Though there was talk of yet another Hope & Crosby "road" picture, Judge Dennis Prince is relatively certain that Road to Perdition was not it.
It's more bungling, bantering, and beautiful babes as our favorite "road crew" take their high-adventure hijinks to the Island of the Gods.
If you enjoyed their previous comic excursions into vivid vacation spots like Singapore, Zanzibar, or Morocco, don't unpack your bags just yet. We now tag along with Paramount's most popular globe-trotting trio, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour, as they infiltrate yet another exotic location in the highly successful "Road" series. But as the sixth installment in this "road" ritual, can Road to Bali keep the formula fresh and engaging? Or is it poised to induce jet lag with a rehash of a now-tiring shtick?
Facts of the Case
George Cochran (Bing Crosby) and Harold Gridley (Bob Hope) are a couple of fast-talking, fancy-footed vaudevillians who bolt from Australia to avoid dual shotgun weddings. After an uncomfortable escape in the company of a truckload of sheep, the two sign on as deep-sea divers in the employ of the ominous Ken Arok (Murvyn Vye), who lusts after a sunken chest of jewels. Naturally, these fair-weather friends quickly turn on one another after meeting the striking Princess Lala (Dorothy Lamour), but Arok pursues all three once the treasure has been recovered. Hopping from island to island with Lala in tow, the distressed duo must stay a step ahead of the murderous Arok, battle the forces of Mother Nature, and try to keep from each other's own throats as they vie for the princess's hand in marriage.
Without a doubt, the Hope & Crosby "road" pictures were a windfall for Paramount, and made the pair of song-and-dance funnymen household names. The formula for the films was established with the first couple of entries, The Road to Singapore (1940) and The Road to Zanzibar (1941), and served as an effective parody of the genre films of the day. With their sights set on jabbing at popular jungle pictures, tales of Arabian knights, or South Seas adventures, these road pictures tickled audiences in the same way that Michael Myers' Austin Powers films, which are spoofs of 1960s spy thrillers, entertain today.
In Road to Bali, the element that keeps the recycled routines from becoming stale is the incredible rapport Crosby, Hope, and Lamour have developed over the previous six pictures, and how effortlessly they interact with each other. It's quite evident that Bing and Bob are winging it in many scenes, lending an undeniable and welcome air of spontaneity, and giving viewers the feeling that they've been let in on an inside joke. Hope continually winks at, and directly addresses, the audience, while Crosby maintains his bemused yet blithe disinterest in us onlookers. Through her ad-libbed admonitions and undercuts, Lamour simply tries to keep up with the two comics without losing a grip on the supposed plot. Hope and Crosby, on the other hand, seem determined to derail each another with wise and witty banter, similar to the spirited sparring of Tim Conway and Harvey Korman on The Carol Burnett Show.
While this particular film isn't considered among the best in the series, it's still a pleasant diversion, and good reminder of the sort of chemistry that can be enjoyed in finely-tuned comedy duos. By this point, audiences could sit back and watch the amusing back-and-forth antics of the two leads and just appreciate how the two seem to be enjoying working together. The bonus here, of course, is that this is the first of the series to be photographed in color—and the art directors, J. McMillan Johnson and Hal Pereira, make the most of it. There are plenty of visual treats on hand in the nicely decorated sets, the obvious yet still pleasing rear projections, and the picturesque location shots. It's certainly not up to par with the sort of on-location spectacles or green-screen triumphs of today's films, but it nonetheless succeeds in satisfying the viewer (with the volcanic eruption and ensuing raining of embers being impressively well staged for the time).
This is a new release of the picture on DVD, this time coming from Brentwood Home Video. Many of the Hope & Crosby faithful bemoaned a prior digital release by Madacy, scornful of the indifference shown to the poor print utilized in that particular transfer. Rejoice now; because this transfer looks quite good. Framed at 1.33:1, the picture is quite clean, with only minor evidence of source print defects. The detail is sharp, and the color is quite lush without becoming oversaturated. The film gets a bit dark from time, and there is low-level grain, but these imperfections don't pose a significant distraction. The audio comes in a suitable Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix that's quite clean and distortion free. Sadly, there are no extras here, save for some biographical notes on Hope. (The former Madacy release included "The Road to Hollywood," a collection of shorts featuring a much younger Crosby teamed with Mack Sennett.)
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Considering the popularity of these road pictures, it's odd that Brentwood couldn't scare up some additional material. Still, as a value-priced release, the sound and picture quality make this disc a good buy if you're a fan of the two song-and-dance silly men.
Truly this is a fun and entertaining film, one that elicits genuine snickers and conveys the warmth and regard Bing Crosby and Bob Hope had developed for one another. Also watch for several cameos sprinkled throughout, featuring notable Hollywood stars of the day. All in all, this is a fun film that can be enjoyed by the entire family.
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