Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Bowery Boys, No. 29 - 39 (1953 - 1955)

The Allied Artists years: 1953 – 1958

It is already well-established that The Bowery Boys’ entire franchise is built upon burglarizing old Abbott & Costello movies for an undiscerning juvenile audience. Upon officially becoming an Allied Artists product (which is still technically Monogram), The Bowery Boys took up a new director/producer in Edward Bernds, the legendary director of the Three Stooges, long may their memories last. Bringing this comedic expertise to The Bowery Boys, Bernds introduced Leo Gorcey & Co. to a degree of violent slapstick even they had previously been incapable of. Stooge gags were stolen and recycled, but by an entire troupe of “Fake Shemps.”

Oh, and Huntz Hall’s newfound hero in life: Shemp Howard

29. Jalopy (1953) – Okay, when did The Nutty Professor get made? 1996.

Okay, when did the REAL Nutty Professor get made? 1963. Odd, I could’ve sworn Jalopy was ripping it off. I dunno, maybe Jerry Lewis was making a subtle and informed satire of films like this one – satires so deep, only the French could understand them. Or maybe everyone’s insane.

Actually, it seems to be a little more Absent-Minded Professor (which also got a bad late ‘90s remake, in Flubber), meaning…Ah the hell with it! Sach (Huntz Hall) invents a fuel to make Slip’s (Leo Gorcey) jalopy run faster. They win a big race in this manner – driving in reverse. Oh, oh my sides!

30. Loose in London (1953) – Sach keeps on discovering newly-dead long-lost relatives every 4 or so entries. This time it’s a British earl, who’s not quite dead. The Boys visit him in London (I will allow an occasional setting switch for sequel proliferation), where the earl’s remaining family members intend to kill him (the earl), for the inheritance and all. The Bowery Boys defend the earl, until Sach discovers he isn’t a relative after all. So he leaves, and presumably the earl is again left at the whims of his murderous family members. Nice one.

31. Clipped Wings (1953) – Remember Bowery Battalion, Let’s Go Navy!, and Here Come the Marines? Neither do I. Anyway, those were part of a hallowed “burgle Abbott & Costello’s wartime comedies” sub-series the lads were attempting. Clipped Wings is the final entry in that cycle. It concerns the Air Force.

32. Private Eyes (1953) – Oh God, again Sach develops straaaaaange new magical powers as the result of a normal injury. Apparently, a punch to the nose gives one the ability to read minds. Let’s see…in most entries of this sort, Slip puts Sach in the freak show, in order to profit off of his best friend’s newfound deformity. Then mobsters target Sach, and everything resets to normal at the end.

That is not what Slip does here. Instead he and Sach start up a detective agency. Then mobsters target Sach, and everything resets to normal at the end.

33. Paris Playboys (1954) – “Starring Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall and the Bowery Boys.” Those unnamed “Bowery Boys” (David Gorcey and Bennie Bartlett) get a shorter shrift than Marianne and the Professor! Hell, they don’t get any dialogue in Paris Playboys, and appear in one scene. “Go back in your cage, Brother David.”

Sach is mistaken for a French professor. …

How do they come up with this nonsense?! Even the manatees in the tank could do better than this! Arrrrrgggghhhh! [Slams head repeatedly]

Sach impersonates the professor, who is wanted by spies for his secret rocket formula. Then out of left field, Sach invents his own rocket formula out of alka seltzer and –

[Long, awkward silence…]

I don’t know how much more of this I can take…

34. The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters (1954) – Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

Okay, these movies aren’t doing me any favors. The premise – premise – of The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters is that the Bowery Boys meet a family that are, in fact, “completely insane.” (May or may not be monsters.) They probably got that way from watching too many Bowery Boys movies. And when insane, all one wants is something out of Sach’s body (don’t look at me). Bear with me while I try to relate the following with a straight face”

A mad scientist wants Sach’s brain for his gorilla.
A different mad scientist wants Sach’s brain for his robot.
Their sister wants to feed Sach to her Sach-eating tree.
A vampire is there too.

I understand Master Minds established this Bowery Boys storyline back in 1949, but this is several magnitudes zanier than something which was pretty danged abstract to begin with. Even the plot descriptions evince a sheer, desperate “wakka wakka wakka” demeanor, which leads me to believe the actual films must be even weirder than Casino Royale (the ’66 version).

35. Jungle Gents (1954) – Abbott & Costello’s Africa Screams is now what they’re ripping off. It is a jungle-set comedy, using old sets from Bomba, the Jungle Boy (damn, that’s a series, I’m gonna have to watch that some day). There is only one fact worth pointing out here…Sach’s strange new power:

He learns how to smell diamonds after taking sinus medication.

…I swear, Sach is a walking Chernobyl!

36. Bowery to Bagdad (1955) – Now it’s Abbott & Costello’s Lost in a Harem, an Arabian comedy. In it, Sach gains mastery over a genie in the lamp, as meanwhile crooked gangsters…

Okay, enough of this! The Abbott & Costello comedies took place in something vaguely resembling the real world. I mean, so did The Three Stooges of all things! Why can’t these?!

37. High Society (1955) – And Abbott & Costello’s In Society. Slobs vs. snobs.

Sach once again is the surprise heir to a massive fortune, of one Terwilliger Debussy Jones. The same plot as Loose in London follows, only without London.

High Society is the only Bowery Boys movie to receive an Academy Award nomination, for “Best Story.” It received this nomination by mistake. The Academy intended it for a different 1956 High Society (a Cole Porter musical). This is hilarious.

38. Spy Chasers (1955) – No readily apparent Abbott & Costello effort is the model this time.

A princess up and arrives at Louie’s Sweet Shop, the Boy’s favorite hangout, because that’s just the sort of thing which is always happening. Actually, she’s here with a purpose, because Louie of all people for some reason is the only one that can help her safeguard a half-coin (?), with the entire future of the Kingdom of Truania hanging in the balance. It turns out that the princess’ family members are trying to kill her for the kingdom inheritance, so…It’s just Loose in London and High Society again, only without Sach as inheritor. This is becoming tiresome.

39. Jail Busters (1955) – So far they’ve busted Spooks and Blues, and now Jail seemingly. What does it mean to “bust” jail? Apparently, it means to go undercover within prison walls to dredge up some sort of unstated inmate scam. It gives me no end of fatigue to report that the entire plotline is just a reworking of the group’s 1950 effort, Triple Trouble. This self-cannibalization is not becoming, it is exceedingly obvious, and it is only acceptable because audiences had no recourse to the series’ backlog. Truly the 1950s were a different time for film franchises.

It is partly in deference to this fatigue that I leave the remaining 9 Bowery Boys movies for next time. I also do this because the series’ end is a story unto itself, a tragic tale of death and downfall – Which is something every franchise needs.

Related posts:
Nos. 1 - 3 (1946)
Nos. 4 - 16 (1946 - 1949)
Nos. 17 - 28 (1950 - 1952)
Nos. 40 - 48 (1956 - 1958)

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