Fans of the Bowery Boys have been waiting for years to have these fun films on DVD, and now they have a reason to rejoice:
Warner Archives is releasing the series with very nice looking
prints.The digital transfers in these
collections are clean and clear, something that is pretty much unheard
now.The Bowery Boys Volume Two presents
another helping of these Poverty Row comedies that are sure to tickle
bones of fans who grew up watching these on UHF TV stations.
This incredibly long running series can actually trace its
roots back to Broadway.In 1935 the play
Dead End was a hit and Samuel Goldwyn
bought the rights.He turned it into a
movie that was released in 1937 and featured Sylvia Sidney, Joel
Humphrey Bogart along with a group of kids that starred in the Broadway
production, most notably (for the purposed of this review) Leo Gorcey,
Hall, Bobby Jordan, and Gabriel Dell.
The kids were popular and they received a spin-off series of
the banner The Dead End Kids. (These
were released by Warner who bought the actors contracts.
Goldwyn reportedly didn't want to use them
anymore because they were so wild on the set and caused a lot of
destruction.)Not wanting to be out done,
a series of street-smart kid films, The
Little Tough Guys, in 1938 and recruited some of the original Dead End actors.
In 1939 Warners had tired of the series and released the
actors from their contracts.Several of
them were snatched up by Monogram, a low budget studio that made
along with a couple of the actors who appeared in the Universal series.With this line-up they started releasing East
Side Kids films.They'd ultimately
release 21 (or 22 depending on how you count them) movies in this
lasting until 1945.
In 1945 Leo Gorcey wanted his salary doubled, and when he
couldn't get it, he quit.With his
costar and original Dead End Broadway
actor Huntz Hall along with agent Jan Grippo he started a new
company (Jan Grippo Productions).They
brought on Bobby Jordan, Leo's brother Chuck, and Little
Tough Guys actor Billy Benedict as the core of The
Bowery Boys.(There would be several
other actors who
joined and left the line-up over the years.) There
were an impressive 48 Bowery Boys movies
made over a 13 year period, making it the longest running feature film
franchise in movie history.
The films pretty much follow a standard formula.Slip
(Leo Gorcey) is the boss of a group of
guys (no longer kids... Gorcey was 28 when the Bowery Boys started) who
around Louie's Sweet Shop
for something to
happen, which it always does soon after the movie begins.
It may be a mystery, or helping out an old
pal, and it was often the result of a misunderstanding, but the guys
investigating something and getting into a lot of trouble.
Slip is a braggart, tough, and considers
himself an intellectual and tries to constantly prove how smart he is
big word... incorrectly.Some of the best
lines in the films are Slip malapropisms.
Such as when he informs Sach that he can't be seeing a ghost in Ghost Chasers:"You can't
talk to someone who's dead unless
they've already been reincarcerated."
Sach, the other leading character, has one
outstanding characteristic and that's all he needs:
he's incredibly stupid.He's so
dense that in one movie the entire
gang is hypnotized with the exception of Sach because, as the magician
announces, he can hypnotize any intelligent creature.
He ignorance is often over the top, but he
actually gets most of the laughs in the series and does a great job
The rest of the cast is pretty much regulated
to being very minor characters.The
other "boys" don't get much screen time, often leaving on some
mission while Slip and Sach play the main roles.
The humor is mainly verbal though there is
some slapstick thrown in for good measure (though the slapstick does
as the series progresses).The guys do
manage some pretty funny banter, even if it's a little dated today.Lines like "You may not be an idiot,
but you'll do until a real one comes along" and "I don't wanna get
pharmaceutical, but you're bleedin!" are par for the course and while
make my son laugh, I had a good time with them.
The films in this collection are:
(1946):After Slip graduates from
exterminating school he sets up a pest control business... in a corner of
Louie's Sweet Shop.Business isn't exactly booming until he gets
a call from a realtor who hires Mahoney and the gang to make sure the
residence of an old magician is free of bugs.
The only problem is that it isn't empty, a mad scientist is
using it to
carry out his experiments and the latest one involves transplanting
brain into the skull of an ape.
This is a film that could have inspired
Scooby-Doo.The scientist and his
henchmen use the magician's tricks to make the house seem haunted in
scare away anyone who might interfere, and some of the gags are pretty
(if predictable, especially if you grew up watching Scooby).Of course there are some antics with the ape,
though less than I was expecting, but the fight scene in slow-motion
can of ether has been spilled) is enjoyable.
It's a decent installment of the series and features the
Gabe Moreno (played by Gabriel Dell, one of the original Dead End Kids) who goes on to appear in
16 of the Bowery Boys films.The
interesting thing is that though he has the same (or very similar) name
various movies, he plays different characters.
In this one he's the straight man who just returned from the war
French bride.In the next film in this
collection he plays a nerd with glasses (who is constantly loosing
them) and in
the film after that he's a card sharp.
Hard Boiled Mahoney
(1947):Slip and Sach are mistaken for
private eyes by a lady searching for her missing sister.
While the boys try to set her straight, they
agree to look into the case when she hand them a $50 retainer.Slip and the rest of the boys start
investigating and the few clues they have point to a fortune-teller,
Carter.Before they can question the
seer however he's killed and Slip is framed for the murder.Evading the police he and his pals have to
find out what happed to the missing lady, who killed Carter, and just
Armand, the head of the local spiritualist racket, has to do with
The film features one of the better gags to be found in this
collection.While trying to escape from
a group of thugs, Slip, Sach, and the guys duck into the dressing room
radio station (I know it doesn't make sense... just go with it) and put
graduation gowns and caps.This causes
them to be mistaken for the guests on a quiz show that's airing live.Their antics on the show, and the poor host's
reactions are hilarious.
Bowery Buckaroos (1947):The
Bowery Boys head out west!When Louie
(played by Bernard Gorcey, Leo's
real-life father) is almost arrested by a law man for the west, he's
reveal his past.It turns out that he
was once a prospector known as Louie the Lout, and is wanted for
partner.He's innocent, of course, but
his biggest regret is that his partner's orphaned daughter will never
share of the gold mine they discovered.
He has the only man tattooed on his back.After
copying the man onto Sach's back, the
group head out west where they're attacked by Indians, deal with some
cowboys, and come close to getting hanged.
This was the last Bowery Boys film with original Dead End
actor Bobby Jordan.
Smuggler's Cove (1948):The
gang gets back to New York
where Slip and Sach take jobs as
janitors in a high rise, though not for long.
When Slip mistakenly gets a letter telling him that he's
mansion on Long Island, he quits and
of his pals to see his new place.The
estate in nice, but it's also being used as a base by a group of
smugglers.When the real owner and his
lovely daughter, Teresa, show up the gang have two other necks to save
This was a pretty good flick.There were
some good laughs, criminals were
menacing, and the plot wasn't quite as silly as some of them.One interesting side note is that Amelita
Ward, who plays Teresa, ended up marring Leo Gorcey.)
Ghost Chasers (1951):This
film revisits the 'fake medium' plot of Spook Busters
but adds a fun twist:a real ghost.
When a friend starts spending all of her money on sessions with
in order to contact her dead son (it's implied that he died in the
street-wise Slip smells a con and investigates.
He and his buddies discover a ring of spiritualists who are
money out of hard-working folks.They
plan on exposing them but get in a little too deep.
Luckily the spirits themselves don't like
fakers and send a junior ghost, Edgar Alden Franklin Smith (Lloyd
is dressed as a pilgrim and takes a shine to Sach because of his "nose
Cyrano."Edgar, who can only be seen and
heard by Sach, helps them out greatly, warning them of danger and even
temporary doors to appear in solid walls to aid in their escape.This was a funny film and my favorite one in
Let's Go Navy! (1951):Probably
taking a cue from Abbott &
Costello who made a few movies around the various branches of the
Bowery Boys did the same over the next couple of years.
This is the second one (preceded by 1951's Bowery
Battalion), where the boys enlist
in the Navy.A pair of crooks who are
dressed in sailor's uniforms steel a large sum of money (that belonged
charity of course) for the Bowery Boys and they hatch a plan to nab the
thieves:they'll enlist, where they'll
surely come in contact with the pair they're looking for.
This was actually much better than I was expecting.
The jokes worked for the most part and having
the guys cause havoc on a Navy ship was pretty entertaining.They're looking for a man with a certain
tattoo and watching them run around pulling up sailor's shirts to find
incriminating mark gave the film some good laughs.
Hold That Line (1952):This
time the boys head to college!A pair of
wealthy society type bet that their
old alma mater can make distinguished gentlemen out of anyone, no
rough they start out.To settle their
wager, they enroll the Bowery Boys.
While at the university, dim-witted Sach concocts a serum that
super-strong... and the star of the football team.When
some local gamblers see him in action
they decide to kidnap him so that Ivy will loose the big game.While it's not as good as the previous entry
in the series, this was fun too, and the football game at the
conclusion has a
good number of laughs.
Loose in London
(1953):You can almost hear the writers
around a table brainstorming ideas for the next Bowery Boys movie...Let's see, we've had them battle haunted
houses, mad scientists, and gangster, smugglers, and crooks of every
joined the service and been private eyes.
We've sent them to college and the old west.
What else can we do?I know, lets
send them to London!
That's what happens in this installment.When
Sach is informed that he's the long-lost
heir of a dying Earl, he trades in his 1st class ticket for
couch fares so his buddies can go along with him.Once
across the pond he puts the Earl on the
path to recovery by making him laugh and take life a bit easier.While that's all good, he discovers that the
Earl's relatives can't wait for him to die.
Since it doesn't look like that will happen any time soon, they
to take matters into their own hands.It's up to the boys to show the stuffy English
rich types a thing or two and save the Earl's life.
(1953):It's time for an Air Force
picture.When the Bowery Boys hear that
a friend, Dave, has been accused of treason, they head down to the base
him out and mistakenly enlist!To make
matters worse, Dave isn't really a spy.
He's just posing as one to ferret out the real enemy agents.The Boys don't realize that however and
proceed to make a mess of things.
This military farce would have certainly played well in 1953
with the memories of WWII still fresh in the minds of many Americans.It's a bit dated today, but still has a good
amount of laughs.The ending, involving
Slip and Sach up in the air in a plane that's being used for target
had me laughing as much as when I first saw it decades ago.
Private Eyes (1953):This
time around they're detectives (again).After
Sach gets punched in the nose he
discovers that he has the ability to read minds!That's
a neat talent but how can they cash
in?Slip decides that they should start
a detective agency.Their first client
is a beautiful blond who is trying to escape from the mob.
She leaves an envelope of incriminating
evidence with the boys and it doesn't take long before the gangsters
This one didn't do much for me.The jokes
in this movie seem a bit thin,
especially the mind reading gag which was never as funny as it should
been.Dressing Sach up in drag had me
rolling my eyes too.I smiled a couple
of times, but this film is lacking the one funny scene that makes the
The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters
(1954):After the last film, I was
afraid the series was in a steep decline and that the rest would be
watch.I was wrong.This
later effort is pretty funny and one of
my favorites in this collection.
When a group of boys playing baseball in the street breaks
the window in front of Louie's Sweet Shop,
Slip and Sach decide that the nearby empty lot would be a better place
kids to play.Wanting to do everything
on the up and up, the pair go to ask the owners of the lot if the local
can play in their undeveloped space.
When they arrive they discover a crazy family:
Derek wants a brain to put in the
robot he's building, and Anton wants to put a human brain in his
gorilla.Amelia wants to feed someone to
her Agopanthus Carnivorous, and Francine is a sexy vampire.The family decides that Slip and Sach will
meet all of their needs, so they invite them to spend the night, which
There were some pretty funny bits in this one.Yes,
they were taking a page (again) from
Abbot & Costello, and this isn't as good as that duo's first
but then again the Bowery Boys weren't working for Universal and didn't
access to their monsters.All in all,
one of the better entries to the series.
High Society (1955):This
film has actually earned a (small) place
in the Hollywood history books:it was nominated for an Academy Award for
Best Story.No foolin', it really
was.There was a mistake when the
preliminary ballots were being made, and this film was included instead
Bing Crosby/Frank Sinatra/Grace Kelly movie High
Society (which wouldn't be eligible until the following year).So a Bowery Boys film was nominated, which
was a bit embarrassing, to say the least.
The writers, being stand-up guys, officially asked to have their
nomination withdrawn and their wish was granted.I'm
a bit surprised that producer didn't pay
them to keep it on and re-release the film, touting the fact that it
was up for
The sad thing is that this Academy nominated movie is one of
their lesser offerings.For the third
time in this collection of 12 films,
one of the Bowery Boys has received the news that he has come into a
inheritance.Sach is supposedly heir to
the Terwilliger Debussy Jones fortune, but when he and Slip arrive at
estate (the other Bowery Boys are missing from this film save for the
beginning and very end) they discover that some crooked relatives and a
lawyer are trying to cheat the rightful heir out of his fortune.The two boys stay on to turn the tables on
Maybe it's because I've screened a dozen Bowery Boy movies
in half as many days, but this one is pretty weak.
Most of the gags are familiar, recycled from
earlier pictures, and the two stars themselves seem tired and listless.The worst thing is that I didn't laugh at
this film.I smiled a few times, but
there weren't any good guffaws... and that's the kiss of death for a
These 12 films come on four pressed (for the initial release
at least) DVDs.These are housed in a
single-width quad case.
The mono audio track is very good.The
dialog is clean and clear and the
background noise is minimal at worst.
Fans will be pleased.
Ahh, this is what I've been waiting for. I
enjoy these movies and have purchased
several different cheap collections that have been put out my budget
over the years and I've always been disappointed.Until
At last we get nice looking prints with great contrast and a
of detail.These aren't dull, scratched
and hard to watch version, but on par with other Warner Archive
means they're very good looking.What's
more (and this is really exciting) the final two movies in this
presented with their original aspect ratio of 1.85:1!
I never thought I'd see that happen.Bravo
Warner, you've done a great job!
None, but that's fine.
There are 12 movies here and that's plenty.
This is a very fun and enjoyable collection.No
one will ever accuse these films of being
great art or even great comedy, but if you enjoy movies from the 40's
as I do, you'll be very happy.The
prints make these films look better than I've ever seen them, and
a great way to spend a rainy afternoon.
A very strong recommendation.