(1953, Paramount Studios)
Off Limits (released outside the U.S. as the blandly titled Military Policemen) is one of those obscure Bob Hope films that somehow has ended up online at a ridiculous price that I’m sure I’ll eventually pay. I don’t believe this is a public domain film so that would explain why it appears Olive Films has the only DVD release for it and are charging $24.95 (they are also doing this with My Favorite Spy). Luckily, before I decide to spend the money on it, it’s available for streaming on Netflix.
Having not heard much about the film, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Once you get into the 1950s, Bob’s movies could be hit or miss (even if his performances stayed top notch). Knowing that and coupling it with the fact this movie seems to become forgotten by most, I figured it was going to be an uninspired effort.
On the contrary, it’s an enjoyable movie that fits the mold of the typical Bob Hope film. Hope himself is still in top form (in what I think might’ve been one his last B&W films) and I’m sure that was helped by the fact that George Marhshall directs. George & Bob first worked together in 1940 on The Ghostbreakers and would work together on a total of 8 films.
The story is that of a boxing/military comedy hybrid as Hope plays Wally Hogan, a boxing trainer. When Wally’s world champion fighter is drafted into the Army, Hogan enlists as well to keep watch on him (a reversal of roles for Bob in regards to 1941′s Caught In the Draft). The problem is the boxer is rejected because he was deemed to be manic-depressive and not fit for enlistment. Hogan of course wants to get out since his boxer has been rejected but it doesn’t work like that.
Once enlisted, Wally ends up running into wanna-be boxer Herbert Tuttle (Mickey Rooney) and they both sign up as MPs (because it’ll be easier work) and Hope tries to make time with Herbert’s Aunt Connie (Marilyn Maxwell) while training Rooney’s character to become a top boxer.
By 1953, Bob was 50 years old. The premise that he was still a skirt-chaser and enlisting in the Army is a bit hard to swallow but he already had 15 years put into this on-screen persona, so why change it? Sure, it’s getting slightly creepy by this point but it still works.
And yes, just in case you’re wondering, there is a very brief Crosby cameo in the form of singing on television.
Off Limits may not rank with some of the best of Bob but it’s certainly better than most of the movies I’ve seen him in from the mid-1950s and into the 1960s. It may be one of the last Bob Hope movies that feels like a Bob Hope movie. If you can catch it on Netflix, I recommend it. Other than that, hardcore Hope fans will probably have to spring $20 or so to own a DVD copy.