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Bowery at Midnight (October 30, 1942)

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Bela Lugosi in Bowery at Midnight

Released on October 30, 1942: Bela Lugosi funds a soup kitchen by running a gang of thieves and murderers, while an old doctor/assistant brings the dead men back to life.

Directed by Wallace Fox

The Actors: Bela Lugosi (Professor Brenner and Karl Wagner), John Archer (Richard Dennison), Wanda McKay (Judy Malvern), Tom Neal (Frankie Mills), Vince Barnett (Charley), Anna Hope (Mrs. Brenner), John Berkes (Fingers Dolan), J. Farrell MacDonald (Captain Mitchell), Dave O'Brien (Pete Crawford), Lucille Vance (Mrs. Valvern), Lew Kelly (Doc Brooks), Wheeler Oakman (Stratton), Ray Miller (big man), Willy Castello (jeweler), Pat Costello (tramp questioned by Richard), George Eldredge (Detective Thompson), Bernard Gorcey (shopkeeper), Eddie Hall (tramp playing checkers), Eddie Kane (Police Chief Martin), Ralph Littlefield (big man's friend), Theodore Lorch (man playing checkers), Walter McGrail (the Coroner), 'Snub' Pollard (motorist), Bob Reeves (henchman), Bobby Stone (newsboy).


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Back in the 1930's the Hays Office dictated how much sex and bad language could appear in movies, but they did not set any limits on violence. Today movies are mostly able to portray anything that they like, but television has changed in the opposite direction. I grew up on cartoons with a road runner that was always getting blown up by bombs, and falling off of tall cliffs, and rabbits getting shot with big shotguns. Death and destruction was a big part of comedy as well as drama. The Three Stooges could pound each other on the head with objects that would probably cause instant death, but in their films we only heard a loud thump and an angry stooge that didn't even seem to feel the hit. But today all of that is too violent for our precious children. Somehow everyone from my generation grew up without becoming deranged monsters, but the fear today is that if our children see violence, they will copy it in real life. So now our children see no violence on Saturday mornings, but we seem to be creating more violent killers today than long ago. I am much too uneducated to have an intelligent opinion on the subject, but I do wonder . . . .

In this classic Bela Lugosi thriller men are getting killed faster than you can chomp on your hot buttered white kernel popcorn, and of course Bela is at the bottom of it all. He is a professor of criminology who moonlights as a soup kitchen director, and he gets criminals to rob and kill for him. A true thriller in the classic Bela Lugosi style. For extra credit, watch for the shopkeeper who sells a worn out suit of clothes to our hero, Richard Dennison. This little man is a star in his own right, and the father of one of my favorite comedy stars. His name is Bernard Gorcey, and at four feet ten inches tall, one of the greats. He came from Russia to New York City to work in Vaudeville, and one night in 1917 his wife had a baby boy on the kitchen table of their modest apartment. They called him Leo Gorcey, and he became the leading character in the East Side Kids and later the Bowery Boys comedy movies. After years of poverty and struggling during the first years of the Great Depression, the Gorcey family finally found a good life thanks to the movie industry in the 1940's, mostly centered around the poorest part of the city, the Bowery.

Bela LugosiBela Lugosi
Bela Lugosi - 1942Bela Lugosi as Professor Brenner
Bela Lugosi and Anna HopeAnna Hope
Bela Lugosi and Anna HopeAnna Hope - 1942
Wanda McKayJohn Archer
Wanda McKayJohn Archer
Bela Lugosi and Tom NealDave O'Brien and Eddie Kane
Bela Lugosi and Tom NealDave O'Brien and Eddie Kane
Dave O'Brien and George EldredgeBernard Gorcey and John Archer
Dave O'Brien and George EldredgeBernard Gorcey and John Archer
J. Farrell MacDonaldJohn Archer
J. Farrell MacDonaldJohn Archer in class
Wanda McKay and John ArcherWanda McKay and Lew Kelly
Wanda McKay and John ArcherWanda McKay and Lew Kelly