Leave us begin by stating that the Bowery Boys are an acquired taste. Allow me to degenerate this comment by further stating that it's a taste I acquired in my flagrant youth, i.e. during their seemingly infernal run in hour-long cut-down versions that aired Sunday mornings on NYC's Channel 5 throughout the 1960s.
Even marginal fans of the series will catch on that the above opening is my rendition of a Leo Gorcey (or rather his alter ego, Terence Aloysius “Slip” Mahoney) malapropism, which graced the nearly 50 (count 'em 50!) installments of the B-action-slapstick-comedies from 1946-1958. A dozen of the prime entries are now available for your viewing pleasure, via the recent 4-disc Warner Archive Collection, THE BOWERY BOYS, VOLUME 2.
Deceptively heralded as the longest-running movie series in film history, The Bowery Boys represent only the last quadrant of their soggy saga. As series icon Huntz Hall once brilliantly described to David Letterman (replete with his patented ZaSu Pitts fluttering hands), amidst wild applause, their story went something like this: The boys were originally part of the Lillian Hellman smash Broadway hit Dead End. When Goldwyn bought the rights to make the movie, the gang went west, and proved a sensation when the picture was released in 1937. Warner Bros., sensing that their guttural lower Manhattan speak and demeanor was right up their alley, signed them to a contract, where, as The Dead End Kids, they soon appeared in the classic Angels with Dirty Faces – and then in a slew of enormously popular co-feature vehicles. The linkage of these fun-loving juvenile delinquents to Hellman and Goldwyn drove the latter pair slightly screwy. They were The Dead End Kids simply because they were the kids from Dead End. The famed author and mogul brought suit against Warners, who, rather than go to court, or even change their minor stars' moniker, canceled their contracts.
Universal next took the bait, but not before changing their names to the unfortunate Little Tough Guys – a totally uncool title that suggested a coked-up Freddie Bartholomew brood on the rampage. Their brief reign at Universal spat out a handful of mildly entertaining Bs, and even a couple of serials.
Things went from bad to worse when the now at-liberty punks caught the penny-pinching eye of the infamous Sam Katzman, who signed them up for a series at his Monogram home base – but not before changing their avoid-a-lawsuit-at-any-cost names once again to The East Side Kids. From Sam Goldwyn to Sam Katzman in four years is horror worthy of Poe. Except for Katzman, it proved a goldmine. The East Side Kids represent the boys at their nadir. The slipshod production values, the idiotic scripts – to say nothing of the moronic plots – at surface glance seemed like the kiss of death. But, as indicated, for Sam it was a cash cow. The personalities of the gang, specifically those of Gorcey and Hall, kept the theater chains clamoring for more. A bottom-half support group, they kept Monogram afloat for years, in spite of the fact that the Kids (particularly Gorcey) thought their treatment was nothing less than stomach-churning. The tried-and-true offerings pitted the boys against mobsters, wartime saboteurs and phony swamis; the haunted house thrillers especially irked genre fans, as the supernatural villains promised in the ads regularly turned out to be either Nazis or gangsters.
Things reportedly finally came to a head when Katzman ordered Gorcey to take a fall down a thirty-foot long staircase. Gorcey's response is not suitable for printing here, and, since it was against Katzman's religion to even consider hiring a stuntman, a stalemate rapidly grew to frightening proportions. Later that day, Huntz Hall grabbed Gorcey on the lot where Monogram had rented space, excitedly demanding, “You gotta see this!” He pulled the cranky costar, known in the series as Muggs McGinness, to the soundstage where the pair double-taked at an unbelievable sight. There, atop the stairs, dressed in Muggs’ togs, was the paunchy Katzman himself, cigar in mouth, ready to take the fall. That the skinflint producer bore no resemblance to his star whatsoever made no difference in the least. Gorcey and Hall ran out laughing hysterically, the former giving the devil his due with a “Ya gotta give the bastard credit” homage.
Leo Gorcey knew he was smarter that most of the monkeys running the picture business – particularly the low-budget picture business. Why wasn't he making all the money? He knew that when he appeared in bit loan-outs to majors (Mannequin and Gallant Sons at MGM; Destroyer at Columbia), his name alone brought in a sizeable fan-base. He also knew that the Kids were a lot of crap – that the key to the movies' success was his presence, along with Hall's – and their interaction with one another.
Came the end of World War II, Gorcey decided to stage a victory coup of his own. Hiring his business manager (Jan Grippo) as executive producer, Gorcey signed a new deal with Monogram. From here on in, they would be known as The Bowery Boys. In actuality, the main credit would read Leo Gorcey and The Bowery Boys, with a subsequent card announcing Featuring Huntz Hall...and the rest of the cast (Hall’s character, formerly Glimpy, would now be known as Horace DeBussy Jones, or “Sach” for short).
Gone was Katzman and even the lip-biting Monogram shoddiness. The studio was definitely trying to clean up their act – making better, more presentable fare...well, at least professional-looking pictures. The awful canned music was now a thing of the past; ditto the lousy lighting and sound recording.
The plots themselves didn't really change that much, except that Gorcey brought in gag men to spice up the comedy element. One of the first was funnyman Tim Ryan, part of the comedy team of Ryan and Ryan – a Burns and Allen husband and wife duo, whose better half, Irene, would one day gain international celeb status as Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies. When not busy writing, Ryan also appeared in a number of the Boys' escapades, usually to grate rather than great advantage. There would also be a surreal element to the pics – the haunted house efforts truly bringing in deceased denizens of the spirit world, plus genies, werewolves, vampires, zombies and the ever-present gorilla in desperate need of a brain transplant. In addition, the Boys constantly broke that fourth wall, speaking to the camera – frankly discussing how stupid the narrative was. Furthermore, Gorcey and Hall would instinctively ad-lib to bewildered cast members, who often had no idea how to respond – non-action reactions which remained in the final cuts.
Gorcey likewise insisted on an increasing amount of “moidering the English language” sayings, which, perhaps as a slap back at his old boss Goldwyn, rivaled the producer in their hilarity and surprisingly ribald sexual connotations. Leo knew that the censors weren't going to be on-guard as surreptitiously as they would on an “A” title. And he was right. It's astounding what they got away with – and these risque moments helped endear these later works to their legions of fans. Early-on, their ad-libbing was enough to send a number of major players into anger management (if such a program had then existed). Cagney, Lugosi and starlet/actress Evelyn Ankers all hated the boys with a vengeance (a rage that surfaced during an Angels with Dirty Faces ad-lib, causing Cagney to throw a basketball at Gorcey's head). This ultimately meant nothing to either Leo or Huntz, as “Bogart loved us!” proclaimed Hall proudly
Like the having-a-blast Hope & Crosby Road/Sinatra & Co. Rat Pack pictures, the later Bowery Boys pics resemble wisecrackers having a good time. Again, for Gorcey, whose relaxed, assured demeanor complemented his growing waistline, this meant pleasure before business – which translated into his hiring members of his family to fill out the regular casts. Quickly eschewed was Slip's goil, Cynthia, a gum-chewing soda-joik. Even Gabe Dell was eventually given his walking papers. Brother David, a Johnny Galecki lookalike, became Chuck and soon such baggage as Bobby Jordan and others were cast by the wayside, leaving only Billy Benedict as Whitey. The boys became a quartet of aging dim but likeable losers whose appearance on a nabe double-bill often brought in more patrons than the main event. It was now apparent that the Boys were really the team of Gorcey and Hall – the remaining members being expendable flotsam just to guarantee the premise that they were technically still a gang.
And then there was Louie. The Boys' mainstream of operations became Louie's Sweet Shop, run by the pint-sized, exasperated immigrant Louie Dumbrowski. Dumbrowski became such a sensation that he's considered by many to be the third star of the series – and certainly the official unofficial Bowery Boy in good standing. Dumbrowski was none other than veteran comic character actor Bernard Gorcey, legendary star of the Abie's Irish Rose, and father of Leo (the nepotism of adding another Gorcey in the cast prompted David to occasionally bill himself under the pseudonym of David Condon).
Dumbrowski became such an integral member of the cast that his participation soon transcended his role of financing their moronic get-rich-quick schemes (Gorcey's “ideas” elevate Ralph Kramden's to Stephen Hawking status). Within the space of a year, the elder Gorcey was accompanying the boys to various locales/haunted houses/military installations...even assisting their uranium-hunting expedition.
By the time Monogram morphed into Allied Artists, the Bowery Boys misadventures began to look like actual real movies – important as they were frequently competing with Paramount's Martin & Lewis output. By now, they were 100% slapstick comedies and the talent brought in throughout the years was quite impressive. Cy Endfield, originator of Night of the Demon and director of the classics Mysterious Island and Zulu, scripted HARD BOILED MAHONEY, which utilized his knowledge of prestidigitation (Grippo was a magic aficionado, which might explain Endfield’s participation). Noir great Phil Karlson, who had first encountered the gang when they were the East Side Kids (as an A.D.), directed a rollicking pair of 1946 BB entries, Bowery Bombshell and Live Wires. Mercifully, the series upgraded their technical staff; Marcel Le Picard, a Monogram regular and possibly the most uninspired cinematographer ever to work on a union Hollywood picture, was bounced (that is if one considers death a bounce) in favor of the way more acceptable abilities of Poverty Row contemporary Harry Neumann. Edward Kay too was replaced, by Marlin Skiles, whose jaunty arrangement of “Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here” became the Boys' main title clarion call. The popularity of the series was such that their combined annual take enabled AA (Allied Artists, not Alcoholics Anonymous) to ascend to such previously unthinkable A-picture product as Friendly Persuasion and Love in the Afternoon.
What makes this collection so special is the inclusion of two titles – one famous, the other infamous. The former, THE BOWERY BOYS MEET THE MONSTERS is self-explanatory. What makes this 1954 horror spoof worth mentioning is the fact that it's the high point of the series; while many fans may argue as to whether or not that's laffs-per-minute artistically true, the picture went through the roof upon its release. It became the highest-grossing pic in the Boys' filmography – a veritable box-office “bonanza” as Edgar Souse might boast. The latter, 1956's HIGH SOCIETY, is a notorious footnote in Tinsel Town stupidity, and, thus a juicy anecdote that I can never get enough joy in repeating.
As any movie historian knows, in 1956 there was another picture entitled High Society – the Cole Porter musical remake of The Philadelphia Story, starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra. Well, came time for the Academy Award nominations, the Technicolor and VistaVison Porter musical scored a nod for (Best Motion Picture Story). Except instead of being sent to MGM, the official certification was mistakenly delivered to Allied Artists, emphatically stating that they were up for their version (and listing screenwriters Elwood Ulman and Edward Bernds as the nominees). This faux pas sent roaring shock waves throughout the industry. Rather than graciously cede to the error, Gorcey, Hall and Allied Artists unanimously championed their work (AA president Steve Broidy proudly issued a press release stating that “This just proves what we knew all along – that the Bowery Boys series couldn’t have lasted this long if not for the fine writers.”). SAG luminary Ben Hecht, too, thought the Boys' version was far superior to Metro's and campaigned vigorously for their win (competing against it was the French pic The Proud and the Beautiful, written by Jean-Paul Sartre). Sadly, it was withdrawn at the last minute; but there was a final capper to this kerfuffle. On day one of Dig That Uranium, the currently filming Bowery Boys extravaganza, Huntz Hall sniffed the title page, and jubilantly told cast, crew and invited journalists, “Smells like more Oscar material!” There followed a quarter hour delay whilst all present filled the soundstage with gales of laughter.
It's amazing that the Bowery Boys survived as long as they did. I have a spring 1958 issue of Screen Stories that features reviews of both Vertigo and Up in Smoke.
But there was life after death. Aping the late-1950s-early 1960s double-bill reissues of the Martin & Lewis pics (christened by Paramount as The Martin & Lewis Funfests), Allied Artists went one better. Taking note of the approximate 65-minute Bowery Boys running times, the studio packaged a 1961 series of triple features, which underlined the gang's staying power.
Unfortunately, once the pictures were sold to TV, Allied Artists, figuring that there was now no chance of any Monogram product ever being given a theatrical revival, made 16mm negatives and destroyed all the existing 35mm materials. Further deterioration throughout the decades has rendered many of the early Bowery Boys titles unacceptable for modern consumption. The dupey, washed-out images (not helped by the aforementioned Le Picard's negligible lighting) would ordinarily deny their presentation on any high-quality video format. Since Warners, now owner of the Monogram/Allied Artists library, is determined to make the complete series available to collectors, the lousy quality on a handful of titles is a pill that must be taken. Many of these pics no longer even existed in America; this is why the studio logos on several of the Boys' credits have been replaced with Pathe Pictures, the UK distributor – and the only remaining source for complete versions. Other than that, the news is quite good. The majority of the AA Bowery Boys flicks (from the early 1950s on) are in excellent to spectacular shape, all mastered from 35mm negs/positives. Even better, by 1954, when Allied euphorically entered the industry’s the widescreen fray, the initial titles announced for filming in the new 1.85:1 aspect ratio were the Bowery Boys comedies. Happily, this is true with the transfers of THE BOWERY BOYS MEET THE MONSTERS and HIGH SOCIETY in remastered 16 x 9 dimensions – the first time these movies have been seen in the correct aspect ratio since their 1950s release/1961 re-issues.
“So come and join the celibacy!”
Since the plots are pretty much of the nebulous kind, the following breakdowns of each of the twelve Bowery Boys titles will concentrate on the antics, specifically Gorcey's magnificent maligning of the English language – from here on in to be known as Lip of a Slip Highlights. So, let the sideshow of the circumcision begin.
SPOOK BUSTERS (1946). With GHOST CHASERS also on tap, it's easy to see where the 1984 Bill Murray-Dan Aykroyd comedy gleaned its roots. This pic, directed by the ubiquitous William Beaudine, has the mad doctor in the deserted mansion scenario (as scripted by Edmond Seward and Tim Ryan). The movie opens with Boys’ graduation from a pest extermination college. Their first assignment serves as a premise to allow crazed sawbones Douglass Dumbrille to transplant Sach's brain into that of a gorilla (the latter get-ting the worst of the deal). The supporting cast is aces and features Charles Middleton and Chester Clute. The marginal camerawork (Harry Neumann) isn't helped by the dark transfer, which is tainted by infrequent flashes of nitrate deterioration.
Lip of a Slip Highlight: Gorcey terms his bug diploma as “the most monumental moment in the spam of my life” and later explains that the medical work going on in the manse represents the epoch of “psychopathic research.”
HARD BOILED MAHONEY (1947). Again di-rected by William Beaudine (one of his approx-imately 900 entries for that year), this phony spiritualist mystery features a screenplay by Cy Endfield (with yoks added by Seward and Ryan). Endfield's fascination with magic, psychic phenomena and mysticism is sprinkled throughout this effort, which also spoofs The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. The sup-porting cast includes Byron Foulger and, most prominently, Dan Seymour, who steals the show with his assessment of the diminutive Louie Dumbrowski: “Little boy with a man's head.” The Boys get to be contestants on a brainy radio show, on which they dutifully wreak havoc. We also are witness to one of their many secret battle tactics – which are asinine at best (Routine 9 comprises turning out the lights; other strategies involve opening a door, running away, sneezing and/or presumably passing gas). The negligible camerawork is by one James Brown (oh, I wish!).
Lip of a Slip Highlight: the falsity of faux psychic predictions are brilliantly dismissed by Slip as “making up a bunch of lubrications.”
BOWERY BUCKAROOS (1947). Another Beaudine effort, this saga parodies the “B” oaters which made Monogram their countless hundreds. It's Sach's obsession with the west that brings the Boys out where men are men, only to encounter rustling outlaws, dance-hall girls, schoolmarms...all of it (like so many “B” westerns, 1947 New Mexico is unexplainably no different from 1887 New Mexico). Best is the revelation that Dumbrowski was once the scourge of the sagebrush, known as Louie the Lout. Seward, Ryan and Jerry Warren penned this piece which costars Minerva Urecal (as the town Marshal!), Russell Simpson, Iron Eyes Cody and Chief Thundercloud. There's a plethora of clever bits and one-liners (the usual “Ugh”-spouting Chief is a scholarly intellectual who scoffs at all the morons who make up the populace). The picture was shot by the infamous Le Picard, whose work is at least adequate.
Lip of a Slip Highlight: There are several germs...uhh, gems here. Gorcey explains his misinterpretation of “monotony” for “monopoly” is due to the usage of the past tense. He later thanks his newly acquainted amigos with “I don't know how to show my ineptitude.” For me, the piece de resistance is when Sach is kidnapped by the baddies and an excited Slip tells the law that “they captured a partner of mine and are holding him as a hostess.”
SMUGGLER’S COVE (1948). Routine 12 en-compasses a 3 Stooges eye-gouge, followed by a plunk on the head. “Routine” should be the catch-word of this pedestrian episode, directed by Beaudine (and written by Seward and Ryan). The plot, so to speak, involves Slip mistakenly being named heir to Mahoney Manor, located in Bay Shore, L.I. - in reality a haven for international jewel thieves (being a Monogram pic, the joint naturally harbors a mad doctor and his hulking assistant, secret passageways and...well, fill in the dots). Sans gorillas or Nazis, the villains, in keeping with the times, are given Russian-sounding names. Martin Kosleck, Paul Harvey and Amelita Ward who, shortly after this production, became Mrs. Gorcey (the third of five) costar in this snooze, shot to hell by Le Picard.
Lip of a Slip Highlight: Heir-apparent Gorcey refers to Sach as his “...major bromo.”
GHOST CHASERS (1951). Charles B. Marion scripted this unusual Beaudine concoction (w/additional dialog by Bert Lawrence), featuring Whitey's embrace of spiritualism. Soon the Boys unmask the shenanigans of Margo the Medium (the enticingly named Lela Bliss), who runs a string of phony séance outfits. Since the only one who cannot be hypnotized is an idiot or a moron, both Whitey and Sach become integral pawns, slated for elimination. Confrontations, involving dearly departed Lloyd Corrigan and nasty Philip Van Zandt, result in Routine 5 (i.e., to punch everybody). Le Picard again unimaginatively works his cinematic expertise.
Lip of a Slip Highlight: Gorcey assesses medium possession as a “verbal denunciation...in accordance with your facial destruction.” Reviving an unconscious participant calls for “artificial perspiration.” Slip additionally credits language skills as the end product of “electrocution lessons.”
LET’S GO NAVY (1951). A series of robberies by thugs disguised as sailors have the Boys joining the Navy to flesh out the fiends and re-turn Louie's loot. Successfully ripping off the successful service comedies of Martin & Lewis, this Beaudine-directed effort (screenplay by Frank Adams w/additional dialog by Lawrence) features the great Allen Jenkins as the Boys’ stressed-out superior officer (essentially the Donald McBride role). The prime creep is aptly impersonated by real-life felon Tom Neal. Also in the cast are Dave Willock, Paul Harvey, Emory Parnell, Frank Jenks and Tom Kennedy. Charita appears as a South Seas island siren. New Boy Buddy Gorman, it should be mentioned, looks like a ventriloquist's dummy, but less animated. The rarely used Routine 11entails pulling up shirts to look for tattoos. Le Picard seems to have been reading books on photography, as his work here is upgraded to “presentable.”
Lip of a Slip Highlight: Since much of the movie is narrated by Gorcey (encapsulating the gang's progress in searching for the culprits), there are a number of bon mots. Jenkins is introduced as a “Chief Petting Officer” while their leave on an atoll paradise is described as “...an island pollinated by cannibals...” My fave is Mahoney's admission that his imperfect eyesight may require him “...to see an octopus.”
HOLD THAT LINE (1952). Part Martin & Lewis (That's My Boy), part 3 Stooges (Hoi Polloi), this Beaudine entry (written by Ryan, Marion and Lawrence) concerns a bet between wealthy scholastic benefactors – in actuality a social experiment that ponder the culture shock of placing a bunch of underprivileged bums in an Ivy League environment. The Boys show up in 1920s raccoon coats ready to give it the old college try, as Slip enunciates, for “...one siesta.” Mahoney's invasion of the English Department is near-classic, but it's Sach's embracing the chemistry lab that forms the impetus of the scenario (he invents a formula that gives him superhuman strength – thus becoming a gridiron hero). Hall excels in this prime BB episode, ad-libbing insanely. His post-game locker room encounter with two fawning fellow topless players is hilariously capped by his appreciative/snarky admonishment of “...put some clothes on!” The last Monogram picture of the set is also the swan song for Le Picard. Costars include Byron Foulger, John Bromfield and “B” movie B-girl Veda Ann Borg. Producer Grippo was replaced by Jerry Thomas in this riotous “Pig”-malion aberration.
Lip of a Slip Highlight: For this chance of a life-time, a grateful Mahoney thanks his blue-blood philanthropists with a humble “You'll never live to regret your incision.”
LOOSE IN LONDON (1953). The first in the set's Allied Artists release, this fast-paced BB pic has the gang (and Louie) traveling to Lon-don when Sach is named as next-in-line to inherit the vast Debussy-Jones fortune. Directed by Stooges alumnus Edward Bernds (who coscripted with Elwood Ullman), this slapstick pastiche hits the bulls-eye in a Georgian Era flashback featuring Gorcey and Hall in period dress, save their trademark brimmed-up hat and baseball cap. Targeted by murderous relatives, the Boys let the laughs fly fast and furious, even if that includes a lackluster demonstration of Routine 11 (throwing crooks through a doorway). Produced by Ben Schwalb and photographed with some atmospheric touches by Harry Neumann, LOOSE IN LONDON is the initial pic in the set scored by Marlin Stiles (whose jazzy main title rendition of “Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here” would become a trademark of the series). Norma Varden and silent screen comic Clyde Cook are among the supporting cast members.
Lip of a Slip Highlight: the patronizing platitudes of the insincere relatives are beautifully acknowledged by Gorcey's response that their “...words reek with integrity.”
CLIPPED WINGS (1953). Another service farce, this Bernds-directed clambake (scripted by Ullman and Marion) has the Boys tracking former Bowery pal (but now a Commie sellout) to a local Air Force base. Through a delightful mishap, Sach gets assigned to the women's WAF barracks, which allows for much salacious 1950s gender-bender trauma. The budget (or lack of) really shows with the post PX being a not-so-cleverly redressed Louie's Sweet Shop. The supporting cast is A-1 and features Mary Treen, Renie Riano, Philip Van Zandt, Lyle Talbot and Henry Kulky. The photography is once again by Harry Neumann.
Lip of a Slip Highlight: After a wacky flight in a runaway jet piloted by Sach, Slip joyously re-marks how happy he is to have “...his feet firmly planted on terracotta.”
PRIVATE EYES (1953). Using Louie's backroom as a makeshift gym, the Boys suffer a slight setback when Sach gets a punch in the schnozz. This proves to be a blessing in disguise when it enables him to read minds – resulting in Slip's brainstorm of opening a pri-vate detective agency. The rapid-fire gags fuel this film noir spoof, directed by Bernds, who cowrote the script with Ullman. The Stooge in-fluence extends to the unbilled appearance of the wonderful Emil Sitka, admirably sharing the bill with Joyce Holden, Robert Osterloh, Myron Healey, Chick Chandler and Tim Ryan. The pic was shot by the excellent cinematographer Carl Guthrie (the wardrobe person is also worth mentioning, being one Smoke Kring).
Lip of a Slip Highlight: The Bowery gym offers the Boys to perfect the “...manly art of self-offense.” Sach's proboscis dilemma allows Slip to realize his dream “...to get into a business that's a little more ludicrous.” Unbelievably, a Slip request involving important documents got by the censors: “Would you mind placing this fragile manure in the safe?” The top Gorcey contender goes to his obvious sexual arousal toward a fetching femme fatale: “Pardon the protrusion, but you're the kind of girl it's easy to be kind to.”
THE BOWERY BOYS MEET THE MONSTERS (1954). Their biggest hit – and it's easy to see why. Like a supernatural Abbott & Costello hybrid, this horror comedy, directed by Bernds (cowritten w/Ullman), has it all: mad scientists, gorillas, vampires, man-eating plants and a giant robot (and it don't turn out to be gangsters!). A Jekyll/Hyde serum even transforms Sach into a werewolf. What's there not to love? This movie is also the first of Boys' works to be shot (by Harry Neumann) in the then-new 1.85 standard widescreen dimensions. There's a lot of sardonic Addams Family wit in this lunacy, including a Lurch-like butler and a demented relative (Ellen Corby) knitting a two-headed turtleneck sweater. Sexy blood-sucker Francine (Laura Mason) likewise pre-figures a more aggressive Morticia (her over-sexed desire to ravage a soon-to-be corpse is nipped in the bud by the insistence that she “forget necromancy!”). John Dehner and Lloyd Corrigan fill out the cast, which also reveals that Routine 6 is a kick in the shins.
Lip of a Slip Highlight: The premise of the Boys approaching Gravesend Manor, hoping to get the owners to relinquish an adjacent lot for a kids’ playground is a treasure trove for Slip-isms. “Are you going to coagulate with us?” he prophetically asks the intrigued residents, adding that his proposal is full of “fragrant ideas.” It's Gorcey's introduction of the plan that most excites Francine beginning with his opening comment, “I took the trouble to draw up this little diaphragm.”
HIGH SOCIETY (1955). Their Oscar bid, di-rected by Beaudine (with the Academy Award-nominated story by Bernds and Ullman; script by Lawrence and Jerome S. Gottler) is, regret-fully, not one of their most hilarious. Sach is once-more heir to a Debussy-Jones fortune; and there are homicidal relatives out to make sure he never lives to collect. Slip, Louie and the rest stick around to guarantee that the adolescent true inheritor is not cheated out of his millions. Big deal – ya would have thought an Oscar might have gone to more worthy fare, like HOLD THAT LINE or Blues Busters (not in this set).
More than any other Bowery Boys epic, HIGH SOCIETY owes a debt again to the 3 Stooges, being both another feature variation of the Stooges' Hoi Polloi and Pardon My Backfire. In regards to the latter, the movie opens with Slip and Sach causing chaos in their pathetic upscale wannabe Bowery Garage (a “We Cater to the 400 and Cash Customers” banner adorns their entrance). Nevertheless Huntz Hall's eyebrow-raised Groucho look into the camera when a character asks, “Where do I put this?” is alone worth a viewing; ditto a Liberace parody, and a cast including Amanda Blake, Addison Richards, Gavin Gordon and Paul Harvey. The budget is ridiculous, with the exterior of the Long Island estate looking like the patio of a middle-class home in Flushing. The widescreen visuals come courtesy of Harry Neumann.
Lip of a Slip Highlight: While “I'll go and deform Horace” is amusing, the champ of this piece is undeniably Gorcey's raison d'etre ulterior motive for crashing the Fire Island set, ostensibly if we “...hang around here for a...while, we'll probably meet a couple of nice little debu-tramps...get married and move into the upper trust.” Hey, maybe it did deserve that Oscar recognition!
THE BOWERY BOYS, VOLUME 2. Black and White [full frame, 1.37:1 for all but The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters and High Society, which are 1.85:1 and 16 x 9 ana-morphic]. Mono audio. The Warner Ar-chive Collection. CAT # 883316780923. SRP: $47.99.
Available exclusively through www.warnerarchive.com