Gashouse Kids

THE GASHOUSE KIDS

Producers Releasing Corp. was often referred to as the “King of Poverty Row” because it was the leading independent studio churning out “B” movies in the 1940s and 1950s.  Unlike the “A” movies, “B” movies were not licensed to distributors for a percentage of the box office, but were sold outright as “add on features” to bring in audiences during the dark days of the Depression, along with raffles, newsreels, serials, and short features.  At that time, each state was divided into sub-territories; the distributors for each were known as “States Righters.”  It has been reported that if every single territory was sold, the gross would be about $80,000; leaving allowances for territories that couldn’t be sold – after all, there was no shortage of “B” movies, with the major studios churning them out as well as the independents – it was clear that the budgets had to be kept down to, say, $20,000.  The way to do that was to keep the casts small, to do away with all but the cheapest special effects, to avoid costly sets (unless the set from a more expensive feature could be borrowed, or the same set could be used over and over for different movies), to have relatively few scenes with small casts and a lot of closeups, to come up with a catchy title that would sound a great deal like a major studio film title, and most importantly, to have a compelling story to keep the audience interested.  

PRC’s “Gashouse Kids” series hit all the bases – for one thing, the very name sounded like the names of much better-known series, such as “The Bowery Boys,” “The East Side Kids,” and “The Dead End Kids.”  For another, PRC was able to hire some of the familiar faces from the better-known series.  FATW’s package of three good copyright PRC “Gashouse Kids” films, include such veterans as Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer (one of the most famous members of the “Our Gang” series), Billy Hallop (“Dead End Kids”), and Benny Bartless (“East Side Kids”).  Our three Gashouse features are all good copyright, and until their release by Mr. FAT-W Video, had never been digitally mastered from the original film elements for video release.  Links to Amazon.com for the purchase of the DVDs are below.
    

GAS HOUSE KIDS  (a/k/a EAST SIDE RASCALS) (1946)  
             
C. 7 Oct. 1946  P.R.C. Pictures, Inc.  LP685
B&W  71 Mins.  GC


Director:                         Sam Newfield
Writers:                           Elsie Bricker, George Bricker, Raymond L. Schrock
Producer:                        Sigmund Neufeld
Cinematog.:                    John H. Greenhalgh, Jr.
Art Director:                  Paul F. Sylos
Music Dir.:                      Leo Erdody
Composer:                       Leo Erdody
Editor:                             Holbrook Todd
Story:                               George and Elsie Bricker
Cast:                                 Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, Billy Halop, Robert Lowery, Teala Loring, Rex
                                           Downing, Hope Landin, Paul Bryar, David Reed, Rocco Lanza, Ralph
                                           Dunn, Nanette Vallon, Charles Wilson

Released on October 28, 1946, this is the first of three "Gas House Kids" comedies in our library, evidently designed by PRC to compete with the Bowery Boys and similar groups.  "Spurred on by their determination to help their war-veteran pal win his girl, the 'Kids' declare war on the underworld. And what a war it is!  In their own crazy manner they capture the mobsters and collect a big reward.  With this money, which they give to their pal, he is able to start his  own business.  You'll laugh your sides sore when you see the 'Kids' go all out in their efforts to capture the criminals.  The sky's the limit on laughs and these rascals reach the limit.  For an evening of fun for the whole family don't miss this highly amusing film."  (publicity release)

“A scrappy gang of street kids, living in New York’s lower East Side put aside their juvenile delinquent activities to help a disabled war vet start a chicken ranch in this, the first episode in a trio of low-budget knock-offs of the successful “The Dead End Kids” series.” Corel All Movie Guide 2

GAS HOUSE KIDS GO WEST  (1947)

C. 28 June 1947  Pathe Industries, Inc.  LP1139
B&W  62 Mins.  GC

Director:                        William Beaudine
Writers:                          Eugene Conrad, Robert Kent, A. Robert McGowan
Producer:                       Sam Baerwitz (a Ben Stoloff Production)
Cinematog.:                   William Sickner
Composers:                    Albert Glasser, Alvin Levin, Hans Sommer
Editor:                             Harry Reynolds
Story:                               Sam Baerwitz
Cast:                                 Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, Tommy "Butch" Bond, Bennie Bartlett, Rudy
                                           Wissler, Ray Dolciame, Vince Barnett, Shon Sheldon, Chili Williams,
                                           Emory Parnell, William Wright, Lela Bliss, Jay "Tonto" Silverheels, Ronn
                                           Marvin

Released on July 12, 1947, this is the second of three Gas House Kids comedies in our library, and was the only one reviewed in Variety:  "Original story by Sam Baerwitz offers okay premise for stringing together comedy and melodrama, but, as producer, Baerwitz displays little knowledge.... direction also misses badly, and... a consistently bad screenplay.  Plot has gashouse gang heading west for  vacation on a ranch, along with a policeman friend. They maneuver job of driving car to California, not knowing it's a hot job.  They find ranch is being used by crooked foreman as hideout for hot cars and trap the gang and save the rancher's daughter from a marriage with foreman.  Dialog is crammed with cliches that will arouse audience groans.  Cast does nothing to improve gags and situations.  Lensing and other production  credits are adequate."  (Variety, July 16, 1947)

“The second of three “Bowery Boys” rip-offs produced by bargain-basement Producers Releasing Corporation, Gas House Kids Go West finds the kids in question vacationing at a California ranch.  City boys all, the Kids have a lot of difficulty adjusting to western life, none more so than the former “Our Gang” members Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer and Tommy Bond.  Unbeknownst to everyone but the audience, the ranch is being used as a hiding place for stolen cars.  But Alfalfa and his compadres manage to thwart the bad guys and save the day, after numerous low-budget slapstick situations.  Gas House Kids Go West was followed by Gas House Kids in Hollywood, released a scant two months later.” Corel All Movie Guide 2


GAS HOUSE KIDS IN HOLLYWOOD, THE  (1947)

C. 8 Sept. 1947  Pathe Industries, Inc.  LP1185
B&W  64 Mins.  GC

Director:                           Edward L. Cahn
Writer:                               Robert E. Kent
Producer:                          Sam Baerwitz
Cinematog.:                      James Brown
Art Director:                     Paul F. Sylos
Composer:                         Albert Glasser
Editors:                              Alfred de Gaetano, Donn W. Hayes
Cast:                                   Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, Tommy "Butch" Bond, Rudy Wissler, James
                                             Burke, Michael Whalen, Douglas Fowley, Jan Bryant, Lyle Latell, Frank
                                             Orth, Milton Parsons

Released on August 23, 1947, this is the third of the Gas House Kids comedies in our library. "It's the 'Gas House Kids' at their best--and every film fan knows that means laugh-packed entertainment!  The  zany 'Kids' go Hollywood--and Hollywood goes nuts.  They drive everyone in the film capital crazy with their riotous act. There's a laugh a minute when the 'Kids' arrive.  Take a trip with them and you'll have the zaniest trip of your life.  They meet a mad professor  and from that moment on things get madder and madder for everyone involved!  Wait'l you see Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer's freckles turn white with fright when he's trapped in an eerie cave!  It's free-for-all fun that turns out to be fun for all when you see the 'Kids' out in Hollywood.  See how the 'Kids' help the police, in their own crazy manner, find the hidden money in the haunted house.  There's fun for the whole family when  the 'Gas House Kids' take over in Hollywood. You'll laugh your sides sore and come back for more. The screen has seldom seen their like in this funny episode out of the lives of 'Gas House Gang.'  Don't miss them out in Hollywood." (publicity release)

“The Gas House Kids, the very poor man’s Bowery Boys, head for Hollywood.  While en route to their destination, they accept the invitation of scientist Milton parsons to spend the night at his home.  Head “Gas Housers” Carl “Alfalfa”Switzer and Tommy Bond investigate strange nocturnal noises and discover a houseful of apparent ghosts and goblins.  Actually, the noisemakers are a bunch of gangsters, searching for stolen money.  Gas House Kids in Hollywood was the last of PRC’s three-film “Gas House Kids” series, none of them exactly box office worldbeaters.” Corel All Movie Guide 2


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