In case it hasn't been completely obvious by now, the Bowery Boys series had long given up any attempt at realism or seriousness. Gone were the days when anything important was on the line for the boys, or where a character could wind up in a hospital or even dead. Even the Bowery itself, once at the center of most of their stories, had lost its prominence as Gorcey, Hall and company were now perfectly content to portray themselves as witless dunderheads going through farcical adventures filled with endless schtick, routines and malaprops. Nobody was looking to make comedy classics, and even today, not a single Bowery Boys flick could be singled out as a masterpiece.
But, hell, were they fun, especially in the mid-fifties. Paris Playboys, in which Sach is employed to double a missing rocket scientist whom he just happens to be the spitting image of, is really no better or worse than a half a dozen previous entries in the series, and is just another BB film that rehashes old plots and routines. Sach runs wild, Slip misuses "regurgitate" and "seduction", Louie sputters and does takes, and Chuck and Bennie are left at home in the Bowery. It was then, and is now, perfectly satisfactory entertainment as a second feature on a lazy Saturday afternoon.
SLIP OF THE LIP
"He hit me with my own hat!"
As I stated elsewhere, it might be an iffy proposition to say that directors mattered in a Bowery Boys film, but although William Beaudine directed the majority of the films, Edward Bernds, it seems to me, worked better with the team. While the boys themselves knew what to do with any director at the helm, in The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters, it is the supporting cast who shine under the direction of Bernds. The story (okay, there is no story) has Slip and Sach checking in with the weird Gravesend family to see if a lot they own can be used for local kids to play baseball. The Gravesends are the forerunners to televisions Addams Family, right down to the tall butler with the deep voice. Naturally, two of the Gravesends are scientists, aka mad doctors, who want Slip and Sach's brains for their two experiments, aka a cheap looking robot and (wait for it) a gorilla.
The supporting cast members, especially Ellen Corby as Mrs Gravesend, Lloyd Corrigan as one of the mad doctors and Paul Wexler as the butler, all have fun in their parts. It helps that the whole film is the most ridicuous, plotless Bowery Boys film on record so far, being an hour-plus excuse for Slip and Sach to run into the various family members, monsters and man-eating plants that inhabit Gravesend Manor and then, just as quickly, run away from them. Corrigan and Wexler had previous Bowery Boys experience - Corrigan as the lovable ghost from 1951's Ghost Chasers and Wexler as the tallest of the hillbillies in 1952's Feudin' Fools. Corby has the time of her life in the part of the Gravesend matriarch who wants to feed Slip to her man-eating plant, a bizarre creation for which I must give the special effects department a well-deserved "cool!".
Whether The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters is a take-off on or a rip-off of the "Abbott and Costello Meet..." cycle is debatable. What isn't debatable is that by 1953, Abbott and Costello had just about worn out their welcome in movies (their offerings in 1953 were the passable Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and the dreary Abbott and Costello Go To Mars) while the Bowery Boys were in the middle of what was a peak for them, with each new film being consistently fun, silly and amusing, a trend that was to continue for several more films.
A nice moment occurs in the film's opening scene at Louie's Sweet Shop. After berating a young boy who's batted ball has broken his window, Louie decides to let the kid go and pay for the busted window himself. His concern for the boy's welfare (his mom would wallop him), and Slip's admiring look toward Louie, remind us of the more realistic days of the series, when these characters were supposed to be real people and not living cartoon characters.
SCHTICK 'EM UP
"I'm sorry, gentleman, but you've all signed your
"I won't sign nothing without my lawyer!"
Sach's new sinus medicine gives him the ability to smell diamonds. Bowery Boys films have been built on flimsier premises, I suppose. It is because of Sach's new magic ability that before you can say "Wotty Wotty Foo Foo!", Slip, Sach, Chuck, Butch and Louie are all on a diamond hunting safari in Africa, "sometimes known as The Dark Condiment", Slip helpfully informs us. Again, as in the last several films, there is not a serious moment to be found, and the main conflict - rival diamond hunters want Sach and his nose for themselves - leads to no real moments of danger. Jungle Gents is nothing more or less than a remake of Abbott and Costello's middling 1949 jungle effort Africa Screams, only the Bowery Boys version is funnier. Not to say it is a laugh riot, but they try harder than Abbott and Costello to make things amusing, even without the help of Shemp Howard and Joe Besser, who did their best to spice up the Abbott and Costello flick.
There's good and bad in this film. The good includes a scene of Sach being cured of a cold by a dancing witch doctor, in which Huntz Hall lets loose with a barrage of good lines including "Where'd you do your internship, the Savoy Ballroom?". There's also Leo Gorcey's narration, filled with the usual examples of mangled English, including a description of the hot African weather being "100 degree centipede". The bad includes stock footage of a lion that then turns into one of the phoniest "guy in a lion suit" scenes since Larry Semon's horrible silent verison of The Wizard of Oz. It is so bad, you've got to believe that the writers were simply trying to get laughs out of the suit itself.