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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Road To Singapore (1940)

Ace: I can love 'em and leave 'em. The minute they look dreamy at you, you send for the preacher.
Josh: The minute they look dreamy at you, their father sends for the preacher.

- Bob Hope, Bing Crosby

Review By: Jon Danziger  
Published: March 17, 2002

Stars: Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour
Other Stars: Charles Coburn, Judith Barrett, Anthony Quinn, Jerry Colonna
Director: Victor Schertzinger

Manufacturer: Panasonic Disc Services Corporation
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:25m:11s
Release Date: March 05, 2002
UPC: 025192123122
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

O, to be back in the day when a couple of rapscallions could ditch the womenfolk and live merely on their wits and the songs in their hearts! Road To Singapore, the first of the many Bing Crosby/Bob Hope Road movies, comes to DVD with all its gee-whiz charm intact. And since it's the first of its kind, it lacks the self-consciousness that creeps into sequels ("Let's give them exactly the same thing, only different"), or into movies designed to spawn sequels ("If you loved us once, you'll love us twice as much the second time!").

Crosby plays Josh Mallon, heir to a shipping fortune, whose father (Charles Coburn) wants him to take over the family business, and to marry that nice young girl, Gloria (Judith Barrett). But Josh would rather play at sailor and pal around with Ace Lonigan, his best buddy, played by Hope. Father and Gloria press Josh into proposing, while Ace is on the lam—seems the father of an old acquaintance of his has a shotgun wedding in mind. Ace helpfully breaks up Josh and Gloria's engagement party, aboard Mr. Mallon's yacht; rather than either of them getting married, they hightail it to the high seas, bound for Singapore.

They never seem actually to make it to Singapore, but land instead in Kaigoon, apparently somewhere in the Pacific, where the boys swear off women. Of course, as soon as they do, they meet Dorothy Lamour. She plays Mima, half of a nightclub act; she's partnered up with a young, underutilized but deeply menacing Anthony Quinn. The boys take her away from the beast, and the three of them soon set up house, where it's hard for Josh and Ace to keep their vows to one another with a dish like Mima tending to their every need. She is of course way too sexy in her sarong for the guys not to put the moves on her, and soon the best pals are competing fiercely for her.

It's all rather silly, but what's funny in hindsight especially is the peculiar mix of temperaments here. Bob and Bing don't shy away from a brawl, they'll sing at the drop of a hat, and they've always got some banter going back and forth, so it's sort of like Oscar and Felix with violence, or a Lethal Weapon movie with musical numbers. (Given that Hope and Crosby were both well-known radio personalities at the time, I've got to believe that their personae were what the 1940 audience came for; imagine a buddy picture today with, say, Ray Romano and Matthew Perry.) There's one portion that doesn't go down quite as easily today, and perhaps inevitably, it has to do with racial politics. There's free food at a banquet for island natives only, so Bob and Bing at their most Scarlett O'Hara create native garb out of the curtains, and then smear mud all over their bodies to pass as islanders. At the festival they talk in gibberish supposed to pass as the native tongue; of course, it's all on a Paramount sound stage, but still, it's a pretty crude and politically uncomfortable business.

Everything ends just fine, of course, and Bing, in what will become a staple of the Road movies, gets the girl. The picture doesn't even run an hour and a half, and it's padded out with musical numbers at that. (The songs are pleasant enough, but no real keepers here.) It may not leave you panting for another Road picture to pop right into the player, but the movie provides a harkening back to a time when at least our entertainment was much more innocent.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Much of the photography still looks sharp, but the print needs a good cleaning. There are many scratches, and bits of debris occasionally dance around the frame, marring the image that is otherwise well balanced and reasonably strong.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: There's a bit too much snap, crackle and pop on this road. The musical numbers sound better than the dialogue scenes, which now and again rumble with distortions, particularly hissing.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
2 Featurette(s)
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
  2. Sweet Potato Piper Sing-Along
  3. DVD recommendations
  4. offer to sign up via the Internet for a Universal DVD newsletter
Extras Review: Two featurettes provide an overview of Bob Hope's career, and aren't necessarily specific to this film. Bob Hope and the Road to Success (14m:12s) is a look at the series of Road movies, their origin and their enduring appeal; it's full of little tidbits like the fact that Jack Benny turned down the role in The Big Broadcast of 1938 that launched Hope on the road to stardom, and that the first choice for the roles he plays in Road to Singapore was Fred MacMurray. The interviewees are Phyllis Diller (!) and two Hope chroniclers; toll-free numbers are conveniently provided in the closing credits, in case you care to order their books. Entertaining the Troops (06m:19s) is about Hope's decades-long work bringing good cheer to American servicemen, starting even before the forming of the U.S.O. in 1943; it features the same interviewees.

An original trailer is on hand, which makes a great point of celebrating especially "Hollywood's Oomph Boy, Jerry Colonna." Production notes are a brief four screens, and short biographies and selected filmographies are provided for the five lead actors (Hope, Crosby, Lamour, Quinn and Coburn) and the director, Victor Schertzinger. The Photograph Gallery (03m:06s) shows lobby cards and stills from the set over the music from the opening credits. The DVD recommendations, newsletter signup option and music over the menus is the same as on the other Hope discs. And perhaps the best feature is the "Sweet Potato Piper" Sing-Along, which provides karaoke-style lyrics for the chirpiest number in the score, so you can croon along at home with Bing, Bob and Dorothy.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Road To Singapore inaugurates one of the most successful series in film history, and though it's not groundbreaking, it still holds up well as a small entertainment. A couple of reasonably informative supplements help make this DVD a nice little trip down memory lane.


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