October 20th, 2013: Bowery at Midnight

Bowery at Midnight

Cast and Crew: Tom Neal

What It’s About: Professor Frederick Brenner (Bela Lugosi) leads a triple life.  As soup kitchen operator Karl Wagner he recruits men for his gang of bank robbers.  When his men fail him, he lets his associate Doc Brooks (Lew Kelly) experiment on them, turning them into mindless zombies.  Everything begins to fall apart when one of Brenner’s devoted students (John Archer) shows up at the soup kitchen looking to do research for a paper…

Why Watch it Today?: Bela Lugosi was born on this date in 1882.  By 1942 he was sixty and his career was beginning to consist of appearances in Poverty Row productions who valued him only for his increasingly limited marquee value.  Bowery at Midnight stands out among these productions for its oddity-at it’s heart is a “Weird Crime” story that would be at home in EC Comics or on radio shows like Inner Sanctum, but complicated by Lugosi’s three identities, secret rooms within secret rooms and hinted at ghoulishness-makes it worth seeing.  The short running time (62 minutes) means Bowery at Midnight doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Other Choices: Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Raven, The Black Cat, Mark of the Vampire, The Invisible Ray, Plan 9 From Outer Space, Black Friday, The Devil Bat

No trailer, but here’s one of many spots on YouTube you can find the entire film:

8 comments on “October 20th, 2013: Bowery at Midnight

  1. geelw says:

    Well, at least you didn’t pick Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla, heh… TCM had Mark of the Vampire on yesterday and I finally caught all of it, as I hadn’t seen the whole movie before.

    • T.A. Gerolami says:

      Well, this is my third year doing this, so I already ran some of his better movies, but I really do enjoy how odd this one is. If you’re wondering why no Dracula, it’s because I weirdly don’t like it.

      • geelw says:

        Well, well… we’re in the same boat on that. I prefer the Spanish language version of Dracula (shot on the same sets on nights after the US version was done for the day), which is a must-see just for the better casting and sexier tone. Even though it’s 30 minutes longer, it’s a superior effort in every respect.

      • T.A. Gerolami says:

        I think Bela was a fantastic Dracula but the rest of the film was weak; conversely, the Spanish language Dracula is better on everything but the guy playing Dracula, IMHO.

  2. geelw says:

    Well, except for the guy playing Dracula. For some reason, he apes Lugosi’s performance and makes it too close to that, so it drags the film down a bit. Still, it’s a better flick…

    • T.A. Gerolami says:

      I just felt he didn’t have Lugosi’s weird presence or charisma.

      • geelw says:

        Yeah, I’d definitely agree. Too bad Bela didn’t speak any Spanish. I felt the original was too stagey (as it were adapted from that play but with bigger sets), and while Lugosi was a great Dracula, everyone else was struggling to keep up. At least in the Spanish version, every other person BUT the vampire is cheerfully chewing the scenery to good effect.

        Hmmm. maybe there needs to be a mash-up made using some CG work to stick Lugosi in that version. Sacrilege, but I can see someone doing it one of these days…

      • T.A. Gerolami says:

        A mash-up? Why the hell not. Could be interesting.

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