A Killer, Bela Lugosi and The East Side Kids in… – Spooks Run Wild (1941)

Starring the East Side Kids and Bela Lugosi, Spooks Run Wild would be a blend of both horror and comedy and ultimately end up being a fairly entertaining movie even by today’s standards nearly seventy years later. A bit of the humour is dated and some viewers might not get every reference spouted off by the various teens, but overall it still manages to generate a few giggles during the course of its sixty-four minute run-time. Conversely, the horror is very low-key and not frightening in the slightest. Most of it derives from Lugosi and his performance, the man being as mysterious as usual with that devilish smile upon his face. Primarily taking place in a spooky old house, there are the usual clichés that one would find in a haunted house film and instead of being scary, anything horror-related simply fuels the comedy which in the end is not a bad thing.

Lugosi of course, is as good as ever in this film, though little would be asked of the man. He could definitely be menacing and a very imposing figure when need be, but when he let his hair down so to speak, he could also be quite funny and this picture would prove that. The laughs might not be those from the belly, but Lugosi generates more than one smile and a couple of chuckles, clearly having fun with the material. The East Side Kids comprised of Leo Gorcey, Sunshine Sammy Morrison, Bobby Jordan, Huntz Hall, David Gorcey and Donald Haines were built for comedy and as such, featured in numerous films – twenty-two in all to greater or lesser effect. That being said, the Boys were a money machine during the 1940’s featuring their distinctive brand of humour and it cannot be questioned that they did not churn out enjoyable, if fluff-filled pictures. The boys do a great job, playing up the fact that they believe themselves to be in a haunted house and on the run from a deranged killer made all the better by playing opposite Lugosi, trying to escape and failing spectacularly at it.

After playing the villain for many years and the hero far too little in-between, seeing Lugosi do something a little different is a good thing. While Spooks Run Wild may not be the highlight of his career, it was a fun outing and worth a watch even if for the sake of curiosity.

3 out of 5

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