Walter Matthau and Robert Walker Jr. in Ensign Pulver (1964)

Mister Pulver

It's strange as before I sat down to watch "Ensign Pulver" I had a feeling that the name rang a bell but couldn't work out exactly why. But within about 10 minutes it all made sense when there was mention of the Captain's tree being thrown over board and a Doc Roberts and I realised this was a sequel to "Mister Roberts" although coming 9 years after the original movie you have to question why they bothered. And to be honest whilst not terrible it is not a patch on the original and sort of meanders along with what now seems typical navy humour but not a great deal else.

Life for the men aboard a beaten up old navy cargo ship sailing in the back of the Pacific has become unbearable thanks to Captain Morton (Burl Ives - The Big Country) who doesn't seem to realise the war is almost over and is hell bent on earning his Commander's cap. With the men edging ever closer to mutiny Ensign Frank Pulver (Robert Walker Jr. - The War Wagon decides to play a prank on the Captain but it backfires on him. And to make matters worse when Captain Morton ends up overboard during a storm Pulver ends up going in after him and ending washed up on an island together.

Jack Nicholson in Ensign Pulver (1964)

So for the first half hour "Ensign Pulver" does two things; it sets the scene that this is a sequel to "Mister Roberts" and then fires off plenty of typical naval humour at us. What that means is that we have the crew behaving badly, using laundry equipment to mix drinks for a party whilst Doc is exasperated with the Captain. We also get moral officer and crafty scrounger Pulver doing his thing, be it trying to smuggle booze in a bra box to flirting with a female nurse who he meets when he heads assure supposedly for laundry supplies. None of which is amazingly funny but none of it is terrible although the musical scenes of the crew singing and larking about is a bit too stage musical like.

Anyway after half an hour of what to be honest is amusing nothingness we do finally get to the story with Pulver and Morton ending up stranded on an island whilst the men on the ship have a field day. It's okay but again there is nothing special about it which really gets you laughing with the one joke being that Pulver has to do an operation on Morton.

Part of the problem is that we have different actors in the main roles and sadly Burl Ives is no James Cagney whilst Robert Walker Jr. is no Jack Lemmon. They along with others such as Walter Matthau don't do a bad job but you just can't get out of your mind the performances in "Mister Roberts" and these feel weaker. Although for the sharp eyed movie fan "Ensign Pulver" not only features Larry Hagman in a supporting role but also a small part for Jack Nicholson.

What this all boils down to is that "Ensign Pulver" is not a bad movie but thanks to it being a sequel does end up weaker than the original "Mister Roberts" and is ultimately quite forgettable.