The Bowery Boys, Vol. 1 [4 Discs] [DVD]

The Bowery Boys were a series of young street urchin characters who appeared together in a series of 48 American movies from 1937 through 1958. Installments followed the boys' misadventures in the inner city; over time, the films evolved from earnest crime drama (Dead End, 1937) to pure comedy, and the group itself went through several different incarnations including "The Dead End Kids," "The Little Tough Guys," "The East Side Kids," and ultimately, "The Bowery Boys." Twelve Bowery features comprise this box set, including Fighting Fools (1949), Hold That Baby! (1949), Lucky Losers (1950) and Blues Busters (1950).
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Overview

Synopsis

Hold That Baby!
Hold That Baby! was the 14th entry in Monogram's money-spinning "Bowery Boys" series. Ever in search of spare change, the Bowery Boys, headed by Slip Mahoney (Leo Gorcey) go into the laundromat business. While unfolding some linen, Sach (Huntz Hall) comes across a seemingly abandoned baby. The infant turns out to be their heir to a huge fortune. Hoping to return the baby to its mother (Anabel Shaw), who has been wrongfully committed to a mental institution, Slip, Sach and the boys must contend with the child's avaricious aunts (Florence Auer and Ida Moore) and a bunch of gangsters. The best scene finds Slip posing as a Viennese psychiatrist; almost as good is a vignette involving Sach and a hospital supply room. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

No Holds Barred
This "Bowery Boys" entry is an on-target satire of TV wrestling (which, if anything, is even sillier in the 1990s than it was in 1952). Through a freak of nature, Sach Jones (Huntz Hall) develops a cranium so hard that it is impervious to pain. Capitalizing on this phenomenon, Sach's pal Slip Mahoney (Leo Gorcey) enters Sach in a wrestling match, during which his great strength re-manifests itself in his fingers. With each subsequent wrestling bout, Sach's superstrength shifts to another part of his body. When slated to take on real-life wrestler Hombre Montana in the ring, Sach nearly meets his Waterloo until the last moment, when he develops extrahuman strength in his backside. Never believable for a single moment, No Holds Barred is one of the best and funniest of the 48 "Bowery Boys" films. In addition to Hombre Montana, other genuine wrestlers making guest appearances include Henry Kulky, Pat Fraley, Brother Frank Jares and Count John Maximillian. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Blues Busters
Blues Busters is a first-rate entry in the otherwise hit-and-miss "Bowery Boys" series. After having his tonsils removed, Sach (Huntz Hall) finds himself blessed with a beautiful singing voice. He becomes a popular crooner, inspiring Slip (Leo Gorcey) to convert Louie's sweet shop into a swanky nightclub (in the Bowery?) Rival club owner Craig Stevens tricks Sach into signing with him, which causes a rift in the lifelong friendship between Sach and Slip. But Sach returns to his old friends in the end--just in time for his mellifluous singing voice to disappear, replaced by his old familiar nasal bray. In addition to the surprising presence of the classy Craig Stevens (eight years removed from Peter Gunn), Blues Busters boasts fine supporting performances from a brace of favorite B-picture babes, Phyllis Coates and Adele Jergens. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Bowery Bombshell
Although Bowery Bombshell was the third entry in Monogram's "Bowery Boys" series, it was released second in several regions. The trouble begins when Sach (Huntz Hall) is photographed leaving a bank at the same time as a group of bank robbers. The police think that Sach was involved with the crooks, forcing him to stay under wraps while his pal Slip (Leo Gorcey) and the rest of the Bowery Boys try to track down the genuine thieves. Posing as out-of-town gangsters, Slip and his pals win the confidence of slick gang boss Ace Deuce (Sheldon Leonard), but their subterfuge is destined to fail, and fail spectacularly. The story goes off on a new tangent towards the end when Ace's hulking henchman Moose McCall (Wee Willie Davis) accidentally swallows an experimental explosive, thereby turning himself into a human bomb. A moderately funny entry in the series, Bowery Bombshell might have been better with less plot and more logic. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Master Minds
When in doubt, drag out the "old dark house/mad scientist" formula. That's the philosophy of Master Minds, the 16th entry in Monogram's "Bowery Boys" series. It all begins when Sach (Huntz Hall), suffering from a toothache, develops the ability to read minds. Sach's pal Slip (Leo Gorcey), knowing a good thing when he sees one, exploits Sach's talents on the carnival-sideshow circuit. Soon, however, the demented Dr. Druzik (Alan Napier) comes calling, hoping to transplant Sach's brain into the body of ape-man Atlas (Glenn Strange). This film's funniest moments occur when the hulking Glenn Strange imitates Huntz Hall's familiar gestures and body language. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Crazy over Horses
On a pure storytelling level, Crazy Over Horses is one of the best entries in Monogram's "Bowery Boys" series. This time, Slip (Leo Gorcey), Sach (Huntz Hall) and the gang come into possession of a race horse. Slip is convinced that the horse, which he'd picked up as payment for a debt owed to sweet-shop owner Louie (Bernard Gorcey) by stable owner Flynn (Tim Ryan), is a thoroughbred. For once, he's right: the nag had been left with Flynn by a group of gamblers who'll do anything to get her back, even unto switching horses on the boys. The film leads steadily and logically to an exciting racetrack climax, capped by a final confrontation with the crooks. Comic patsy Huntz Hall is curiously unpleasant and abrasive in Crazy Over Horses, though he reverts to his old bumbling self in an extended sequence wherein he disguises himself as a black stablehand (this scene is usually removed when the film is shown on television). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

News Hounds
News Hounds has more plot than usual for a "Bowery Boys" film-too much plot, so far as diehard fans of the series were concerned. Much of the action takes place at the Daily Chronicle, where Slip Mahoney (Leo Gorcey) works as a copy boy and Sach Jones (Huntz Hall) as a junior photographer. Aspiring to become reporters, Slip and Sach try to get the goods on elusive underworld chieftan Dapper Dan Greco (Anthony Caruso). They manage to escape the clutches of Greco's henchmen, but not before Sach has snapped a picture of Greco in conference with supposed philanthropist Timothy X. Donlin (John Hamilton). Printing a story about Donlin's collusion with Greco, the Chronicle faces a libel suit until Sach is able to recover his photos, which he earlier managed to lose. Gabriel Dell, the Bowery Boys' resident straight man, is here cast as a conscience-stricken mob flunkey. At base, News Hounds is a reworking of the "East Side Kids" entry Bowery Champs. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Blonde Dynamite
Blonde Dynamite was the 17th of Monogram/Allied Artists' 48 Bowery Boys entries. This time, the boys have transformed Louie's Sweet Shop into an escort bureau. Louie (Bernard Gorcey) has little to say on the matter, since he's on vacation and knows nothing about this new business enterprise. The boys' steadiest customers are a group of gorgeous ladies who are in the employ of a bank-robbery gang. The girls keep Slip (Leo Gorcey), Sach (Huntz Hall) and the others busy while their confederates dig a tunnel between the sweet shop and a neighboring bank. Gabe Marino (Gabe Dell), a bank employee, manages to alert the police, but it's lame-brained Sach who turns out (inadvertently, of course) to be the hero of the hour. One of the gun molls in Blonde Dynamite is Beverlee Crane, who in the 1930s was teamed with her twin sister Bettie Mae to deliver the "talking credits" for Hal Roach's Laurel & Hardy, Our Gang and Charley Chase comedies. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Fighting Fools
In this entry in the long running comedy-drama series, the boys get into the world of prizefighting. When one of Slip's pals is killed in the ring, he and the boys plot their revenge against the gangster responsible. They enlist the aid of the late fighter's boozy brother, who was also a fighter. They convince him into entering the ring one last time. He does so despite the gangster's efforts to stop the boys. The fighter wins and his brother's death is avenged. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

In Fast Company
This second entry in the Bowery Boys series plays more like an extended 2-reeler than a feature film, perhaps because its director was Three Stooges veteran Del Lord. In this one, Slip (Leo Gorcey), Sach (Huntz Hall) and the rest of the Bowery Boys find themselves in the middle of a "taxi war". Crooked cab company manager Steve Trent (Douglas Fowley) has been sending out his goons to wreck the taxicabs of his independent competitors. Slip and Sach try to convince Trent's boss McCormick (Paul Harvey) that his manager is a crook, but McCormick refuses to believe them until his daughter Marian (Jane Randolph) aligns herself with our heroes. Unlike later Bowery Boys efforts, In Fast Company closely resembles the East Side Kids films that preceded it, with the boys indulging in petty larceny before the plot proper gets under way. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Live Wires
This initial entry in Monogram's Bowery Boys series is also the second remake of the 1933 film He Couldn't Take It (the original script was by no less than Dore Schary, billed for reasons best known to himself as Jeb Schary). Leo Gorcey stars as Slip Mahoney, a pugnacious type whose volatile temper loses him one job after another. Slip's sister Mary (Pamela Blake), secretary to construction executive Sayers (John Eldredge), persuades her boss to use his influence to get Slip a job as a process server. After successfully repossessing a car belonging to nightclub thrush Jeannette (Claudia Drake), Slip and his fellow "skip tracer" Sach Jones (Huntz Hall) endeavor to serve a subpoena to homicidal gangster Patsy Clark (Mike Mazurki). Though the boys get quite a going over from the "playful" Patsy, they not only successfully complete their mission, but also prove that the supposedly respectable Sayers is a criminal mastermind. Essentially a vehicle for Leo Gorcey, Live Wires pushes the rest of the Bowery Boys (Bobby Jordan, Billy Benedict et. al.) into the background; it wasn't until the second series entry In Fast Company that the former "East Side Kids" truly became a team again. Bernard Gorcey, who later played sweet-shop owner Louie Dumbrowski, is seen herein as a small-time gambler. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Lucky Losers
Lucky Losers is an uncharacteristically dramatic entry in Monogram's "Bowery Boys" comedy series. Incredibly enough, Slip Mahoney (Leo Gorcey) and Sach Jones (Huntz Hall) have gotten jobs in the office of Wall Street broker David J. Thurston (Selmer Jackson). Soon afterward, Thurston apparently commits suicide (not because of the boys' ineptitude, as one might suspect). Slip and Sach's TV-reporter pal Gabe Moreno (Gabriel Dell) suspects that Thurston was murdered, prompting the boys to search for clues in the dead man's office. The evidence trail leads to a gambling house, where Slip and Sach secure work as croupiers. Learning that their new boss, Bruce McDermott (Lyle Talbot), was somehow connected to Thurston, the boys report this to Gabe, who makes the information public--and gets beaten up for his troubles. Now it's up to Slip, Sach and the rest of the Bowery Boys to expose the protection racket in which McDermott is involved. There's too much plot and not enough laughs in this "Bowery Boys" entry; Fortunately, Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall are in top form, making the most of their very few comic opportunities. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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