Junior Potter returns to claim his father's gold, which is nowhere to be found. "Mike" is the luscious head of a gang of thieves, and Roy Barton is the federal marshal hot on her trail.
"I like to kiss this girl because she's got just the kind of lips I like. One on the top and one on the bottom."
Every great comedian needs a straight man. They've got to have that person who will stand up and simply take the jokes in order for the humor to land. Even if they don't have a traditional straight man, the funny person needs to have someone to keep pace with otherwise the jokes just become tiresome. Bob Hope had an endearing straight man with Bing Crosby, someone who could not only take the joke but sling a couple barbs right back at him. With the sequel Son of Paleface, Bob Hope finds himself paired up with western icon Roy Rogers, his horse Trigger, and once again with sultry Jane Russell. While there are a great number of laughs to be had, the wisecracking antics of Hope simply doesn't gel with the straight and humorless Rogers.
Peter Potter Jr. (Bob Hope) is a Harvard Man through and through. Built from upper crust stock, he's used to the finer comforts of life and not the rough and tumble world of his father. But in order for Potter to win the hand of his favorite gal, he's got to head out west to claim his inheritance. Unfortunately, all that gold his father left him has gone missing as Potter has also inherited his father's large debts. Making matters worse, road agents lead by Mike "The Torch" Delroy (Jane Russell) are ransacking the countryside. Undercover sheriff's deputy Roy Barton (Roy Rogers) and his trusty horse Trigger are hot on The Torch's trail, but they may not be able to help Potter find his missing cache of gold before The Torch and her gang gets to it first.
Like the Marx Brothers and even the best efforts of Abbott and Costello, there's something about taking comedy to the old west that just doesn't really work all that well. Perhaps it's because some of the genre's best efforts came out during this period that keeps these comedic attempts from succeeding. Son of Paleface features Bob Hope delivering his signature quick-witted one liners with fervor and enthusiasm, however, against the likes of Roy Rogers and the sultry Jane Russell, the jokes land with a resounding thud rather than a bevy of laughter. Which is a shame because The Paleface which also starred Jane Russell as Calamity Jane is genuinely very funny and played well as a western spoof. The Paleface worked because it felt like a western first, and then a comedy. Son of Paleface is a goofball comedy that happens to take place in the old west.
The frustrating thing about Son of Paleface is that it starts out so great. Written and directed by Frank Tashlin (who also co-wrote the original The Paleface), The opening introduction with Bob Hope narration is hilarious. There is a great amount of self-deprecating humor on top of a pretty great Bing Crosby cameo. It sets up the plot, establishes Hope's character as a spineless Harvard graduate out for gold. You setting into the couch expecting a parade of laughter. Everything changes when the other movie kicks in and we have Jane Russel playing a well-organized bandit with Roy Rogers playing his signature straight and honest hero out to bring justice to the bandit while throwing in some horse-saddled acrobatics. The problem is these two storylines do not mix together.
With Bob Hope, Jane Russell, and Roy Rodgers and his horse Trigger, there are just too many big acts in a tame picture to justify their presence. Which is all the more unfortunate because The Paleface worked so well, this sequel should have worked better. As things progress and Hope, Russell, and Rodgers attempt to gain center stage, the movie just doesn't go anywhere. When hope's traditional antics fail, things become cartoonish and silly - only not in a way that's funny. Rodgers is too stiff to be the straight man and Russell is too sultry for comedy. Son of Paleface could have been a straight western - without Bob Hope - and been pretty great offering up a different take on old tropes. At the same time, without Jane Russell and Roy Rodgers skewing the dynamics, the film could have been a simple but funny showcase for Hope's brand of slick wit comedy. These elements combined just don't work and as a result, this comedy has few laughs of any meaningful weight.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Son of Paleface arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber and their Studio Classics label. Pressed onto a Region A BD-25 disc, the disc is housed in a standard sturdy Blu-ray case and includes a booklet containing cover artwork for other Kino Lorber Studio Classics release. The disc loads directly to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
Son of Paleface arrives with a strong 1.33:1 1080p transfer. Fine film grain has been retained without any evidence of digital scrubbing. Details are on the middling side of things, some medium/wide shots lose a lot of the finer details but most of the time the image looks pretty terrific with fine facial features intact and some great looking set design work. Colors are robust with that vibrant primary-saturated look that makes movies of this era so pleasing to look at. Flesh tones are on point without any issues. Black levels are strong giving the image a great sense of depth. There is a stretch of day-for-night that doesn't come off very convincingly but that's the only thing that looks out of place here. The print sourced for this transfer was in excellent shape as there are no clear signs of serious damage, some occasional speckling, and that's about it.
When you've got Bob Hope mucking around in a movie, it's important to have a strong audio mix. Thankfully this English DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track delivers the goods. It's an undemanding track to be fair, but it plays to the dialogue needs of the film perfectly. Voices and the subsequent sound effect gags that surround punchlines come through without a hitch. Voices are clearly heard throughout without any interference. Sound effects are of the traditional canned variety but still maintain a nice punch. Music numbers are strong as is scoring by Lyn Murray. Free of any age-related issues or hiss, this is a terrific audio mix.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics gives this flick a nice little assortment of bonus features. The Greg Ford commentary track is quite good and it's interesting to see the puppet short writer/director Frank Tashlin made reconstructed for this release. It may not be the most robust package ever assembled but it's better than nothing at all.
Audio Commentary Featuring filmmaker Greg Ford, this is a nicely balanced track as he details a lot of material about the production in addition to history about the various major players.
The Lady Said No Short (HD 8:15) They need to bring back puppets (beyond just the Muppets), this was a very charming little piece of entertainment. Greg Ford also recorded a commentary track for this short as well.
Also From KLSC (HD 4:17) This is a collection of trailers for other Bob Hope releases.
Considering the pedigree involved and that it is a sequel to a hit film, Son of Paleface is an unfortunately mediocre outing. It's funny at times, the musical numbers are great, and Roy Rodgers and his horse Trigger get to perform any number of their signature stunts with glee. The problem is the elements just don't gel and the film just sort of stumbles around like a poorly planned variety act. Hope is still hilarious as always and you can see the work he's putting into the film to make the best of it. Kino Lorber Studio Classics has done a fine job with this release delivering a strong A/V presentation along with some decent bonus features. Fans and Bob Hope enthusiasts will love to own this one, newcomers should see it first before making the purchase. Worth a look.