Tuesday, June 03, 2014

The Gas House Kids "In Hollywood"

Monogram had the Bowery Boys, so that studio’s Poverty Row rival PRC created the Gas House Kids. It’s impossible to imagine a more blatant ripoff of the Bowery Boys, as well as a duller one. The four actors director Edward L. Cahn (CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN) and producer Sam Baerwitz cast in their low-budget comedy may have been skilled child actors, but as adults, they’re either obnoxious hams or they don’t register at all. One of them, Benny Bartlett, actually went on to become a Bowery Boy in a couple dozen films, but I bet you can’t remember anything he ever said or did in them.

In addition to Bartlett, who plays Orvie, the Gas House Kids are Rudy Wissler as Scat, former Our Ganger Tommy Bond as Chimp, and perhaps the most famous of all Little Rascals, Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, as Alfie. He’s apparently the Huntz Hall of the kids, except he lacks comic timing, charisma, and any chemistry with his co-stars. Alfalfa turned twenty the year this film came out, and whatever ability he had as a child to tickle an audience had long disappeared.

Written by Robert E. Kent, a frequent Cahn collaborator, the script for THE GAS HOUSE KIDS “IN HOLLYWOOD” (no, I don’t know why the quotation marks are in the title) is reminiscent of the Bowery Boys’ and East Side Kids’ thin plots, except those programmers knew better than to stop the action and comedy so one of them (Wissler here) could croon a tune. Cahn, who directed both Bond and Switzer in Our Gang comedies, was probably a good choice to helm the picture, as he had a knack for making entertaining films on tight budgets and schedules.

Kent packs his script with plot, not a bad plan if you’re afraid to let your hacky cast carry the picture. It’s partially a haunted house movie, so you can bet one of the kids will see a hand with a knife reach through a secret panel that none of his friends will see. Alfie, Chimp, Orvie, and Scat, on their way to Hollywood to meet their favorite movie cop, Lance Carter (Michael Whalen), give a ride to mad scientist Crawford (Milton Parsons) and encounter the usual clichés, including disappearing corpses, ghosts, gangsters, inept cops, floating skeletons, and hidden treasure.

IN HOLLYWOOD was the third and final Gas House Kids comedy for PRC, after THE GAS HOUSE KIDS and THE GAS HOUSE KIDS GO WEST (interesting that two of the three took the Kids out of their native New York). It’s unlikely anyone noticed that there weren’t any more, particularly when they could count on seeing a new Bowery Boys flick on a double bill every five months.

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