Road to Bali | Sunday Observer
Retro reviews: Cinema of yesteryear

Road to Bali

3 January, 2021

A ‘volcano god’ that disapproves a ‘brideless’ wedding for two men, a ‘widowed’ female gorilla that decides to capture a human as her new mate, a man eating colossal giant squid that guards a sunken treasure, and a magic basket from which women can be conjured when a special flute is played before it are just some of the elements that one finds in the hilarious American comedy film ‘Road to Bali’ directed by by Hal Walker.

Released by Paramount Pictures on December 25, 1952 stars Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour playing the three leads who take the viewer on a journey that is quirky and comedic and laced with several musical numbers.

A story with a mix of magic and adventure, humour and romance, and a narrative style that breaks the fourth wall, ‘Road to Bali’ is a work of clearly identifiable meta-cinema that is far removed from movies of the realist genre and will surely make an impression on the viewer.

Jumping off the train

The story begins with George, played by Bing Crosby, and Harold, played by Bob Hope, a cheerful and witty American duo who perform as song-and-dance artistes in Melbourne, Australia, hastily dancing their way out of a theatre where they are on stage, to avoid getting caught by a group of people into committing to marriage proposals.

The duo manage to get on a train on the sly, but soon abandon the ride by jumping off the train when their pursuers are also found to be onboard, and thereby end up in Darwin after hitching a ride on the truck of a sheep farmer, along with the sheep.

In Darwin, the unwaveringly optimistic duo of George and Harold, take up the only jobs that are available to them, which incidentally none of the locals will even consider, for no matter how big the reward is. The job is to work as deep sea divers for an Indonesian prince named Ken Arok who is trying to salvage a sunken treasure of priceless jewels off the coast of his island. What follows is a heady mix of tropical island exoticism and hilarity mixed with a dose of royal romance and royal treachery crisscrossing the paths of George and Harold and the enchantingly alluring half Indonesian and half Scottish, Princess Lala McTavish who rules the island paradise in which Harold and George find themselves in after they take up the job of deep sea treasure savaging! Princess Lala immediately feels sympathy for the two Americans whom she sees as just two more victims put to risk their lives in certain death, in pursuit of the treasure retrieval her cousin price Ken Arok is obsessed over.

Love triangle

An interesting power struggle between the two royal cousins and a hilarious love triangle between George, Harold and the Princess Lala McTavish, played superbly by Dorothy Lamour, drives forward the action which shows how princess Lala is a girl who is looking to escape the rigours of her royal responsibilities and is drawn to the prospects of happiness that comes in the form of the two Americans for whom she develops more than just a soft corner.

A princess on the run, with two cheerful happy-go-lucky Americans and a chest full of priceless jewels, charting the ‘road to Bali’, where they hope to be free to enjoy their fortune. What could go wrong? However, escaping with the jewels and fleeing the treacherous plans of Price Ken Arok doesn’t mean that the trio have left their troubles behind, as events show as they wander their way in search of Bali. In fact it is far from being so, as events that follow soon reveal!

This comedic adventure brings a visual fabric that is woven with some notably splendorous exotic dance acts and a several musical items to weave a work of entertaining cinema.

‘Road to Bali’ is a light-hearted comedy adventure that brings to life a facet of Hollywood comedy of the golden era. For fans of comedy cinema who have a taste for the classic age of Hollywood, ‘Road to Bali’ will surely be worth watching.