Road to Utopia [DVD] [1946]

Hal Walker's Road To Utopia, shot in 1944 but released in 1946, had previously appeared on DVD from Image Entertainment, in an edition lacking any extras or, for that matter, the benefits of a state-of-the-art transfer. The 2002 reissue directly from Universal is a significant improvement, with enough built-in whistles and bells to keep viewers busy with a lot more than the movie. As to the feature itself, it's presented in a crisp new transfer from a very clean and sharp print -- all so sharp that the black cloth on which the game "Ghosto" is named is held up, it shines, and even its texture is visible in a wide shot. There's an audio track to match, sharp and loud, which is a help not only when Bing Crosby sings but when he and Bob Hope do their song-and-dance number, "The Lonesomest Man In Town." The 18 chapters are adequate to the job of delineating the plot, such as it is, but there's a lot more than the movie here to enjoy. In addition to the documentary "Bob Hope & The Road To Success," which appears on each of the four Universal-released discs of the "Road" movies, we get a superb morale-boosting short entitled "Hollywood Victory Caravan." This is one of the best featurettes of its kind that this reviewer has ever seen -- in addition to Hope and Crosby (who have a lot of fun here), we get Barbara Stanwyck, Alan Ladd, Betty Hutton (in a full-blown production number almost worthy of Busby Berkeley), William Demarest, Franklin Pangborn, and Humphrey Bogart (stepping out of character in a patriotic speech that is perfectly placed and very moving in its passion and sincerity), all in worthwhile scenes of varying lengths. There are also bios on the key supporting players and the director, and an original trailer, all of these extras accessible through an easy-to-manipulate multi-layered menu that opens automatically on start-up. For those with the need to use them, captions and subtitles can be activated in English, French, and Spanish.
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Overview

Special Features

  • Bob Hope and the Road to Success
  • Hollywood Victory Caravan
  • Photograph gallery
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Production notes
  • Cast and filmmakers
  • DVD-ROM features

Synopsis

Road to Utopia
The first "Road" picture in three years (the last was The Road to Morocco), Road to Utopia is set during the Alaskan gold rush. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby play a pair of third-rate San Francisco entertainers, Chester Hooton and Duke Johnson, who are obliged to skip town in a hurry. They book passage on a ship to Alaska, where they run afoul of escaped murderers Sperry (Robert H. Barrat) and McGurk (Nestor Paiva). Through a fluke, Chester and Duke overpower the killers, then get off the ship in Skagway disguised as Sperry and McGurk so that they themselves can evade the authorities. The boys can't understand why everyone is so afraid of them, nor why saloon owner Ace Larson (Douglas Dumbrille) and Larson's moll Kate (Hillary Brooke) are so chummy. It turns out that Sperry and McGurk had stolen a deed to a valuable gold mine before escaping to Alaska. Sal Van Hoyden (Dorothy Lamour) is the rightful owner of that deed, thus she too shows up in Skagway, hoping to extract the document from Chester and Duke. Whenever the plot threatens to become too difficult to follow, narrator Robert Benchley shows up to explain things -- which of course only adds to the confusion. At any rate, the whole affair ends up with Chester, Duke, and Sal running through the snowy wastes, with the villains in hot pursuit. Duke nobly stays behind to fight off the bad guys himself, handing the deed to Chester and Sal and wishing them Godspeed. Flash-forward to 1945: Chester and Sal, both old and wealthy, are reunited with their equally aged pal Duke, who wasn't killed after all. Sal tells Duke that Chester has been a wonderful husband and father. Yes, father...and wait till you see who plays their child ("We adopted him!"). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Bing Crosby
    Bing Crosby - Duke Johnson
  • Bob Hope
    Bob Hope - Chester Hooton
  • Dorothy Lamour
    Dorothy Lamour - Sal Van Hoyden
  • Robert Benchley
    Robert Benchley - Narrator
  • Hillary Brooke
    Hillary Brooke - Kate
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