Posted July 29 2007 - 04:25 AM
I applaud Warner Home Video’s intention of releasing the Bowery Boys features to DVD.
I realize that the master materials are in variable condition, which has been a stumbling block in offering the films chronologically. (After all, 48 features multiplied by seven reels of picture and seven reels of soundtrack is an awful lot of material to go through.) I would suggest avoiding the “chronological” idea and just packaging different assortments.
There is a great deal of variety in the Bowery Boys library. Several of the early Bowery Boys films are not all-out comedies, and contain the crime-melodrama elements common to the earlier East Side Kids pictures. Many of the later Bowery Boys films are slapstick outings for the kiddie-matinee audience; they play like Three Stooges movies and were written and directed by Elwood Ullman and Edward Bernds of the Stooges’ crew. Also, the membership of the Bowery Boys team varies as the series progresses, and I think that fans would appreciate seeing the different gang members within a single DVD set. This is like saying, “Curly wasn’t the only third Stooge, let’s give Shemp a chance,” or “I like Spanky and Alfalfa, but I also like Stymie and Chubby.” I would personally love to see the underrated Stanley Clements on DVD; he replaces Leo Gorcey in the team’s final films.
I think Warner can go two ways on the Bowery Boys. One idea is to have each volume being representative of the series as a whole, like a TV sampler including first-season, middle-season, and final-season episodes in the same set. This would give the fans a chance to see most of the various Bowery Boys members in one set, and would be an excellent demonstrator for the series, inviting more volumes to come.
My own assortment would be SPOOK BUSTERS (spook show), JINX MONEY (crime story), either FIGHTING FOOLS (boxing) or HOLD THAT LINE (football), BLUES BUSTERS (musical), HOLD THAT HYPNOTIST (burlesque on pirate movies and “Bridey Murphy” reincarnation), and LOOKING FOR DANGER (military).
My second suggestion is to program the films by theme, like Columbia has done with The Three Stooges, and Video Treasures did with Laurel & Hardy. Release the “spooky” comedies on one disc, the sports-themed comedies on another, the military comedies on another, the “Sach gets strange powers” entries on another, the crime-busting stories on another, and so on. For example:
Spook shows: SPOOK BUSTERS, SMUGGLERS’ COVE, MASTER MINDS, GHOST CHASERS, THE BOWERY BOYS MEET THE MONSTERS, SPOOK CHASERS
Sports: MR. HEX (pending good print source), FIGHTING FOOLS, CRAZY OVER HORSES, HOLD THAT LINE, NO HOLDS BARRED, JALOPY, UP IN SMOKE
Military: BOWERY BATTALION, LET’S GO NAVY, HERE COME THE MARINES, CLIPPED WINGS, LOOKING FOR DANGER
Strange powers: MASTER MINDS, BLUES BUSTERS, NO HOLDS BARRED, PRIVATE EYES, JUNGLE GENTS, HOLD THAT HYPNOTIST
Crime-busting: BOWERY BOMBSHELL, NEWS HOUNDS, JINX MONEY, LUCKY LOSERS, JAIL BUSTERS, FIGHTING TROUBLE
Exotic locations: BOWERY BUCKAROOS, FEUDIN’ FOOLS, LOOSE IN LONDON, BOWERY TO BAGDAD, CRASHING LAS VEGAS, IN THE MONEY
Either of these ideas would offer an excellent cross-section of the entire Bowery Boys series, without the production problems of issuing the films chronologically.
I love B pictures of the 1940s, especially the great supporting casts of character actors. The Bowery Boys pictures are filled with familiar faces from Hollywood’s golden age: Sheldon Leonard, Eric Blore, Frankie Darro, Douglass Dumbrille, Adele Jergens, Emil Sitka, Lyle Talbot, etc. I used to watch these features literally three times a day -- that’s how often the station in Massachusetts actually played them: morning, matinee, and late show -- and I enjoyed them again and again. I’m sure that Bowery Boys fans would jump at the chance to buy DVD versions and enjoy them repeatedly, as I have.
Best wishes -- Scott MacGillivray