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Cinema Revisited: “Spook Chasers” (1957)

Spook Chasters (1957)
TCM

Spook Chasers is the Bowery Boys 45th movie out of 48

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When Leo Gorcey left the Bowery Boys series after the death of his father, Huntz Hall was left to assume the central role as star of the comedies. Stanley Clements was brought in as Leo’s replacement, but he still seemed more support than lead. David Gorcey, Leo’s brother, remained a member of the group, which was filled on in this film by Jimmy Murphy and Eddie (Blinky) LeRoy.

“Spook Chasers” is one of the later Bowery Boys efforts sans Leo Gorcey. It has the familiar plot of the gang and their diner-owning friend Mike Clancy (Percy Helton) traveling to a vacation cabin in the woods and discovering it to be filled with ghosts. They also discover a safe full of money. Part of the familiarity is the similarity to the 1941 Abbott and Costello classic “Hold That Ghost.” Along with that are the many Three Stooges gags that pop up throughout, courtesy of frequent Stooge writer Ellwood Ullman penning the screenplay. A simple comedy featuring a timeworn plot and gags that had been performed better by other comedians sounds like a failure, but actually these are a part of this film’s charm. For all its predictability, “Spook Chasers” is a lot of fun.

Every few seconds there is a slapstick gag, from a discarded pot landing on someone’s head, to a paintbrush being mistaken for a sandwich. The dialog features a corny joke every few sentences. When a woman says to Sach (Huntz Hall), “I hope we see each other again,” and he responds “I’ll stop by every five minutes if you’d like,” or when Blinky says, “National Girdle is a good stock – it’s bound to expand,” it is hard not to smile. Even a silly exchange like Blinky asking, “What’s a gentleman farmer?” and Sach responding, “a guy who milks cows with gloves and spats on,” causes one to laugh in spite of oneself.

Ellwood Ullman has stated in interviews that haunted house comedy always nets big laughs, no matter how creaky the material. And the material here is creaky indeed. But all the moving beds, moving pictures on the wall, creaking doors, flapping shutters, and sheet-clad ghosts, are somehow welcome in these low budget surroundings. “Blinky’s missing and he took the bed with him. He’s sleeping in a ghost’s hot rod,” Sach yells, as the gang runs from room to room, through moving walls and trap doors, trying to escape the haunted surroundings. Finally, the obligatory fight scene that concludes the movie is a comic highlight.

“Spook Chasers” is a fast paced bit of B movie silliness with Huntz Hall doing a good job as the central figure with able support by the other boys, and by Percy Helton. The film is further enhanced by the appearance of familiar faces like Ben Welden, Robert Shayne, and Pierre Watkin rounding out the cast, as well as the little known Darlene Fields in a part that is more than merely decorative. A simple, enjoyable comedy like this is further proof that a movie does not have to be "great cinema" in order to be entertaining.

“Spook Chasers” is available on DVD here.