Screen legend Bela Lugosi gives a classic nuanced performance as Professor Brenner, a psychology instructor at New York University who, when not enlightening his students-most of them played by buxom Monogram studio starle... more »ts-Brenner is engaged in charitable work, running a mission in the Bowery. In truth, however, the kindly professor is a fiend in human form, who uses his mission as a front for a vast criminal empire. When Judy (Wanda McKay), one of Brenner's students, stumbles onto the truth, she's targetted for extermination by the Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde prof. This DVD release, digitally mastered from excellent materials, features interactive and illustrated production notes.« less
DVD Tranfer from a less than spectacular source print
Michael W. Miller | Franklin, VA | 06/22/2002
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This is the first Alpha Video DVD I have purchased and I must say, "you get what you pay for." Yes, this DVD is cheap, but it isn't entirely worthless. The source print for the DVD is from an Astor Pictures rerelease. There are several scratches, but the picture is pretty clear. The sound is not perfect, but typical of the Monogram pictures of the period. There are some annoying splices that break some of the dialogue.The film itself is probably in the middle of the pack of Lugosi's Monogram programmers. Not the best, but certainly far superior to his two East Side Kids films. Lugosi plays a man leading a double life, one a college professor and the other as a ruthless gangster. Not really a true horror picture other than the drug addicted doctor that works for Lugosi.Just a couple of more comments about Alpha Video. There are no extras on this DVD and there are only 4 chapters (and they don't even cover the entire film!). Also amusing is that the website listed on the back doesn't even take you to the Alpha Video website. The one positive is that the artwork on the DVD is very nice and will make collectors take notice."
What's that smell in the basement?
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 02/17/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Bowery at Midnight (1942) stars Bela Lugosi in one of his many 'poverty row' films, a time when Lugosi was on the outs with the major studios and subsequently worked with independent studios like Monogram and PRC. Directed by Wallace Fox (the back of the box mistakenly says Wallace 'Cox'), most known for his westerns, who also directed another one of Lugosi's low-end films called The Corpse Vanishes (1942). Bela plays three roles in this film, a kindly soup kitchen operator on skid row, a psychology professor and loving husband, and finally a vicious crime lord (I kept wondering when this character found time to sleep).
Basically the plot runs that Bela runs a soup kitchen, enlisting the aid of various criminal elements that pass through to perform heists, jobs, scores, whatever, while maintaining a secret life as a educator...once an individual outlives his usefulness in Lugosi's crime organization, that individual is then eliminated, keeping turnover high and costs down. This also helped to keep Lugosi's activities secret. Also, if a henchman exhibited the slightest bit of treachery, he was gone...like all the way gone, if you know what I mean (I love how they would bury these poor fellows in the basement, and then put markers with their names, no less, showing where each one rested. Not the smartest move, in my opinion, but whatever). And that soup kitchen/criminal lair...I haven't seen that many secret doors in like...well...ever. How in the heck did they keep track of all of them? Anyway, one of Bela's students, who is involved with Bela's female assistant at the soup kitchen, decides to do a paper on transients, unaware that his teacher is also the man in charge of the soup kitchen. He finds himself in dire trouble as he stumbles across Bela's alter ego, and soon the police are involved. There was an actor in the movie, Dave O'Brien, who plays a detective, which I recognized from somewhere, but couldn't place until I finally remembered he was also in the movie 'Reefer Madness' aka 'Tell Your Children' (1938). Soon Bela's worlds begin to collide as the police close in, and he meets a suitable fate involving recently deceased criminals resurrected from the dead?! This movie has everything. For a cheapie little movie, I found much to like with the sets and decor. The makers of this movie may not have had much, but what they had, they used very well. A fine example of making the best of what you've got. Oh, and keep an eye out. About 17 minutes into the movie, you may notice a movie poster for one of Lugosi's other poverty row movies, made within the same year. The hour run time serves nicely to keep things moving as the pace rarely slows down.
This disc was released by Lugosi's Estate, and has many worthwhile features including a digitally remastered picture from 35mm film elements, commentary by film historian Ted Newsom and Bela Lugosi, Jr., a photo gallery, some trailers featuring Lugosi's other poverty row releases including one with the Bowery Boys, a wonderful mini movie poster insert, and there is even a radio episode called "Gasoline Cocktail" from some old time radio crime show. If you are interested in getting this movie on DVD, this is the one to get, rather than some of those cheaper releases floating around.
Three times the Bela for Your Buck!
A. Gammill | West Point, MS United States | 10/10/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Man, there is just something about this cheap little flick. And that something is Bela Lugosi. Although he is essenially one character, that character plays 3 roles in the film. Part of the low-brow charm of BOWERY is that, at times, you feel like you're watching 3 different films. With that lean 61-minute running time, the action comes fast and the body count rises rapidly.Bela certainly made better poverty-row films (Devil Bat, Invisible Ghost), but BOWERY is still pretty entertaining.This is the 2nd release by the Lugosi Estate, and it's a keeper. The picture and sound quality are mostly top-notch (some of the exterior night scenes are pretty murky, but they probably didn't look that great to begin with). There's another audio commentary track by Bela Lugosi Jr. and genre critic Ted Newsome. You won't learn much about the movie, but Bela Jr. does have some great memories of his father to share. You also get another fun radio play starring Bela Sr., and 2 trailers for other Lugosi flicks.All in all, a must-have for Lugosi fans. Let's hope his estate will make good on Bela Jr.'s promise to keep 'em coming."
Good Script . . . Excellent Bela
Edward Garea | Branchville, New Jersey United States | 03/03/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One item few fans know about Bela Lugosi is that, in his spare time, he was an excellent gourmet cook. Give him a few ingredients, a little time, and he could give the Iron Chef a run for his money. This philosophy also influenced Lugosi's films. Quite often he was called upon to make a decent meal from scattered leftovers. Sometimes his main ingredient would be a portion of ham, depending on the film involved. But, give him a good script and he shone like the sun breaking through on a cloudy day. "Bowery at Midnight" gives Lugosi a chance to stretch his acting legs. He plays a character who uses three different guises during the course of the film. By day he is a respected professor of criminal psychology as the City University. In his spare time, he is a kindly do-gooder who runs a soup kitchen in the Bowery. But we soon learn this is a cover for his real persona, a snarling, ruthless crime boss who mistreats everyone who had the bad fortune to work for him. Work for this Lugosi at your own peril, for when he has decided you have lost your usefulness, he tosses you to his henchman doctor for disposal. Unknown to Bela, the doc, whom he has also badly misterated, gets revenge by transforming them into zombie-like creatures and keeps them in the mission's basement. When the police catch on, Bela goes to his mistreated employee for help and a place to hide. The doc is more than happy to oblige, leading Bela down the steps to the basement - and his doom at the hands of those he had previously cast aside.Given the 61 minute running time, the script has to sacrifice characterization for action, but it keeps its continuity quite well and makes sense throughout the film. It's actually fun to see Lugosi in three different characters, going from the pompous, elitist professor of criminology to the kindly, caring social worker to the thoroughly nasty gang boss.This is the second DVD in the "Bela Lugosi Presents" series and like the first, "The Devil Bat," it is loaded with wonderful extras. First, the picture quality is excellent, as it digitally remastered from a 35mm print. You will not find this quality in other DVD versions of this movie. Secondly, the commentary by Ted Newsom and Bela Lugosi, Jr., serves to enhance the viewing experience by filling us in on behind the scenes information on both the film and Bela's private life. A rare photo and poster gallery is included, as well as a collectable movie poster insert, giving a flavor of the times to the viewer. As if that wasn't enough, a few Lugosi trailers are thrown in as is, as an extra bonus, "Gasoline Cocktail," a radio drama starring none other than Bela himself. If you think his voice is exceptional in the movies, wait until you hear it on radio. Simply fabulous for Bela fans, and cinema fans in general.I can only hope that Ted Newsom and Bela Lugosi, Jr. do not stop here. Having whetted our appetites with this feast for eyes and ears, we impatiently look forward to their next offering."
Good Bela / Baaaad Bela...
Bindy Sue FrÝnkŁnschtein | under the rubble | 12/25/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Bela is excellent as both the "good" professor Brenner, and the cold, heartless, e-vil Kenneth Wagner, owner / operator of the Friendly Mission. No one knows that Wagner is also a sadistic criminal mastermind! He's been using the mission as a front for his underworld enterprises, committing heists and killing off henchmen as fast as he can replace 'em! His office is loaded w/ secret passages and he's got a graveyard in the sub-basement full of his ex-partners in crime! There's even a sub-sub-basement where Wagner's mad doctor pal keeps his unnatural experiments alive! I love this movie! Bela plays his good / bad roles w/ ease and dexterity, never seeming overly angelic nor demonic. Of course, I prefer his wicked persona! BOWERY AT MIDNIGHT would make a perfect double bill w/ HUMAN MONSTER, another of Bela's dual role projects..."