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Bowery at Midnight (1942).

November 18, 2008

The Scoop:
More cut-rate, bargain basement shenanigans from Bela Lugosi, who apparently spent World War II hiding from the Nazis by making crappy movies no one would ever want to see.

In “Bowery at Midnight” Lugosi plays another criminal mastermind — kindly university professor/soup kitchen proprietor Frederick Brenner, who moonlights as sadistic underworld kingpin Karl Wagner. The plot finds Brenner/Wagner and his gang committing daring robberies, usually followed by the double-cross murder of one of the accomplices. These accomplices then wind up buried in the basement of the gang’s hideout (which features smudgy walls and a ridiculously huge map of Australia). There, they are eventually resurrected as zombies. Finally, there is a poorly choreographed gunfight and good triumphs over evil.

It’s all pretty standard Poverty Row stuff, although the plot features a few more absurdist twists and turns than usual. As this sort of films go, this is probably a cut above the rest — although that’s not saying much.

Best Bit:
At first I though it was the fainting jeweler, immediately followed by the police chief’s ridiculous pep talk to his officers. But then I saw the basement graveyard, where each grave features a little white cross with the henchman’s name.

Side Note:
One of Lugosi’s co-stars is the ubiquitous Tom Neal, who worked in lots of cheapies at the time, from the brilliant (“Detour”) to the pathetic (“Radar Secret Service”).

Companion Viewing:
“The Corpse Vanishes” (1942), “The Devil Bat” (1941) and “The Human Monster” (1939).

Links:
IMDb.
Apollo Guide.
1,000 Misspent Hours.

Take a Look:
There’s plenty of soup!

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