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Ghost Chasers

Ghost Chasers(1951)

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teaser Ghost Chasers (1951)

Ghost Chasers (1951) was the twenty-second Bowery Boys film. The series officially began at Monogram in 1946, but the boys in the group had, in various combinations with other young actors, previously been part of the Dead End Kids at Warner Brothers, the Little Tough Guys at Universal, and -- their immediate predecessor -- the East Side Kids at Monogram. In each series, the idea was roughly the same: a gang of roughneck, delinquent city boys gets into comic and occasionally dramatic situations with the likes of gamblers, Nazis and assorted bad guys. Despite the low budgets and juvenile tone, the camaraderie of the kids proved very appealing to audiences, and the series was profitable all the way to the late 1950s. In fact, Monogram churned out a Bowery Boys film about every three months during the entire run. Taken together, the four series accounted for 89 feature films and three serials over 23 years.

Many of these films, including Ghost Chasers, were directed by William Beaudine, one of the most prolific directors in Hollywood history. Of the six pictures he directed in 1951 alone, four were Bowery Boys titles. These were very much B films, shot in six days apiece, and Beaudine knew how to make them quickly and efficiently. Nonetheless, those who worked with him said he still managed to be meticulous and open to some improvisation, as long as it didn't go too far or waste precious time. Beaudine himself said, "I'm a commercial director. I know how to save money and get something on the screen. I let those artsy guys shoot the scenes through chandeliers or from behind the wine glass. That's not for me." When Beaudine did occasionally run over schedule, he displayed the sense of humor that endeared him to everyone: "You'd think someone was waiting for this!" he laughed one day.

On the Bowery Boys films, Beaudine sometimes grew frustrated with the antics of actors Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall, who tried to upstage one another on screen and horsed around on set. Beaudine's son, who assisted on several of these movies, later recalled, "He used to prepare meticulously, and I know Leo threw him into a tizzy because they wouldn't do some of that stuff. They'd be kibitzing around on the set and it was hard to get them to settle down and work. They were worse than little kids. That poor father of mine would come home and have the biggest headaches."

Ghost Chasers was one of several Bowery Boys films, such as Spook Busters (1946), Hard Boiled Mahoney (1947), Bowery to Bagdad (1955), Spook Chasers (1957), and Up in Smoke (1957), to revolve around ghosts, magic or psychics. Here, a sly, 300-year-old ghost named Edgar helps the Boys -- Slip, Sach, Whitey, Chuck and Butch -- apprehend some phony spiritualists. But only Sach (Huntz Hall) can see or talk to Edgar, which prompts the other Boys to brand him stupid. Plenty of wacky humor dominates, including magic chalk that can create doorways, direct address to the camera, and a jokey reference to To Have and Have Not (1944) with Slip telling Sach, "If you want anything, just whistle." "How do you whistle?" asks Sach. "Just pucker your lips, and I'll bash them in!"

Ghost Chasers was received as another typical Bowery Boys entry, with Variety proclaiming it "no better or worse than past episodes." The Hollywood Reporter was more positive, praising Beaudine's direction in particular as "brisk and to the point -- highlighting the slapstick whenever possible and getting the very most out of a real ghost who wanders through the proceedings, delightfully played by Lloyd Corrigan."

By Jeremy Arnold

SOURCES:
Leonard Getz, From Broadway to the Bowery
David Hayes and Brent Walker, The Films of the Bowery Boys
Wendy L. Marshall, William Beaudine: From Silents to Television
Don Miller, B Movies
James Robert Parish, The Great Movie Series

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