Road to Rio/Road to Bali HD DVD review - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

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post #1 of 1 Old 02-11-08, 08:06 AM Thread Starter
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Richard W. Haines
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Location: Croton-on-Hudson, NY
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Road to Rio/Road to Bali HD DVD review

"Road to Rio/Road to Bali" HD DVD review

I guess I'll start by stating that if you like the Bob Hope/Bing Crosby "Road" series,
this HD edition is probably the best copy you'll see on these two titles considering
they are in the public domain. The problem with all PD movies
is finding good sources. In most cases the original negative and pre-print
(fine grain masters, duplicate negatives) are in the hands of the distributor. But
anyone who can find other materials (usually prints) can release
the movies in any format and not pay royalties. However, the copies tend to
be substandard. The owner of the negatives are
reluctant to release their versions from the best quality sources since anyone can
then copy them and re-release them under their own label. Thus PD classics like
Marlon Brando's "One Eyed Jacks" remain unreleased on either standard DVD or HD DVD
by Paramount while there are many poor quality bootlegs available.

How does a film fall into the public domain? I've covered it elsewhere on this site but
I'll mention it again. In the old 'nitrate stock' days (pre-1948), the film was so volatile
(flammable and subject to decomposition) that the copyright office of the Library of
Congress only gave coverage for 28 years. On the 28th year, the film had
to be re-submitted and filed for an extension providing that the negative hadn't decomposed.
What they didn't count on was improvements in film stock beginning with tri-acetate
'safety film' in 1948 along with modern estar base safety film in 1993 which would expand the
potential life of a motion picture for 75 to 100 years. They didn't change the copyright
law to give longer initial coverage until the eighties. Most owners went through their
libraries and checked the original copyright date and renewed them but due to various
reasons, some forgot specific titles. That's why pictures like the Max Fleisher
version of "Gulliver's Travels" fell into the public domain. In the case of these two films, it
would appear that Paramount just forgot to renew them. The other Road movies were all
renewed and are available on standard DVD.

A company called BCI which I'm not familiar with found what appears to be good condition
prints of these movies and digitally cleaned them up for the HD transfers. "Road to Rio"
was shot on nitrate film. In the opening credits it states that UCLA restored the film by
transferring it to tri-acetate safety film. They have an 'orphan film' program to restore
and preserve movies that are either in the public domain or ownership is in dispute or
unknown. While the HD DVD is overall clean (most wear was removed but there is still some
occasional dust on the copy), the contrast was weak and the image somewhat grainy.
That's why I believe they used a print (which has high contrast for projection) rather than
low contrast pre-print (negatives, fine grains, dupe negatives) which are better for video
transfers. When you try to alter a release print on either a 2K or 4K scanner, you end up losing detail
and increasing apparent grain. I was able to go into the Optoma HD 70 DLP
menu and play around with the contrast and brightness until it looked fairly good when I
screened it. I wouldn't avise making the image too big but it generally looked good.

"Road to Bali" was shot in three strip Technicolor. For best results in this process, the
transfer should be made directly from the three black and white negatives which can then
be recombined for perfect registration, color saturation and contrast. Or, they can recombine
them photochemically on new Interpositive stock. "The Adventures of Robin" hood was mastered
directly from the three black and white negatives and "The Wizard of Oz" from a new color
Interpositive which in turn was derived from the original three strip negatives.

This transfer appears to have been made from an original Technicolor print. Dye transfer
"Glorious Technicolor" look spectacular when screened on a projector but tend to be too
contrasty and over saturated when transferred directly to video. While the print appeared
to be in excellent shape, it does lack detail. Once again, by going into the DLP menu and
playing around with the color saturation, contrast and brightness, I was able to make it
look acceptable although certainly not as good as the HD DVD of "The Adventures of Robin
Hood". But...for PD films they are probably as good as you'll ever seen on these
titles and perhaps I'm being overly picky by comparing them to other transfers in this format.
The sound on both films was cleaned up and has less hiss than the standard DVD or VHS versions.
This makes Crosby's voice sound more appealing.

In terms of the series itself, these two titles fall somewhere in between. Of the seven pictures
in the series, I would rate them from the best to the worst as follows:

"Road to Morocco" (the funniest), "Road to Utopia" (second funniest), "Road to Bali" (funny with
the most inside jokes), "Road to Rio" (some great bits but too long), "Road to Zanzibar" (mildly funny
and politically incorrect which is either an asset or liability depending on your perspective),
"Road to Singapore" (mildly funny) and their last in the series "Road to Hong Kong" (they were too old and the formula stale although Peter Sellers has an amusing cameo)

Hope and Crosby were best friends and their banter and ribbing of each other is part of the appeal.
I enjoy when they break the fourth wall and make asides to the viewer letting you know that they aren't taking it seriously and it's just a movie. Both were staunch Republicans which is why they take potshots at the big government of the Roosevelt and Truman years.
The taxes were astronomically high back then (90 % went to the government if you made over $100,000) so there were jokes regarding that. Other political jokes were non-partisan and still relavant. Both men were rich and I have no idea how they were able to circumvent the income
tax laws and keep much of their wealth. I know Hope was involved in real estate and there were tax breaks if you traded in stocks rather than keep it as personal salary. In any event, they must've had clever accountants compared to Abbott and Costello which got into IRS trouble and lost
most of their fortune.

Dorothy Lamour was the 'femme fatale' of the series. An exotic looking beauty, she could also
since and dance well. Crosby had a great voice which was soothing and velvety. Hope could
sing and dance enough to get some laughs from his intentional clumsiness. Especially hillarious is a dance in "Road to Rio" where Hope is dressed in drag as Carmen Miranda performing with Crosby and
they get entangled with some painful looking groin and butt moves. Unfortunately, this movie
runs on too long at 100 minutes and should've been trimmed by about 10 minutes. The music isn't
that memorable even though the Andrew Sisters appear in one scene.

"Road to Bali" has a good pace and is the right length. There are some great cameos and I won't spoil it by saying who turns up. The songs are better too. It's interesting to note that while
most comedians tended to be young (20s-30s), Hope and Crosby were middle aged throughout
the series. Hope is flabby with a ski nose and Crosby wears a toupee and has ears that stick out but both considered themselves studs which was part of the fun. They were the same age although
Crosby died in his seventies and Hope lived to 100. So did George Burns and Milton Berle almost made it. Must've helped your longevity to make people
laugh. Hope and Crosby's careers fizzled out in the sixties so
they moved to television where they did numerous specials. Hope also entertained
the troops in all the US conflicts from World War II through Vietnam. Woody Allen admitted that he patterned the characters in his early features (i.e. "Love and Death") on Bob Hope's cowardly goofball.

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 02-11-08 at 08:22 AM.
Richard W. Haines is offline  


bali , dvd , hd , review , rio or road , road

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