Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on May 6th, 2010
Most people don’t know or remember that Andy Griffith had a career before his television classic reached the airwaves. He had a pretty distinctive stand-up routine going for many years that included recordings like most stand-ups of the day. He had quite a famous bit about a country farm boy seeing his very first football game. It was called “I Think They Call It Football”, and it’s a priceless classic. Andy also found his way into a couple of movies in the days before he became Sheriff Andy Taylor. One of those movies was No Time For Sergeants. It wasn’t a stretch for this country boy, and fans of the rural years of Andy Griffith will find about everything they’re looking for here.
Will Stockdale (Griffith) is down on the farm with his Pop enjoying the slow life when they are visited by an officer from the draft board. It appears that Will has been getting draft letters, but his Pop keeps throwing them away. Now Will is considered a draft dodger and is taken away in cuffs to be inducted into the Air Force. Along the way he befriends Ben Whitledge (Adams) who comes from six generations of infantry. His mother has sent a letter asking that the military honor the tradition by giving Ben a transfer to the infantry in the Army. Will, a naive rural boy, just wants to help. So he goes directly to the company leader, Sergeant King (McCormick) and tries to help out his new pal. What he ends up with is the assignment as PLO, Permanent Latrine Orderly, a post Will thinks is intended as an honor. But when the Captain discovers the “honor”, he puts King in charge of Will’s classification. If Will isn’t classified in one week, King will be the next PLO. The film follows the antics of getting Will classified before the three (King, Will, and Ben) are assigned to gunnery training. With Ben and Will on a training flight, their plane ends up in the middle of Yucca Flats during a nuclear test. Presumed dead, the “heroes” are to receive posthumous medals at a gathering in their honor. It’s all a nice fitting tribute until the boys show up at their own memorial service.
The story did not start, nor did it end, with the 1958 film. It all began as a novel written by Mac Hyman. The story ended up as an hour of live television on The United States Steel Hour in March of 1955. Andy Griffith played the lead role in that version, as well. After the success of the motion picture, the film was made into a television series in 1964. Of course, Andy was quite busy that year working on his own series, so another actor was brought in to take over the role. Sammy Jackson took over the part. The series didn’t find much of an audience and lasted only the one season.
You can expect a lot of the same kind of rural humor here that you’re used to. Most of the gags involve Will not understanding exactly what’s going on around him. There are the Abbott & Costello-like plays on words. Don Knotts, not yet Andy’s television partner, shows up as a psychiatrist who is responsible for evaluating Will’s mental qualifications. It’s a wonderful play on words and phrases that would foreshadow the many years the two would end up working together. It’s a simple enough plot with simple enough jokes. It works.
The film has many pretty nice performances. The future mayor of Amity Murray Hamilton shows up as a local boy Irving who is a bully and has it in for Will from the start. It begins as a strong little piece but doesn’t really get paid off later on. He’s pretty much out of it after the film’s first act. Character actor William Fawcett plays the short bit as Will’s Pa, who has been tearing up those draft letters. Nick Adams is a bit of a surprise here and plays Andy’s straight man for the most part. Finally, a lot of credit has to go to Myron McCormick who plays Sergeant King. Will is pretty much the bane of his existence, and McCormick expresses his frustration quite convincingly without sacrificing the comedy gold.
No Time For Sergeants is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The box art and other promotional materials make this appear to be a color film. It is in black & white. The print is only in fair condition. The contrast looks good, so much of the film looks better than its 50-plus years. There is no hard compression artifact, so black levels are at least average.
You get a pretty simple Dolby Digital Mono track here. Great care and effort is evident in this modest presentation. There’s some hiss. Some of the higher ranges are distorted at times. Still … for its age this is a pretty clear and enjoyable soundtrack. Dialog is always audible.
There’s more Gomer Pyle than Mayberry with Andy playing the Gomer part. There are even a few go-o-olly’s to go around. It’s all old-fashioned fun, a kind you’ll never see again. From the synopsis and cast the film appears to have a limited appeal, but I think it’s worth a try for anyone. “You’ll get to like the Air Force. Zoomin’ all over the sky – and shouting, “Roger” and “Wilco” and everything. Maybe it won’t be so bad.”