Road to Zanzibar (1941)

“If he’s a god, I’M Mickey Mouse!”

Synopsis:
A pair of con-artists (Bob Hope and Bing Crosby) flee to Zanzibar, where they are duped into buying a worthless deed for a diamond mine, romance an American con-girl (Dorothy Lamour), and are held captive by a tribe of natives.

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Review:
This second entry in the wildly successful Road To… Hope/Crosby adventure comedy series bumped the films up into the realm of pure silliness, and introduced their trademark self-referential humor. Much like the same year’s Hellzapoppin’ (1941), the actors in … Zanzibar brazenly break the “fourth wall” of cinema by commenting on the conventions of filmmaking itself — most memorably in the boat ride scene between Lamour and Crosby. Hope and Crosby continue to develop their snappy comedic rapport together (Richard Scheib of the SF, Fantasy, and Horror website labels them “more like a thinking person’s version of Abbott and Costello or The Three Stooges”), and are surrounded by a fine supporting cast. Eric Blore has a fun supporting role early on as the giddily unreliable seller of the bum deed, while Lamour is provided with a juicier, less submissive role this time around, and is ably supported by comedic sidekick Una Merkel. The storyline itself — essentially a satire of jungle flicks — is far too ridiculous to spend time analyzing; either you’ll give in and enjoy the silliness or you won’t. I’m recommending it as must-see for all film fanatics given that it’s a representative early example of this infamously zany series.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fun rapport between Crosby and Hope
  • Amusing “meta-cinematic” references
  • Fine supporting performances by Dorothy Lamour and Una Merkel

Must See?
Yes, as one of the best films in the Road To… series — and the first to really reveal the series’ comedic potential. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “Road to Zanzibar (1941)”

  1. (I tried; I really tried with this one, but~) Not a must.

    It’s true:”…either you’ll give in and enjoy the silliness or you won’t.” I didn’t. I couldn’t.

    This is one ‘Road’ pic I had not seen before. So it did have a slight sense of ‘newness’ for me; I freshly realized it’s stale. Like ‘Road to Morocco’ (same main writers), ‘RTZ’ reveals some clever plot construction – esp. in the first third (and esp. through the characters played by Lamour and Merkel). Unfortunately, from there it nosedives into a meandering formlessness that numbs the brain.

    The only particular plus is that this entry was directed by Victor Schertzinger, who has given it as solid a hand as possible (considering the material), esp. by way of encouraging his able supporting cast to add bits of depth and conviction. (Supporting the director in his efforts are the effective production design as well as DP Ted Teztlaff’s atmospheric and often moody camerawork.)

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