Thursday, October 09, 2014

MOOM PITCHER SERIAL REVIEW! JUNIOR G-MEN starring Billy Halop and Huntz Hall (Universal, 1940)

Many if not most fans 'n followers of the EAST SIDE KIDS/BOWERY BOYS family o' films really give these DEAD END KIDS AND LITTLE TOUGH GUYS series at Universal the razz, but I'm one fanabla who will go on record as disagreeing with the throngs of experts. And disagreeing with them MIGHTILY in fact! True, that particular series just didn't have the same slam-bang-pow as either the earlier Warner Brothers features where the likes of Leo Gorcey, Billy Halop et. al. were hobnobbing with everyone from James Cagney to Ronald Reagan, but they still had a bit of a spark that transcended the usual H-wood crankout in terms of Saturday Afternoon barbershop kid-styled entertainment. And besides, Universal was a pretty hotcha moom pitcher outlet in them days, at least until the company morphed into "Universal International" and began concentrating on features that seemed to fit in more with your mom's Saturday afternoon television viewing rather than yours, ifyaknowaddamean...

I'm sure that even the most rabid of LITTLE TOUGH GUY haters will admit that the three Universal serials featuring the Halop-manned group (as opposed to the Gorcey-led one over at Monogram) were pretty snat in themselves and mighty watchable without the more cornballus approach of most of their features. And of these serials their first, JUNIOR G-MEN just hadda've been the best. In this one the Dead End Kids first tangle with and then join forces with the Junior G-Men who are hot on the trail of the mysterious Order of the Flaming Torch (yet another dastardly and downright antisocial organization who's out to conquer the world along with a few thousand similar-minded groups out there in early-forties movie land). Y'see. Halop's, or to be more accurate about it Billy Barton's father is actually a long lost scientist who has invented a new weapon which the Flaming Torch would really like to get their tattoo'd hands on, and of course it's up to the gang along with their new allies to bring the whole world-dominating empire down before we're all speaking perfect English!

And y'know what, they actually do it in twelve whole chapters too where Billy and his friends nearly get crushed, burned, smashed and blown up every ten or so minutes only to get outta their jamz a few seconds before we all think they're cooked for sure!

Yeah so a lotta this is what-ya'd-call "unbelievable" and anyone who'd wanna team up with those rather sissified Junior G-Men types inna first place are definitely off their rockers (at least the Flaming Torch guys have that cool sense of sadism to 'em that I love so well), but as we all know yer always gonna hafta suspend with the usual set of sophisticado values and plug in your suburban slob ones when watching mooms like this! And frankly, you can't spend a better Sunday afternoon by settling down in front of the tube for this, unless there's a flea market or garage sale around the corner that's still sellin' the same things they were in 1971 (and at 1971 prices too!).

If you want to, try the above web address to be found within the pilfered poster if you so desire, or you could do a little googlin' for an even better bargain or even try downloading it from youtube if you're computer savvy enough to handle such a task! (It should be wallowing around there amidst the rest of those public domain faves we've loved to glom for years.) And for once time's not a'wastin', because ya know this stuff's gonna be around for quite a long time while the rest of Amerigan Kultur gets shoved aside like last year's embroidered butt rags. Take back Sunday your way with a viewing or two of JUNIOR G-MEN, because it's either this or that dudzy melodrama you're mother's watching at this very minute and you never were much of a Gene Tierney fan now, were you?          

1 comment:

Bill S. said...

Nice to see the Universal films get some attention. Although the 3 serials they made at Universal have always been staples in the budget bins and at dollar stores, what REALLY needs reissuing are the features the Little Tough Guys made at Universal. I don't think these have EVER been reissued and they don't really circulate in the collectors' grey market. I have CALL A MESSENGER on VHS, and it's really over the top----the credits are shown over footage of Billy Halop slapping Huntz Hall's face repeatedly, and the film seems to emphasize comic violence, with the emphasis on the violence not the comedy. If CALL A MESSENGER is any indication, the Universal "Little Tough Guys" films are the most grungy and punk of the whole Dead End Kids/East Side Kids/Bowery Boys/Little Tough Guys legacy. But then Universal has done the least of any major studio (or minor, for that matter) with its back catalog. They have the dubious honor of being the ONLY studio who has not issued its John Wayne B-movies (he made six non-westerns for Universal in 36-37, all films BTC readers would love), which would be good sellers as anything Wayne-related is. One would think the success of the Warner Archive's Bowery Boys reissue series would send Universal back into their deep catalogue for these Little Tough Guys films, but if they can't be bothered to even reissue SIX JOHN WAYNE FILMS, I don't see Billy Halop and Huntz Hall as having the star power (in Universal's eyes, that is....they are SUPERSTARS in the BTC world) to get Universal to do anything about these films in our or our children's lifetimes! Bah, humbug! And Universal made great B-movies in the 50s and 60s to fill the bottom of double bills, and most of those are not very well known and have never been on any video format. The folks at Universal should hire you and me to run the deep catalogue reissue program, a la the Warner Archive. What the world needs is a series of Little Tough Guys features, John Wayne non-western B-movies, Audie Murphy movies, and George Nader least until they see how much money the series loses and we get fired. It would be a fun 6 months....