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Even though he starred in a lot of Grade "Z" features, Bela Lugosi movies are always worth watching- case in point- BOWERY AT MIDNIGHT ($20). BOWERY AT MIDNIGHT is one of the countless programmers produced on Hollywood's poverty row, which was a place where Lugosi could occasionally be found, especially when the actor was in need of a quick paycheck. In BOWERY AT MIDNIGHT, Lugosi plays dual roles- during the day, he is Professor Brenner, who teaches psychiatry at New York University; however, at night, the mild mannered professor becomes criminal mastermind Karl Wagner, who uses a soup kitchen on the Bowery as a front for his illegal activities. Utilizing the steady stream of derelict criminals who enter the soup kitchen as disposable help, Wagner pulls off a crime spree and then buries the bodies of his spent gang members in the basement. Things, however, take an unexpected turn, when we discover that the drug-addicted doctor in Wagner's employ has been resurrecting all of the dead criminals and hiding them in a secret chamber. Sure the plot of BOWERY AT MIDNIGHT is ludicrous, but Lugosi exudes so much entertaining screen menace that one easily overlooks the film's flaws whenever he is on the screen. The cast of BOWERY AT MIDNIGHT also includes Wanda McKay, John Archer, Dave O'Brien, Lew Kelly, Wheeler Oakman, Tom Neal, John Berkes, Vince Barnett, Ray Miller, J. Farrell MacDonald and Anna Hope.

BOWERY AT MIDNIGHT arrives on DVD thanks to the folks at The Roan Group. The black and white film is presented in its proper 1.33:1 aspect ratio and appears to be transferred from a good-looking 16mm source. Sharpness and detail are not what one would find in pristine 35mm, but BOWERY AT MIDNIGHT has a very watchable image. Well lit scenes offer more detail, than those that are purposefully dark. There are the expected age related scratches and blemishes on the element, but they are never too distracting. Blacks are fairly accurate, but whenever the picture gets dark, the image becomes somewhat muddy. Whites are stable and contrast is decent. Digital compression artifacts are not a problem. The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack has some rough patches, where the music becomes distorted, but for the most part dialogue is intelligible. Additionally, there is a background hiss that can be overlooked at moderate volume levels. The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some production notes.

Diehard Lugosi fans will find BOWERY AT MIDNIGHT to be a hoot and better than most of the Grade "Z" entertainment, in which the master of menace appeared. Roan's DVD presentation is fairly solid, making the disc worth checking out.

Bowery at Midnight


DVD reviews are Copyright 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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