Saturday, December 4, 2010

East Side Kids, No. 11 - 'Neath Brooklyn Bridge (1942)

(Note: These titles never mean anything.)

We have our first casualty of the wartime draft! Bid farewell to David Gorcey’s Peewee, and all 0 of his character traits. The Hun’ll never know what hit ‘em!

It’s a good thing they set up Stanley Clements as Stash in Smart Alecks, for now Stash takes on Peewee’s old gig – standing motionlessly in the background, and allowing the “East Side Kids” troupe to numerically reach 6. Filling space, what a noble actorly accomplishment!

Hell, ‘Neath Brooklyn Bridge itself is essentially the movie equivalent of filling space, an East Side Kids franchise entry simply because there had to be an 11th franchise entry. Formula remains essentially unchanged – the East Side Kids battle crooks, impress the cops, and a romance no one cares about happens someplace else. But as always, there must be one quantum detail here of note…

‘Neath Brooklyn Bridge is exceedingly melodramatic!

I cannot fathom why, so many entries in, they’re reverting to the ineffective dramatics of the first East Side Kids, especially when a mere year prior the series experienced such success with an anarchic comic attitude in Spooks Run Wild. But I have a theory. Comedy, the natural form for the “East Side Kids,” is so effortlessly natural for them at this point, they don’t even have to work at it. Hence all efforts are redirected at weepy histrionics, something the franchise isn’t remotely as good at. That’s a shame, considering how wonderful Leo Gorcey’s Muggs and Huntz Hall’s Glimpy are together – These two are basically a comic duo now, the put-upon bumbler and the quick-to-anger tough guy, with some similarity to Abbott & Costello.

The one other unique idea in ‘Neath Brooklyn Bridge: What would happen if a girl joined the gang? Why, imagine the sure-to-ensue hilarity!...Rather, don’t, for not much comes of it. Still, when your girl looks like this –

That’s Sylvia (Anne Gillis, the best-looking gal in the series!), someone attractive enough they don’t even need to break out the traditional nurse outfit. Rather, Sylvia serves in a scantily-clad capacity at the Bridge Café, headquarters of dastardly racketeer McGaffey (Marc Lawrence, Communist). Also in McGinnis’ employ is Gabriel Dell, as Skid – Dell being a former “Dead End Kid” turned non-“East Side Kid” East Side Kids regular – Got that?

Sylvia has problems with McGinnis, because McGinnis is the villain. More specifically, he and an assortment of mooks descend upon Sylvia’s apartment, perhaps with intents Hays demands I not mention. Sylvia’s screams summon the East Side Kids, who get into their traditional flailing, artless fistfight quite a bit earlier than usual. Sylvia flees, the Kids successfully give minute-long concussions to several henchmen, then they all flee as well.

This is all pretty awkward. By doing this, Sylvia and the East Side Kids leave her freaking paralyzed, speechless grandfather helpless at the goons’ mercy, the instant they casually awaken a minute later. Grandpa doesn’t suffer for this, thankfully, but rather McGaffey (and the Skid kid) oft to simply murder (or moidah) one of their own for the damned good hell of it. Plot demands, and all…

Thus Sylvia is on the lam, and holes up with the East Side Kids in their basement hideout. Mind you, none of these people know about the goon’s moidah, which is necessary for this easily-resolved plotline to make it out to 60 minutes. Meaning…Sylvia is hiding out now because?! Oh well. (Beyond some initial shock over a “goil,” her presence makes little impact upon the film’s tone or content.)

Apparently McGaffey and his mob aren’t that big of a threat, for Sylvia soon asks Danny (Bobby Jordan) to head back to her apartment and collect up her expansive wardrobe of slutty, slutty outfits. Ain’t that just like a woman? Amiright, fellas? – Well, at least that seems to be the film’s attitude (‘40s and all)…So anyway, Danny goes back to Sylvia’s, sees the goon’s moidahed coipse, and is promptly arrested by the cops, finally making their presence known (having not cared a whit previously when hearing a girl’s terrified screams). Oh, and the East Side Kids don’t know about this development either, so they (and Sylvia) can continue on in a morass of plot ignorance, like characters in a horror movie!

Rather, they spend their time cladding Sylvia as a boy quite like Veronica Lake’s hobo uniform in Sullivan’s Travels – so, it’s still fan service (the cap doesn’t do it justice). And because Sylvia is sad, moping, in that extended melodramatic, Scruno (Ernie Morrison) is compelled to jitterbug for her. Because Scruno’s the token is compelled to jitterbug once-per-entry at the slightest chance – I’m not touchin’ the implications of that one!

Okay, so, the East Side Kids catch wind of Danny’s arrest, and go off to see him in prison. This leaves Sylvia alone at the hideout, where she earns a demotion from “plot motivator” to “disposable love interest.” How’s this accomplished? With the arrival of sailor Butch (Noah Beery Jr.), on leave from The War and looking for an easy, anonymous lay. He explains he is a former member of the East Side Kids club – which is what they’re calling themselves in-film now – only…Noah Beery Jr. was never in any of this troupe’s previous films, in any of their franchises! Continuity what? Actually, it’s astounding the new forms of anti-continuity they keep on discovering.

Meanwhile in the clink, the East Side Kids discuss the moidah case with the cops. There is an attempt to muddy up the mystery with talk of broken chair legs, et cetera, as if this were a Charlie Chan movie or something, but it’s really the simplest moidah case possible: McGaffey moidahed a goon, Sylvia’s grandfather saw it all, all they must do is get his confession. Which they totally could do! If only they knew this, or if only Sylvia was even aware that a guy was killed in her apartment minutes after she left it.

In light of this (non-comic) ignorance, instead Muggs devises a much more complicated scheme to resolve the case, complicated by the necessity that it has to conform to series formula. Instead, he will accept McGaffey’s entry-level goon position, and go into a career of gooning. Or tell McGaffey that, at least, for Muggs McGinnis really intends some sort of entrapment. It’s McGinnis vs. McGaffey, doubling confusing e since my notes refer to each character as “McG!”

But it looks as though Mugg’s ridiculously complicated plan shan’t be needed, as at last Sylvia hears of the moidah. She explains to the Kids what we’ve already worked out: that her grandfather must be collected from the apartment where he’s been abandoned immobile for lo these past several days.

This is done. Then grandfather (who is repeatedly called “Bright Eyes,” like Heston in Planet of the Apes) gives his confession, rather impressive considering he is too paralyzed to move his mouth. Instead, he blinks in Morse code, resolving an earlier suspicion I had that his actor (J. Arthur Young) was simply the hammiest paralysis performer I’d ever seen. And as a cheap means of extending that ever-precious running time, we are audience to “Bright Eyes” blinking out the entire following sentence: “M C G A F F E Y – M O I D A H E D – M O R L E Y.” This takes over a minute.

Well, now we just gotta wheel gramps over to po-po, allow another extended blinking session, and that is that [dusting hands]. But nooooooo, Muggs still insists that cinematic victory can only come through violence, so it’s right back to that late night warehouse entrapment of McGaffey, redundancy or no!

And lucky us!, we get two inarticulate scenes of mass chaotic fisticuffs for the price of one! And even better, this one done in long shot in nearly total darkness! It’s telling that these East Side Kids films remain the technical highpoint of Monogram Studio’s entire output.

It all ends at it would anyway. McGaffey confesses. He is the moidaher!

All that’s left now is to relate the closing gag. For no articulately stated reason whatsoever, both Muggs and Glimpsy are clad as newborns inside of a gigantic baby carriage the other East Side Kids roll down the street. They bawl incessantly – weeping quite unlike Sylvia’s previous melodramatics.

The end.

Related posts:
• No. 1 East Side Kids (1940)
• No. 2 Boys of the City (1940)
• No. 3 That Gang of Mine (1940)
• No. 4 Pride of the Bowery (1940)
• No. 5 Flying Wild (1941)
• No. 6 Bowery Blitzkrieg (1941)
• No. 7 Spooks Run Wild (1941)
• No. 8 Mr. Wise Guy (1942)
• No. 9 Let's Get Tough! (1942)
• No. 10 Smart Alecks (1942)
• No. 12 Kid Dynamite (1942)
• No. 13 Clancy Street Boys (1943)
• No. 14 Ghosts on the Loose (1943)
• No. 16 Million Dollar Kid (1944)

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