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Under the Radar DVD of the Week: 'The Bowery Boys: Volume One'

Dennis King Published: December 17, 2012

This week, the oddest DVD to appear on release lists is:

“The Bowery Boys: Volume One”

In early incarnations they were called The Dead End Kids or The East Side Kids or the Little Tough Guys, but eventually the rag-tag street urchins of Depression-era New York came into their own in the mid-20th century as movie stars under the name The Bowery Boys.

Now the Warner Bros. Archive is releasing nearly 13 hours of movie footage on DVD (available in manufactured-on-demand formats) from the boys’ feature films made for Monogram Pictures from 1946 to 1958.

After early forays on the Broadway stage (in the 1935 play “Dead End”), in serial shorts and as supporting players in gangster movies (most notably opposite Humphrey Bogart in 1938’s “Angels With Dirty Faces”), the gang eventually morphed into The Bowery Boys, would-be toughs who hung around Louie’s Sweet Shop at 3rd and Canal and embarked on various crime and comic adventures.

Personifying the grit, street savvy and sentimental heart of kid gangs that sprang up in urban slums of the era, the Bowery Boys were anchored by lanky doofus Huntz Hall and compact, tough-talking Leo Gorcey (although 13 actors were members of the team at one time or another).

In works ranging from pious social preachments to gritty crime tales to straight-up comedies, the boys starred in scores of films that make up an enduring Hollywood franchise. In all, there were 48 official “Bowery Boys” movies, making it one of the longest-running feature-film series in Hollywood history.

“The Bowery Boys: Volume One” is not rated and runs 793 minutes on four discs. It’s being released by Warner Archive.

- Dennis King