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Monday, July 7, 2014

'Onionhead' DVD: Andy Griffith's Awesome Follow-up to "No Time for Sergeants'

Onionhead
The Warner Archive DVD release of the 1958 Andy Griffith military comedy "Onionhead" allows fans of Griffith's lighter fellow 1958 military comedy "No Time for Sergeants" and of Griffith's classic sitcom to see his slightly more serious side. This aspect of the Divine Mr. G. also truly comes out in his uber-awesome must-see drama "A Face in the Crowd."

The downside of discovering "Onionhead" is that it renews thoughts of mourning Griffith. He truly is an original with tremendous range that this film excellently utilizes.

"Onionhead" opens with Griffith's Al Woods as a hot-headed college student in the Spring of 1941 engaging in a version of running off to join the French Foreign Legion after his best girl gets chummy with another fella.This enlistment in the Coast Guard ultimately gets Woods assigned as a cook's assistant on a ship despite being thoroughly unqualified.

Other obstacles in the way of our hard-headed Okie (no, not Opie) hero include hostility from both his new shipmates and chief cook Red Wildoe, whom Walter Matthau wonderfully portrays.

Things begin turning around for Woods when he chooses to be a hero when Red becoming incapacitated requires that Woods step in to feed the masses. This effort includes a hilarious (but perhaps unintentional) homage to a fall-on-the-floor wacky misadventure from one of the final episodes in the first season of "I Love Lucy."

On another classic TV note, seeing James Gregory of the classic '70s sitcom "Barney Miller" as the captain of the ship to which Woods is assigned adds good fun to the film.

Woods additionally steps up when the bombing of Pearl Harbor prompts a ship-wide rapid attitude adjustment.

Other drama comes in the form of escalating conflict between enlisted man Woods and a ship's officer. Said superior drastically reducing the quality of the food for the enlisted men is the final straw that prompts Woods to risk his military career in an effort to bring down his nemesis.

This conflict is also noteworthy both for being related to an incident that provides the basis for the title of the film and for setting the stage for a climatic confrontation that provides Gregory a chance to shine.

More general nice aspects of "Onionhead" are that members of the greatest generation can enjoy well portrayed depictions of that era, baby boomers and gen Xers can see traces of Sheriff Andy Taylor in Woods, and millenials who pry themselves away from their screens long enough to watch it will discover both that a lack of color is not a handicap regarding a film and that making an awesome comedy or drama does not require including an edge.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Onionhead" or anything else Griffith related is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.