All the publicity about "Ishtar," the extravagant Warren Beatty-Dustin Hoffman comedy, may whet some appetites for the real thing--the riotous old Crosby-Hope "Road" movies.
The Bing Crosby-Bob Hope comedies have a freewheeling, off-hand, scatter-gun style that "Ishtar" director Elaine May presumably was aiming for, though many critics contend she was off target. Comparing the Crosby-Hope chemistry with the Beatty-Hoffman rapport for yourself would be fun.
Surprisingly, however, only one of the Crosby-Hope films, "The Road to Bali," is available on home video. There were six others in the series, which began with "The Road to Singapore" in 1940 and ended with "The Road to Hong Kong" in 1962.
Unicorn's "Road to Bali" (1952) is one of the best--along with "Road to Morocco" (1942). "Bali," the only color movie in the series, is a rollicking jungle adventure. Hope and Crosby spend most of their time saving exotic Dorothy Lamour, their companion in all the "Road" adventures, from one danger or another.
Part of the fun in these movies were the cameos. Humphrey Bogart pops up in this one. Mainly, though, it's Hope's comic energy that propels the movie along its merry, manic course. His comic secret is his ability to make all his lines seem like ad-libs.
NEW RELEASES: New World's "Wanted Dead or Alive" is an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie without Schwarzenegger. Rutger Hauer plays a bounty hunter tracking down a maniacal terrorist (Gene Simmons) who's blowing up cars and buildings in Los Angeles. Supposedly, Hauer's character, Nick Randall, is the great-grandson of Josh Randall--played by Steve McQueen in the '50s TV Western series. Hauer received some critical praise for adding zing to a standard, icy loner role. Fast-paced, action-packed, this movie is above-average for the genre.
CBS-Fox's "Jumpin' Jack Flash" is a Whoopi Goldberg vehicle tailored to her comic talents. If you like her humor, you'll probably enjoy the movie, which mixes comedy and spy intrigue. She plays a loveable, kooky computer whiz who befriends an endangered British intelligent agent. The interesting angle is that they only communicate via computer. Will she or won't she meet this mysterious agent is one of the movie's burning questions. The plot, some critics complained, grows increasingly preposterous--and violent. Warning: Goldberg's character is foul-mouthed. Her constant swearing may offend some.
COMING MOVIES: Warners' "The Mosquito Coast," starring Harrison Ford, is out next week. MCA's " 'night, Mother" and "The Decline of the American Empire" will be released June 11. In the week of June 14: "Little Shop of Horrors," " 'Round Midnight" and "Hannah and Her Sisters."
"Marlene," Maximilian Schell's documentary about Marlene Dietrich, is due from Embassy on July 8. She is interviewed in the film but never appears on camera.
HBO is releasing "Something Wild," the comedy/thriller starring Jeff Daniels and Melanie Griffith, on July 15.
"Working Girls," director Lizzie Borden's lauded glimpse at a day in the life of five upscale prostitutes, will be out on Charter Entertainment Aug. 12.
OLD MOVIES: RCA/Columbia has just released three Cary Grant movies at $69.95 each.
"Holiday" (1938) is a low-key, sophisticated comedy full of subtle pleasures. Though it's famed as a comedy--and much of it is very witty--there are strains of drama coursing through it. Grant plays a charming commoner at odds with a super-rich fiancee (Doris Nolan) who's trying to fit him into high society. Meanwhile, her sharp-tongued sister (Katharine Hepburn) falls for him too. Though we've come to think of this as a Grant movie, the primary force is really Hepburn. The same principals--Grant, Hepburn, director George Cukor, playwright Philip Barry and screenwriter Donald Odgen Smith--were involved in an even funnier comedy, "The Philadelphia Story" (1940).
"The Howards of Virginia" (1940) is a strange Grant movie. He's not his usual dapper, debonair self. This time, he's a scrappy colonial farmer who marries an aristocrat (Martha Scott). Set during the Revolutionary War, this is basically a drama of family and cultural conflicts, spanning a generation--sort of a colonial soap opera. It takes a while to get used to Grant in colonial togs. It also takes a while to get into this movie (the plot set-up is slow) but once you do, it's worth it.
"Talk of the Town" (1942) is a triumph for Ronald Colman and Jean Arthur, who thoroughly out-act Grant. Directed by George Stevens, it's an offbeat comedy about a fugitive (Grant) who tries to soften the hard-boiled legal views of a law-school dean (Colman). For that period, when madcap comedies were in vogue, this was unusually intelligent. Though Grant isn't great--his scenes with Arthur don't have much spark--the movie is otherwise excellent.