BOWERY AT MIDNIGHT (director: Wallace Fox; screenwriter: Gerald Schnitzer/Story by Gerald Schnitzer; cinematographer: Mack Stengler; editor: Carl Pierson; music: Edward Kay; cast: Bela Lugosi (Prof. Brenner/Prof. Wagner), John Archer (Richard Dennison), Wanda McKay (Judy Malvern), Tom Neal (Frankie Mills), Vince Barnet (Charley), John Berkes (Fingers Dolan), Anna Hope (Mrs. Brenner), Dave O’Brien (Peter Crawford), Lew Kelly (Doc Brooks), Wheeler Oakman (Stratton), J. Farrell McDonald (Capt. Mitchell), Lucille Vance (Mrs. Malvern); Runtime: 63; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Sam Katzman/Jack Dietz; Monogram; 1942)
“This cheapie thriller goes down like a cheap bottle of Thunderbird.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A senseless comedy/crime drama. B film director Wallace Fox(“Kid Dynamite”/”The Gay Amigo”/”Guns of Fury”) keeps it unfunny, shoddy and perplexing. It’s based on a dumb story by Gerald Schnitzer.
By day Frederick Brenner (Bela Lugosi) is a kindly NYC university psychology professor. At night he’s Karl Wagner (also Bela Lugosi), a kindly soul who runs The Friendly Mission, a Bowery soup kitchen and flop house. Even his wife (Anna Hope) doesn’t know his secret. The diabolical professor operates the mission to recruit gang members to rob jewelry stores. He also hires an enforcer to murder his associates after they participate in the capers and he has no further use for them. There’s also an even more incoherent subplot about the vics kept as zombies in a locked basement room, as a derelict junkie doctor (Lew Kelly) is in charge of resurrecting the dead. The mission has many hidden doors and secret passages, that lead out from the main hall where soup is served.
Do-gooder socialite Judy (Wanda McKay) is a volunteer server and nurse at the mission. Her socialite boyfriend, Richard Dennison (John Archer), who happens to be in Brenner’s psych class, objects to her Bowery social work as being dangerous and also because she’s not with him nights. When Richard decides to write a term paper on the mission, he dresses as a bum and goes there to investigate. He discovers that Brenner poses as the mission director Wagner. That gets him executed by Wagner’s henchman, an on the lam psychopath killer named Frankie Mills (Tom Neal). When Richard’s mom reports him missing, newly appointed detective Peter Crawford (Dave O’Brien) is assigned the case. Judy will learn her lesson about how dangerous it could be to help the unfortunates.
This cheapie thriller goes down like a cheap bottle of Thunderbird.
REVIEWED ON 1/1/2015 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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