film 5 of 8

Road to Zanzibar

Film Review by Dean Duncan Aug 29, 2014

Dorothy L’Amour isn’t pretending to be a native! In fact, she’s playing a cynical gold-digger. This is actually pretty interesting.  As in the first film, and in those that follow, and in so many of the great comedies, ever, from anywhere, all of the main characters here are somewhat amoral. In fact, they’re utter scoundrels. Bing and Bob keep getting upset at people for taking advantage of them, even though that’s all they do to anyone else. Road to Zanzibar is lighthearted, and it’s 1941 and all, but you sure sense the ideological and moral fissures. Does this prefigure the awesomely undervalued, politically lacerating Ishtar? Is it a partial, is it an out and out critique of American colonialism?

Maybe not quite, or not quite intentionally. But it sure gives some interesting hints. The song that Bing intones while being carted about by all of these accommodating negroes—”African Etude,” I believe it’s called —is hilariously awful. Notice that he still pulls it off, though. Again, he’s so capable and confident that you can practically weigh it, on a gold scale even. A real superstar. The jungle drum sequence is quite appallingly oblivious and disrespectful, which is why they can so successfully follow it with the wrestling match with that gorilla. Was there ever a more obvious stuntman?  Hilarious, precious. They’re not getting tidier, or any more well-behaved. But they’re getting better.