Jalopy, one of the most easy-going, fun and silliest Bowery Boys is one of those rare entries that belongs almost entirely to Leo Gorcey and his character of Slip Mahoney. Usually, when Sach invents something or discovers a previously unknown power, it is he who carries the film. In this case, Sach invents a super-additive to gasoline, but it is Slip who uses it to attempt to win $1500 in a local race. It's almost a throwback to the early days of Live Wires and In Fast Company, when Slip was most definitely the lead character, but with the all-out focus on comedy the series had moved to by the fifties.
Gorcey is a virtual walking encyclopedia of mangled English throughout and is armed with several funny lines; when a woman tells him she read his name in the newspaper, he replies, "Of course, of course - I hit the obituary columns regularly!". One of his most memorable misuses of speech quoted below, comes as he is showing his race car - the Boys' usual Model T, now rechristened "Mahoney's Meteor", to that same woman. Huntz Hall and Bernard Gorcey offer their usual funny support, and, if David Gorcey and Bennie Bartlett are still going to be underused in 1953, they at least get one good moment in which they engage in a fistfight with (wait for it) gangsters. Their fight footage is credible, especially David Gorcey's, even more so when compared to the main gangster fighting with Leo Gorcey's obvious stunt double! That main gangster is played by Robert Lowery, and he plays the part with just the right light touch of somebody who probably realizes how nice it is to get a decent paycheck for what is probably a week's work in a cheap Bowery Boys flick. Leon Belasco is on hand too as a nutty professor who helps Sach with his invention. They, of course, work in the back room of Louie's Sweet Shop, where the best laid plans of mice and Bowery Boys usually begin their fruition.
Being a race car picture, much of the film takes place at the track, and a nice combination of actual race car footage, clever effects and obvious back projection make most of it semi-believable. Speaking of effects, either Monogram Studios had excellent back projection or Huntz Hall was just completely nuts, as there are scenes of him walking around the race track as cars whiz by left and right. Also of note is the starter, the man in the checkered jacket who walks the track to get the cars ready for the race. I may be mistaken, but but even in long shot, this started looks like he was played by Huntz Hall. Why this would be, I don't know, and I may be wrong. But it is something for fans to look for.
On a personal note, Jalopy features my all time favorite Sach moment so far. In a scene where the Boys are at a high class party, they are accosted by the film's gangsters and marched at gunpoint into another room. Just before entering the room to meet what could be his doom, Sach looks around and says to no one in particular "This is dramatic!". It's the kind of perfectly thrown away line, quite possibly ad-libbed, that endears Huntz Hall to many fans.
By the way, as pointed out by an alert IMDB member, although the series is set in New York City, the race track is obviously in Los Angeles, judging by landmarks in the background.
SLIP OF THE LIP
"Now, honey, just attune your aural cavities to an ecclesiastic symphony of agitated metal."
A SACH IN TIME
"Don't worry, I made it simple. I'm a simpleton, you know."
TRY THE BANANA SPLITS - BEST IN THE CITY
These are the various prices you would pay for food and drink and Louie's Sweet Shop, circa 1953:
Hot Chocolate: 10¢
Cherry Flip: 20¢
Hot Sandwiches: 35¢
Chocolate Malt: 20¢
Strawberry Wonder: 20¢
Banana Split: 30¢
Loose in London marks the first time since 1950's Triple Trouble that a Bowery Boys comedy was not directed by William Beaudine. Edward Bernds had directed The Three Stooges at Columbia as well as a handful on that studio's entertaining Blondie movies. His approach to the Bowery Boys was different than Beaudine's. Having worked extensively with the Stooges, Bernds had a more loose, gaggy slapstick feel to the series. I can't really say the Bernds-helmed films are head and shoulders above the rest, but he did direct some of the boys' best comedies.
Loose in London has Sach learning he is related to the old and wealthy Sir Percy, Earl of Walshingham. Upon arriving in jolly old England, he and the gang realize Sir Percy's other relatives are not terribly keen on the idea of Sach becoming the sole heir to the Walshingham fortune. The film becomes essentially a haunted house comedy as various shady figures makes attempts at killing Sach in various places. Rather than simply relying on situations, Leo Gorcey mangling the King's English and Huntz Hall being nuts, Bernds and the writers actually create several comedy routines, including a somewhat long tour of England (or obvious backdrops passing for England) where Slip attempts to tell the boys about "King Henry the v-8" and other famous figures, while Sach interrupts and supplies the correct information. It's not a terribly funny routine and has a pretty weak punchline gag, but it is a routine. Likewise, Sach is turned into a Curly Howard/Lou Costello figure in a funny scene in which a supposed dead fox head mounted to the wall bites his fingers, his ears, and his nose. Slip stands in for Bud Abbott in the routine, as when he comes around to see what the trouble is, the fox does nothing. A line lost in all the noise as Sach struggles to free his nose from the fox's mouth - "You're foolin' with my livelihood!" - seems like a Huntz Hall ad-lib, an in-joke referring to the fact that Hall was famous for the size of his nose.
Bernds, who worked extensively during the Shemp years of the Stooges, also seemed to enjoy actor Huntz Hall, who was one of Hall's personal comic heroes. There are two separate "Let's put Huntz Hall by himself in a room and see what happens" scene in Loose in London.
While the film is cluttered with way too many supporting characters, Loose in London moves fast and has several good scenes including yet another one where the boys are let loose at a swanky party. Along with the previous Jalopy, it is a marked improvement over most of the films of the previous year.
A SACH IN TIME
"If you're gonna shoot me, would you stand over here? I'd like to die facing the Bowery."
SLIP OF THE LIP
"You know, a fellow once wrote a book and I think it was written for you two guys. It was called Gullible's Travels."
Clipped Wings is another fast-moving entry directed by Edward Bernds, but it is a slight letdown after Jalopy and Loose in London. When it is funny, you'll get some good laughs, but the gags are not as evenly spread out as in the earlier films, and the main thrust of the plot - the boys accidentally join the Air Force while trying to help out their friend Dave - is not enough to keep the film hanging together when the gags dry up.
The film's best moments come whenever Sach, accidentally assigned to the WACS, tangles with his superior Sgt. Anderson, played beautifully (no irony intended) by Renie Riano. Hall and Riano have a real comic chemistry together, and it is a shame that the actress wasn't used more in the series. Another highlight is a wild flight, reminiscent of the one in Laurel and Hardy's The Flying Deuces, with Sach at the controls, still having to read the manual to see how planes actually work.
With the increased emphasis on slapstick comedy, some of it very good, plausibility is sometimes a casualty in Bowery Boys movies. For one example, Louie, Chuck and Butch show up at the marine base halfway through the film, and although they are still civilians, they seem to have the run of the place!
Dave Moreno, played by Todd Karns, is obviously the kind of character who used to be played by Gabe Dell. Even the last name of "Moreno" hearkens back to Gabe's character name. It is unfortunate that Dell was not called back to play this character, as it would have given audiences a familiar face to care about. Karns is okay in the role, but he's just another b-movie actor of the month. There is no real reason to feel empathy toward him except that he is a friend of the boys.
SCHTICK 'EM UP
(In the runaway plane, Slip reads the manual)
SLIP: "Chapter Nine: How to Face Death in the Air --- who wrote this book, an undertaker?"
(Slip throws the book out of the plane. An unseen stagehand obviously throws it back in. Sach catches it)
SACH: "Oh, oh, look at that, oh, I'll read the instructions, I got it, Chief. Chapter Ten: Now That You're Dead --- Ohp, oh, oh!!!"
As Slip and the gang teach some neighborhood kids "the manly art of self-offense", Sach is hit on the nose and develops the power to read minds. From such a ridiculous premise comes one of the Bowery Boys funniest films. The first half, set mainly in Slip and Sach's new detective agency office, contains several funny setpieces, while the second half, in a sanitarium used as a hide out for (wait for it) gangsters, features some of the boys' best slapstick sequences. Director Edward Bernds, who also co-wrote the script, is clearing treating The Bowery Boys as if they were The Three Stooges, to the extent that even Stooge sidekick Emil Sitka is cast in a small but hilarious part as a patient in the sanitarium.
The early part of Privates Eyes rolls along nicely with several highlights including Sach trying to blow up a safe but getting distracted by a telephone call after the fuse is lit. There is also a full minute of pure Sach silliness as a gangster forces Slip and Sac to alternatively interrogate each other one the matter of a missing envelope. Sach gets so into it (Sach gets so into anything he does), after he slaps Slip around, he whips Slip out of the interrogation chair, forces the gangster into the chair and slaps him around!
But the film really takes off
when Slip and Sach
arrive at the crooked sanitarium, disguised as a German doctor and his
dowager patient. There are more pratfalls, hits on the head,
bumps into walls, falls into water and other such slapstick gags than
you'll find in most Bowery Boys films, and it's all splendidly timed
executed. Huntz Hall, of course, is in his element in this
of the film, but even Leo Gorcey manages to get a few
non-English-mangling laughs on his own. The film even ends
pies in the face to Sach, Slip and Louie. Without a doubt,
of my favorite Bowery Boys film, and the end to a very good year for
KIDS SAY THE DARNDEST THINGS
Little Herbie: "Sach hung up on me! He's a bigger idiot than I thought!"
A SACH IN TIME
"Something stupid happened!"