty Professor) as a wet-behind-the-ears naval newlywed who is whisked away from his honeymoon by a committee investigating the disappearance of the battleship previously under his command. Suffering a mental block, a blonde bombshell of a psychiatrist (Dina Merril, Operation Petticoat) is brought in to help rattle the officer’s memory.
Produced in accordance with the U.S. Navy who are praised for their cooperation and sense of humor at the film’s onset, Don’t Give Up the Ship interrupts the celebratory victory of World War II when a displeased congressman refuses to approve a $4 billion appropriation fund for the Navy due to the mysterious disappearance of destroyer vessel, the U.S.S. Kornblatt. Tying the knot with his lovely new bride Prudence (Diana Spencer, TV’s Johnny Ringo), the dimwitted but harmless Lieutenant John Paul Steckler VIII is quickly fingered by an investigative committee and summoned to the Pentagon to explain the most unusual circumstance behind the whereabouts of the ship that was under his control. Ordered to locate the vessel in mere days while being hilariously disrupted at every chance of intimacy with his wife, Steckler’s mental block and seemingly tall tales about the events surrounding the Kornblatt make matters laughably more difficult for the Navy veteran. Aided by an attractive psychologist tasked with helping Steckler remember the stranger than fiction facts, comical hijinks including, sharing a train compartment with another woman much to the dismay of his wife, being captured by Japanese soldiers unaware of the war’s conclusion and a deep sea exploration finding the goofy cadet and a fellow Navy man confronted by sharks, mermaids and a massive octopus. While the funnyman’s madcap energy and comedic timing are the heart of the film, Don’t Give Up the Ship is a fairly middle-of-the-road effort from Jerry Lewis’ career of laughs with a plot that runs its course by the time the end credits roll. Although Steckler’s robbed opportunities at whoopee making become repetitive, Lewis’ brand of childish silliness and knee-slapping physicality still make for a fine time.
Newly remastered in 4K, KL Studio Classics presents Don’t Give Up the Ship with a 1080p transfer, preserving its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. A gorgeous sight to behold, the monochrome photography looks stunning with excellent detail observed in skin tones, the fairly basic Navy uniforms and the film’s underwater sequence that is relayed with the utmost quality. Boasting deeply inky black levels and hardly a scratch to be seen, it doesn’t get much better than this for a film so many decades removed. Charmed with an equally impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that appears basic enough yet, sells dialogue exchanges, city street ambiance, and hurricane winds with top-notch care. Although unrelated to the main feature, the disc’s sole special feature is Trailers for After the Fox (2:49), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (2:23), Haunted Honeymoon (2:19), Life Stinks (2:01), Delirious (2:22) and The Couch Trip (1:14).
Helmed by Academy Award-winning Director Norman Taurog (Slippy, The Wizard of Oz, albeit uncredited for his contributions on the latter), Don’t Give Up the Ship succeeds in letting Lewis does what he does best while, carrying the otherwise mediocre plot on his shoulders with ease. Unable to keep your eyes off of the animated thespian for fear of missing the slightest funny nuance, Lewis keeps the ship afloat steadily. Meanwhile, KL Studio Classics’ exceptional 4K mastering of the feature is an absolute knockout and now the only way to view this well-received comedy.