Bowery at Midnight (1942)


Professor Frederick Brenner (Bela Lugosi) is a renowned psychologist and author who is teaching at a university in New York. However, he suffers from horrible nightmares and has a tendency to show up with jewelry for his wife (Anna Hope), even when it seems he hasn't done anything wrong. Well, almost nothing, at least. He has a tendency not to be around at night.

That is because our Professor Brenner is also Karl Wagner, who runs a soup kitchen and flophouse in the Bowery, lending a helping hand to the underprivileged with the aid of rich girl Judy Malvern (Wanda McKay).

Unlike most soup kitchens, this one is riddled with secret passages. You see, he is also running a den of crime, plucking low-level criminals off the street, involving them in jewelry heists and then disposing of them. Aiding him in this "Trigger" Stratton (Wheeler Oakman), who does most of the dispatching, and Doc Brooks (Lew Kelley), who deals with the dispatched.

Things go relatively as expected. Stratton gets cold feet, and is killed and replaced by Frankie Mills (Tom Neal), who seems to have none of the moral problems that Stratton had. The heists go on, the police are baffled, and in a weird twist the doctor is busy raising their victims from the dead.

That's right - zombies in the cellar! You didn't think Monogram Pictures would let a crime picture go by without adding some sort of horror element. Since this is the 1940s, and no bad guy can get away with their on-screen crimes, the Professor eventually gets to meet up with his former victims.

I know a lot of people hate them, but I tend to like many of the films that Lugosi did in the 1940s, this one being no exception. It is also nice that they didn't cast him in any type of vampire role. He gets to walk around like a distinguished (if psychotic) gentleman rather than some cartoon villain in a cape.

Yes, I know there are many problems. Cardboard sets, horror elements shoehorned into what is largely a crime picture and an awful handsome hero in Richard Dennison (John Archer) who doesn't even have a real part in the movie until about halfway through. Still, it is lots of fun.

Bowery at Midnight (1942)
Duration: 61 minutes
Starring: Bela Lugosi, John Archer, Wanda McKay
Director: Wallace Fox

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