Spooks Run Wild

Dir: Phil Rosen
Star: Bela Lugosi, Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Bobby Jordan

Between 1937 and 1958, a group of actors - known variously as the Dead End Kids, the Little Tough Guys, the East Side Kids and the Bowery Boys - made a total of 89 films, the best-known perhaps being Angels With Dirty Faces, alongside Bogart and Cagney. The style and content were more or less similar: lovable juvenile delinquents in comedic crime capers, with not a little influence from Abbott and Costello and The Three Stooges. This one looks most inspired by the comedy-horror of A+C's Hold That Ghost, also made in 1941, though the presence of Lugosi may itself have helped to inspire Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, a few years later. The story is pretty flimsy; the film is hardly more than an hour, so there isn't a lot of room for... Well, much of anything to be honest.

The East Side Kids are being taken to summer camp, though the news there is an escaped killer on the loose nearby puts a damper on things. When they find Nardo (Lugosi), along with his mysterious boxes and a midget, has recently arrived to take ownership of an abandoned mansion high on a hill, and is apparently pursued by Dr. Van Grosch, they soon realise something is up. Exactly what that "something" is, probably won't be too hard to guess, but you may be somewhat distracted by exchanges like, "How can you read in the dark?" "I went to night school." Or maybe not; that's about the level of the humour on view. Lugosi seems to be having fun though, and it's mostly a relief to see the horror icon near to his prime, before his addiction to opiates completely took him over.

[October 2008]

No, it's not about the CIA
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