In this comedy, John Paul Steckler is a destroyer escort commander at the close of WWII. His wedding night is interrupted when he is summoned by the Defense Department. The navy has no record of his boat ever being returned, and he must either produce the boat or pay for it.
Some would call him a mad genius. Other people might call him the worst thing to reach the silver screen. Whichever way you may fall on the debate, Jerry Lewis is a comedic force unto himself. With a combination of rubber-faced mugging and lightning-fast one-liners, Lewis entertained audiences for decades. 1959's Don't Give Up The Ship is another tried and true Jerry Lewis farce that puts the comedian at center stage and forces his supporting cast to play a hilarious game catch-up.
John Paul Steckler VII (Jerry Lewis) hails from a long line of navy men. Well, specifically navy men who managed to screw up in the heat of battle when it counted most. Somehow, the seventh in the long line of dunderheads has managed to stay out of trouble and not cause too much damage. On the day that he gets married, Steckler learns that the ship he served on during WWII has gone missing - and Steckler was the man signed out for it! How could one man lose an entire boat - and not remember what happened to it? With the help of the beautiful psychologist Ens. Benson (Dina Merrill), they'll have to delve the depths of John Paul Steckler VII's simple psyche to solve the mystery of the missing vessel.
I've always had a hard time pegging where I stand on Jerry Lewis. Sometimes the man is laugh-out-loud gut-bustlingly funny. Other times the incessant mugging and nasally voice just puts me off my soup. Worse yet, I never know how I'll react to a Lewis picture until I plug it in and give it a go. Thankfully, Don't Give Up The Ship was one of those times that Jerry Lewis' antics were endearing rather than being totally and completely annoying! Under the direction or Norman Taurog, Lewis is able to give his usual off the wall antics with a measure of restraint. His wheezy nasally whine actually serves a purpose when he's desperate to spend the night with his new bride while also being on the hook for millions of dollars in navy equipment!
That isn't to say that Don't Give Up The Ship is a perfect comedy. It does have it's slow moments and there are a few bits where you just want Jerry to dial it back a bit. But like I said, most of the time this movie works and provides more than enough great laughs to make up for any shortfalls. With a great supporting cast including Dina Merrill, Mickey Shaughnessy, Robert Middleton, and a brief stint from the always reliable Claude Akins, Jerry Lewis is in his element. The fact that everyone around him is able to keep a straight face (most of the time) helps make this one of Lewis' best outings.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Don't Give Up The Ship arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber and their Studio Classics label. Pressed onto a Region A BD-25 disc, the disc is housed in a standard, sturdy Blu-ray case. The disc loads directly to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
After undergoing a 4K HD restoration and presented here at 1.85:1 in 1080p, Don't Give Up The Ship looks like a million bucks! Detail levels are sharp and precise allowing for plenty of fine details to emerge. Facial features, short stubbly haircuts, and clothing. Even a rubber octopus during a pretty hilarious underwater sequence gets to look its best. The visual presentation is pretty flat overall, mostly three-walled sets so there's not a lot to look at, but what's on screen does look pretty great. Greyscale offers up plenty of separation allowing for a full range of whites, blacks, and shadows to appear. The image maintains strong black levels giving it an appreciable sense of three-dimensional depth. Some mild speckling is the only negative to report.
Don't Give Up The Ship sports an impressively strong DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio mix. Dialogue comes through with terrific clarity helping to sell the Lewis' brand of noise-based comedy. Sound effects and scoring are layered nicely giving most scenes a great sense of atmosphere and presence. Levels are set just fine without the need to adjust once the show is underway. In fact, given how naturally strong and loud this track is, you may want to keep your volume levels lower than you normally would for a comedy of this sort. Free of any hiss, pops, or scratches, this audio track is virtually flawless.
Unfortunately, this great comedy is void of any genuine bonus content. What's provided is Kino Studio Classics' standard assortment of trailers.
While Jerry Lewis' brand of comedy may be a bit of an acquired taste, Don't Give Up The Ship proves to be one of the funnyman's best outings. His rubber face and sharp wit combine with a simple enough story to mine comedy gold. Fans of Lewis will want to add it to their collection while folks who may not enjoy his antics should give the man another chance with this one. Kino Lorber through their Studio Classics label has done a bang-up job bringing Don't Give Up the Ship to Blu-ray. With a stellar A/V presentation, this comedy has never looked or sounded better on home video. It's a pretty easy flick to recommend.