Monday, April 14, 2014

McHale’s Navy – the Vampire of Taratupa – review

Director: Hollingsworth Morse

First aired: 1965

Contains spoilers

I must admit that I was unaware of the series McHale’s Navy. As I settled down to watch this vampire orientated episode from the third season that fact left me at somewhat of a disadvantage, I think, and I came away with the impression that it was essentially Bilko at sea (or at a naval base at the very least). I wasn’t far wrong.

From what I gather McHale’s Navy started off as a drama (with comedic elements) in its original pilot form with Ernest Borgnine playing Lt. Commander Quinton McHale one of 18 survivors of a Japanese attack during World War 2 and their struggle against a Lieutenant parachuted in to get them up and running as a fighting force, as they had gone native and were content to just try and survive the rest of the war on the island. However, when it became a syndicated series it was under the producer, Edward J. Montagne, who had been behind the Phil Silver’s Show - making it Bilko in the navy (but in war rather than peacetime).

Benson and Parker
To the specific episode then: Ensign Charles Parker (Tim Conway) is a klutz, when he meets new nurse Lt. Melba Benson (Ann Elder) they are instantly attracted to each other and she is as big a klutz as he is. On their second date they go and watch the vampire movie “Vampire’s Revenge”. We do not get to see the film but we do see the audience reactions and hear parts of it – and the vampire’s faux-Lugosi accent. Following the viewing Parker manages to trap the hand of commanding officer Captain Wallace B. Binghamton (Joe Flynn) in a chair and then knock supply boxes over him with a jeep.

Ernest Borgnine is McHale
Binghamton decides to ship Parker off to a coast-watching location, an assignment that is essentially a suicide run, and thus be done with the clumsy ensign. However he then discovers that Parker has the same incredibly rare blood type (AA6 –ve) and rescinds the order, instead closeting Parker away to keep him safe. Whilst Parker milks this quite a bit, he wants to get back to his mates. Worse they discover that Melba faked the blood records to save him. McHale comes up with a plan to get him back.

our fake Vampire
How the plan was actually meant to work in any meaningful way outside of the fuzzy world of the sitcom was beyond me, but they have Parker dress as a vampire and lie in a coffin. He then menaces Binghamton until McHale and mates come in to the rescue – saying it is Parker’s secret and he turns into a vampire every full moon! Parker then suggests (in an equally faux-Lugosi accent) that he has brought some friends along and in walks the Phantom of the Opera, the Mummy, the Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Wolfman. Binghamton soon sees through the scheme, as well as the disguises, but sends Parker back to his friends anyway.

plus Mummy too
With a quick visit from the Creature from the Black Lagoon as a coda piece, that was about all – so, as in Bilko, it is a fake vampire. I apologies now to fans of the series but I wasn’t aware of it before and won’t be watching more. To me it was just a facsimile of the Phil Silver’s Show, without the distinct advantage of having Phil Silvers in the cast. 4 out of 10.

The episode’s imdb page is here.

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