Road to Zanzibar (1941)
“IT’S THAT GLEESOME THREESOME AGAIN! Giving you your worth in mirth! Toping all the fun in “Road to Singapore!””
Director: Victor Schertzinger
Cast: Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour
Synopsis: Stranded in Africa, Chuck and his pal Fearless have comic versions of jungle adventures, featuring two attractive con-women.
Bob Hope and Bing Crosby’s follow-up to Road to Singapore is one of the weaker of the franchise, but still manages to serve a few laughs despite diluting the mix by having Dorothy Lamour off-screen too much of the time. In this one the duo operate a sideshow human cannonball act (no prizes for guessing who is the cannonball) who fall foul of the law when they accidentally set fire to the big top. Through a series of twists, they find themselves trekking through the jungle with small-time grifter Lamour and her sidekick (Una Merkel). Of course Hope believes Lamour has the hots for him when she’s really interested in Crosby.
Although many look upon this as the first ‘real’ Road to… movie because Singapore was never intended as the first of a series, it still lacks the self-referential gags, the comic cameos and the quips made direct to camera for which the series is famous. The seeds of that mildly anarchic style are there though in the conversation Crosby and Lamour hold about the absurdity of an orchestra playing in the jungle when a movie actor sings — just before the orchestra starts to play as Crosby bursts into song. Probably the cleverest scene is the one in which the boys mistakenly believe Lamour has been eaten by lions and their grief is tempered by anger at her recently uncovered duplicity. I also liked the scene in which they stumble upon the jungle telegraph service — there’s no man in the world could resist having a bang on those drums. Some of the gags are very much of their time, making them a trifle obscure to a modern-day audience, but overall this is a decent instalment of the long-running franchise.
(Reviewed 10th November 2005)