Road to Bali (Force) (1952)

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Released 7-Aug-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Menu Audio
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1952
Running Time 90:53
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Hal Walker
Studio
Distributor

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Bob Hope
Bing Crosby
Dorothy Lamour
Murvyn Vye
Carolyn Jones
Case C-Button-Version 2-Opaque
RPI ? Music James Van Heusen
Van Cleave
Joseph J. Lilley


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/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 No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour are on the road again and this time around the road leads to Bali!  But while the road ends in Bali, it starts in Melbourne, Australia where we see our lads George (Crosby) and Harold (Hope) earning a crust performing vaudeville American-style for their Australian audience. Soon though, as is usually the case, they are on the run after a bit of trouble with some local farmers and their daughters. Hightailing it out of Melbourne, the pair head to Darwin by train where they look for a new opportunity and one knocks as usual with the chance for the pair to dive for sunken treasure off the coast of Bali. Jumping at the chance of easy bucks and with each volunteering the other for the diving duties, the pair are soon off to a tropical paradise in the employ of Prince Ken Arok (Murvyn Vye).

    Landing on the island the two meet Princess Lala (Dorothy Lamour) who warns the pair of the fate of the previous divers and what may befall our heroes. The boys laugh off any talk of threat (George does so on Harold's behalf, of course) and with both falling in love with the Princess, they proceed with the dive. After they recover the treasure, Prince Ken Arok shows his true colours. When the duo barely escape with their lives, and with Princess Lala in tow, the chase is on for treasure and the love of the Princess.

    This is the sixth in a total of seven 'Road' pictures that Bob Hope and Bing Crosby made. They shot the first in the 40s and finished the last in the early 60s. Even though this film was made 50 years ago, the humour still works. Laughs come thick and fast with these two fast-talking larrikins. This buddy-type camaraderie would be emulated by the equally capable team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis (who have a quick cameo role in this film). This was also the only film in the series which was filmed in colour, despite the 'colorization' look of the images on the DVDs box. Also, look out for a very young Carolyn Jones (who played Morticia in the 60s classic TV series The Addams Family) in her first screen role as one of the farmer's daughters at the beginning of the film.

    Many will have heard of the two leads, and perhaps their leading lady Dorothy Lamour, but I get the feeling that we may be in the last generation that actually remembers this fabulous series. The 'Road' pictures were the crowning motion picture achievement in Bob Hope's career and a highlight in Bing Crosby's and would have to be almost required viewing for any fan of great on-screen comedy. They are an excellent example of the sorely missed 'Buddy' pictures that were popular in the early and mid twentieth century (that makes me sound old!). This era brought us such greats as Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy and Martin and Lewis as well as The Three Stooges and The Marx Bros. The combination of Hope and Crosby more than deserves to be classed amongst these greats and this film is but another in a string of hits for the pair. Watching this series of films shows where later productions got some of their inspiration, as any fan of both the 'Road' picture series and the 80s TV classic Moonlighting could attest - you can tell where some of their ideas came from. Just because it's old, don't rob yourself the opportunity in seeing this picture. See the whole series, if it becomes available, as it still rewards. Absolutely positively recommended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Sadly, the transfer afforded this film does not live up to the wonderful motion picture series. The picture presented is not even of VHS (very hazy system) standard, it is much, much, worse.

    This feature is presented in the 1.33:1 or Full Frame aspect ratio, which differs only very slightly from its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. There is, as would be expected, no 16x9 enhancement.

    The sharpness of this transfer is an abomination. The word that first comes to mind is (Bleep! Ed.). One viewing of this DVD, even 3 minutes into the feature, and you know you're looking at worst-case scenario. There is a total lack of any real fine detail because of both the age of the film (not a real problem) and its method of transfer to DVD (the real problem). This transfer seems to have been taken straight from a NTSC VHS mastering tape, converted lock-stock to PAL and committed to DVD. And so while the usual PAL speed-up is absent (no real issue, anyway), the end result is an image severely hampered by too many video artefacts to count. Shadow detail is fairly lacking, as can be seen at 51:52. There are few really dark scenes during the feature, but lack of shadow detail always detracts from the overall picture. Low level noise is not a real issue with this title, but that's because of the numerous other faults, rendering any low-level noise unnoticeable.

    This was the only 'Road' picture out of the seven that was presented in colour (Technicolor, to be exact). With its aged looks, one gets the impression at first that the film has been colorized (a blight on classic cinema that gained popularity in the mid to late 80s, but seems to have died out, thank goodness). No, folks, what you see here is real life Technicolor. While fairly unsubtle and exaggerated at times, it serves the film quite well. The colour presentation on this DVD seems reasonably natural.

    As stated before, because of the method of transferring this film to DVD, we have a myriad of faults to wade through. Firstly, MPEG artefacts are largely absent from this title with only the typical minor pixelisation, which is almost like grain, that we usually see with Force Video titles. Film-to-video artefacts are another matter, though, as we actually have film to video to video issues to deal with. Because this DVD has been taken from a transferred NTSC VHS mastering copy which has been converted to PAL, we have a terrible exaggerated image on offer with the final result suffering from major aliasing and the reasonably rare but not unheard-of overmodulation artefact present (as can be seen at 2:58 and 5:25 among other places) throughout the picture. With the PAL transfer highlighting the NTSC source limitations, the end result is lines everywhere and aliasing is a major result. This annoyance is visible in every scene, but have a look at 9:50. This transfer also suffers from a fair few analogue tape tracking errors. These are mirrored in the first DVD version of this title which is from Platinum Disc Corporation. It exhibits the same tracking errors seen with the Force Video version. Evidence can be seen of this at 70:21 on this Force Video release and also at 70:17 on the Platinum version. At  70:23 the tracking error was so great (as is easily seen on the Platinum version) that Force have seemingly elected to cut the offending frame from its transfer with a resultant jump at that moment in the film. There are several of these jumps which leads this reviewer to the conclusion that perhaps these errors were so bad that excising them from the final cut was considered the only option. There are quite a number of film artefacts with many a nick and fleck evident. The reel change markings are also quite noticeable.

    There are no subtitles on offer.

    As this is a single layer disc, layer change is not an issue.

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

Audio

    This disc presents the audio in English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    Dialogue quality is reasonable despite the age of the film and its rather mediocre transfer to DVD. At all times the spoken word is clearly audible. There is an annoying high pitched hum that is audible throughout this picture, but only is a real problem if listened for.

    Audio sync is no real issue with dialogue sync being quite good.

    The music for the film comes from several contributors, including Joseph J. Lilley, Van Cleave, Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen. The score also sees the leads lending their vocal talents. Most of the score is string oriented and quite comical; totally keeping in the vein of the picture.

    As this film's soundtrack is presented in mono, there is no surround activity to report. Also because of the film's limited frequency range in the audio stakes, the subwoofer is totally silent during this film.

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

Extras

    Could also be called "No Extras" as there are none.

    The main menu is a painted wallpaper with the options Movie or Scenes located at the bottom right of the screen. You really have to look because the options blend too well into the menu's wallpaper.

    The Scenes menu offers the viewer a series of static images with chapter titles underneath each image. There are 12 chapters on this title (compared to 8 on the NTSC Platinum version). The Main Menu features music (the song Moonflower) from the soundtrack in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono as a background and this music loops endlessly if no selections are made from the menu.

R4 vs R1

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

    There have been multiple versions of this title released both here in Region 4 and also in Region 2 and Region 1. The Force Video version is one of three that have been released in Region 4; the others are the Platinum Disc Corporation NTSC version out of Canada, and an MRA Entertainment Group (PAL) version released at about the same time as this Force Video version. In Region 1 the versions released include various single title versions, and some collections, such as a Bob Hope Tribute Collection.

    With the only NTSC North American version available to this reviewer being the Platinum Disc Corp. version, time will tell as to which version fairs best. Of the two I have seen, the Platinum disc has a clearer transfer, but suffers from a faded colour image and a strange audio mix with most of the audio shifted to the right speaker. Until a complete boxed set of the restored 'Road' picture series is offered with remastered prints taken from the best sources available (and restored as required), I really can't recommend any of them. Rent this title if you can or buy it if it's under $10, otherwise perhaps it'll be a good idea to wait until a full-blown boxed set is offered by Paramount with all the extras that are on offer on some of the Region 1 versions. These include various filmographies and biographies as well as featurettes. With the films all being fairly short, a 4 or 5 disc set would be possible.

Summary

    This title deserves much better treatment than it gets here. This is a great movie in a series that stands the test of time. 50 years on, this movie still brings on the laughs and is a must see for any fan of classic comedy. Haven't seen a 'Road' picture yet? Grab this and see what you've been missing. Ignore the dreadful transfer (if you can) and watch the masters at work. The movie is highly and unreservedly recommended.

    The video is terrible with examples of almost all possible artefacts on this disc. You can watch the movie, but only barely.

    The audio is adequate.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Friday, September 13, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic A300-MU, using S-Video output
DisplayHitachi CP-L750W LCD Projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2090
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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