Ghosts on the Loose
Cast & Crew
A boys club known as the East Side Kids, which is based in the Lower East Side of New York City, makes arrangements for their member Glimpy to appear as best man at his sister Betty's wedding. Gang leader Mugs arranges for a police escort by telling the police that a mob action will take place at the church, while several other Kids obtain a tuxedo and flowers at a funeral home. Just prior to the wedding, Betty's fiancé Jack buys a home at 321 Elm Street in the suburbs. He plans to honeymoon there, but reluctantly decides to sell when Tony, a real estate agent who is an operative for Nazi spies, tells him the house next door is haunted and gives him a cash advance. When Jack and Betty check into a hotel after the wedding, they get a call from Sarah Elwood, who used to live at 321 Elm, who tells them she is aware of mysterious activities going on at the neighbor's house and has telephoned the police. The Kids, in the meantime, have gone to 322 Elm, and thinking that it is Jack and Betty's new house, borrow furniture from the unoccupied house next door, 321 Elm. They soon get spooked, however, when a disembodied voice laughs and talks to them throughout the house. Unknown to the boys, the ghosts are actually a Nazi subversive group comprised of leader Emil, Bruno, Monk and Hilda, who operate in secret passageways. The Kids run into the cellar and there discover a printing press and Nazi pamphlets. Still believing that the house belongs to Jack, they move the press to 321 Elm, hoping to save him from possible arrest. Jack and Betty forego their honeymoon and arrive home just after the police approach their house. When the Kids realize their mistake, they move the printing press back to 322 Elm, but the Nazi group returns it to Jack's house. After a chase in and out of the secret passageways, Mugs and Glimpy are captured by the Nazis, only to be freed by the rest of the gang. The Nazi gang is captured and arrested. Later, Glimpy, beset by German measles, is quarantined with the Kids at Betty and Jack's house, and the newlyweds bemoan their thwarted honeymoon.
Ghosts on the Loose
Ghosts on the Loose marked the first time Ava Gardner was loaned out by her studio MGM to another one; it was also her first official screen credit. In her biography, Ava: My Story, the actress confessed, "I don't remember much else about the film because it was shot at such enormous speed. We had one film stage and it took one week. Action - film - print! Even the little experience I'd had with Metro told me that this was not a quality film. In one scene the hero accidentally stumbled over a prop and fell. Nobody cared. No retake. Print it! All part of the glorious fun...Ghosts on the Loose was a piece of sweet, unsophisticated rubbish. But it did give me one sudden thrill that I've never forgotten...High up, outside one of the movie houses, there was this huge blazing sign in electric lights: GHOSTS ON THE LOOSE WITH AVA GARDNER....at that moment I didn't really care about the hows or whys. My name was up in lights for the very first time in my life. I've got to say it was a thrill. Then it wore off, and I've never had that feeling again. Ever."
While Ava Gardner was just beginning her career and a new marriage to Mickey Rooney, Bela Lugosi was sinking deeper and deeper into poverty row horror quickies such as The Devil Bat (1940) and The Corpse Vanishes (1942). Still trading on his success as Dracula (in Tod Browning's 1931 film adaptation), the Hungarian actor never bothered to adjust his heavy accent for American audiences or practice any discretion in choosing roles, decisions which contributed to his being stereotyped in horror roles for the rest of his career. Ghosts on the Loose was also not the first time Lugosi had played straight man to the East Side Kids (who changed their name to the Bowery Boys in 1946 after some cast changes). He had been tormented by them previously in Spooks Run Wild (1941). Capitalizing on this, the film was marketed in some regions with the alternate title, The East Side Kids Meet Bela Lugosi.
As you've probably guessed, Ghosts on the Loose is no masterpiece and even among the East Side Kids comedies, it's probably not their finest hour. Authors David Hayes and Brent Walker wrote (in The Films of the Bowery Boys), "The biggest problem with Ghosts on the Loose is that the East Side Kids don't play East Side Kids. They play middle-class kids. There are no references to the slums. They drive a fairly respectable car. The lack of a slum setting was not so much by design as by circumstance. The series had been using Hal Roach Studios for backgrounds. In 1943 the Army moved in and turned the studio into a center for making training films. Commercial filmmakers were turned away. [The film's producer Sam] Katzman needed to find a new studio backlot before he could use exteriors again."
Despite the low pedigree, Ghosts on the Loose had no problem reaching its intended audience and turned a profit for Monogram which wasted no time in producing the next East Side Kids extravaganza, Mr. Muggs Steps Out (1943). But it lacked the unique casting cache of Ghosts on the Loose - Gardner, Lugosi and oh yes, Sunshine Sammy Morrison (who appeared in the original Our Gang shorts from 1922-1924).
Producer: Jack Dietz, Sam Katzman
Director: William Beaudine
Screenplay: Kenneth Higgins
Cinematography: Mack Stengler
Film Editing: Carl Pierson
Art Direction: Dave Milton
Cast: Leo Gorcey (Muggs McGinnis), Huntz Hall (Glimpy Williams), Bobby Jordan (Danny), Bela Lugosi (Emil), Ava Gardner (Betty Williams Gibson), Rick Vallin (Jack Gibson).
by Jeff Stafford
Ghosts on the Loose
Hey, why can't I sing in da quartet? I used to sing in a quartet wit' six members!- Glimpy
If you listen carefully, you can hear Bela Lugosi sneeze a four letter word. Director William Beaudine left it in.
The working title of this film was Ghosts in the Night. Monogram borrowed Ava Gardner from M-G-M for the production. For more information on the "East Side Kids" series, see the above entry for Flying Wild and consult the Series Index.