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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Bowery at Midnight
Bowery at Midnight
Roan Group
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Review by Jeff Shannon | posted May 14, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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Features:Full-frame 1.33: aspect ratio. Dolby Digital (English Mono).

The Movie
If you're at all interested in studying the films and history of Hollywood's "Poverty Row" period of the 1930's and '40s, "Bowery of Midnight" offers a fine (relatively speaking!) example of the kind of ultra-low-budget thrillers that were routinely cranked out by Monogram Pictures, one of Poverty Row's busiest studios. Better yet, it's got Bela Lugosi in a dual role, as a mild-mannered New York University professor who runs a mission in the city's Bowery section, and as a sadistic criminal mastermind who lures low-rent criminals into his underworld scheme, recruiting them as accomplices and then killing them after they've served their purpose. The bodies are buried in the mission's basement, and this nefarious activity ultimately draws the attention of the police. There's just enough plot to make "Bowery at Midnight" enjoyable, and although most of it's utterly haphazard the movie's still got some moody atmosphere and a creepy quotient that could make this fun viewing for a nostalgic Halloween home movie festival.

The Picture
The Roan Group claims that their DVD films have been fully restored, but that's not really accurate. The Roans are passionate film collectors who use best-available source materials to master their DVD releases, but no effort is made to digitally restore the films. The result is welcomed for its vintage purity but the drawbacks are obvious: print scratches, reel splices, drop-outs in sound or picture quality, etc. The transfers are as good as can be expected, however, and the overall result is that Roan releases may not look or sound great, but they're authentic and charming in a low-budget, no-frills kind of way. You don't buy a DVD like "Bowery at Midnight" expecting crystal clarity, but to experience a touch of nostalgia from the fringes of Hollywood.

The Sound
As with the picture quality, Roan releases are typically at the mercy of the source materials, which are often a less than ideal. Here the soundtrack is serviceable enough, but this is ultra-low-budget schlock from the early 1950s, so the Dolby Digital English Mono mastering here is the best anyone could hope for. Hiss and murky recording is to be expected as part of the package, and it's all part of the nostalgic fun.

The Extras
Routine menus are provided, and collectors will appreciate that the on-screen selections include a production history that provides nominal information about "Bowery at Midnight" and Monogram Studios.

Conclusion
Of interest only to serious collectors of archival curiosities from Hollywood's past. Fun to watch, but otherwise nothing to write home about.
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