Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


SPOOKS RUN WILD (1941). Director: Phil Rosen.

"A white spider! That must be the ghost of the black widdah!"

The Eastside Kids/Bowery Boys/whoever-the-hell-they-are go off to a summer camp near where a maniac killer is supposed to be on the loose. On an outing, one of them, Pee Wee (David Gorcey), is injured, and his pals take him to a gothic mansion inhabited by Bela Lugosi and his assistant, who happens to be a dwarf. But if Bela is the bad guy, then who is that bearded stranger who's walking off with the nominal heroine, Linda (Dorothy Short)? Skeletons and chains of armor walk about in the ghostly estate.

This isn't as much fun as it sounds; in fact, it isn't any fun at all. There are only two good things about it: Bela Lugosi has as much presence as ever, gives a good performance that the film doesn't deserve, and is even convincing when he plays at being scared at one point. Also, African-American Ernest Morrison seems to have been given more to do than usual, and does it well, even if it's the usual thing given to black actors in comedies of the period, especially those with "haunted" houses in them. I suppose the film should also be given points for showing that one can't always judge by appearances. Otherwise, this hasn't got a single laugh, except for the "gay" twist at the end when Muggs (Leo Gorcey) goes into a magician's cabinet after a sexy blond and winds up practically necking with one of the fellas!

Muggs is as irritating as ever, while Huntz Hall does his usual simpering routine. Bobby Jordan, David Gorcey (Leo's better-looking brother), and Morrison have much more appealing personalities. Dave O'Brien plays Jeff, Linda's boyfriend.

Verdict: Low-brow, low-class, and for the most part, low entertainment. *.

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