During the 1940’s, the “Road to…” franchise at Paramount Pictures could be counted on to provide great escapism as well as great entertainment value; not surprisingly, the success of these films helped to further establish Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour as top draws at the box office. The third entry in the franchise, Road to Morocco, may be the greatest of all the Road films as its elements of music and slapstick are held in near perfect alignment. Kino, through their Studio Classics line, has given the film its debut on Blu-ray.
The Production: 4.5/5
Washed up on North Africa’s shores after stowing away aboard a ship, Orville “Turkey” Jackson (Bob Hope) and Jeff Peters (Bing Crosby) manage to find a camel that takes them on the road to Morocco. And before you can say “Webster’s Dictionary”, the two find themselves in a heap of trouble in their new surroundings. Jeff sells Orville to a trader who, in turn, sells him to Princess Shalmar (Dorothy Lamour), who takes an interest in Orville and plans to marry him. That proves to be a problem, as the rogue sheik Mullay Kasim (Anthony Quinn) also has eyes for the princess, which could lead to both Jeff and Orville losing their necks!
Lampooning the exotic adventures that came before it, Road to Morocco is a highly enjoyable comedy that brought the series to its zenith. In terms of comedy, the trio continue a few gags that have spurred on the series (the “patty cake” routine for example) while breaking the fourth wall a few times for some laughs as well (the scene in the jail immediately comes to mind). From a music standpoint, the Johnny Burke-Jimmy Van Heusen songs are suitably attuned to the story, with the eponymous title song and “Moonlight Becomes You” standing out memorably; a perfect marriage between music and comedy. All of this comes to life under the direction of David Butler, taking over from Victor Schertzinger, who directed the first two movies in the franchise (and whom passed away before production began on this movie). With its rapid fire gags and memorable songs, this Road is definitely one worth traveling over and over again, and one that has become a genuine classic.
Of course, there’s no way the film would’ve worked without the genuine chemistry between Bing, Bob, and Dorothy, but there’s some more notable players here who are also worthy of praise for making the comedy work. One of them is Anthony Quinn; having already played a heavy in the series (Road to Singapore), he fills the role here and is the recipient of the “patty cake” gag that backfires. Dona Drake is noteworthy as the handmaiden who also takes a shine to Orville; she holds her own against the trio. Vladimir Sokoloff makes a noteworthy appearance as the wise man whose star reading causes confusion as to who marries who; Dan Seymour makes a brief appearance as the trader who buys Orville from Jeff. Other notables include Monte Blue as an aide of Kasim, Yvonne De Carlo as one of Princess Shalmar’s handmaidens, Richard Loo as a broadcaster in the opening montage, Brandon Hurst as another broadcaster in said montage, Nestor Paiva as a vendor, Stanley Price as a simple minded citizen in the bazaar, Kermit Maynard as an Arab horseman, Cy Kendall as the fruit stand proprietor, and Kent Rogers – Beaky Buzzard himself – voicing the male camel.
3D Rating: NA
The original 1:37:1 aspect ratio is kept intact for this HD of the movie. Film grain is sturdy and organic, with fine details rendered strongly and a solid grayscale throughout; there’s very minimal instances of age related artifacts like dirt, dust, scratches, and flickering that’s noticeable. Overall, this is probably the best the movie has looked on home video.
The original mono soundtrack is presented on a DTS-HD Master Audio track for this release. Dialogue and sound effects are clear and strong and great fidelity is given to the Johnny Burke/James Van Heusen songs and Victor Young background score (Young was uncredited for that but was credited as the musical director for the film); there’s nary an instance of age related issues – distortion, crackling, popping or hissing – making this the best the movie has ever sounded on home video.
Special Features: 3.5/5
Commentary by Jack Theakston – Recorded for this release, Theakston goes over the film’s production; like the movie itself, this track is lighthearted and entertaining but also very informative.
Bob Hope and the Road to Success (14:13) – Filmed in 2001, this featurette goes over Bob Hope’s career prior to the “Road to…” series; featuring interviews with film scholar Randall Mielke, comedienne and friend Phyllis Diller, and Hope boigrapher Richard Grudens.
Command Performance 1945 (5:05) – Brief excerpts from a short film distributed to the troops showcases Bob Hope and Jerry Colonna entertaining the troops via radio.
Road to Morocco Sing-Along (2:08)
Trailers From Hell with John Landis (2:36) – The trailer of the movie is presented with commentary by Landis, who cited the “Road to…” movies as inspiration for his own effort Spies Like Us (1985).
Theatrical Trailer (2:12)
Bonus KLSC Trailers – Road to Singapore, Road to Zanzibar, and Road to Utopia
Road to Morocco has survived over the years as not only the best of the “Road to…” franchise, but as one of the greatest American comedies of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Kino has done full justice to the movie by providing a great transfer as well as an informative commentary track and legacy special features from previous releases of the movie on home video. An easy recommended upgrade for fans of the movie, franchise, and classic Hollywood in general.
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