Spooks Run Wild
spooks run wild | phil rosen | carl foreman | charles r. marion | bela lugosi | leo gorcey | bobby jordan | comedy | huntz hall | united states | ernest morrison | dave o'brien | dorothy short | david gorcey | donald haines | old dark house | angelo rossitto
Film: Spooks Run Wild
Director: Phil Rosen
Writer: Carl Foreman and Charles R. Marion
Starring: Bela Lugosi, Leo Gorcey and Bobby Jordan
This was another movie that I had never heard of until working my way through horror movies that were released in 1941. I did find this one interesting due to not only its title, but also that it was another movie I had never seen starring Bela Lugosi. Other than that, I came in blind. The synopsis is the boys are stranded in a small rural town. They hear about a ‘monster killer’ roaming the countryside. At night, they sneak out. Peewee (David Gorcey) is shot by a gravedigger and they are forced to seek aid at an old mansion.
For this movie, we start in the city. A group of boys led by Muggs McGinnis (Leo Gorcey) get on a bus where they’re going to a camp. What I didn’t realize and the synopsis makes a bit more sense, the East Side Kids seemed to be a teen comedic group that did quite a few movies. From what I’m gathering, this isn’t their first and had a following coming in. Also in this gang is Danny (Bobby Jordan), Glimpy (Huntz Hall), Scruno (Ernest Morrison), Peewee and Skinny (Donald Haines). Taking them out to this camp as a chaperone is Jeff Dixon (Dave O’Brien). Also joining him is his girlfriend of Linda Mason (Dorothy Short). Jeff is studying to a lawyer and she is a nurse. He isn’t thrilled about this trip, as he would rather spend time with Linda. She lets out that it is probably more to do with school for not wanting to go.
The bus arrives in a small town and the driver needs to check out the tires. Jeff goes in to get supplies while some of the boys do a bit of exploring on their own. Muggs meets Margie (Rosemary Portia) who works at the local sweet shop. She doesn’t like him getting fresh with her though. From there they head out to the camp on the outskirts of town, being almost left behind.
They aren’t the only new faces in town. That night Nardo (Bela Lugosi) arrives with his assistant Luigi (Angelo Rossitto). They inquire about the nearby mansion and they’re informed that no one lives there. These two make the gas station attendant uneasy. It doesn’t help that there are talks over the radio about a ‘monster killer’. Another stranger arrives in Dr. Von Grosch (Dennis Moore). The attendant thinks he understands and I’ll give the movie credit. Nardo is dressed similar to Dracula and they’re playing on this, making Dr. Von Grosch as Dr. Van Helsing.
That night Muggs can’t sleep so he decides to walk to town. He doesn’t go alone as he’s joined by two of his buddies. The rest hear them as they go to leave and it ends up being the whole gang. Also moving about are Nardo and Luigi as they stop at the local cemetery where the caretaker pulls his gun on the. The boys end up there as well and much like the synopsis states, Peewee is shot. They seek refuge in the nearby mansion where the boys meet Nardo along with his companion. It becomes of a night of fear as the boys lose Peewee and try to figure out if Nardo is this killer they’ve heard about.
This will be where I leave the recap as this is pretty much the first half of the movie. We end up getting a take on the old dark house film here. It is also leaning heavy into the comedy as well. To bring up something again, I didn’t realize the East Side Kids were a comedic film group like Abbott and Costello or like The Three Stooges. They are just teens or early adults that use a lot of the wordplay jokes and slapstick comedy. Personally, this didn’t really work for me unfortunately.
To circle back to something I’ve said again is the horror here comes from the old dark house aspects. They don’t use a lot of that, but we get enough. No one has been to this mansion before this night so that makes sense. What I will give credit here is that it is leaning into the fact that Lugosi was Dracula. This is movie was made by Monogram films, but it is poking fun at Universal. Nardo is dressed like Dracula. They focus on the eyes like they did in that classic and of course having Dr. Von Grosch. I like this movie playing with these ideas while also doing something different with them. There are also talks of a murderer adding to this as well.
Since there isn’t much to the story, I’ll go to the acting. I did think that Lugosi was having fun here and he’s fine as Nardo. As I was saying, I like them leaning back into his iconic role and the truth of his character makes a lot of sense as well. Leo Gorcey was good as this tough leader of the group. It does appear that David Gorcey was his brother and a member of the crew. I thought the rest of this group worked. There is a bit of racism toward Scruno who is played by the black actor of Morrison. Outside of that, I do think they play well off each other and that works for the comedy. I would also say that O’Brien and Short were fine for what was needed along with Rossitto, who is a little person. The townspeople worked as did Moore. There isn’t a lot of screen time for the latter, so it doesn’t work as well with the reveal.
The last thing that I want to go over would be the effects and cinematography. For the former, we don’t get a lot of them, but it is also not that type of movie. We get some gags playing with a skeleton, a moving suit of armor and some floating objects. The design and the explanation for all of this did make sense. The cinematography didn’t add much. It could also be that the version I watched on Amazon Prime wasn’t in the greatest shape. I’m not going to hold either against the movie to be honest.
That is about the extent of what I wanted to go over so in conclusion here, this movie is an interesting comedic horror film. This is really a vehicle to get customers in the seats with the likes of Lugosi and the East Side Kids who I’m assuming had their own followers. I think the acting here is fine. The story was lacking a bit as they wanted the comedy to carry it. Playing with Lugosi’s former role and the troupes with it were good though. The movie had issues keeping my attention though and I just wanted a bit more. The last thing to say would be the soundtrack didn’t really stick out or hurt the movie. I would rate this as just average to me. I can’t really recommend it if I’m going to be honest, unless you’re out to see all of the Lugosi films or a fan of the East Side Kids’ comedies.
My Rating: 5 out of 10