Saturday, October 18, 2014

Spook Busters - Haunted House of Laughs

Spook Busters
D: William Beaudine
W: Edmond Seward &Tim Ryan 

S: Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall & Douglass Dumbrille
Unrated  - Approx 68 Min
Monogram Pictures


Alternate Titles:
Ghost Busters (Working Title)
Cientista da Fuzarca - Brazil
(I could not get an accurate translation of this)

"Run for you life!  Charlie's got an ax!"
                                                             - Sach

If you listened to Episode II of the Midnight Cinephile podcast (you DID listen, didn't you?) you may have heard Doc Terror and myself discussing the programming on Turner Classic Movies this month.  For my money, TCM has THE best Halloween programming bar none across all channels.  Every year they sport a specific theme (one year, as mentioned by Doc, they showed all Hammer horror films!) and this year is no different.  This year's main theme is ghost stories....and they're digging up some great stuff that I've either never seen or haven't seen in a long time.

Secret passages that lead into a graveyard!  YES!

Tonight's offering, Spooky Busters is an old favorite of mine.  I remember watching this one as a kid on local cable late at night and even on the occasional Sunday afternoon.  It is the fourth film in The Bowery Boys series, which had a total of FORTY-EIGHT films!  More on the staggering number of films later.  The Bowery Boys were an incarnation of the original Dead End Kids, who then became The Little Tough Guys and then The East Side Kids before settling into their final incarnation. Terrence Aloysius "Slip" Mahoney was the leader of the gang which also consisted of Horace Debussey "Sach" Jones, Bobby, Gabe, Whitey and Chuck.  Each flick had them hanging around Louie's Sweet Shop until adventure came calling.  In this case, Slip & The Boys had graduated from Insect Extermination School and set up their own extermination business in the back of Louie's place.
Just as they are about to tear the place apart looking for a mouse they are summoned to Brown's Real Estate office with the promise of an extermination job.  Upon arrival they are informed that an old abandoned mansion is in dire of extermination.....from ghosts!  Slip, never one to turn down a job assures Mr. Brown that they can take care of the problem with no fuss.  Off the boys go on their first real job, completely oblivious to the danger they're in.

"Hey Buddy...lemme AX you a question!"

See, the mansion isn't abandoned at all.  There's a mad scientist who's conducting mad experiments in the basement and will do anything to get rid of the boys....including making them think that the house is haunted....just as he's been doing to keep everyone else out.

If you're a fan of the old school haunted house flicks, this hits all the tropes.  Secret passageways, hands reaching out of doorways and grasping, lights turning on by themselves, things moving on their own, etc.  It's all played explicitly for laughs as the boys bumble their way through the house.  Oddly enough there is a room full of magic and illusion props, such as a magic cabinet that makes Sachs vanish.  Slip goes in to look for him and a 5 minute coming and going schtick takes place.

Never trust a magic cabinet in a haunted house!

When the boys reach the basement and discover what's going on, Sach becomes and unwitting participant in the mad doctor's schemes.  See he wants to take Sach's brain and transplant it into a gorilla that he has caged up down there.  Yep...there's even a gorilla!

At a mere 68 minutes, you really can't go wrong with this flick.  If you're a fan of old dark house flicks and you like 40's style slapstick, then you're in for a treat.  To me this kind of flick screams Halloween and  I had a really great time with this one.  I haven't seen it in probably 20 years and had forgotten most of it, but I'm inspired to dig in and check out more of The Bowery Boy's films.

I don't imagine this is going to end well for her!

Before sitting down to write this review, I had been aware of some of the other Bowery Boy's films.  I had no idea that they totaled forty-eight though!  As I had mentioned before The Bowery Boys were originally known as The Dead End Kids andtseven films were made under that moniker for Warner Brothers.  After their contracts were expired, Universal hired most of the original cast and made The Little Tough Guys series, which featured twelve films and three 12-Chapter serials.  At the same time the Universal were making their Tough Guy films, Monogram hired several other of the Dead End Kids and created the East Side Kids series.  A total of twenty-one films were made under this moniker.  Finally, in 1945 The Bowrey Boys were formed when Leo Gorcey quite The East End Kids, effectively ending the series.  Gorcey, Bobby Hall and Jan Grippo formed Jan Grippo Productions and started up the series again under the final moniker of The Bowery Boys (or as it was sometimes known, Leo Gorcey & The Bowrey Boys).  If you've been keeping tally of all the films made from The Dead End Kids through the final Bowery Boys flick....that's a total of 88 films!  That's pretty damn impressive!

All of the Bowrey Boys pictures were released by Monogram Pictures, which as you may know released a good many potboilers in the 30's through the 50's.  Bela Lugosi starred in quite a few Monogram Pictures as well.  The studio was known for it's low budget features and was part of the studio collective known as Poverty Row, which were a group of B-Movie Studios that were active from the 1920's through the 1950's.  Monogram is perhaps the best known of these studios, along with Republic Pictures.  Other studios included Tiffany Pictures, Mascot Pictures, Grand National Films among others.  Interestingly, CBC Productions (which would become Columbia Pictures) was considered part of Poverty Row from about 1919 until around 1924 when it was reorganzied!

The gang regroups and gets their wits together

No sir!  Not here!

Sorry to disappoint again, but no.

Creatures Featured
While it turns out there are no ghosts in the house, for your money you get a mad scientist and a gorilla in a cage!  Plus you get all the spooky atmosphere!

Final Thoughts
I'm not going to lie, I'm quite biased when it comes to stuff like this.  It reminds me of my childhood and it reminds me that Halloween is a fun & spooky time that should be enjoyed by all ages.  If you're inner child goes wild for the simpler pleasures of spooks, scares and laughs and you (like me) have a soft spot for classic films, then do yourself a favor and give The Bowery Boys a call!

Final Rating
Four out of Five Pizza Rolls

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