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DVD Review McHale's Navy: The Complete Series DVD Review (1 Viewer)

Richard Gallagher

Senior HTF Member
Dec 9, 2001
Fishkill, NY
Real Name
Rich Gallagher
McHale's Navy: The Complete Series DVD Review


McHale's Navy is one of the iconic television shows from the 1960s. All four seasons were previously released in single-season sets, but now Shout! Factory has packaged them together in McHale's Navy: The Complete Series. The added attraction here is the inclusion of the two feature films which the series spawned, McHale's Navy (1964) and McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force (1965). This marks the first Region 1 release of the latter film, although both films are scheduled to be released as a DVD double feature in February, 2016.

Studio: Universal

Distributed By: Shout! Factory

Video Resolution and Encode: 480P/MPEG-2

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Audio: English 2.0 DD

Subtitles: None

Rating: Not Rated

Run Time: 61Hr.(approximately)

Package Includes: DVD

Keep Cases

Disc Type: DVD-9 (dual layer)

Region: A

Release Date: 11/17/2015

MSRP: $169.99

The Production Rating: 4.5/5


McHale's Navy clearly was inspired by The Phil Silvers Show, the 1950s hit comedy about the conniving Army Sergeant Ernie Bilko and his men at Fort Baxter, Kansas. The producer and occasional director of McHale's Navy was Edward Montagne, who also was a producer on The Phil Silvers Show. There are significant differences, though. The Phil Silvers Show takes place during peacetime at an obscure Army post, whereas McHale's Navy is set in the South Pacific during World War II.


Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale (Ernest Borgnine) is the skipper of PT-73, which is based at the fictional Pacific island of Taratupa. The Commanding Officer of the base is McHale's constant foil, Captain Wallace Binghamton (Joe Flynn). Binghamton's Executive Officer is a fawning yes man, Lieutenant Elroy Carpenter (Bob Hastings). The Executive Officer of PT-73 is the bumbling Ensign Charles Parker (Tim Conway). McHale's crew is stationed on an outer island which is some distance from the main base. The crew of PT-73 is made up of the following sailors:


Lester Gruber (Carl Ballantine)
"Christy" Christopher (Gary Vinson)
"Tinker" Bell (Billy Sands)
Virgil Edwards (Edson Stroll)
"Happy" Haines (Gavin MacLeod)
Willy Moss (John Wright)


They are aided in their shenanigans by Fuji Kobiaji (Yoshio Yoda), a deserter from the Japanese Navy and a Prisoner of War. Fuji hides out on McHale's island and in return for the crew's protection he acts as their houseboy and cook.


McHale is constantly at odds with Binghamton, who has derisively been nicknamed "Old Lead Bottom" by the men. McHale regularly flaunts regulations, allowing his crew to engage in gambling and entertain native women on his island. Binghamton pledges that one day he will have grounds to transfer or court-martial McHale, but he is thwarted at every turn. McHale's skill as a skipper and his success in fighting the Japanese Navy causes Binghamton's superiors to overlook his occasional insubordination.


For Season Four there was an attempt to breathe new life into McHale's Navy by moving everyone to a base in Italy, just as the setting of The Phil Silvers Show was moved from Kansas to California for its fourth and final season. Several new characters appear, notably the local mayor, Mario Lugatto (Jay Novello), who often finds himself at odds with the long-suffering Captain Binghamton.




The 1964 feature film McHale's Navy retains the spirit of the television series, which should come as no surprise because it is produced and directed by Edward Montagne and features the same cast. McHale's men are taking bets on a horse race in Australia in order to raise money for an orphanage. They promise to pay off at racetrack odds, but unfortunately a number of Marines decide to bet on the same horse, which turns out to be the winner. The crew of PT-73 needs to find a way to raise enough money to pay up.


In the meantime, Captain Binghamton suspects that something fishy is going on when Lieutenant Carpenter reports that the men on the base have been taking their pay in cash, even though there is essentially nothing for them to spend it on. Binghamton boards a reconnaissance plane with a camera, hoping to find proof of something illegal taking place on McHale's island. Unfortunately for Binghamton, Ensign Parker mistakes the plane for a Japanese Zero and shoots it down.


McHale decides to take his crew to New Caledonia to see if he can raise the money they need from an old flame, Margo Monet (Jean Willes). Margot owns a gambling parlor and is willing to give McHale the money, but only if he agrees to marry her. Marriage is the last thing that McHale has on his mind, however. Meanwhile, Parker has been left at the pier to guard PT-73 and he accidentally launches a depth charge which destroys a local businessman's dock. Parker also becomes smitten with a local French woman, Andrea Bouchard (Claudine Longet).


At a running time of 93 minutes the story sometimes feels as if it is a padded television episode, but it contains enough laughs to satisfy fans of the show.




McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force, a 1965 feature film, is an oddity, albeit a funny one. The oddest thing about it is that McHale does not appear in it. It was claimed that Ernest Borgnine was unavailable when the film was made, but the actor told Cinema Retro magazine that Edward Montagne wanted to make the film cheaply and never showed him the script. Whatever the situation was, in the opening scene it is mentioned that McHale is away and he is never mentioned again.


Captain Binghamton has to attend a staff meeting in Australia and is forced to take PT-73 after Fuji sabotages Lieutenant Carpenter's boat. The crew is hoping to enjoy some liberty in Brisbane, but when they arrive Binghamton restricts them to the boat. They are tied up next to a Russian ship, and they persuade the Russian sailors to swap uniforms so they can go ashore without being detected. Ensign Parker, who is a teetotaler, gets drunk with the Russians and through a series of mishaps ends up wearing the uniform of an Air Force pilot, Lieutenant Harkness (Ted Bessell), who has just arrived in Australia for the first time. Harkness is forced to wear a Russian uniform and his mistaken for a deserter by NKVD agents, who arrest him and put him aboard the Russian ship. In the meantime, everyone assumes that Parker is Harkness and much hilarity ensues.


In the absence of Ernest Borgnine, McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force is Tim Conway's film, with able support by Joe Flynn. The other members of the crew appear intermittently and do not have much to do. Carl Ballantine also does not appear in the film and his character, Gruber, is never mentioned. Conway is particularly funny in a scene where he mistakenly enters a women's barracks. Corporal "Smitty Smith" (Susan Silo) provides romantic interest for the constantly flustered Parker. This film has a running time of 90 minutes.

Video Rating: 3.5/5  3D Rating: NA

The 20 DVDs which make up the four television seasons are identiical in every respect to the DVDs in the single season sets, and the black & white picture quality is satisfactory throughout.


The packaging for the color feature films says that they are full-frame, but that is incorrect. Fortunately, both are anamorphic widescreen and are framed at 1.85:1. Both films look very good when upscaled, with accurate colors and satisfactory detail. I saw no evidence of any print damage, and the overall impression is very film-like. Both films appear on a single double-feature DVD.


There is an Australian Blu-ray of both films which reportedly has better picture quality, but I have not seen it and cannot make a comparison.

Audio Rating: 3/5

The packaging for this set does not provide any audio specs, but my system is telling me that the television episodes and the feature films are presented in mono Dolby Digital 2.0. The audio is nothing special but there is nothing to complain about, either.


There are no subtitles, either on the television episodes or the feature films.

Special Features Rating: 5/5

The rating is based primarily upon the inclusion of the two feature films.


The packaging for the complete series set says that it includes "the original pilot episode," but it is unclear what is meant by that, unless it is referring to the first episode, "An Ensign for McHale." That episode is not identified as the pilot on the single season set for Season One. Various references identify Seven Against the Sea, a one-hour episode of the television program Alcoa Premiere, as the actual pilot episode. Seven Against the Sea is the program which introduces the character of Quinton McHale as the skipper of PT-73, but it is a drama rather than a comedy. In any event, Seven Against the Sea is not included in this set.


The extras are identical to those which appear in the single season sets. "The Crew Reunion" brings together Ernest Borgnine, Tim Conway, Carl Ballantine, Bob Hastings, and Edson Stroll for a 40-year reunion and can be found on Season One, Disc One. "Ernest Borgnine Remembers" appears on Season Two, Disc One, and "Tim Conway Remembers" appears on Season Two, Disc Two.


Also included are three McHale's Navy postcards and six press-on tattoos.


A word about the packaging is in order. Although the four seasons contain the same UPC codes as the original single-season sets, they are in flipper keep cases which fit into a cardboard slipcase. The originals came in three slimcases per season.


The cardboard slipcase comes in a box which resembles McHale's foot locker (see the attached photo). Its effect is purely decorative and I imagine that most people will use the slipcase for storage.


Posted Image


The single-season sets come with eight-page episode guides which contain a brief synopsis of each episode. The guides are not included with the complete series set, although the episode titles and air dates are listed on the interiors of the keep cases.


There is a space-saving aspect to the complete series set. It takes up only about as much shelf space as three of the single season sets, even with the inclusion of the double feature.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

If you already own the four single season sets you may want to wait until February, when the double feature of McHale's Navy and McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force will be released on DVD. On the other hand, if you have been waiting to buy this show, the complete series set costs less (at Amazon's current price of $97.67) than the four single season sets, and it includes the two feature films.


McHale's Navy is a very funny service comedy and this set is highly recommended, particularly for those who do not already own the single season sets.

Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher

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Deceased Member
May 14, 2004

I personally met the late Ernest Borgnine a few years prior to his passing (I have a picture of myself taken with Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale displayed on my facebook) and specifically asked the (marvellous) gentleman just why he wasn't in MCHALE'S NAVY JOINS THE AIR FORCE (1965) and he clearly responded that he "was available" but just "wasn't asked" to appear in it.

Some "informed" sources maintain that at that specific point-in-time his salary contract was being renegotiated which may well have precluded his participation.

The film does play like a definite Tim Conway-Joe Flynn vehicle and I wonder if it was an intended dry run to continue the fourth season (1965-66) just in case Ernest Borgnine couldn't be secured for it.

I will say this I was initially surprised and disappointed when it was apparent that Ernest Borgnine (or Carl Ballentine for that matter) wasn't in this follow-up feature film but it was still enjoyable nonetheless albeit I (understandably) like MCHALE'S NAVY (1964), which better recognizably adheres to the parent tv series, much more.

What is even just as curious is the inclusion of Gavin MacLeod in the cast who had permanently called-it-quits after the completion of the second season (1963-64). Some loss, some gain!

I've never especially been a fan of the fourth season with the radical change to its dreary rustic village backdrop setting which (at least for myself) never really worked at all.

A lot of the MCHALE'S NAVY (ABC 1962-66) tv sitcom's charm was its wonderful scenic tropical South Pacific locale.

However I've always enjoyed this television series (and the two feature films) very much and I would like to confirm that the Australian all-regions blu-ray release is positively superb. I just wish that the original theatrical trailers could have been included.

One thing that's missing and wasn't retained from MCHALE'S NAVY JOINS THE AIR FORCE (1965) is the self-promoting tag seen at the film's conclusion that proudly declares "When in Southern California visit Universal Studios!" to the accompaniment of the MCHALE'S NAVY theme.

Jeff T.


Richard Gallagher

Senior HTF Member
Dec 9, 2001
Fishkill, NY
Real Name
Rich Gallagher
Thanks for that additional info, Jeff. The Australian Blu-ray is a bit pricey on Amazon ($41.99) but might be available for less if purchased directly from a dealer in Australia.

Were you with the HTF group which had a private session with Ernest Borgnine in Las Vegas some years back? He had a terrific memory of all the projects he worked on.


Deceased Member
May 14, 2004
The Australian-based Madman Entertainment had a terrific close-out sale of the first run of its MCHALE'S NAVY double-bill movie blu-ray release for just $9.99 which was when I took advantage of it thanks to the notification of one of our Australian discussion forum members here.

It has since been reissued by the selfsame company for a second run and (in time) will likely economically drop in price once again.

Pertaining to the late Ernest Borgnine I also asked the gentleman whether there was any discussion about a "third" MCHALE'S NAVY feature film and he responded "No." If there was I always speculated that it would have be titled MCHALE'S NAVY VERSUS THE ARMY (1966) which is pretty much what the fourth season (1965-66) was all about. I was certainly game. I loved those feature films. Especially the first one. It was like spending a day with McHale's Navy.

When I met the soft-spoken Mr. Borgnine he appeared quite fit indeed so it was a genuine shock when the kindly gentleman passed away just a few years after our meeting. But in addition to having my picture taken with the legendary Academy Award winning actor I also secured an autographed photo which I will always treasure.

No, unfortunately I missed the HTF private session but this discussion forum can be thankfully commended for many, many substantial achievements over its long illustrious history. Indeed I specifically credit it for many of the DVD and blu-rays released that I have actively lobbied for in HTF.

Keep up the tremendous work and thank you for the always interesting (and constructively helpful) reviews.

Jeff T.

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