Spooks Run Wild (1941)

Phil Rosen made a ton of movies — six entries in the Charlie Chan series alone — but this is his only East Side Kids movie, made for Sam Katzman and Banner Pictures.

There had been six films in the series since 1940 — yes, a year — and the movies before this balance comedy and social commentary on being poor in America. For the seventh film, Katzman got Carl Foreman (The Bridge on the River KwaiHigh Noon — after which he was blacklisted for six years — and The Guns of Navarone) and Charles R. Marion to write a script that combined the two biggest stars of Monogram Pictures: the kids and Bela Lugosi.

How fast did this get made? It was still filming in August and in theaters for Halloween.

Muggs (Leo Gorcey), Danny (Bobby Jordan), Glimpy (Huntz Hall), Scruno (Sunshine Sammy Morrison), Skinny (Donald Haines) and Peewee (David Gorcey) are heading to juvenile delinquent summer camp in an area that’s being cursed by a monster killer.

Also on the way into town are Nardo (Lugosi), his hunchback assistant Luigi (Angelo Rossitto, whose career stretches from Freaks to Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, with stops along the way in movies like Mesa of Lost WomenDracula vs. Frankenstein and The Trip) and master detective Dr. Von Grosch (Dennis Moore, who was in serials all the way to the end, acting in the last Universal Pictures entry in 1946 and the last episodic shorts Columbia Pictures made in 1956).

Dave O’Brien, who was Knuckles Dolan in this series before, shows up as does his wife Dorothy Short, who plays the camp nurse. They met on the set of Reefer Madness.

Lugosi would return as a Nazi spy in Ghosts on the Loose, teaming him again with the East Side Kids and a young Ava Gardner. Sadly, this was East Side Kid Skinny’s last film, as he enlisted as an aviation cadet and was killed in action in two years later.

You can watch this on Tubi.

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