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  Specs
  • Full Frame
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
  Subtitles
  • None
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Cast/crew biographies - 4 pages
  • Featurette
  • Production notes - 4 pages
  • Photo gallery
  • Short film - Hollywood Victory Caravan

Road to Utopia

Universal/Universal . R4 . B&W . 86 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Well, this must have been a modern film for its day, there can be little doubt about that. Direct contact with the audience, set gags, studio gags and even a superimposed narrator making fun of not only the characters but the actors playing them. Certainly different, although these days that style has come and gone.

"And I thought this was an A pictureÖ"

Bing Crosby and Bob Hope teamed up on several of the films known as The Road toÖ series with a versatile and eclectic group of stars from the day. Thereís an obvious premise that the audience is already familiar with the way the film goes as the jokes begin very early with little explanation. People must have thought things funnier in those days or something, because I barely raised a chuckle for much of the film. Not to bag it or anything, it looks genuinely funny for the time, but in this fast paced 21st century of ours, itís just not cutting it.

The camaraderie between Bob and Bing is friendly and they work well together as your usual Ďodd coupleí, although the straight and funny parts interchange as the situation determines. I felt though that some deliveries seem a little bit too pre-prepared as they zing out lightning fast. Parley also works so fast here that there is no possible way they couldnít have rehearsed it a bazillion times and that grinds the sharp edge off whatever the full potential of the lines may or may not have been. Which is a shame, because there are some moments of humour that would have been much funnier given a more natural approach. But again, thatís just today and maybe thatís just me. Thereís little doubt these films had Ďem rolling in the aisles at the time, but they splat a little today.

Our storyline here is simple enough. Two fellows on the con decide to head to Alaska as things are getting a little too hairy around their way at present. Stowing away, they are soon uncovered and must work for their passage. Upon arrival, they are cleaning a berth and discover a map in a cabin. Unfortunately for them, the map is owned by two hairy thugs names Sperry and McGurk and, after escaping their clutches, they pose as them in town so as to win the affections of a connection who has organised the stealing of the mine the map features. But also after Sperry and McGurk is the law and soon the boys are running for their lives while still trying to gather a fortune from the events.

I make it sound more complex than it actually is. Itís really a simple mistaken identity comedy that grates the tiniest bit by the end, but I put this down to the stark deliveries and sterile characters. However, itís not a bad film, itís just a little past its use by date. Fans of the films will no doubt be reveling in the ability to see them on DVD and thatís cool, but I had trouble being introduced to this older style with my more modern appetite.

  Video
Contract

This isnít the best, folks. Itís delivered in old school 4:3 black and white and hasnít stood up all that well to the rigours of time. There is some appalling flaring and aliasing and whatever from 7:10 Ė 13:00 as the pattern on a suitcoat goes nuts. At 15:23 there appears to be some missing frames. Flesh tones are even enough for black and white, but shadow detail isnít good. Blacks are true, but during some of the grainier moments of the film (sporadic) there is some craphouse macro blocking which is horrid. So not a good visual transfer all round, but one that is effective in telling the story. It looks fair enough for a film over 55 years old though.

  Audio
Contract

What can one say about mono? Itís Dolby, sure, but it doesnít do much. The dialogue and all is clear enough to hear each zinger hit the wall and thereís no trouble understanding anyone. Sound effects are comical of course, and these sound a bit stockish at times, but do their job. Music is nothing to get in a major twist over, especially in that there are five (count Ďem, five) songs/performances that make the best use of Bing rhyming with sing. Bob also sings, but he doesnít rhyme all that well with Ďsingí. Bob opens his gob...

No, thatís not much better.

  Extras
Contract

Hereís the chance for this disc to shine and whilst itís not blinding glare, itís effective in looking sparkly. Or something.

Our first shiny extra is the 19:42 long Hollywood Victory Caravan. This is a short film that played to cinema audiences before the feature to instruct them on the wisdom of buying war bonds. Itís a bit of fun with plenty of stilted acting, but thereís a huge celebrity contingent. The sound is appalling and the ending of the piece totally shits itself visually and aurally, but itís worth seeing for the big name stars doing their bit for the war effort. Whatever that is.

A crapper putts in next in the Bing Crosby at the Stage Door Canteen on August 31, 1944 talking to Jack Buchanan about the film. Woo. This runs for a whopping 1:08 and features crap vision and crappier audio.

The trailer is 4:3, runs for 2:12 and features one of those silly voiceovers talking to the boys as if they can hear him. Itís dumb, but worth a look I guess.

A photo gallery featuring ten stills from the film, the original poster and two lobby cards is next, followed by a 3:08 montage to music of stills from the movie. This is worth checking out for the posters and such, but is the usual dross.

Production notes part four give us four pages of notes about the film. The Ďpart fourí bit refers to the other three films in this set which no doubt have similar pages on them. Thereís also a cast and crew credits thing with four pages, but this is most definitely filler material.

It must be very difficult finding extras to stick onto this sort of film, so thereís been a good job done here in that regard, itís just a shame there isnít anything a little more inviting.

  Overall  
Contract

This oneís strictly for fans of the series or fans of the performers. I personally donít think this has the strength to gather a new flock of followers but I will say this; itís truly great that they are committing so many older films to DVD before they are lost forever. Historically it can only be a good thing, but as far as the modern audience goes, Iím doubtful of the popularity of this sort of film, regardless of how groundbreaking itís script is or was.

One for the fans.


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      And I quote...
    "How many roads must a man walk downÖ?"
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          Sony 51cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Subwoofer:
          Akai
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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