The best Bowery Boys film to come along in more than a year, Hold That Line has the boys following in the footsteps of Laurel and Hardy, The Marx Brothers and Harold Lloyd by going to college. Two aging and wealthy alumni of Ivy University make a Pygmalionesque bet over just what it takes to be an Ivy Leaguer, with the boys being this particular wager's Eliza Doolittles. Once ensconced in the hallowed halls of good old Ivy, Sach immediately invents a potion in chemistry class which makes him a star football player, much to the displeasure of fellow star player Biff. Naturally, there are gangsters involved (a Bowery Boys picture without gangsters is like a Bowery Boys picture without Huntz Hall!) who want to incapacitate Sach and thus win a large bet against Ivy in the final game of the year.
But never mind all that. This is a fun movie with some well-timed comedy bits and fun gags as the boys attend, and disrupt, classes. In English class, Slip begins a gloriously incomprehensible soliloquy which is sadly cut off way too soon by the bell, while in math class, Sach cheats to get the answer to a complicated problem, and then erases the answer from the board when he discovers there is no prize in being right. Just as Laurel and Hardy would in their own A Chump at Oxford, Sach becomes the bane of the Dean's existence. The only problem with these scenes are Taylor Holmes's inability to play the part of the Dean for all its worth, never reaching the full state of frenzy the part calls for. ("Happy Apoplexy," Slip wishes him anyway). There is also one of the funniest and best-executed sight gags of the entire series when the Dean drinks a bad batch of Sach's formula and shrinks to midget-size, an affect achieved by placing the actor on an oversized set similar to what Laurel and Hardy did in their classic short film "Brats".
Of course, as in so many Bowery Boys films, Louie Dumbrowski winds up joining the boys, a problematic plot element when (a) it has already been established that Ivy University, despite its generic name, is pretty picky about who they let in and (b) there is really no reason for him to be there, storywise. According to Leonard Getz's From Broadway to the Bowery, at some point Bernard Gorcey demanded more face time in the films, which could be the reason Louie Dumbrowski is automatically shoehorned into so many Bowery Boys adventures whether it makes sense or not. Still, more Louie is good Louie, and he does no harm to the plot.
With Billy Benedict now gone, there is an attempt to keep the core group at five members by adding Gil Stratton as "Junior". Wouldn't you know it, in his first film, he gets his own gag, while David Gorcey and Bennie Bartlett are once against left fending for themselves. Stratton would be gone rather quickly, leaving after the next film Here Come the Marines. To his credit, that's one more film than William "Homer" Frambes.
SLIP OF THE LIP
"Thanks! You'll never live to regret your incision!"
SCHTICK 'EM UP
"It's a concentrated form of mathematics."
"It's arithmetic, the hard way."
Here Come the Marines starts out well with some fine comedy from Slip upon being drafted into the Marines, and some gloriously goofy antics by Sach when the rest of the boys automatically join the Marines to be with their pal Slip. The best scene of the movie is in the early going, as Sach, impersonating a doctor, gives an eye exam to a superior. The opening twenty minutes is one of those Bowery Boys segments, like the garage scene at the start of the later High Society, that would play nicely if excerpted as a two-reel short.
Unfortunately, Plot Point A arrives in the form of yet another military mystery, as Slip finds a wounded and dying marine on the side of the road, and eventually discovers the marine has uncovered a crooked gambling joint nearby. There are several things wrong with this turn of events. First, the wounded marine, who eventually dies, has never been introduced to us, so tragic as his death is supposed to be, it's hard to work up any kind of emotion, unlike films like Lucky Losers or Jail Busters where it is Gabe and Chuck who are respectively sent to the hospital for knowing too much about gangster activity. Second, the casino aspect, a retread of Lucky Losers, has zero to do with the marine story, and feels like it is part of the story only because the screenwriters couldn't come up with anything else. Finally, the mechanical way the casino operators cheat their customers - dice that turn over after everyone has already seen the results, chips that move from one number to an adjacent one - is so obvious, Lou Costello and Curly Howard could have solved the mystery in five minutes.
So the plot is a bust. It doesn't take anything away from the comedy, which is typical stuff with the added bonus of Sach actually rising to the level of Sergeant and having command over his own friends, but it does stop the proceedings a little too much for Here Come the Marines to rise above the status of a merely average Bowery Boys comedy.
SLIP OF THE LIP
"Even when I'm at war, I get no peace!"
The boys get mixed up with hillbillies. The hillbillies are Smiths who hate anybody named Jones, as in Horace Debussy "Sach" Jones. If you like hillbilly humor, this is the film for you.
I loathe hillbilly humor.
Sorry. Next film.
A generally disappointing year ends with this half-hearted satire on professional wrestling. The film starts out well with an attempted robbery foiled by Sach's inexplicably hard head, and then a trip to the doctor, in which Slip assures the physician that the bizarre ducklike noises he hears in Sach's skull is completely normal. According to the doctor, Sach's hard-headed condition is merely an excess calcium deposit that will eventually pass. In the meantime, Slip decides to take advantage of the situation and turns Sach into a wrestler.
Yes, the setup is that flimsy. Normally, Sach's super powers are acquired under some pretext, no matter how ridiculous. Here, he just a calcium deposit which makes his head a semi-lethal weapon. What's more, the deposit mysteriously moves around his body, from his head to his elbow to his toes and, finally, to his butt. For much of its running time, No Holds Barred is a one-joke film - Sach thinks he lost his power, and then it shows up in another part of his body. Naturally, there is a gangster who wants to find out where Sach's power is hidden so his own wrester, the real life Hombre Montana, can have an advantage in their upcoming bout. None of it makes a lick of sense, since by the time the gangster learns where the power is, chances are the power will have moved anyway.
The film picks up considerably in the second half, when Slip and Sach arrive at a fancy party ("Your hats, sirs?"/"Certainly they're our hats - we only rented the suits!"). The film's best scene occurs at the party when, to get Slip out of a compromising situation, Sach disguises himself as an English waiter, albeit an English waiter whose accent switches from English to German to several other languages with every sentence.
No Holds Barred's heart is in the right place, but it is another Bowery Boys film in which the writers rely on the premise to carry the film without filling it up with enough plot and gags for it to remain entertaining throughout.
SLIP OF THE LIP
"Well, Doc, thanks for the interesting autopsy.
elucidate you further of any premature developments. Come on, Calcium