Bowery at Midnight
BOWERY AT MIDNIGHT. 1942

Director: Wallace Fox

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



After a daring prison break, safecracker Fingers Dolan (John Berkes) hides from the police by slipping among the indigent into a Bowery mission run by Karl Wagner (Bela Lugosi). Karl is a warm & cuddly sort of fellow who feeds & assists the poor by day, but by night operates a robbery ring.

Karl lives a double life & is also Professor Frederick Brenner, loving husband & intellectual, whose teaching specialty is abnormal psychology, among which his is one of the most abnormal of all.

He's furthermore a serial killer, leaving a dead gang member behind at every major crime, & frequently killing other people who dare to make him peevish. A rummy doctor (Lew Kelly) who works as a janitor at the mission, in order to hold on to his sense of self worth as a physician, is secretly healing or resurrecting numerous of Karl's victims, & keeping them alive in a crawlspace underneath the mission.

The intentionally absurd script skirts the comedic without spoiling the potential for horror. All the character actors involved seem highly amused even while playing it straightfaced & quite well. I got a giggle from such little touches as a street scene near a theater with a poster for Lugosi in The Corpse Vanishes (1942) by the same director.

The climax in which killer Karl discovers several of his victims alive & well in the sub-basement seems at first to imply the rummy doctor has turned them into vengeful zombies. They tear up Karl/Frederick as the authorities look on not all that suprised.

But afterward it seems they were not zombies but just injured guys the doctor healed & kept captive. But who knows; by then the director was just trying to wind it all up for a scant one-hour feature & probably didn't care if it made sense or not.

Is it crap? Sure. But it entertained me on the strength of its sheer goofiness & Bela's genuine charisma was a bonus.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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