|Index||10 reviews in total|
After UP IN SMOKE (1957), the Bowery Boys had one last movie in them,
IN THE MONEY, even though the series had essentially run out of steam
years earlier, about when Leo Gorcey left, following the death of
Gorcey's father, Bernard, who'd played soda shop owner Louie Dumbrowsky
in the series. (Gorcey's last was CRASHING LAS VEGAS, 1955.) Seven more
films followed Gorcey's departure, with Huntz Hall taking the lead, and
Gorcey's function being filled by Stanley Clements in the role of Duke,
who wears a suit, tie and sharp fedora in the manner of adults of the
era, but looks nothing like a Bowery "Boy." Hall's Sach is still the
lovable goofball, while Clements' Duke is the dyspeptic straight man,
with none of Gorcey's charm or vocabulary-mangling wit.
UP IN SMOKE offers up the premise of Sach seeking the devil's help to earn money after he's been conned by a gambling ring into betting and losing the $90 the boys have raised for a neighborhood kid with polio. The devil appears in an elegant old-fashioned dress suit, complete with top hat and horns, and, in exchange for Sach's soul, agrees to provide tips on winning horses for a week. To make a long story short, the plan backfires day in and day out, but not before the gambling ring gets tough on Sach and his friends in order to find out the source of the daily tips.
It's never very funny, but there is one redeeming element in the film. Byron Foulger has a grand time playing the mild-mannered, velvet-voiced Beelzebub, or "Mr. Bub," as Sach calls him. He oozes with snaky charm, but is quick to take advantage of Sach at every opportunity and torment him in subtle, clever ways. The maneuver by which Sach ultimately manages to elude his fate is actually set up very well and plays out in a genuinely suspenseful fashion in a racetrack finale mixing cheaply made studio shots with stock racetrack footage. It also reveals quite a bit of daring and initiative on the layabout Sach's part. Beelzebub's final outcome is handled in quite an amusing anddare I say it?even sympathetic manner. Foulger (1899-1970) was a dependable character player and bit part actor who spent most of his career playing harried bank managers, tellers, desk clerks and other kinds of functionaries. This role gave him the chance to spread his comic wings and he wasted no time in running with it, basically stealing the film from Hall, Clements and the rest of the cast.
Quite a number of old-school Hollywood character actors are on hand. Fritz Feld plays an irate Mittel-European psychiatrist trying to examine Sach who gets so flustered at his patient's unflappability that he winds up on the couch himself subjected to Sach's questioning. It's an amusing scene and even features one of Feld's trademark mouth pops. Other dependable old comic/tough guy players in the cast include Benny Rubin, Ralph Sanford, Joe Devlin, James Flavin, and, in the role of Mike, the coffee shop owner taking the place of Louie Dumbrowsky, Dick Elliott. Another familiar face, spotted as a desk sergeant, is John Mitchum, Robert's lesser-known brother. He would play a cop again, some years later, in the role of Inspector DiGiorgio alongside Clint Eastwood's Inspector Callahan in the first three Dirty Harry films.
After seeking inspiration for stories from every source available the
Bowery Boys finally had a Faust type story where Sach gets to sell his
soul to a most polite little devil played by Byron Foulger. Of course
the story is also laced with elements from the Marx Brothers A Day At
The Races and Abbott&Costello's It Ain't Hay.
It all begins innocently enough with Huntz Hall wanting to get money to help a polio stricken kid. All you have to say is that you would do anything and up pops the devil with a tempting offer. The devil has many tips on horse races, but somehow due to Bowery Boy shenanigans, Hall never gets to place a bet.
Best scene in the film is Huntz Hall with Fritz Feld as a psychiatrist who with his ingenuousness Hall manages to turn the tables on. Seems as though Stan Clements thinks Hall is off his rocker talking to imaginary people.
It's not saying much but Up In Smoke might be the best of the post Gorcey Bowery Boys films.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As a kid I did enjoy the long series of poverty row comedies of Leo
Gorcey, Huntz Hall, and company, under the name of the East Side Kids
or Dead End Kids. It is funny that from being the co-stars of the big
production, DEAD END, and then through others like ANGELS WITH DIRTY
FACES, ANGELS WASH THEIR FACES, and THEY MADE ME A CRIMINAL, the gang
of young actors ended up in this series of B features or worse. But
this did not necessarily prove a disaster. They kids were good comics,
especially Hall and Gorcey. Ironically though only one made it off the
films on his own: Gabriel Dell, who worked with Steve Allen and others.
And Dell actually (gradually) played characters that worked at
loggerheads with Gorcey, Hall, and the others, usually as a junior
UP IN SMOKE was one of their last films, and actually deals with a curious twist on an old legend or story. Sach (Hall) makes a wish that if he could he would give his soul to the Devil for better luck. Enter the most cherubic of film Satans, Byron Foulger. Normally Foulger was a harried clerk or bank teller or something like that. Frequently he was a murder victim. But here he is a Devil (actually not THE Devil), who is trying to earn his station from his new master. So he is sent to answer Sach's wish.
What is the difference then between this situation and the devils in HEAVEN CAN WAIT (also a comedy), or ALIAS NICK BEAL, or THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER. The approach to the character of the Devil is different in each, though Ray Milland and Walter Huston are certainly businesslike and deadly (Laird Cregar is too, but also fair minded when he is aware of errors). Foulger though adds something that only Claude Rains (as the Devil in ANGEL ON MY SHOULDER) faced - that Satan might hot be able to control his evil actions. Rains keeps trying to twist situations to use Paul Muni to destroy a reformer's public face. Instead he finds various other small fry stepping in and wrecking things (but doing it when they are willingly doing evil - so he can't really complain). Foulger finds an interesting variant due to his "Victim" Sach: What happens if you have an idiot whom you have agreed to grant wishes to? For the running joke of the film is that Foulger keeps on granting wishes that are supposed to benefit Sach, but through the bungling of the idiot he loses all benefits and they go to third parties who have not made deals with the Devil. Foulger even complains he is not supposed to give away freebies to people. Towards the end Satan is so put out by Foulger's failure with Sach that he takes away one of the two little horns on his forehead (usually covered by his homburg).
It is a small reason to recall this film, but for a curious variant on an old theme I congratulate the screenwriters here.
The Bowery Boys go to the Devil in this penultimate entry in the
series. Sach is ripped off by con men so he sells his soul to Satan to
get even with them. As with most later Bowery Boys movies, this is a
rather lazy and uninspired effort that's primarily a showcase for Huntz
Hall. Hall plays the wide-eyed buffoon who contorts his face for laughs
like he had in dozens of other pictures before. He never made me laugh
once in this movie, but I admit I may just find his shtick tiresome at
this point. If this was someone's first Huntz Hall picture, maybe
they'd love it. I doubt it but strange things do happen.
Backing up Hall are Stanley Clements as the insufferably barking Duke, Eddie LeRoy as the annoying Blinky, and David Gorcey as the invisible Chuck. The best parts of the movie don't belong to the Boys, however. The best parts are the bits with great character actors who handily steal their scenes from the less talented stars. These include Byron Foulger as the Devil, Earle Hodgins as a used car salesman (in probably the movie's funniest scene), and Fritz Feld as a psychiatrist. Unfortunately, none of these scenes can save the picture. There's simply too much of Hall's nonsense for my tastes and the other Bowery Boys bring nothing to the table.
After gambling away the money "The Bowery Boys" rose to help a polio
victim, Huntz Hall (as Horace Debussy "Sach" Jones) contemplates
revenge on the unscrupulous bookies. Declaring, "I'd give my right arm,
I'd give my life, I'd give my very SOUL!" he summons Byron Foulger (as
"The Devil"). Calling the well-horned informant "Mr. Bub" (for
Beelzebub), Mr. Hall receives tips on winning horses every day. Things
go immediately wrong, and Hall's winning picks put him in danger with
bookmakers. Even worse, "Satan" wants Hall to surrender his soul...
After a string of dull entries, the long-running film series picks up a little steam for the "The Bowery Boys" penultimate adventure. Hall doesn't do anything different, but the devilish bits with Mr. Foulger work well. Watch for good routines with fast-talking Earle Hodgins as a car dealer and mouth-popping Fritz Feld as a psychiatrist. There is also a good scene with Stanley Clements (as Stanislaus "Duke" Coveleskie) and Hall punching each other through a door opening. Eddie LeRoy (as Blinky) and David Gorcey (as Chuck) get a few lively lines, too.
***** Up in Smoke (12/22/57) William Beaudine ~ Huntz Hall, Byron Foulger, Stanley Clements, Eddie LeRoy
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
You can hear 'The Gang's All Here' over the opening credits, but sadly,
that's not the case, The Bowery Boys are down to a shell of their
former membership, and even further removed from the core group that
made up the East Siders and even earlier Dead End Kids. Kind of sad in
a way, but the Bowery Boys DID have a successful run of around forty
films. Funny, but with Leo gone, I can actually see the Gorcey
resemblance in brother David, who hung around as Chuck right till the
You would have thought the Bowery Boys would have gotten tangled up with The Devil by this time, but they got this one in just under the wire. In a moment of quiet desperation, Sach (Huntz Hall) agrees to sell his soul to Byron Foulger for a week's worth of winning horse race tips. Sach's heart was in the right place; the boys were trying to raise money for the Little Ozzie Fund, a victim of childhood polio which was prevalent for the era. Instead of making it to the bank with ninety dollars, Sach gets figuratively rolled by a bunch of con men working book. It was a little puzzling to see Sach lose his bundle on a phony race when the rest of the story dealt with actual events at local race tracks. On that score, it was cool to hear names like Jamaica, Bay Meadows and Belmont; I don't even know if they still exist today, except for the Belmont Stakes of course.
Through it all, Sach and the Boys never get to capitalize on their relationship with the Underworld. They don't get to place another bet as the villains (Ric Roman, Ralph Sanford and Joe Devlin) try to cash in on Sach's ability, using Mabel (Judy Bamber) as a plant at Clancy's Diner. In a convoluted finale, Sach actually dons jockey togs to bring his horse across the finish line. Fortunately Sach's win is tainted because he wasn't the official rider, and all bets are off in the lose your soul department.
One more film would follow "Up In Smoke" before Huntz Hall's turn as Horace Debussy Jones would be over. I must say, Turner Classics has done an outstanding job offering all the Bowery Boys flicks in order on Saturday mornings for the past year or so. Though I discovered them a bit late to start from the beginning, one can hope they do it all over again after "In The Money" airs next week.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** With the "Bowery Boys" scraping up $90.00 to get Little
Ozzie a trip to Warm Spings in order to cure his polio Sach is
entrusted to deposit the cash at the local bank for safe keeping. As
you would expect Sach screws things up by being enticed by bookie Al to
go to this gambling joint and bet it all on a non-existent horse in an
non-existent race at an non-existent race track. Broke and depressed
for falling for Al and his bookie pals Sam & Tony's scam Sach is ready
to sell is soul to the Devil to not only get his money back but to get
even with those,Al Sam & Tony, who conned it out of him. Before you can
say abracadabra up pops Mr. Bobb offering his services to a stunned
Making a deal with Sach to give him a winner a day for a week in return for his eternal soul Mr. Bobb, really the guy from down under, thinks he's got all the cards in his favor not realizing that Sach,in being the complete screw-up that he is, has powers in his backwards thinking process mind that can even foil him no matter how smart he is! Sach taking Mr. Bobb's tips on the horses tries to place them at Tony's bookie join,in order to put it out of business, only to get shut out at every occasion! With him being down to his last bet Sach now is no longer willing to win, thus losing his soul to Mr. Bobb, in that Little Ozzie had been miraculously cured, by the Salk Vaccine?, of his polio and didn't need the the money an more!
***SPOILERS*** Desperate to lose the race in order to save his soul Sach himself, after him and the "Bowery Boys" take matters into their own hands, takes the mount on the winning horse that Mr. Bobb assigned him to bet "Rubber Check". No matter how hard Sach tries to lose the race fate, and the Devil's hand, is on his side winning it despite all his efforts to lose it!***MAJOR SPOILER*** As things turned out Mr. Bobb had no idea of racetrack rules and found out the hard way that it's not who wins the race that counts,to the racing stewards, but who's the jockey that was was assigned to ride the horse who wins it!
A dejected Mr.Bobb now no longer Mr. Big in the underworld and working as a waiter at Mike Clancy's Diner in the Bowery gets a second chance to win back his horns. That's by, at Sach's urging, him setting up Tony Sam & Al, who went bust betting "Rubber Check", in another one of his scams that failed so miserably with the absent minded but good hearted Sach!
Up in Smoke (1957)
* 1/2 (out of 4)
Not to be confused with the Cheech and Chong flick from the 70s, this was the next-to-last entry in the long-running Bowery Boys series. Sach (Huntz Hall), Duke (Stanley Clements) and the boys are raising money for a kid suffering from polio but Sach loses the money when he's given a fake horse tip. Then Sach says he'd be willing to sell his soul for some money and the Devil (Byron Foulger) pops up offering him winning horses for a week and after wards Sach will belong to him. From what I've read the series was going to come to an end after the last picture but Hall still owed the studio two more movies so they decided to make them Bowery Boy movies instead of starting something fresh. I guess you have to give the supporting cast and Hall credit for at least giving it their all when they knew the series was over but there's just no way they could overcome this screenplay, which is extremely poor. The biggest problem is that there's nothing that really happens after Sach sells his soul. Each day the Devil pops up, gives Sach the tip and something will happen to where he can't bet the horse. This happens several times and after the third time you'll be wishing that the Devil would just go against his deal and steal the soul so that we the viewer can be done with the film. It probably didn't help matters that 'One Shot' Beaudine was behind the camera as every shot looks rather generic and there's not a bit of energy to be found anywhere. As I said, the cast at least gives a good effort with both Hall and Clements once again doing good work together. That is, whenever the two are on screen together. For the most part Hall is working on his own here as he has quite a few scenes where he's either with one of the supporting players like the Devil or the gamblers. Foulger certainly makes for one of the nicest Devils in the history of Hell but he was very good in the part as was Dick Elliott as Dick the restaurant owner. As is the case with any comedy, if there aren't any laughs then the movie isn't worth viewing and sadly UP IN SMOKE doesn't offer very many. There's a small bit with the boys trying to sell their car, which is somewhat funny but this scene certainly isn't great enough to watch the entire movie for it.
The Bowery Boys made 48 films...48! And that's not even counting the
films they made as the Dead End Kids, the East Side Kids and other
variations on the group of young jerks. So it's not at all surprising
that by the latter films, the formula had gotten very, very old. In
fact, Leo Gorcey (after the death of his father) quit the films and yet
they still continued making them with Huntz Hall the star of these
craptastic pictures. Even for fans of the films, these last few
pictures were pretty limp and unappealing...though this one is a bit of
While it is their second to last film, at least "Up in Smoke" is a bit of a departure for the gang...such as it is. As usual, the boys are out of money but this time Sach says, offhandedly, that he'd sell his soul to the Devil to know the winners of horse races. Well, wouldn't you know it but Satan immediately appears and offers him a deal...one week of long-shot horse race winners for Sach's miserable soul. The problem is that Sach is a total idiot and again and again and again he keeps screwing up and missing out on the big money. In the process, they get the attention of some gamblers...and these gamblers are pretty nasty.
The best thing about this film is seeing Byron Foulger playing the Devil. This very familiar character actor is excellent as a very nice and dapper Devil. I also enjoyed the ending...but I also think the filmmakers missed a golden opportunity. Think how wonderful it would have been to make this the last film AND it ended with Sach going to Hell!!
A refreshingly entertaining entry for the latter day Bowery Boys franchise, and that was not an easy thing to be by this time where we had lost leading goon Leo Gorcey for his replacement, Stanley Clements. Though the long-running series was winding down to its final gasp, Huntz Hall as the scatter-brained Sach is a lot of fun here, involved in a comical plot where he sells his soul to the Devil (Byron Foulger) in order to have the horned one supply him with the names of sure-winning horses at the race track. (Unsurprisingly, another group of crooks try to extract the information for themselves). Foulger is a delight in the character of Satan. **1/2 out of ****
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