The second of three Reginald Le Borg-directed Bowery Boys pictures in a row, Fighting Fools has a little too much drama and not enough comedy, but it still works. The story has Slip and the boys trying to raise money for a woman whose son was killed in the boxing ring by getting her other son back into the boxing game. Okay, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, especially when it takes all of two minutes for the old lady to switch from "No, no son of mine will ever box again!" to "Well, sure, if it's what you really want!", but the film is well paced and contains just enough comedy to make it an average Bowery Boys film. Huntz Hall gets a lot of Harpo Marx-like material out of a hot dog with a string on it, and Slip does his share of destroying the King and Queen's English. If there is one thing the film needed aside from more comedy, it's a Sheldon Leonard or Mike Mazurki as the gangster trying to fix the fights. Lyle Talbot is just a little too laid back to give the role the proper combination of humor and menace.
By this time, Frankie Darro, who plays the boxer on the comeback trail, could be classified as an honorary Bowery Boy. He certainly fit in well with the Boys, and could have become one of them. Perhaps he could have been the guy standing behind Chuck and Butch standing behind Slip and Sach.
It seems to me that a Bowery Boys picture featuring two scheming and crazy old ladies, a trip to the sanitarium, and the boys taking care of both their own laundromat and a missing baby should be more fun that it really is. It's not that it's a bad film, but given all it has going for it, it just doesn't live up to its potential.
The movie does contain something that would become a Huntz Hall trademark in the series, as Sach enters a room (in this case, a medical supply room) and then does a solid minute of stream on consciousness schtick as he picks up one object after another and comments on it (he finds some surgical scizzors and decides he will use them to give Whitey his first manicure in ten years!). I really don't know if Hall ad-libbed these scenes or not, but they always feel as if he did. It's also fascinating and fun to see how trusting Sach is of complete strangers, to the point of allowing two doctors to get him on an operating table and nearly open his skull and poke around in his brain!
Frankie Darro plays yet another character, a
small-time hood nicknamed "Bananas". He's the George Petrie of
this era of Bowery Boys films.
SLIP OF THE LIP
"Sometimes I doubt by own verbacity... whatever that means!"
A strange one. When a Bowery Boys movie opens with Slip and Sach lying in the streets half-dead from a beating, and Slip begins narrating in film noir style (with the usual Slipisms), you know the movie you are about to watch is going to be a bit different from the usual BB fare. It's hard to figure if Angels in Disguiseis supposed to be a satire of gangster flicks or a real gangster flick that just happens to star the Bowery Boys in their usual characterizations. Either way, it resembles a lot of average BB flicks in that it is watchable even as it never quite completely wins you over. The idea of having the head of the criminal gang be an intellectual who enjoys reading philosophy but is still strong enough to slap around his underlings is a good one and the character is well played by Edward Ryan. Meanwhile, Jean Dean, as his moll, ranks with the sexiest Bowery Boys B-Movie Babes.
It may not be the greatest Bowery Boys film of all time, but Master Minds is one of my top favorites. It's one of several Bowery Boys films featuring the formula "Sach plus (X) results in Sach's ability to (Y)". In this case, Sach plus a toothache results in Sach's ability to predict the future. Yep, it doesn't have to make logical sense. Slip and Gabe, sensing opportunity knocking, immediately start him on a steady diet of candy so that they can take advantage of his predictions. Do they use him to predict the fluctuations of the stock market? No. Do they use him to predict tomorrow's winners at the racetrack? No. They use him as the centerpiece of a carnival show and charge people 25 cents to see him. And you thought Sach was the most brainless one of them all, didn't you?
This sets things up for a typical Bowery Boys comedy, especially when a mad scientist (Alan Napier) decides that (wait for it) he needs Sach's brain for his monster Atlas. After the brain switch - really a non-permanent brainwave switch - Sach now growls like a monster, and Hall is very good in these scenes. Glenn Strange, who had played the Frankenstein monster several times, including Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, steals the film with his performance as Atlas with Sach's brain. With Huntz Hall's voice dubbed onto the soundtrack, this 6-foot-5 hulking brute, made up like some sort of caveman -werewolf hybrid, hysterically captures many of Hall's mincing mannerisms as he tries to convince his pals he is really Sach. His scenes are the highlight of the movie.
Alan Napier, who comes off as a less eerie Boris Karloff in the film, would become most famous later in life as Alfred the Butler in the 1960s Batman television show.
Bennie Bartlett bowed out of the Bowery Boys for a while after this film, with Buddy Gorman taking over the role in 1950 of Butch. Despite Bartlett's talent, he was never allowed to do much in the films, so Butch fans all over the world probably didn't even notice he was gone.
A SACH IN TIME
"I wonder what vegetables taste like."