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zmur5| Road to Rio
Director: Norman Z. McLeod
Screenplay: Edmund Beloin, Jack Rose
Producer: Daniel Dare
Cast: Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Gale Sondergaard, Frank Faylen
Genre: Action & Adventure

Running Time: 100
Aspect Ratio:  1.33:1 (NTSC )
Features: Black and White
Studio:  United American Video DVD Region:  1 NR
DVD Release:  Nov 2000 Discs:  1 (DVD) [$14.99]
Reviews:  This has always been my favorite film in my favorite film series. And I agree with the other reviews here that the Brentwood DVD boasts a nice crisp print, courtesy of the UCLA Film Archives. However, there is one inexplicable mistake in the video transfer. Movies such as this that predate widescreen format generally fit neatly into a standard TV picture frame with only minimal clipping on all sides. But "letterboxing" is not just for wide-screen movies. In the better DVD and video versions of pre-widescreen movies the opening credits are often letterboxed on all four sides so that the viewer can see the entire frame without the names being clipped off at the beginning or end (hence the word "letterbox").
Such is the case with this version of Road to Rio. There is a 4-sided letterbox around the opening credits, but the frame of the film is not adjusted to fit inside the letterbox! So instead of allowing us to see the entire frame, the letterboxing here actually masks a large portion of the picture. (This is really unfortunate because the opening credits are quite clever, with the names of the stars literally dancing along a cartoonish painting of the Copacabanna beach to the tune of "Brazil.") As you watch the credits you will notice the clumsy pan-and-scan as the frame is consciously maneuvered within the letterbox to follow the shifting position of names and credits. This of course, defeats the whole purpose of letterboxing, and begs the question, "What were these people thinking?" They obviously knew the picture did not fit the letterbox!
The reason this is so annoying is that Director Norman Z. McLeod (perhaps the most accomplished comedy director of the entire "Road" series) was a cartoonist and drew a series of amusing little stick-figure caricatures of the cast and crew that appear in the lower right hand corner of Road to Rio's opening credits. This was a trademark of McLeod's; he did this in some of his earlier comedies as well. Unfortunately the ham-fisted letterboxing almost completely obscures these drawings. I know this sounds like a minor complaint, but Rio's opening titles are the best in the series and really set the tone for the whole movie. Someone really had to go out of their way to mess up an otherwise excellent presentation of this film. An earlier VHS version of Road to Rio released by Columbia Home Video managed to letterbox the opening credits properly.
It's a shame that Road to Rio and Road to Bali are not owned by Universal (which owns all of Paramount's pre-1948 releases including the first four "Road" films). Universal's "Road" DVDs are technically beautiful. If Rio and Bali could have been part of Universal's DVD set, fans would've been very fortunate. Alas Rio and Bali are owned by Bob Hope Enterprises. As is often the case with older films whose copyrights are not held by major studios with the resources to do them justice, these two great films (as well as several other Hope classics owned by Hope Enterprises) have had a very inconsistent existence on home video.
May 2003 marks not only the 100th birthday of the great Mr. Hope, but Bing Crosby would also have been 100 years old this month! (Bing was 27 days older than Bob). Even with the letterboxing glitch, this DVD of Road to Rio is a wonderful way to celebrate the centennial of one of Hollywood's greatest comedy teams. Happy Birthday, Bob!

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