Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2019

Here’s the list you have been waiting for, on what I think are some of the best releases for 2019, giving new life to old classics and forgotten gems!  Again, my thoughts are coming ONLY from what I have been able to see myself. I do NOT receive screeners of any kind (nor, quite frankly, would I want to), these are all movies I myself bought. These are chosen from among the 2019 releases I have seen, as of 11/27/2019.  And if any of these appeal to you, be sure to click on the movie titles to go to Amazon!

  1. Swing Time (1936) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray and DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers star in their sixth film together, with him playing a dancer and a gambler, who falls for a dance teacher. The transfer on the new Blu-ray may not be pristine, but the movie looks better than I’ve seen it previously, and just makes all the wonderful dances just look that much better! Full review here.
  2. Footlight Parade (1933) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • James Cagney and Joan Blondell star in this classic Busby Berkeley musical, about a man trying to create prologues for movie theaters. The Blu-ray restoration shines, and is never more evident than with Busby Berkeley’s wonderful musical numbers! Full review here.
  3. The Thin Man (1934) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The classic screwball mystery featuring William Powell and Myrna Loy. A fun mystery, but the real enjoyment is in watching the relationship of the two main stars and their antics. While this movie hasn’t looked great in a long time, the recent Warner Archive Blu-ray has brought this film back to life! Easily one of the best film restorations of the year! Full review here.
  4. The Major And The Minor (1942) (Arrow Films, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Ginger Rogers stars in this Billy Wilder-directed comedy about a woman posing as a 12-year-old girl as she tries to get home, and is delayed by an army major at a military academy. A wonderful comedy, and one that looks so much better in the new Blu-ray release from Arrow films! Full review here.
  5. Summer Stock (1950) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Judy Garland’s last film at MGM, and her third film teaming her up with Gene Kelly as a pair who put on a show in her family’s barn! While not a perfect film due to stuff going on behind the scenes, the new Blu-ray release shows off the look of the 3-strip Technicolor, and makes the movie seem just that much better! Full review here.
  6. Jezebel (1938) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Bette Davis stars in one of her Oscar winning roles as the vain Southern belle Julie Marsden, as she goes against tradition and chases after Henry Fonda’s Pres Dillard in 1850s New Orleans. For this release, Warner Archives did a lot or work to restore it when it hasn’t looked good in a long time, and their work has really paid off with a fantastic restoration that makes this release easy to recommend! Full review here.
  7. The Kid Brother (1927) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray and DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In this Harold Lloyd silent comedy, he stars as the son of the town sheriff, who must now deal with the problems that arise when he signs some permits in place of his father allowing a traveling medicine show to perform in town. With this release boasting a new restoration of the movie that looks fantastic in high definition, outside of a few scratches here and there, but some fun bonus features, including two of Harold’s earlier shorts, I can’t help but recommend this set! Full review here.
  8. Notorious (1946) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray and DVD, My Rating: 9/10)
    • Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant star in this Alfred Hitchcock film about the daughter of a Nazi conspirator who tries to help an American agent take don some Nazis living in South America. With a new restoration for the second go-round on Blu-ray, this movie looks fantastic, and is definitely the way to go for this movie! Full review here.
  9. Road To Singapore (1940) (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, My Rating: 9/10)
    • The first film in the Road series, with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour as the two men escape impending marriages as they make their way towards Singapore. The transfer on Kino’s new Blu-ray release looks fantastic, and is easily the best way to see this movie! Full review here.
  10. Detour (1945) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray and DVD, My Rating: 9/10)
    • In this classic noir starring Tom Neal and Ann Savage, he is a pianist hitchhiking his way across the country when he accidentally kills the man he is traveling with and is forced to take over his identity. Due to being in the public domain, this movie has lloked terrible for a long time, but this recent restoration looks fantastic! Certainly the best way to see this wonderful movie! Full review here.

Honorable mentions: Road To Zanzibar (1941) (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray), Road To Morocco (1942) (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray), Stand-In (1937) (Classicflix, Blu-ray and DVD)

Honestly, though, it’s hard not to say that this has been a fantastic year of releases! A lot of the labels have really been upping their game this year when it comes to releases of many classic and obscure older movies. My own opinion is that the Warner Archive Collection has come out the best of everybody. After a couple years of mainly focusing on titles made in 1954 and later on Blu-ray (with the occasional pre-1954 title here and there), WAC has dug into their library to release a number of classic titles from the forties this year, and released a few from the thirties, the first time in four years the decade has been represented on Blu-ray from them, and all three titles were well worth it! Plus, in digging into Summer Stock, they have released their first new-to-Blu-ray pre-1954 MGM musical (marking the first time since Warner Home Video stopped releasing catalog titles on blu after 2015 that era of musicals has been represented on the format from Warner’s library). They even released a few movies on DVD I’ve long been waiting for on the format (although I haven’t quite managed to get my hands on them yet). Honestly, the only complaint I have with their releases is that they only released two new-to-blu musicals this year (since that is one of my favorite genres), but otherwise they have had a great year!

And of course, they’re not the only ones with a good year, either! Kino Lorber has been digging into the Universal library through their licensing deal with them, releasing a number of great films (plus a few obscure ones), with 2020 looking to bring even more! Criterion has had many good releases through their licenses with all the studios, plus some classic silent comedies making their debut with new resotrations! And while Classicflix has had to pull back on how much they have been releasing, they still continue to maintain their high levels of quality in their releases, making it easy to try their films (most of which, I hadn’t even heard of before they announced them). And labels like Shout Factory and Arrow Films have both been delving into a number of Universal-owned classics, the first time either label’s Blu-ray releases have appealed to me! All in all, a great year of releases (and not enough time/money to keep up with all of them)! I can only hope 2020 looks this good!

TFTMM on… The “Road To…” Series (1940-1962)

Just for fun, now I would like to talk about the seven film Road series with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and their frequent co-star Dorothy Lamour. I do admit, I could easily do a post on them as a screen team (whether it be all three of them together, Bing & Bob or Bob & Dottie), but most of their other appearances together are minor (mostly cameos that might spoil some movies), so I’ll just stick to this series. Of course, with that many movies in the series, I’ll link to the individual reviews for each of them.

The first film in the series, Road To Singapore, was almost a different beast entirely. Originally, the script went by the title The Road To Mandalay, and it was planned for different stars, including George Burns and Gracie Allen, and possibly a few others, all of whom turned it down. How it came to Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, who knows, as there have been many different stories of how that came to be. However, what is known is that Bing and Bob had worked together previously, on stage and at a racetrack opening, so they had established some kind of relationship, that eventually resulted in them being paired together for Road To Singapore, where they mostly “ad-libbed” their way through (much to the dismay of the film’s writers but the enjoyment of the film’s director, Victor Schertzinger).

Road To Singapore (1940)

My Rating: 9/10

Few at Paramount had any idea how big Road To Singapore would turn out to be. The movie’s success prompted them to look at another property for them to do. What would become Road To Zanzibar came from a script called “Find Colonel Fawcett” that they had turned down before due to its similarity to another movie. Reworked, it became the next film in the Road series. With Victor Schertzinger returning as director, the boys were given the same freedom they had enjoyed before, with “ad-libs” thrown around, and an increase in breaking the fourth wall, with many winks to the audience. Of course, their characters and their relationship onscreen became more defined, and less dramatic than the movie before.

Road To Zanzibar (1941)

My Rating: 8/10

Coming off the success of the first two movies, they were finally given a script written specifically for them. Victor Schertzinger was slated to be the film’s director, but his sudden passing left the film’s reins being passed to David Butler. With a script written for them, even more hilarity was allowed, whether it be talking camels (with animated lips and eyes but otherwise realistic bodies) or songs that fit their style of comedy, like the title song. And then there’s the start of a trend for the remaining films, in which stuff happens that, in other films, would be considered goofs or plot holes in other movies, but are done on purpose. For example, in Morocco, the boys are tied up and left behind stuck in nets in the desert, trying to hop their way after the villains in one shot, and in the next are completely free, and they openly state they won’t tell the audience how they got out).

Road To Morocco (1942)

My Rating: 8/10

With Road To Morocco proving to be a big success, the fact that another movie would come was inevitable. However, Road To Utopia went through a number of delays. The writers had a hard time coming up with a script that all three of the leads would agree to. Consequently, it is the odd duck in the series, with us being introduced to Dorothy Lamour’s character as soon as the boys (the only time in the series that she was introduced that soon instead of making her first appearance nearly twenty minutes into the movie like in the other five she starred in). Once finished, the movie would still be delayed, partly due to the success of Road To Morocco (since movies stayed in theatres longer then), as well as giving Bing room for success with his Academy Award winning role in Going My Way.

Road To Utopia (1945)

My Rating: 7/10

Road To Rio (1947)

My Rating: 9/10

With Road To Rio, the series began bringing in celebrities for various cameo appearances. The Andrews Sisters joined Bing for the song “You Don’t Have To Know The Language,” and Jerry Colonna was the leader of the cavalry trying to come to the rescue at the end of the movie. Road To Bali brought in a few more celebrities (borrowing footage from The African Queen for Humphrey Bogart’s appearance). Another change for Bali was the change to color, as the previous entries had all been filmed in black-and-white. However, this would also be the last movie in the series done at Paramount Studios.

Road To Bali (1952)

My Rating: 7/10

After a decade (and the ends of their contracts with Paramount), Bing and Bob came back for The Road To Hong Kong. This time, the movie was back to being black-and-white, but now was in widescreen for the first time. At Bing’s insistence, they brought in a new, younger female co-star. Dorothy Lamour wanted in, and Bob Hope tried to make a push for her to be, so as a compromise, she was given a cameo and a song of her own. However, the series and its stars was showing its age, even if they did try to make it more modern by parodying spy movies and the space race, and it ended up being the final movie in the series (although there were plans for another that were squashed partly by Bing’s death).

The Road To Hong Kong (1962)

My Rating: 4/10

I would have to say, these are the movies that helped start my fondness for classic movies. Prior to watching these, I mainly had seen the animated Disney movies and maybe one or two of the really big classics, but I really wasn’t interested, otherwise. When my family first upgraded to a DVD player and subscribed to Netflix, these were some of the movies my parents tried to rent. We didn’t see them in the order they were made, but they ended up being an enjoyable treat, and one I have enjoyed ever since. If possible, I know I would recommend seeing the series in the right order, as some jokes about the series work better if the series is viewed from the start. My own opinion is that the first six films are the ones most worth seeing, and The Road To Hong Kong can more or less be ignored. While I have grown older and started to see how politically incorrect some of these movies can be, they are still always worth a good laugh for me, and I have no trouble whatsoever recommending this wonderful series!

And click on any of the following images to go to Amazon and buy any of these movies (or anything, for that matter), and help support this blog!

Road To Singapore
Road To Zanzibar
Road To Morocco

Road To Utopia
Road To Rio
Road To Bali

The Road To Hong Kong

TFTMM 2018 & WOIANRA 2019 on… Road To Singapore (1940) (Updated)

Ok, let’s get this show on the road! The Road to Singapore, that is, the first in a series of seven films, starring Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour, and Bob Hope!

At first, we find Josh Mallon (Bing Crosby) and Ace Lannigan (Bob Hope) making fun of married men, and then we find out their problems: Ace is facing a shotgun wedding since he kept a girl out half the night (double-feature movie, according to him), and Josh is engaged to socialite Gloria Wycott. They both make a run for it, heading towards Singapore, and swearing off women in the process. In Kaigoon, they find a place of their own to stay. Making a stop at a local bar, they end up helping local dancer Mima (Dorothy Lamour) get away from her abusive partner. They both end up falling for her, and try to put each other in a bad light as they try to win her heart, before Josh’s father and fiancé arrive to bring him back.

This is the first of the seven Road movies, and while it is a slightly different beast than the films that would follow it, it does set several precedents for the series. First and foremost, we have Bing and Bob doing their patty-cake routine, which became their go-to method for starting fights in the series to get away. We also find them breaking the fourth wall, with references to Paramount (the studio making this movie, and who had them under contract), and making fun of the pre-recorded tracks, amongst other things. Of course, we also have Bing and Bob trying to win Dorothy’s affections, as well, with the same result as most of the series that would follow! One thing, though, is that, this movie, like the rest of the series, is not very politically correct, since part of the allure of the series was the exotic nature of different cultures (and not necessarily all accurate, either).

Of course, most of the fun with this movie is Bing and Bob, with most of their quips and insults. I’d say they were ad-libbed, but most of what I know indicates they both had their writers from their radio shows on set, who generally came up with most of their lines. So, who knows just how much of what happened was the original script, and how much their writers came up with. Of course, to that end, we definitely need to give Dorothy Lamour a lot of credit, because she was there, on her own, with no writers to back her up, and she still managed to help make things work (unlike her “replacement” in the final film of the series).

Of course, one of my favorite moments in the movie is the native feast near the end. When all three are suffering from hunger (since the two men are loathe to work), they hear about a feast that is only for natives, and therefore go native themselves (again, I said this is not exactly PC). After the feast, unknown to Bob and Bing, is a wedding ceremony for the natives, which is mostly a dance, where the ladies are able to pick their husbands by dancing with them (if they like each other). Personally, I like the idea as a fun wedding ceremony, but then again, I’d rather not hear the sound of every gal I dance with running away in the other direction to avoid that, either.

I really enjoy this movie, and recommend it very much. The movie is available on DVD from Universal, and is about an hour, twenty-five minutes in length.

Update: On March 26, 2019, “Road To Singapore” was released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber. Personally, I think the new transfer for the Blu-ray is the best the movie has looked that I have seen. Sure, there are a few scratches here and there, but I don’t know how much more, if anything, could be done about that from available elements. But it looks great to me, and for those interested in this movie, the recent Blu-ray release is certainly the way to go!

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

*ranked #9 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2019

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Double Or Nothing (1937) – Bing Crosby – Road To Zanzibar (1941)

Dorothy Lamour – Road To Zanzibar (1941)

The Cat And The Canary (1939) – Bob Hope – Road To Zanzibar (1941)