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Monday, October 13, 2014

'The Bowery Boys' V4 DVD: The Boys Are Back in Town

Bowery Boys: Volume Four
Warner Archive shows particular love regarding classic Hollywood fare in rounding out the DVD sets of classic Bowery Boy B-reel comedies with Volume 4, which includes the remaining 12 unreleased films featuring this troupe, in this series.

The primary premise, which receives several revisions during the 12 years that "Bowery" movies hit silver screens across America, is that tough but dim-witted "Slip" Mahoney and his absolutely moronic sidekick "Sach" lead a motley crew of street kids through adventures that range from amusing to hilarious.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, for the trailer for "Bowery Battalion" from Volume 4 includes a look at every terrific element of this film series. 



Typical catalysts for the ensuing hilarity involve the boys stumbling across criminal activity and/or trying to help an innocent (who often is blonde and busty). The needs of parental figures who are often in the background of the films also motivate some action.

As the Unreal TV review of Volume 2 of the "Bowery" sets states, Slip and Sach are more like Lenny and Squiggy from the classic sitcom "Laverne and Shirley" than comedy teams of the '40s and '50s. In fact, both Squiggy and Slip are highly prone to the malapropisms that comprise much of the humor associated with them.

Folks who are interested in learning more about the "Bowery" lore as asked to read the Unreal TV review of Volume 3 of this series.

Volume 4 starts with the 1946 release "Mr. Hex," which is the fourth "Bowery" film. This particularly hilarious one has the cowardly and lanky Shaggy-like Sach undergoing hypnotism to release the inner strength that he needs to win a boxing tournament. The motive for putting life and limb at risk is getting the prize money to help the platinum damsel in distress of the story.

"Hex" is also notable for being the second "Bowery" film to feature the regular character Gabe Moreno, who is a friend of the boys who is achieving success in life.

Gabe also plays a significant role in the 1948 pre "Rear Window" "Rear Window" style "Bowery" film "Trouble Makers." The boys witnessing a murder through their telescope prompts them to call well-respected rookie beat cop Gabe into action only to predictably discover on arriving at the scene of the crime that there is no evidence of the offense. This also predictably leads to jeopardizing the police career of Gabe.

It is equally predictable that meeting the daughter of the ultimately discovered murder victim provides some motivation for the homicide investigation of the boys.

Gabe miraculously goes from rookie cop to rookie sole practitioner attorney in two years because the 1950 entry "Triple Trouble" has him serving as the legal counsel for the boys regarding a false charge of a warehouse heist. (This is also the penultimate (or pendulum according to Slip) "Bowery" film in which Gabe appears.)

"Trouble" is notable for having more verbal (as opposed to slapstick) humor than many "Bowery" films. It additionally has a slightly more sophisticated (and arguably darker) plot than others in the series; a significant portion of this one has Slip and Sach spending time behind bars with hardened (no pun intended) criminals.

A handful of post Sach films in Volume Four have Sach taking the lead and teaming up with the largely straight man character "Duke." These boys are surrogate sons in the boarding house of maternal figure/police widow Mrs. Kelly. Queenie Smith, who brightly shines in the Unreal TV reviewed DVD release of the classic musical "Show Boat," does a great job as the equally sweet and feisty Kelly.

The 1956 "Bowery" entry "Fighting Trouble," which is the first film with Duke, is a strong one. The mission in this one is getting a photo of a gangster for a newspaper. Needless to say most (if not all) of the efforts of Sach to achieve this objective go hilariously awry.

Volume 4 and the "Bowery" series wind up with the 1958 movie "In the Money." Sach takes center stage even more than usual in this tale (pun intended) of his taking a well-paid job as a dog sitter that involves him being an unwitting dupe for a gang of jewel thieves.

"Money" does not provide much of a "shot" but decently represents the "Bowery" style. The fact that the boys are down to a quartet is another indication that ending the series made sense.

The final concussion (thanks, Slip) regarding this "Bowery" set is that, aside from allowing collectors to complete their collection of these films, it is a nice piece of nostalgia for baby boomers who watched these films during theatrical Saturday matinees, Gen Xers who watched them on UHF stations over the weekends, and millenials who discovered them on TCM. It seems that the next generation will catch them on the streaming services that ultimately will snuff cable television.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding any "Bowery" set is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.