Bob ’n’ Bing!

If ever there were a series of films that could straddle the fine line between old-fashioned and timeless, it was the string of Road movies starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. As much as the seven-film series was steeped in cornball songs and even cornier Vaudeville-era gags, it also comprised the vanguard of post-modern comedy built on satiric self-awareness.

Starting with 1940’s Road to Singapore, these films presented a breathless assemblage of quips, one-liners, celebrity cameos, audience asides, silly songs, pretty girls and phony-baloney exoticism. The 1942 entry Road to Morocco was one of only 400 American films that made it onto the AFI 100 ballot, but 1952’s Road to Bali may be the silliest and ultimately the most satisfying in the series.

Like most of the others, it stars Hope and Crosby as itinerant entertainers chasing after girls and joking their way through some back-lot “paradise.” As usual, the ever-luscious Dorothy Lamour co-stars, here as Princess Lalah, the shapely native girl who becomes the competition for Bob and Bing’s salacious affections; her ludicrous pointy headdress and island-lagoon musical number are campy highlights.

The plot—pure piffle about a legendary Scottish treasure protected by a killer South Seas octopus—is a mere framework for the film’s rapid-fire gags. Hope provides the best moments with a series of wink-to-the-audience one-liners—as, for instance, when the soundtrack cues up the de rigueur der Bingel ballad, and Hope looks into the camera to quip, “He’s gonna sing, folks; now’s the time to go out and get the popcorn.”

Road to Bali is being paired with the 1947 entry Road to Rio (which follows essentially the same formula), and released as a two-disc “double feature”; the picture and sound quality improve on some of the unlicensed copies of the Road movies previously released to DVD.