Wednesday, May 1, 2013

THE BOWERY BOYS - VOLUME TWO

The comedy team known as THE BOWERY BOYS began their long film career as the "Dead End Kids" in 1937's eponymous DEAD END, famed producer Samuel Goldwyn's hard look at how poverty, social neglect, and the mythologizing of gangsters could turn urban kids into delinquents hellbent down a sordid path of desperation, crime and inevitably violent ends. The "Kids" would eventually star in a handful of very serious, socially conscious Warner Brothers crime films.

Over the next decade, the Kids evolved into the comic "Little Tough Guys" and the "East Side Kids," before finally settling into the "Bowery Boys" identity at Poverty Row studio Monogram in 1946. By this time, the serious social commentary had been replaced by purely lowbrow, slapstick comedy.
Anchored by two of the original stars from DEAD END - Leo Gorcey as bossy "Slip" Mahoney, and Huntz Hall as his  idiotic sidekick "Satch" - the Bowery Boys parlayed their juvenile antics into a successful comic formula that packed the kids in for Saturday matinees for twelve years and a record 48 feature films!

Warner Archive has recently released a dozen of the team's films in the BOWERY BOYS VOLUME 2 collection. This 4-disc set includes the titles SPOOK BUSTERS, HARD BOILED MAHONEY, BOWERY BUCKAROOS, SMUGGLER'S COVE, GHOST CHASERS, LET'S GO NAVY!, HOLD THAT LINE, LOOSE IN LONDON, CLIPPED WINGS, PRIVATE EYES, THE BOWERY BOYS MEET THE MONSTERS and HIGH SOCIETY. The titles alone give you pretty much all you need to know about the respective plots.

Directed by efficient, low-budget veterans like William "One-Shot" Beaudine (BELA LUGOSI MEETS A BROOKLYN GORILLA, BILLY THE KID VS DRACULA) and Three Stooges ringmaster Edward Bernds (HIGH SCHOOL HELLCATS, THE QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE), these brief comedies (averaging about 70 minutes apiece), are briskly-paced romps, packed with slapstick humor, unrelenting sight gags, and goofy verbal byplay between the two stars (spiced up by Gorcey's trademark malapropisms, uttered in exaggerated Brooklynese). It's formula stuff, but it's also reliably entertaining.

The 4-disc, Manufactured-On-Demand set from Warner Archive is surprisingly nice, with solid, good-looking B&W transfers from very well-preserved source prints, presented in their original, 1.37:1/4x3 aspect ratio (except for MEET THE MONSTERS and HIGH SOCIETY, which are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen). Audio is a clear and robust Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono. There are no bonus features.

If you grew up watching these movies on television in the Sixties and Seventies (as many of my friends did), and you're a fan of the team, then these DVDs are well worth adding to your home video library. The technical presentation is excellent, and the nostalgia value is high. Recommended.

BUYThe Bowery Boys: Volume Two