Film Review – THE ROAD TO HONG KONG (1962)

THE ROAD TO HONG KONG (1962, UK, 91m, U) ***
Comedy, Musical
dist. United Artists; pr co. Melnor Films; d. Norman Panama; w. Melvin Frank, Norman Panama; pr. Melvin Frank; ph. Jack Hildyard (B&W | 1.66:1); m. Robert Farnon; m/l. James Van Heusen, Sammy Cahn; ed. Alan Osbiston, John C. Smith, John Victor Smith; pd. Roger K. Furse; ad. Syd Cain, William Hutchinson.
cast: Bing Crosby (Harry Turner), Bob Hope (Chester Babcock), Joan Collins (Diane), Robert Morley (Leader of the 3rd Echelon), Walter Gotell (Dr. Zorbb), Felix Aylmer (Grand Lama), Alan Gifford (American Official), Michel Mok (Undetermined Role), Katya Douglas (3rd Echelon Receptionist), Roger Delgado (Jhinnah), Robert Ayres (American Official), Mei Ling (Ming Toy), Jacqueline Jones (Blonde at Airport), Yvonne Shima (Poon Soon), Dorothy Lamour (Dorothy Lamour).
Belated seventh and final film in the Hope/Crosby “Road to” series sees the pair trying hard to recreate the magic as con men who get embroiled in international intrigue. When Hope accidentally memorises and destroys the only copy of a secret Russian formula for new and improved rocket fuel, the duo tries to stay alive while keeping the formula out of enemy hands. The direction and editing are flabby and the routines seem a little dated in their 1960s setting. There are the usual in-jokes and Hope delivers slick one-liners, whilst Bing also gets in a couple of songs. Collins makes a game sparring partner and Lamour turns up late in the proceedings. Peter Sellers, Dean Martin, David Niven and Frank Sinatra are among the stars making unbilled cameo appearances.

Film Review – THE GHOST BREAKERS (1940)

Ghost Breakers, The (1940; USA; B&W; 85m) ∗∗∗½  d. George Marshall; w. Walter DeLeon; ph. Charles Lang; m. Ernst Toch.  Cast: Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, Richard Carlson, Paul Lukas, Willie Best, Anthony Quinn, Noble Johnson, Paul Fix. A radio broadcaster, his quaking manservant, and an heiress investigate the mystery of a haunted castle in Cuba. Hope and Goddard look to repeat the success they had with THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1939) and largely succeed. Hope is more assured here and his one-liners are sharper. The set-up is a little protracted, but the payoff in the haunted castle is suitably spooky. Top class art direction by Hans Dreier and Robert Usher adds to atmosphere. Based on the play by Paul Dickey and Charles W. Goddard. Previously filmed in 1914 and 1922 then remade as SCARED STIFF (1953). [PG]

Film Review – THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1939)

Cat and the Canary, The (1939; USA; B&W; 74m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Elliott Nugent; w. Walter DeLeon, Lynn Starling; ph. Charles Lang; m. Ernst Toch.  Cast: Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, John Beal, Douglass Montgomery, Gale Sondergaard, Elizabeth Patterson, George Zucco, Nydia Westman, John Wray. When an eccentric family meets in their uncle’s remote, decaying mansion on the tenth anniversary of his death for the reading of his will, murder and madness follow. The archetypal haunted house comedy thriller with Hope in a career defining role as the reluctant hero and Goddard making an effective debut as the heiress who is being victimised. Some nifty one-liners from Hope mix with effectively spooky atmosphere heightened by cinematographer Lang’s superb use of lighting. Sondergaard is also excellent as the mysterious housekeeper. Goddard and Hope would re-team for a follow-up a year later in the similarly themed THE GHOST BREAKERS. Based on the play by John Willard. Previously filmed in 1927 and remade in 1978. [PG]