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Having to leave Melbourne in a hurry to avoid various marriage proposals, two song-and-dance men sign on for work as divers. This takes them to an idyllic island on the way to Bali where they vie with each other for the favours of Princess Lala. The hazardous dive produces a chest of priceless jewels which arouses the less romantic interest of some shady locals. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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ROAD TO BALI (Paramount, 1952), directed by Hal Walker, reunites the famous trio of Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour in another wild and crazy adventure for their sixth "Road" outing. Having traveled through "Singapore" (1940), "Zanzibar" (1941), "Morocco" (1942), "Utopia" (1945) and finally "Rio" (1947), with a lot of other territories to explore such as Borneo, Venice or even outer space, the writers came up with "Bali" as their next stop. With newfound surroundings, added Technicolor and surprise guest stars along the way, the material supplied, though hardly original, was no doubt quite popular in its day.
Opening with a commentary and visual over the map of Australia leading to the city in Melbourne, the story gets underway in a vaudeville house where American entertainers, George Cochran (Bing Crosby) and Harold Gridley (Bob Hope), longtime pals, are performing. Back stage are a couple of angry fathers with their daughters to whom these guys proposed, but each having no intention of marrying. Making their getaway, they soon end up on a train from which they jump out to avoid another angry father, ending up in a far away place surrounded by sheep. Arriving in another city as part of a cargo of sheep, the bearded George and Harold agree to accept jobs from Ken Ahok (Mervyn Vye) working as deep sea divers (with Harold doing the underwater job) to help locate buried treasure. Upon their arrival on an island paradise, the boys encounter Ahok's cousin, Lalah (Dorothy Lamour), a princess of Scottish descent. Because Ken Ahok happens to be responsible for the deaths of his previous divers, with intention of doing the same for these Americans, Lalah warns them that their mission means certain death. After Harold dives for and acquires the buried jewels, the trio break away from Ahok's murderous cutthroats and set sail out for Bali. While on the tropical island, further danger and numerous surprises awaits.
A movie being more fantasy than its intended South Seas island spoof, the film's best moments are its opening 20 minutes. In spite of every effort made turning out a great 91 minute comedy in the tradition of ROAD TO MOROCCO or ROAD TO UTOPIA, this latest "Road" installment grows tiresome long before it's all over. Crosby the con man, Hope the stooge, and Lamour the sarong girl in the middle, revive their past "Road" adventures with much familiarity, continue acting like over-age kids with their one "paddy cake" routine along with an assortment of ad-libs. In-jokes are put to the maximum this time around, some at a total loss for viewers today. Best bits however, are Hope and Crosby surrounded by beautiful maiden girls. An agonizing groan is heard off screen: Crosby: "What was that?" Hope: "It's Errol Flynn. He can't stand it." Or a clip insertion of Humphrey Bogart hauling The African Queen. (I thought Bali is in Indonesia!) Then there's Bing Crosby's brother Bob doing his bit with a "shot in the picture," along with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, as well as Jane Russell in some amusing bits. There's also a running gag throughout the film where the boys play a flute to see what slowly grows out of the basket. Murvyn Vye makes a fine villain, but it would have been nice having Anthony Quinn ("Singapore" and "Morocco") back for old times sake.
Musical interludes are a tradition in the series, with new score by Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen, including: "Chicago Style" (sung by Bing Crosby and Bob Hope); "Moonflowers" (sung by Dorothy Lamour); "Hoot-Mon" (sung by Hope and Crosby in kilts, performed by handmaidens and warriors); "To See You" (sung by Crosby); "The Merry-Go-Round Around" (sung by Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour and Bing Crosby); "Moonflowers" (reprize by Lamour); and "Wedding Chant" (natives). For Crosby's solo, Hope faces the camera addressing the theater audience that it's time for them to step out and get some popcorn.
Having fallen to public domain, poor quality prints of ROAD TO BALI have turned up on home video and DVD over the years. Better prints available happen to come from cable channels American Movie Classics and Turner Classic Movies. Being a Paramount film, notice the TCM print with both Columbia and Paramount studio logos for its introduction.
ROAD TO BALI almost became the final "Road" adventure. Ten years later, an attempt was made to revive the formula, being THE ROAD TO HONG KONG (United Artists, 1962), starring Crosby and Hope with Lamour strangely reduced to cameo appearance. Overall, any movie that can make a "monkey" out of Bob Hope, can't be all bad. (***)
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