Road to Zanzibar (1941)

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Released 3-Dec-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Menu Animation & Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Gallery-Photo
Notes-Production Notes - Part 2
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1941
Running Time 87:35
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
Bob Hope
Dorothy Lamour
Una Merkel
Eric Blore
Douglass Dumbrille
Iris Adrian
Lionel Royce
Buck Woods
Leigh Whipper
Ernest Whitman
Noble Johnson
Joan Marsh
Case ?
RPI Box Music Jimmy Van Heusen


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, Bing has a pipe.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Well, here we are, on the road again (with apologies to Willie Nelson). After the success of Road to Singapore in 1940, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour were reunited in 1941 on the Road to Zanzibar. This time around, the writers developed the comedic elements which were the high point of the first film and enhanced them so that they are the focus of this one, and it works very well. According to the production notes on the DVD, Bob Hope's own radio show writers also contributed, and their knowledge of what worked well for their boss is also evident, as is the excellent ad-libbing between the two main leads (Bob is promoted above Dorothy to 2nd billing this time around).

    The film opens outside an attraction at a fairground somewhere in Africa. We find Chuck (Bing Crosby) hawking the talents of 'Fearless' Frazier, 'The Living Bullet' (Hope). Apparently 'Fearless' will be set on fire, then shot from a giant cannon through a blazing hoop far up in the air. There is one minor hiccup when their pretty assistant whispers to Chuck "It's Fearless, he's fainted again!". Of course, there is a false floor in the cannon and it is a dummy that is actually fired, but unfortunately it lands on the big top and sets the circus on fire. The lads have to flee the enraged owners and the local police.

    We next find 'Fearless' as 'The Human Dynamo'. Luckily, he is revived by medical help after he gets fried. Following this he is 'The Human Bat'...as the local newspaper announces the next day: "Neck Not Broken". The succession of get rich quick schemes that Chuck comes up with to inflict on the hapless 'Fearless' are only one of the excellent running jokes throughout the film (keep your eyes open for the giant octopus that 'Fearless' is supposed to wrestle). The famous 'Pat a Cake' routine is another of the running jokes which works well here.

    Eventually we meet Dorothy Lamour, who with her friend Julia (Una Merkel) is conning her way across Africa even more effectively than Hope and Crosby. She soon has both of the boys in her back pocket and they are wandering across Africa having more hilarious encounters with snakes, leopards, giant gorillas and lost diamond mines. The diamond mine comes courtesy of a nice cameo by Eric Blore (if you are a fan of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers you will recognize him from some of their films).

    There is a spontaneity and freshness about this film which raises the madness to another level. The whole family were thoroughly entertained for most of the film. The songs are a little on the weak side, otherwise this one would have received a full 5 stars for the plot. As in the best Monty Python moments, the jokes are both in-character and out-of-character. At one point in the film, as our two heroes are being lauded as white gods by a native tribe, a dissenting tribesman pipes up "If he's a god, I'm Mickey Mouse". If you don't find this film funny, then I would arrange an X-ray to see if you still have a funny bone.

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

Transfer Quality

Video

    As with the rest of the films in this boxed set (Roads to Singapore, Zanzibar, Morocco, Utopia), this one has had a "Made in the UK" restoration. The restoration team has done a good job this time around, and we are presented with a pretty good video transfer.

    The aspect ratio of the transfer is 1.33:1 full frame. It is not 16x9 enhanced, but is very close to the Academy ratio it was released at.

    The picture here is reasonably sharp throughout, with none of the fuzzy focus often found in older prints. The shadow detail is rather poor (see 25:51) but this is most apparent in night scenes and is not a problem at other times. There is some low level noise but this is only apparent on large screen TVs.

    The disc has a nice Black & White picture, which is crisp and has a good range of tones, including some nice deep blacks and a good grayscale.

    The restoration has produced a print with minimal physical damage for the most part. There are no noticeable MPEG artefacts and only minor aliasing (see Bing's jacket at 2:54). There are very few film artefacts, except for occasional frames where there appears to have been a lot of damage in the original. The ubiquitous black vertical lines which often show up in old films make an appearance here at the right of the screen from 19:51 to 20:07.

    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

    As with the other films in this series, the audio does not come up as well as the video, but then there was probably less to work with to begin with. The only audio track is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track.

    The dialogue in the film is nice and clear, with good audio sync at most times except occasionally during songs (which would have been an issue with the original film, not the DVD mastering). The volume of the dialogue is consistent throughout and does not have the stridency I noted in Road to Singapore.

    The background music is unremarkable but adds some nice underscoring to many of the comedic moments. As I mentioned earlier, the songs in the film are not great, but most are pleasant enough, and Bing and Dorothy sing them nicely. With one of the songs they even take the time to joke about films they have seen where music mysteriously appears to accompany the singer (as it does of course in this film as they speak).

    As you would expect from a mono soundtrack, surround presence is minimal. However, the dialogue is nicely placed in the centre of the soundstage and the music is quite full. The subwoofer is used minimally as low end bass in the songs.

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

Extras

    This disc has the same few extras found on Road to Singapore and Road to Morocco.

Menu

    The menu is animated with accompanying audio. You can chose to Play the Movie, go to Scene Access (20 scenes for your selection), or view the Special Features.

Theatrical Trailer

    This one has a nice 30 second introduction with Dorothy Lamour and Bob Hope before it moves into the usual "show the best bits" routine; it runs for 2:13.

Photo Gallery

    As with the rest of the films in the box, this one has a fairly good photo gallery which includes some archival publicity shots, some of the lobby cards for the film, as well as the standard shots from the film itself. Quality varies, and at times it is very good; there are 45 pictures to view, some shown automatically with accompanying music.

Production Notes - Part 2

    This has 4 pages of informative text about the film and its production (it was all shot in only 6 weeks).

Cast & Crew

    Between 1 and 3 pages of sketchy information on Crosby, Merkel, Blore and the lyricist.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:

    With only a non 16x9 Black & White picture on offer (so not much in favour of the PAL picture), this would lead to the Region 1 version being marginally superior (though in this case I wouldn't lose any sleep over it - unless you need the Spanish audio track).

Summary

    This is a very funny film presented with a pretty good picture restoration (it looks younger than its 62 years). The sound and extras are not the best, but if you are after a good laugh then this is one to look out for.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Robert Davison (read my bio)
Monday, December 29, 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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