Road to Singapore (1940)

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Released 3-Dec-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Gallery-Photo
Notes-Production Notes - Part 1
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1940
Running Time 81:23
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Victor Schertzinger
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Bing Crosby
Dorothy Lamour
Bob Hope
Charles Coburn
Judith Barrett
Anthony Quinn
Jerry Colonna
Case ?
RPI Box Music Johnny Burke
James V. Monaco
Victor Schertzinger


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, Lots of people.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    "The Road goes ever on and on ... and I must follow if I can". Okay, I know that is Tolkien, not Hope and Crosby, but hey, Return of the King comes out in the cinemas in just seven days as I write, and I'm a little distracted. This particular series of "Roads" didn't quite go on for ever, but it did last a respectable 7 films, and this is the one where it all started.

    At the time that Road to Singapore was made, Bing Crosby was already an established star, as was co-star in the series Dorothy Lamour. Bob Hope had yet to make his mark as a major star (he is third in the credits here below Lamour), but success the year before this film came out in The Cat and the Canary helped cement the deal which led to Singapore. As it turned out, the hesitant studio found they had a hit on their hands, and turned out another two "Road films over the next two years; Road to Zanzibar and Road to Morocco.

    As often happens with the first entry in a series, this one is a little less developed than some of the others. The studio were not quite sure what sort of film to make with this divergent group of leads, so that some of the madcap humour of the series is missing from this first entry. In fact, the film is more of a romantic drama at times than being in the style of most of the rest of the "Roads". This is most apparent in the character played by Hope; in this film he is a rather roguish lady's man - in later films, he was a lady's man only in his own mind, witness 'Fearless' Frazier in Road to Zanzibar.

    The plot of the film revolves around two sailors (Crosby and Hope) who are shown drifting from port to port on tramp steamers. Hope is one step ahead of prospective fathers-in-law, while rich heir Crosby is trying to ignore the dynastic marriage his father (perennial father figure in 1940s films Charles Coburn) is trying to force him into. They eventually wind up in mythical Haigoon on the way to Singapore. They run into dancer Lamour, and her angry would-be boyfriend (Anthony Quinn - who would also show up on the road to Morocco). Some romance follows, a few songs, and luckily the classic 'Pat a Cake' routine (which is the highlight of the film).

    Unfortunately the plot meanders a fair bit, and the songs are less than stellar. One of them is Sweet Potato Piper; it's hard to imagine, but is this meant to be a homage to the equally lame The Yam from 1938's Astaire and Rogers vehicle Carefree? The rest of the film is just as unimaginative, and while it is interesting to see where it all began, I suspect that most fans of the series will watch this once, then file it away in the box and watch the other three (Zanzibar, Morocco, and Utopia) over and over instead. I'm not saying it is bad, as there are some quite funny bits (including the detergent Spotto), they are just not enough to raise it above the average.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    As with the other films in the series, this one has had a video restoration. By the look of the resulting picture this was badly needed, as I would have hated to see it before the restoration. The transfer we have been left with is average, but acceptable for a film of this age.

    The film is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame, non 16x9 enhanced, which is just about spot-on to its original Academy release ratio.

    The picture is reasonably sharp overall, though there is some low level noise apparent at most times. Shadow detail varies from the reasonable (see 2:55) to the poor (see 23:26 and 26:15). The scenes where it is least acceptable appear to have been shot outdoors - they must have had some lighting problems at the time. There is also occasional variation in luminance (see 74:25 for one example).

    This is a Black & White film which is starting to show its age. The range of tones is not good and they seem muted by comparison with the later films in the series.

    The film is in reasonable physical condition. Although minor damage is evident fairly often, it will not impair the viewing experience enough to annoy. MPEG artefacts are minimal (which shows the restoration team got that part right at least), but there is significant telecine wobble in the opening credits. Film artefacts are also fairly frequent, though most are not major - the worst is a vertical black line at the left of the screen from 51:34 to 52:24.

    There are no subtitles and there is no layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    While the video transfer is average, the audio is less so. The soundtrack has not fared well in its passage down the years.

    There is only one audio track available on this disc, an undistinguished English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono effort.

    The dialogue varies in quality, being easy to hear at times, fading in volume at others, and is occasionally quite strident and uncomfortable to listen to. Audio sync is also variable. This seems to have been a factor of the original production, as it is most problematic in scenes shot outdoors.

    The songs in this film are fairly average (I am a Bing Crosby fan so have no negative bias there). They sound a little better in terms of volume than the dialogue, but will not stick in your mind the way Road to Morocco does.

    There is not a lot of surround presence to be found in this 2.0 mono soundtrack. The sound tends to wander across the front of the listening area, and switching sound modes on the amplifier did not help. The subwoofer sees a little activity (when the motor boat appears early in the film as one example) but is anonymous otherwise.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are a few uninspiring extras on the disc, though to be honest the gallery is better than many I have seen.

Menu

    The menu is animated and leads to either The Film, Scene Selections (there are 20), or The Extras.

Theatrical Trailer

    This 2:35 effort is about average for films of the time, giving away a lot of the film and claiming it is "Merry, tuneful, torrid". Torrid?? A "Road" film?

Photo Gallery

    As I mentioned, this is not too bad. It has 38 pictures, some of them quite nice production shots, along with the usual scenes from the film. They vary in quality from average to excellent. One of the early photos is particularly good - it shows the three stars having a really good in-costume laugh - it looks like making the film was fun.

Production Notes - Part 1

    4 reasonably informative pages of text.

Cast & Crew

    A minimal 1-2 pages of text on Crosby, Coburn, Jerry Colonna and the director.

Postcard

    A reproduction of a film lobby card on one side, with the Scene Selection listing on the other.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this disc has a few more inclusions than the Region 4. These are:

    To be honest, I don't think any of these are major, but they do tip the balance (very) marginally in favour of the Region 1 disc.

Summary

    This is a strictly average Bing Crosby and Bob Hope (not to forget Dorothy Lamour) vehicle which is now mostly of interest as a historical curiosity. It will not offend, it will not amaze, but since it comes in a box of otherwise excellent films you might as well watch it for completeness.

    The picture is average.

    The sound is poor.

    The extras are not great, though some of the photos in the Gallery are nice.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Robert Davison (read my bio)
Sunday, December 28, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-K350, using Component output
DisplaySONY VPL-HS10 LCD projector, ABI 280cm 16x9 screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderKenwood. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationKenwood
SpeakersKenwood

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