Thursday, January 28, 2010

“Next time I bring Sinatra…”

Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings reports that the release date of the brand-spanking-new edition of Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide (From the Silent Era Through 1965) was moved up to yesterday, and since that time I’ve been checking Amazon.com every few hours or so to see if they’ve shipped my copy. I am so looking forward to this book, and of course, thank Laura profusely for tracking its progress. She’s also got a bit of info on the new Maltin Movie Guide app available, so you should really try to get on over there in order to learn the skinny. (Update: Just received notification from Amazon.com at 3:24 p.m. that the Guide is on its way, baby!)

I had every intention of posting a pair of reviews from watching My Son John (1952) and I Was a Communist for the FBI (1951) last night, but I’m going to have to postpone them until tomorrow. Instead, I thought I’d offer a brief heads-up and remind you that The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™ is going to take a Road trip this evening—namely, showcasing five of the popular Bob Hope-Bing Crosby-Dorothy Lamour musical comedies beginning at 8:00pm: Road to Singapore (1940), Road to Zanzibar (1941), Road to Morocco (1942), Road to Utopia (1946) and Road to Bali (1952)

With the exception of Bali—which I’ve seen show up quite a few times on TCM—the rest of this lineup could be considered essential viewing (and recording, particularly if you’re a fan) if only because the Road films aren’t shown too often anymore (especially since AMC has committed itself to seeing how many times they can schedule Unforgiven [1992] in one month). If I had to choose one and only one, I’d go with Utopia simply because it is, hands down, the funniest of them all. (People might argue that Morocco is funnier—and while that would be my second pick, it pales in comparison to the yuks present in Utopia. It could be argued that Morocco is the best-known of the Road films…but certainly not the funniest. Actually, if you want to get technical—Road to Rio [1947] is the second funniest in the series…but since it’s not being scheduled that argument is moot.) With “narration” by Robert Benchley and choice one-liners from Hope (when Crosby’s character first arrives on the scene, Hope turns to the camera and cracks: “And I thought this was going to be an ‘A’ picture…”), Utopia also features great musical numbers like Personality and Put it There, Pal—plus great “menacing” support from Hillary Brooke, Douglass Dumbrille, Jack La Rue, Robert Barrat and Nestor Paiva.

TCM had originally scheduled the final film in the series, The Road to Hong Kong (1962), to follow Bali but have apparently scrapped those plans at the last minute and substituted the Hope-Lamour comedy My Favorite Brunette (1947) in its place. This is not a total loss (Hong Kong is probably the weakest entry, though Bali gives it some tough competition), particularly since I personally feel that Brunette is one of Hope’s all-time best vehicles—maybe his very best; it depends on what day of the week it is. Brunette’s a first-rate noir parody with some of the best villains ever featured in a Hope comedy: Peter Lorre, Lon Chaney, Jr., John Hoyt and the ever-so-unctuous Charles Dingle. (There’s also a pair of hilarious cameos from Hollywood stars which I’ll keep mum about in case you haven’t seen the film.)

After Brunette, TCM will show one of the Lum ‘n’ Abner films, Two Weeks to Live (1943), which I reviewed a good many years back when I lived in my old Salon Blogs neighborhood. I wouldn’t consider it one of the best showcases for the popular OTR comedy duo but if you’re curious to see “what’s happenin’ down in Pine Ridge” it’s a painless way to kill seventy-six minutes…plus Franklin Pangborn has a small but funny part.

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6 comments:

Tom said...

Cool...I'll have to get myself a copy of that video guide...

Stacia said...

How odd, our schedule still said "Hong Kong" would be on tonight. For one of my upcoming mini-projects, I recorded "Zanzibar" and "Morocco" and watched half of "Singapore" (until Jerry Colonna drove me away). Now that I know "Utopia" has Benchley narration, I'll get it recorded, too.

Rick Brooks said...

I remember looking at the first edition and spot-checking it, only to be disappointed that 2 or 3 movies I had just taped off TCM weren't included. I love Maltin's books, but I hope he expands the selection, especially with TCM's foray into other studio's libraries the last few years.

(BTW, "Morocco" is my personal favorite of the Road movies, but I hear you on Utopia)

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

I accidentally deleted this comment from Laura at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings--just me and my brain farts, I guess:

Maltin is definitely expanding the selection for this new edition of the CLASSIC guide, Rick -- at least 1000 more entries. I expect many of the TCM films which weren't in the last version will turn up this time around.

Thanks for the link, Ivan! I'm still waiting for mine to ship -- I ordered it a few days ago, as soon as I learned about the date change, and Amazon sent a note saying they have to push back the delivery date a few days. Looking forward to it -- hope you enjoy yours!

Best wishes,
Laura

The Derelict said...

I've never seen any of the "Road" movies so I recorded SINGAPORE and MOROCCO as planned, but I also recorded UTOPIA based on your recommendation (but no pressure or anything, I won't hold you accountable if I don't like it ;) )

So far, I've watched ROAD TO SINGAPORE and was kinda underwhelmed. I really like Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour in other movies I've seen them in (and I liked them here), so I'm wondering if it's Der Bingle factor that's turning me off.

Mr said...

One thing about Morocco I have always loved is the scene where Bing wanders the nighttime streets looking for his enslaved pal. The starry backdrop for the sky isnt just random pinholes in a black background -- you can clearly make out the Orion constellation shining above the palace walls. Anything, you know, to make the soundstage more interesting.