That Gang of Mine (The East Side Kids Double Feature)

   Today’s review is for a disc I picked up at Dollar General from a company called “PC Treasures, Inc.” (http://www.pctreasures.com/home/cons_websites.htm) . They’re a budget label that’s been around for a few years, and you can usually find their product in Target (in their $1 area) and Walgreens (around Halloween- PC Treasures puts out various “Halloween- themed” DVDs of public Domain titles), as well as Family Dollar (the sister store of Dollar General). This one I got for 30 cents (they had some on clearance for 70% off)…

 

   The company’s packaging is distinctive, if ultra-cheap- instead of plastic cases their product is sold in DVD case-sized cardboard boxes. It’s pretty chintzy; up until recently at least they would put the discs in a paper sleeve but not any more- now they just glue the face of the disc to the inside of the box. And once you open the box, it makes it hard for you to shelve it nicely so you either keep the opened case and the disc loose inside or you have a boxless disc. Either way is pretty dumb…

 

   This disc is marked “That Gang of Mine Starring The East Side Kids” with a blurb in the lower right corner that says “Also Includes Clancy Street Boys” and if you flip it over you’ll see that they throw in a cartoon- “There Auto Be a Law” (which is a limited motion “New Three Stooges” cartoon that also features color live-action footage of the Stooges. The thing is, it doesn’t really fit with the ‘40’s era feature movies that this is pared with as the cartoon was made in the 60’s)…

 

   For those who aren’t familiar with them, the East Side Kids (along with their previous incarnation The Dead End Kids and their final version (and probably most famous) The Bowery Boys) were a group of actors paired in various mixes for almost 20 years. They started off as the side story of “Dead End” (1937) which was first a play then a movie. They were a tough New York street gang that would lie, cheat and steal for extra scratch. The more movies they made apparently softened them; by the end of their run (1956) the ”Boys” were well into their 40’s, still acting like street thugs but for comedic effect- almost Three Stooges-style of goofy. The quality of their productions vary wildly; Angels With Dirty Faces was one of the most memorable, with the kids starring with Jimmy Cagney (and his memorable turn as a crime idol who fakes being scared as he’s dragged to the gallows to burst the bubbles of the “Kids”; while later flicks like Crashing Las Vegas had the boys hitting up Vegas with a ‘sure way’ to beat the system in a cheap and cheesy style. I liked ‘em as a kid and will still watch if I run across one of their movies cannel surfing, so I figured I would give this disc a try…

 

   That Gang of Mine (1940) is the higher quality and closer to their better studio-made product. It has the gang leader Muggs (Leo Gorcey- the ‘star’ of most of their adventures) wanting to be a horse jockey. Why an inner city juvenile delinquent feels they have what it takes to be a jockey never having ridden before isn’t really explained, but hey- anything can happen in the movies. Anyway, the gang runs across a poor guy and his racehorse so the Boys come up with a scheme- to enter him in a race (with Muggs at the helm) and win a bunch of loot…

 

   This one I didn’t care for at all- for some reason I like the ones that stay in the city; having the Boys at the racetrack is pretty forced. Nothing really happens, and at 62 minutes it feels 10-15 minutes too long. Also, the transfer is really bad; it was dubbed from a video tape so there’s all kinds of ‘rainbow’ banding and is dupey and fuzzy. Even the back of the packaging shows screenshots from the film and THEY are blurry. Anyway, you can skip this one (and the cartoon- I’m sure that I’ll be reviewing Three Stooges cartoon DVDs in the future) and go right to…

 

   Clancy Street Boys (1943) may have only been made three years after the first one, but some of the Boys look like they’ve aged a decade. Start right off by suspending disbelief; Muggs is celebrating his 18th birthday (yeah- RIGHT… Leo Gorcey was 27 when he mad this one and looks to be in his mid-thirties) but all’s not right- his Mom has been fooling their Uncle by implying they had 7 kids when actually Muggs is the only one… and the Uncle is coming into town to pay the clan a visit! So the hijinx include faking a family; cross-dressing; kidnapping; and horse-riding through the boroughs of the Bronx. This one is goofy but in a fun way; it sticks to the tried-and-true formula closely and even though it screams ‘cheap’ (it was only shot in six days by legendary schlock director William “One Shot” Beaudine) with static scenes and flubbed lines, it’s an entertaining way to spend an hour…

 

   This one is actually in better shape than the previous one as well; at least it was taken from a 16mm print so there’s no annoying video strobe or artifacts. This is not exactly an archive version (you aren’t going to be showing off your impressive home theater system with THIS one); with lots of scratches and splices- but the B/W is clean enough to not be distracting; think of it as about the quality you would see on late night TV pre-cable. So I guess for 30 cents this is a pretty nice grap; at that price it’s almost disposable media- watch it once then throw it away…

 

   That Gang of Mine– 1-1/2* of 5

 

   Clancy Street Boys– 3* of 5

 

 

 

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