Judge Ike Oden stars in The Decent Lover.
Our review of The Bob Hope Collection: Volume 1, published December 30th, 2010, is also available.
"Why don't you come over here? I found a bee that wants to introduce us to some birds…"
Bob Hope (Paleface) was a Hollywood jack of all trades: a fine dancer and singer, an accomplished physical comedian, and the snappiest talker to come out of the nightclub circuit. There has never been an Oscar host to capture America's imagination in the same way he did. His work on USO tours entertained generations of American troops stationed across the globe. And his movies…well, his movies were hit or miss. Shout! Factory packages six of them together in their latest Bob Hope Collection: Volume 2. Is the set more hits than misses?
Facts of the Case
The Great Lover (1949)
Cancel My Reservation (1972)
Paris Holiday (1958)
The Private Navy of Sgt. O'Farrell (1968)
Son of Paleface (1969)
How To Commit A Marriage (1969)
As much as like Bob Hope, I have to admit this set is something of a mixed bag. Juxtaposed with retired Judge Sandra Dozier's review of The Bob Hope Collection (I missed this set myself), I'm afraid Volume 2 might be a slight step down in quality from the first DVD. That said, when Hope hits, he really hits, and when he misses, he swings for the outfield. Allow me to delineate the hits from the misses.
The Great Lover: Right out of the gate, this is my favorite film on
the set. It's fine combination between the thriller and a slapstick Bowery Boys
flick. The balance between comedy and suspense reminds me of the balance between
horror and comedy in Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein. When the
film is funny, it's damn funny, and when it's playing with the audiences nerves,
it does so with high tension. Hope is the buoy that keeps the raft afloat, a
poor schmuck besieged by puritanical kids, murderous con artists, deceitful
feds, and a lovestruck Countess.
Cancel My Reservation is a fun, surprisingly sexy neo-noir with a
memorable desert setting. Hope and Eva Marie-Saint make an excellent
husband-wife detective team and the villains, while a little stock and
predictable, make for fine adversaries. The film is funny, if a little
restrained in the slapstick department, meaning it might test fans of Hope who
are unwilling to see him play low key. The film has an incredibly low IMDb
score, but the only thing weighing the film down is a wonky narrative structure
and a bad funk-rock score (because we all associate Bob Hope with Sha-Na-Na
style rock n' roll). Watch for hilarious John Wayne, Johnny Carson, Bing Crosby
and Flip Wilson cameos halfway through.
Paris Holiday starts out strong, introducing each of its ensemble
cast of characters with interior monologues that share each character's
thoughts. It's a bold, experimental move, especially for a slapstick caper like
this. It is also a narrative device that is discarded far too early on in the
film. The first two acts of the movie are so much fun that by the time Hope and
the cast make it to Paris, the film falters on the weight of its own espionage
subplots. Hope and Fernandel make a fine slapstick team, and a chase featuring
Hope dangling from a helicopter's rope ladder picks things up in the final act.
Unfortunately, Paris Holiday doesn't mix suspense, comedy, and romance as
well as The Great Lover, but is worth a watch on a rainy afternoon.
The Private Navy of Sgt. O'Farrell can be best summed by saying:
before Stripes, before In The Army Now, this one did the Army
slacker storyline pretty well. The plot is simple enough: Hope wants beer for
his men to improve their morale, and is willing to go to any lengths to get it.
His hair brained scheme makes for some funny and fine heroic antics. Phyllis
Diller does her sexed-up hag schtick well enough, and the two have great
onscreen chemistry. My biggest complaint with the film is its prevalent racial
humor toward Hope's Japanese enemies. I know the film is set during World War II
and the film tries to make up for it with a Japanese American hero character
(played by Conan The Barbarian's Mako),
but it comes off as thoroughly distasteful and mean spirited. Otherwise, The
Private Navy is fine comedy.
Son of Paleface is a respectable comedy-western. I missed original
Paleface, but enjoyed this sequel on its own terms. Of all of the films,
this one showcases Hope's slapstick skills to their fullest. It is the most
postmodern film of the set, with Hope taking verbal cracks at Hollywood
throughout (particularly in the film's over-critical, self-referential
narration). Jane Russell is sexy and dangerous as the film's femme fatale, and
her musical number with Hope and Roy Rogers is tons of fun. The film is a bit
long in the tooth, and there are far too many characters, but Son of
Paleface delivers the goods. In terms of minor quibbles, I wish Hope
would've reigned back on his character's annoyingly preening limericks. When you
watch the movie, you will too.
How To Commit A Marriage is a horrible, horrible marriage farce that
tries desperately to comment on the disconnection between hippies and their
parents, but does so in a way that is stereotypical and predictable. Never have
I seen Hope and Gleason more uncomfortable in a film. They seem to be having fun
together, but aside from a golf set piece involving the two and a pro-golfing
chimpanzee (you read that right), most of their material is incredibly stale. I
for one never need to see Hope made up as a flower child ever again. Ever.
Shout! Factory spreads the six films across three discs. The transfers aren't stunning, and suffer from grain, scratches, and other flaws common to semi-obscure films from the 1940s, '50s, '60s and '70s. The audio tracks are a bit better. They're standard stereo tracks that sound fairly full, though older films like The Great Lover suffer from some pops and hissing. There are no extras, unfortunately.
I like Bob Hope and I like this set. It's an uneven mix of movies in terms of quality and content, but the price is reasonable and, aside from How To Commit A Marriage, each film stacks up to be well worth the cumulative $25 price tag. If you own Shout! Factory's The Bob Hope Collection: Volume 1, there is no reason not to pick up this one.
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