Road to Utopia (1945)

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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
Short Film-Hollywood Victory Caravan
Featurette-Bing Crosby At The Stage Door Canteen
Theatrical Trailer
Gallery-Photo
Notes-Production Notes - Part 4
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1945
Running Time 85:50
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Hal Walker
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Bing Crosby
Bob Hope
Dorothy Lamour
Hillary Brooke
Douglass Dumbrille
Jack La Rue
Robert Barrat
Nestor Paiva
Case ?
RPI Box Music Leigh Harline
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, various characters.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Road to Utopia is the fourth of the "Road" movies starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour. It has a rather curious history in the series, as it was filmed two years after the successful Road to Morocco but was not released for another two years. Part of the reason was that World War II was reaching its end, and Paramount had a number of patriotic war movies they wanted to release before the end of the war (and possibly the end of the audience for war films). So Utopia had its full release delayed until early 1946 (although it had public previews in 1945). In spite of the four year lag since the last "Road" film it was a huge box-office success.

    This entry in the series pretty much follows the formula established in Road to Zanzibar. Bing and Bob are again a pair of shysters running a series of get-rich-quick schemes, usually with Bob as the victim of some mad scheme of Bing's. In this case, Duke (Crosby) is running a con called 'Ghost-O' which has Chester (Hope) stuck under a screened table pretending to be a ghostly spirit. When Duke asks if the spirits are present, Chester comments "If I was all there I wouldn't be here", an excellent comment on the half-witted character he plays in most "Road" films. Their con is soon revealed and they need to leave town in a hurry. At the same time, Lamour's father is being murdered for a map he has showing the way to an Alaskan gold mine.

    Well, our heroes stumble across the map and somehow manage to overpower the murderers and take their place. They end up in late 19th century Alaska at the height of the gold rush. They are soon out in the wilds accompanied by Sue (Lamour), assorted villains, talking fish (and talking bears), Santa Claus and other wild and wacky denizens of the lunacy that is a "Road" film. This is possibly one of the zaniest, as Bob Hope's radio show writers let their imaginations run wild on the screenplay.

    The entire story is told in flashback as an elderly Chester and his wife Sue look back on the events which led to the tragic loss of Duke. To their surprise, Duke arrives unexpectedly (alive!?!) to visit, leading to Chester's jibe "And I thought this was going to be an 'A' picture". The original audience for the film, knowing that Hope never gets the girl, would also have been curious to hear their story (it has an excellent twist at the end to explain events). There are also some nice songs to accompany the action (including the excellent Put it There, Pal at 47:47) but the pace is sometimes more frenetic than inspired. On the whole the film is funny, but not one of the best in the series.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    As with the other films in the box (Roads to Singapore, Zanzibar, Morocco) this one has been restored by Universal in the United Kingdom. The restoration has not been as successful as that for the two preceding titles, but is still satisfactory.

    The aspect ratio of the presentation is 1.33:1 full frame, and so it is not 16x9 enhanced. The Academy ratio used for films at the time was 1.37:1 so this is pretty much spot on. At times I felt that the top of the picture was cropped a bit tightly and would be interested to hear if other viewers feel the same.

    The picture is reasonably sharp, but is not the best we have seen so far in this series. At times, focus is a little soft for my liking. Shadow detail is variable and seems to be a product of the original print; it is quite good in one night scene at 6:41 and quite poor in another at 62:04. There is also some low level noise at times, but it is not significant.

    This is another Black & White road film, and while the image is acceptable it is not as fresh looking as some of the earlier films. I guess that this one is showing its age a little more despite the restoration. Still, it looks reasonable for a film approaching its 60th birthday.

    MPEG artefacts are minimal in this transfer, but the film artefacts are more noticeable. There is notable telecine wobble during the opening credits, and Bob and Bing's checked suits alias badly at 7:11. Film artefacts are also common, though many are small and will not detract from your enjoyment of the film. Black vertical lines occur on occasion (see 13:59 and 67:20). There are also some jumps in the picture which look like missing frames (see 15:24 for one example). As I said previously, the picture is certainly good enough to view, but not as good as might be hoped for after a restoration effort.

    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 three films in the box, the audio is average, but there was only a mono track to start with, so that is what we are left with.

    The single audio track is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono effort.

    The dialogue quality is good, with all characters clear and easy to understand. The audio sync is generally fine, but it slips on occasion. These moments of loss of sync are usually around the areas where the picture skips a frame or two, so this is the most likely cause. They are few and far between and while you will notice them, they are not enough to prevent you from enjoying the film.

    The music score by Leigh Harline is pleasant but unremarkable, frequently using themes from the film's songs. These are also pleasant but generally unremarkable, except for Put It There, Pal which is very good. Bing Crosby also sings Welcome To My Dream but this is not the best version of the song I have heard.

    As expected with a mono soundtrack, there is minimal surround activity, with the sound basically spread around the front centre speaker. The volume level balance between the songs and the rest of the soundtrack is fine. The subwoofer sees little use except for infrequent bass activity (the boat whistle at 6:24 is one example).

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

Extras

    This last film in the box gets a few more extras than the rest of the discs.

Menu

    The menu is animated with music. It allows you to choose Play Movie, go to Scene Access (20), or view Special Features.

Hollywood Victory Caravan

    This is an interesting historical curiosity. It is a short film (19:42) which was produced to help sell War Bonds in the cinema where it was being shown. On a thin story thread it includes appearances from Paramount stars of the time such as Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Barbara Stanwyck, Alan Ladd, William Demarest and Humphrey Bogart. Quite a lineup. The picture is ordinary, and the sound worse, but you are warned of this before viewing. I think this is a nice extra, as it is the sort of thing you would probably never see elsewhere, and the appearance of Hope and Crosby is quite relevant (and quite funny).

    WARNING: The audio breaks up quite badly in the final seconds of the film and emits a few cracks and shrieks which might damage speakers if you are at high volume!

Bing Crosby at The Stage Door Canteen

   This very short (1:08) clip has Bing at a wartime opening in London, where he is interviewed and makes some uncomplimentary comments about Bob Hope and gives a small plug for Road to Utopia. Another interesting historical curio.

Theatrical Trailer

    Strangely, this seems to be presented at an aspect ratio of around 1.66:1, non 16x9 enhanced. It runs for 2:11 and is strictly average.

Photo Gallery

    This one is partly accompanied by music and includes a nice collection (44) of images from behind the scenes, film lobby cards and in-film moments.

Production Notes - Part 4

    4 pages of text information on the film of some interest.

Cast & Crew

    A weak effort with only 1 page of basic information on some of the supporting cast and the director.

Postcard

    A single card with a reproduction of the film lobby card on one side, and the Scene Selections 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 4 version of this DVD misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of the DVD appears to miss out on:

    This is a close call, but given the average picture will not benefit much from its PAL presentation in Region 4, the Region 1 is probably ahead marginally.

Summary

    This is another excellent entry in the "Road" series of films on DVD. While the restoration has not been as successful this time around, the video and audio are still acceptable, and the improved extras package is a plus.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Robert Davison (read my bio)
Tuesday, December 30, 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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