Road to Zanzibar [DVD] [1941]

Victor Schertzinger's Road To Zanzibar (1941) comes to DVD with a very healthy selection of bonus features, courtesy of Universal Home Video as part of its Bob Hope: The Tribute Collection, supported by a brace of enjoyable bonus features. The movie itself looks better than it did in the last laserdisc incarnation that this reviewer remembers, from the early 1990's, with a rich and nicely defined audio track as well -- not only is the latter mastered at a high volume, but it offers a vivid playback of Bing Crosby's swing-style opening number, exposing the nuances of the singer and the arrangement. The transfer is so clean that the pattern in Crosby's jacket shimmers and you can see the skin textures in the medium shots. The movie has been given 18 chapters, which are well chosen -- though Crosby's opening song isn't listed -- and nicely spaced. The disc opens on a main menu that goes three layers deep with material of interest. Among the best of the bonus features is the tribute short "Bob Hope & The Road To Success," which appears on each of the discs in the series. The 13 minute documentary includes commentary by scholar Randall G. Mielke and biographer Richard Grudens, and Hope's longtime friend Phyllis Diller, supported by clips from the early "Road" movies that illustrate Hope and Crosby's timing together, as well as aspects of Hope's roots in vaudeville. The account of the evolution of the "Road" movies, out of the personae that Hope and Crosby had createdfor themselves on radio, is fascinating, though the real secret, at the root of the movies, seems to have been that the two performers genuinely liked each other, and they and Dorothy Lamour also appreciated each others' respective presences and contributions. The presence of Victor Schertzinger, an unusual talent as a composer and film director, is also acknowledged. The Bob Hope-featured "Command Performance" (1944), from the wartime Army-Navy Screen Magazine, is also included, with the comedian playing opposite Betty Hutton and Lana Turner (who looks delectable), both of whom get to feed him some real zingers, and a brief vignette with Judy Garland. The trailer is not to be missed, either, as Hope and Lamour have a lot of fun stepping out of character to introduce the highlights of the movie. The production notes on these releases can usually be dispensed with, but the story origins and pre-production history of Road To Zanzibar makes opening that layer of the menu a very worthwhile side trip. For those who need them, captions and subtitles can also be selected in English, French, and Spanish.
$9.99
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Overview

Special Features

  • Bob Hope and the Road to Success
  • Command Performance 1944
  • Photograph gallery
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Production notes
  • Cast and filmmakers
  • DVD-ROM features

Synopsis

Road to Zanzibar
The second Bing Crosby/Bob Hope "Road" picture casts Crosby as a penny-ante sideshow promoter and Hope as Crosby's only client, "Fearless Frazier." Under Crosby's tutelage, Hope has been shot from a cannon, zapped in an electric chair and nearly strangled by an octopus. Now they're practically broke and stranded on the African coast. Crosby spends the last of their money to spring helpless Dorothy Lamour from a native slave market. Actually, Lamour and her pal Una Merkel are scamming Crosby and Hope to finance a safari across Africa, so that Lamour can link up with her wealthy fiance in Zanzibar. En route through the deepest, darkest jungle, both Hope and Crosby fall in love with Lamour. But when they find out they're being taken for chumps, the boys leave the safari and strike out on their own. Captured by cannibals, the boys try and fail to win their freedom by having Hope wrestle a particularly grumpy gorilla. Making their escape after teaching the natives their time-honored "Patty Cake" routine, they head for Zanzibar. Once again, Crosby spends his ready money to spring Lamour from her captured-by-slavers con game, obliging Hope, Crosby, Lamour and Merkel to try to earn passage money home by staging a "sawing the lady in half" routine for the locals. Crosby: "Are you sure you know what you're doing?" Hope: "If I don't, one of us is going back half fare." Like the earlier Road to Singapore, Road to Zanzibar sticks too closely to the script and plot to allow those inveterate adlibbers Hope and Crosby free reign. Still, there are some choice moments: our favorite bit occurs when Crosby comments to Lamour on the artificiality of movie musicals--whereupon the sound of an orchestra pops up out of nowhere. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Bing Crosby
    Bing Crosby - Chuck Reardon
  • Bob Hope
    Bob Hope - Hubert "Fearless" Frazier
  • Dorothy Lamour
    Dorothy Lamour - Donna Latour
  • Una Merkel
    Una Merkel - Julia Quimby
  • Joan Marsh
    Joan Marsh - Dimples
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