Africa Screams/Jack and the Beanstalk/The East Side Kids [2 Discs] [DVD]
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Short of funds to buy baseball uniforms, the East Side Kids are forced to go to work for their crooked ex-pal Hank (Gabriel Dell). When Hank's fugitive mentor Butch Brocalli (Max Rosenbloom) shows up to make trouble, gang member Danny (Bobby Jordan) is instrumental in Butch's arrest, earning a big reward in the process. Danny intends to suprise his pals by buying the uniforms himself, but Mugs (Leo Gorcey) wrongly assumes Danny wants to hoard all the money for himself. Mugs and the rest of the gang force Danny to turn over the dough, whereupon they buy a beat-up car. But when Danny is seriously injured by the escaping Brocalli, the kids offer to sell the car to pay for an operation. Kindly brain surgeon Dr. Ornsby (Walter Woolf King) sizes up the situation and straightens things out to the satisfaction of everyone. The East Side Kids are at their most contentious and least appealing in this second-rate entry, while Maxie Rosenbloom, usually a comic actor, is sorely miscast as the villain. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Let's Get Tough!
Set soon after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Let's Get Tough! opens with the East Side Kids -- Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Bobby Jordan, David Gorcey, Sammy "Sunshine" Morrison, and Bobby Stone -- trying to enlist in the armed forces and getting turned down because they're not yet 18 years old. Eager to contribute and frustrated at not being allowed to help out in the national emergency, they decide to take action on their own when they see an argument between Kino, a Japanese dealer in antiques, and a local boy named Fritz Heinbach (Gabriel Dell). They try to run Kino out of his own store but instead, the shopkeeper runs them off, and the boys get a warning from "Pop" Stevens (Robert Armstrong), the local cop on the beat, to stay out of trouble. That night, however, they return intent on trashing Kino's store, only to find the man at his desk, stabbed to death. When they're pulled in by the police, the boys find out that Kino was a Chinese agent impersonating a Japanese, and trying to uncover a cell of saboteurs. The boys decide to investigate on their own after they hear rumors that Bill (Tom Brown), the brother of one of them, has been thrown out of the army for his un-American beliefs and has been seen hanging around Matsui, who is considered a potential suspect. They end up infiltrating a meeting of Japanese saboteurs and spies, and find an alliance between them and German immigrant Fritz Heinbach; Bill turns out to be an American agent working the same case as Kino, but they're all trapped, until one of the gang escapes to summon the police. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello temporarily leave their usual Universal stamping grounds to star in the Huntington Hartford production Africa Screams. Costello plays the colorfully inept Stanley Livingstone, a meek book salesman who poses as a big-game hunter at the behest of his shifty pal Buzz Johnson (Abbott). It's all part of a scheme to extract some money from adventuress Diana Emerson (Hillary Brooke), who intends to search for a lost diamond mine in the heart of Africa. It seems that Stanley has committed to memory a long out-of-print book which contained a map to the mine. Despite his mortal fear of wild animals, Stanley accompanies Buzz, Diana, and Diana's henchmen on the African expedition. The subsequent comic complications involve a legendary giant gorilla, a cannibal tribe, and a friendly orangutan who falls in love with Stanley. Animal trainer Clyde Beatty and big-game tracker Frank Buck make cameo appearances while character comics Shemp Howard and Joe Besser provide laughs as, respectively, a nearsighted gunman and a sissified flunky. Also on hand are boxer brothers Max Baer and Buddy Baer, who engage in an amusingly unconvincing display of fisticuffs. But the film belongs to Abbott & Costello, who are in fine form. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Mugs McGinniss (Leo Gorcey), top dog of the East Side Kids, takes a job at an airplane plant. Here he grows suspicious of Dr. Nagel (George Pembroke), operator of a flying ambulance service. Mugs becomes convinced that Nagel is using his plane to smuggle aviation secrets to a gang of enemy agents, but he can't prove his allegations. With the help of his East Side pals Danny (Bobby Jordan), Scruno ("Sunshine Sammy" Morrison), Peewee (David Gorcey) and Louie (Bobby Stone), Mugs gets the goods on the duplicitous Doc-but nearly gets killed in the process. A not-bad combination of comedy and melodrama, Flying Wild offers the viewers a more intelligent group of "East Side Kids" than they're accustomed to. Even so, this is the film in which Leo Gorcey introduces the comic malapropisms for which he became famous. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Jack and the Beanstalk
In 1952, the comedy team of Abbott and Costello entered into a joint agreement with producer Alex Gottlieb and Warner Brothers, whereby two color musical comedies would be produced: Bud Abbott would serve as producer--owner of one of the films, while Lou Costello would do same for the other. Costello's contribution to this agreement was Jack and the Beanstalk, a kiddie-matinee adaptation of the famed fairy tale. Constructed along the lines of The Wizard of Oz, the film begins in black and white. Jack (Costello) is a professional baby-sitter, while Dink (Abbott) is Jack's "agent." After a run-in with a gargantuan cop (Buddy Baer) and a statuesque waitress (Dorothy Ford), Jack and Dink show up at the home of Eloise Larkin (Shaye Cogan), there to look after Eloise's troublesome nephew Donald (David Stollery) while the girl and her boyfriend Arthur Royal (James Alexander) rehearse at their community theatre. While reading the story of Jack and the Beanstalk to the bratty Donald, Jack falls asleep, and begins dreaming himself, and his cohorts, into the story as the impoverished boy sent out to sell the family cow. While en route to town with his cow, he encounters a shady butcher (Abbott) who bilks him out of his broken-down bovine for the price of a few 'magic' beans. In keeping with the traditional tale, Jack plants the beans and from them a magnificent vine grows and reaches into the clouds. Along with the butcher, Jack climbs into a fantastic world inhabited by a terrifying giant (Baer) and other magical creatures, including a gold egg-laying hen, a singing harp, and a distressed prince and princess. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Amateur fighter and all-around bully Muggs McGinniss (Leo Gorcey) tries to cheat in a pool game with hustler Harry Wycoff (Gabriel Dell). He is thwarted by his own friend Danny Lyons (Bobby Jordan), who has some strong ideas about right and wrong and wants to keep his friend honest. Muggs has to knock Wycoff down with his fists to avoid paying off, and promises to get even with Danny and criticizing him as a coward, without the "killer instinct" it takes to win, in boxing or anything else, as far as Muggs is concerned. In revenge for his pummeling, Wycoff, who works for a local bookmaker, arranges to have Muggs kidnapped ahead of the amateur boxing match in which he's supposed to fight. Danny goes into the ring in his place and wins, but Muggs is convinced that Danny arranged the kidnapping. They clash over and over throughout the movie, in an amateur dance contest and as rivals for a job at a local garage, and over Danny's wish to marry Muggs' sister, and then Muggs finds out that he was all wrong -- that Danny had nothing to do with thekidnapping. But by then he's jealous of Danny, and continues riding him mercilessly, and Danny can't fight back because he's promised his mother never to fight in the street like a common hooligan. Muggs gets even more fierce in his resentment when Danny joins the army showing himself to be more of a man than Muggs and becoming a hero to the neighborhood in the bargain. Finally, Danny realizes that if Muggs is ever to grow up, someone is going to have to stand up to him. The two agree to settle their differences with their fists. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi