The Road to Hong Kong
1962, United Artists
I’ve been a huge Bob Hope fan for years. Along with movies like The Paleface, Caught in the Draft, The Princess and the Pirate, the Crosby/Hope “Road” movies were some of my earliest exposures to him (not to mention his radio show, but more on that at a later date).
The Road to Hong Kong is the final entry in the “Road” series and was also the last of the “Road” movies I’ve been able to watch (I rented it from Netflix just yesterday). It’s also the only Road movie not released by Paramount Pictures and the only Road movie to be titled with “The Road to…” instead of “Road to…”. The movie was released on DVD a number of years ago but mediocre reviews discouraged me from checking it out though I did plan on buying it at some point. Looks like I missed my turn — the DVD is now out of print but there’s always eBay or Amazon sellers to get it from.
Anyway, all the places are set for the typical zany Road picture: Bob & Bing play a couple of con men buddies willing to scheme on each other just as quick as they would on the unsuspecting public, there’s a group of bad guys that they somehow get tangled up with and along for the ride there’s the beautiful Doroth— No wait, that’s not Dorothy Lamour! That’s Joan Collins!
Yes. After co-starring in the first six Road movies, Dorothy Lamour is relegated to a cameo late in the movie. The reason for this? From all that I’ve read, disappointingly, Bing Crosby was against her being in the movie due to her age (as if he was a spring chicken!). He wanted a younger girl in the lead role. Bob reportedly refused to do the movie unless Ms. Lamour was involved, so a compromise was reached: a new girl would co-star but Dorothy would get a lengthy cameo that involved a song & dance. Joan Collins is cute but to be honest, I still would have taken the then 47 year old Dorothy Lamour!
Looks aside, Joan has zero chemistry with Hope & Crosby. It’s a clash of generations and doesn’t work well. What does work well in this movie is a zany Peter Sellers appearance (he plays a doctor) and the scene with Lamour. Lamour had classic beauty and just class in general. I think Bing severely underestimated her worth to the movies. She was as equally important to these films as Hope & Crosby. They all worked well together.
The movie itself just isn’t too funny and I found myself bored at times. This is no fault of Hope and Crosby. They’re always going to shine through bad material and do well in their scenes but the movie just really wasn’t what I was expecting. The whole movie spoofs the then super-popular spy genre. There’s a group called The Third Echelon that aims to control the world by doing a bunch of evil stuff on the moon. So yes — Bob & Bing end up getting put in a rocket (against their wills, of course) and go into space.
I mentioned the film wasn’t especially funny but the humor is a definitely a bit dirtier. There’s some risqué banter between Hope and Collins near the beginning of the film and the end was just a bit creepy. In the earlier films, Hope and Crosby usually competed for Lamour’s love and sometimes even offered to “share”. It all seemed like innocent fun. By the end of this film, Hope and Crosby convince Collins the good value of “teamwork”, which she seems all too willing to be a part of as they tell her they’ll alternate days with her (“What about Sunday?” “We rest.”). I don’t know, maybe it was always creepy and the age difference between Collins and Hope & Crosby exposes it for what it is.
Overall, the film is okay but definitely the weakest entry in the series. I’m sure at some point I’ll buy a copy just so I can have all of the Road movies on DVD. I recommend it for fans or Bob Hope and/or Bing Crosby but don’t expect it to knock your socks off. An eighth Road movie, Road to the Fountain of Youth (how appropriate), was in the planning stages in 1977 but Bing Crosby’s death put an end to that.