Overall | Road to Singapore (1940) | Road to Zanzibar (1941) | Road to Morocco (1942) | Road to Utopia (1945)

Bob Hope-"Road To" Box Set (Singapore/Zanzibar/Morocco/Utopia) (1940)

Bob Hope-"Road To" Box Set (Singapore/Zanzibar/Morocco/Utopia) (1940)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 4-Dec-2003

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Overall Package

    The "Road" series of films were the most successful film series in cinema until James Bond came along. Made across the years between 1940 and 1962 they starred Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour in a series of musical comedies that still appeal today. Most of the films have a zany humour which will resonate with anyone who enjoys Monty Python or Austin Powers.

    The films in the box are meant to commemorate (cash in on?) the recent death of Bob Hope. I will give them the benefit of the doubt, as they have gone to the trouble of carrying out a restoration on each of these ageing treasures. As a result, the picture and sound are quite acceptable given the age of the originals. We are also given a few extras to add to the enjoyment, and while a few unfortunately fell off the boat between Region 1 and Region 4, the ones we are left with are still interesting additions.

    I have been a fan of these films since I was very young, and have viewed most of them (except the first) multiple times. Coming back to them after a gap of a few years I must say I am pleased to see that they have been treated so well in their DVD presentation, and also that they hold up very well over time. Many of the jokes are still very funny (especially the misadventures of 'Fearless' Frazier in Road to Zanzibar) and there are some nice songs on offer as well.

   There are three more "Road" films in the series (with trips to Bali, Rio and Hong Kong). I hope that they find their way to DVD soon; in the meantime films 2-4 in this box are the best the series has to offer, so you should not be disappointed if you rush out and buy this now. You will notice from the rating I have given the set that the box is rated higher than any of its components - they are just so good together at a reasonable price that I felt the increased rating for the set to be justified. Happy viewing!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Robert Davison (read my bio)
Wednesday, December 31, 2003
Other Reviews
AllZone4DVD - TerryJ

Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Road to Singapore (1940) | Road to Zanzibar (1941) | Road to Morocco (1942) | Road to Utopia (1945)

Road to Singapore (1940)

Road to Singapore (1940)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 3-Dec-2003

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

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

Other Reviews
Web Wombat - John K

Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Road to Singapore (1940) | Road to Zanzibar (1941) | Road to Morocco (1942) | Road to Utopia (1945)

Road to Zanzibar (1941)

Road to Zanzibar (1941)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 3-Dec-2003

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

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

Other Reviews
Web Wombat - John K

Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Road to Singapore (1940) | Road to Zanzibar (1941) | Road to Morocco (1942) | Road to Utopia (1945)

Road to Morocco (1942)

Road to Morocco (1942)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 3-Dec-2003

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Menu Animation & Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Gallery-Photo
Notes-Production Notes - Part 3
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1942
Running Time 78:20
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By David Butler
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Bing Crosby
Bob Hope
Dorothy Lamour
Anthony Quinn
Case ?
RPI Box Music James 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 in particular.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    The Road to Morocco is the third (of seven) in the popular "Road" series of films produced between 1940 and 1962. They starred Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, with a sultry Dorothy Lamour as the main love interest. This particular DVD comes in a boxed set with Road to Singapore, Road to Zanzibar and Road to Utopia (which are the 1st, 2nd and 4th films in the series).

    This "Road" film is possibly the most popular of the seven (closely followed by Road to Utopia). By this time Bob and Bing had developed an easygoing chemistry on screen, and the film is also very funny. It has a couple of excellent songs (the title track and also Moonlight Becomes You), the latter becoming a number one hit for Bing Crosby. The film also did very well at the box office.

    I have been a fan of these movies for many years, but had not seen one for some time. I was glad to find that I enjoyed this viewing very much. My family had never seen one, and they thoroughly enjoyed it as well. So what is the story all about? Well, in some ways this is a bit like asking what the plot of a Monty Python film is all about. The story is just the backdrop for the generally nonsensical goings-on that are going on. In this film the two stars find themselves shipwrecked in a Hollywood version of the Middle-East; full of fair princesses, magic rings, bandits and talking camels (yes, talking camels).

    As in most of the films, Bing spends most of his time trying to find a way to steal Dorothy from Bob. They are all trying to stay out of the clutches of the villainous sheik played by Anthony Quinn. Along the way there are some very funny moments involving assorted camels, an errant fly, and Bob's attempt to win an Oscar. The kids in my home audience cracked up when a camel made Bing Crosby jump, and Bob told him not to worry - "it's only a kangaroo!". Even some of the lyrics in the title song are classic: "Where we're going, why we're going, how can we be sure? I'll lay you eight to five that we meet Dorothy Lamour". As it goes on to say "just like Webster's Dictionary we're Morocco bound", and a fine trip it is too.

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

Transfer Quality

Video

    I was a little nervous when I saw that these films were coming to DVD. What would the picture be like? Many films from this era are slapped onto DVD from what look like bad VHS tapes. This time the studio has done the right thing, and they are to be commended; this one has had a picture restoration, and very nice it looks too (for its age).

    The film is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and is not 16x9 enhanced. This aspect ratio is very close to the original release aspect ratio of 1.37:1 used almost universally at the time, and is thus Full Frame.

    The picture is reasonably sharp with nice shadow detail (see 35:53 for a nice evening shot). An example of the fine detail can be found in the close-up at 14:00. There is some grain apparent in the picture at times (see 57:03), but it is generally insignificant.

    The film is in Black & White, and shows an excellent range of tones across the scale from the black to the white. In fact, at times it looks as good as a more modern Black & White presentation (such as Schindler's List), though it is more dated in its general appearance.

    The print exhibits only very minor damage. There is some noticeable telecine wobble during the opening credits, which does not recur. Minimal positive artefacts crop up now and again (see 42:22 for one, but don't blink or you'll miss it). At 57:16 there is some minor shimmering in the sand (perhaps it is a mirage?, there are some elsewhere in this film). On the whole, the picture has been nicely restored - check out the damage evident in the Trailer for an example of how bad this film looked the last time I saw it.

    There are no subtitles.

    There was no layer change.

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

Audio

    The audio transfer is not as good as the video restoration, but it is still acceptable overall.

    There is only one audio track, a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono presentation in English.

    Dialogue was generally clear, though it seemed to vary in volume at times (around 24:00 as one example). The audio sync is also fine (except for the talking camels - I think they were dubbed).

    There is some fine music in this film, and it sounds good on the DVD. Bing Crosby was one of the most popular stars in the music world during the 1940s and 1950s, and he sounds in good voice here. The music score by James Van Heusen also backs up the action, romance, and comedy nicely.

    The surround presence is limited to a nice spread across the front of the sound stage, with the music in particular being well presented. I tried the sound in Pro Logic mode and it compressed the sound into an area towards the middle of the screen, so I don't recommend this option.

    The subwoofer had the evening off.

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

Extras

    We are given a small selection of Extras, unfortunately fewer than those who purchase this DVD in Region 1 (see the R4 vs R1 comparison below for details). The DVD also comes with a postcard which has a film lobby card on one side and the scene selections listed on the other.

Menu

    The menu is animated and allows you to play the film, select the scene (from 20 choices) or see the Extras.

Theatrical Trailer

    This is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and shows a lot of damage, with examples of most artefacts known to man (or woman). It runs for 2:10 and gives away the joke in the "Monkey's Uncle" scene.

Photo Gallery

    The gallery presents 45 photos including publicity stills, theatrical posters and in-film moments. The pictures are nice and sharp and it is apparent that some care has been taken to select good quality shots. Well done.

Production Notes Part 3

    Four pages of informative text about the film.

Cast and Crew

    Short (1-2 pages for each) notes on 4 of the cast and crew (including Dorothy Lamour and Anthony Quinn).

R4 vs R1

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

    It seems to be less common nowadays to find a DVD where the Region 4 version is missing features found on the Region 1 version. Unfortunately, this is one more example. The Region 4 version misses out on:

    As the picture is non 16x9 enhanced and Black & White it is likely that the PAL version is only slightly better than the NTSC, so that the overall preference is the Region 1 (marginally).

Summary

    This film is great. The stars are two of the most popular performers from last century, both on and off the screen, and you have the chance here to catch them in their prime; don't miss it.

    The picture has been well restored. Plaudits to the studio for going to the effort, let's see more studios following the example.

    The sound is acceptable.

    The Extras are not great, but at least there are a few, which is not common on films of this age.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Robert Davison (read my bio)
Sunday, December 21, 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

Other Reviews
Web Wombat - John K

Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Road to Singapore (1940) | Road to Zanzibar (1941) | Road to Morocco (1942) | Road to Utopia (1945)

Road to Utopia (1945)

Road to Utopia (1945)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 3-Dec-2003

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

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.

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

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

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Jules F
Web Wombat - John K

Comments (Add) NONE