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Case Number 20414

Buy The Bob Hope Collection: Volume 1 at Amazon

The Bob Hope Collection: Volume 1

Shout! Factory // 1947 // 462 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Sandra Dozier (Retired) // December 30th, 2010

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All Rise...

Judge Sandra Dozier is on the road to classic comedy overload.

Editor's Note

Our review of The Bob Hope Collection: Volume 2 , published April 27th, 2011, is also available.

The Charge

Willy (a large, dim-witted orderly): "Do you care if I feel your muscle, too?"
Hope: "No, go ahead…look around, it's there someplace."
Willy: "Oh! There is is…it's just like a woman's!"

Opening Statement

This set showcases five of Bob Hope's more well-known movies, including two "Road To…" pictures with Bing Crosby, which are always a delight, especially when recognizing the in-jokes Hope and Crosby were famous for repeating. Hope's brand of self-deprecating humor and slapstick comedy is a hit with audiences for good reasons: he's fun to watch, and his verbal sparring is bar none.

Facts of the Case

The five movies included, in order of appearance on the DVDs:

The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)
Hope is a con man who plays suckers at the track by leading them on with a false lead for which horse will win races, all for a modest tip of course. Unfortunately, he cons the girlfriend of a mobster, who gives him until Christmas to pay back the money, or else. To raise the cash, The Lemon Drop Kid gets his buddies to pose as Santas and collect money, which they don't realize will be used for less than selfless reasons.

My Favorite Brunette (1947)
Bob Hope stars as Ronnie Jackson, a photographer who longs to be a detective (the gritty film noir type!), and is delighted when he is mistaken for one by a sultry woman (Dorothy Lamour) who needs to find her missing husband. Unfortunately, problems ensue. The movie is told from the perspective of Jackson as he awaits execution on death row, and also stars Alan Ladd, Peter Lorre, and Lon Chaney Jr.

Road To Rio (1947)
One of the best "Road to…" movies (#5 in the series), Hope and Crosby play two musicians who are flat broke and sneak aboard a ship bound for Rio. As stowaways, they should be maintaining a low profile, but are entranced by a beautiful girl (Dorothy Lamour) who is mysteriously spacey and alternates between hot and cold in her affections for the men. It turns out she is the victim of mind-control, and the boys get involved in her unfolding drama.

Road To Bali (1952)
In a colorful homage to Latin-influenced music trends, Hope and Bing Crosby team up for #6 in the "Road To…" series. Women troubles have forced them on the run again, and they sign on to work as divers for pay—which seems too good to be true. Turns out, it is, since all previous divers have died under mysterious circumstances. But, the island they go to also has a beautiful princess (played by Dorothy Lamour), so they decide to stay.

The Seven Little Foys (1955)
Ambitious vaudeville entertainer Eddie Foy is proud of his solo act, both on stage and in personal life. However, he entangles himself with Italian ballerina Madeleine by heckling her act to impress a talent scout, who mistakes them as a duo and forces Foy to continue his relationship with her. He falls for Madeleine and they have seven children together, but he is an absentee father until her untimely death, when he is forced to come back home and raise the kids.

The Evidence

There are no extras on this set, but the packaging promises the films are, "completely remastered from brand new, stunning high-definition transfers!" This is indeed true for four of the five films, with only The Seven Little Foys falling short of this promise with a washed out print that lacks color and shadow depth. The others are all excellent transfers—the black and white films have clear, deep shadows and bright whites, and Road to Bali is bright and colorful. These looked great in HD, with no artifacting or blur—a very enjoyable larger screen experience. The sound quality on these was also good for most of the films, with little to no hiss or pops. Musical numbers, which are studio produced, sometimes have a markedly different sound quality due to the source material. Only My Favorite Brunette has noticeable hiss in the soundtrack, and only in certain spots.

Although the first four films on the set are presented in their correct Academy ratio of 1.37:1, the final film, The Seven Little Foys, was originally filmed in Vista Vision, which should be presented in 1.66:1, 1.85:1 or 2.00:1. However, it is inexplicably presented here in a truncated 1.37:1 format. It's really obvious that the image has actually been cropped instead of just shrunk if you check out scenes such as Hope lining up his children according to height at 58:20 minutes into the movie…the shortest and tallest kids are cut in half, and the shortest child is left out of the picture for part of the scene. It's a mystery as to why this seemed like a good decision. Perhaps Shout Factory wanted to provide a consistent aspect ratio to the other films, fearing audiences would be put off by the image suddenly widening. While pleasing part of the target audience, this will frustrate collectors.

Thoughts for each movie are as follows:

The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)
This is a fun, non-traditional Christmas movie and a good showcase for Hope's snarky humor. There's a nice number where Hope does a duet of "Silver Bells."

My Favorite Brunette (1947)
I like most of the movies Hope does with Dorothy Lamour, and this is no exception; Lamour is a good foil for Hope's humor. There is some great writing here, too, with slapstick comedy that keeps things interesting (such as one scene where Hope is running from some thugs and buzzes several apartments in a locked building, saying, "Honey, it's Joe!" only to be greeted with an open door and "Come on Up, honey!" Hope runs in, muttering, "I must remember this address!"). Hope narrates the movie in true film noir tradition—good stuff. Peter Lorre is fun in this comedic role.

Road To Rio (1947)
With some really good musical numbers, and a little mystery (which is quickly solved—wouldn't want anyone too in suspense!), this is a well-rounded "Road to…" movie, and one of my favorites. The transfer is very nice here, and Lamour looks radiantly beautiful, even in black and white. The story is somewhat fantastic (involving hypnotism to force Lamour's character to sign away her fortune), but well-done.

Road To Bali (1952)
Notice the time gap between this and the last movie—the two boys still have perfect comedic timing. Done in color, this movie is full of the humor so loved between Hope and Crosby, but the story (and musical numbers) seem a bit more random. Still, there are plenty of laughs here, and some beautiful staging, plus a surprise appearance by Jane Russell!

The Seven Little Foys (1955)
The most disappointing of the lot in terms of look (clipped aspect ratio, poor colors), and in terms of story. I found it difficult to relate to Hope in this film—his character was cold and calculating, and the humor was most often of the hurtful, ridiculing kind. Towards the end, of course, he warms up a little, but too little, too late. By then, I've already been forced to sit through the uncomfortable China Town musical number (even allowing for the annoyingly loose racial stereotyping of this era, it's too much) and Foy's callous treatment of his own children. The kid actors are the most appealing actors in this movie, with the best jokes ("You only learned to count to seven so you could keep track of us!"), but neither they nor the warmth of their aunt Clara are no match for their father's indifference. I did enjoy the dance number with Bob Hope and James Cagney (this is a must-see in the movie), so it isn't all bad.

Closing Statement

Things this set has going for it: the HD transfer and color treatment to improve image depth, the excellent quality of the story and humor for three of the five films, a good color entry (Road to Bali), and attractive packaging. This still feels like a basic offering of Bob Hope titles, repackaged to see if it will fly with a different target audience. The lack of extras and the clipping of what should be a widescreen format makes it unattractive to collectors, and the price point (currently $31.50 on Amazon) may place it out of range for most casual viewers. This is a worthwhile set if you do not own these movies already, but collectors may want to wait for a more comprehensive set.

The Verdict

This one is a mistrial; let's see if Shout! Factory can come up with a more well-rounded case next time.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 89
Audio: 80
Extras: 0
Acting: 95
Story: 95
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile

Studio: Shout! Factory
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 462 Minutes
Release Year: 1947
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Adventure
• Christmas
• Classic
• Comedy
• Concerts and Musicals
• Romance
• Romantic Comedies

Distinguishing Marks

• None

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