17 April 2011 | wes-connors
Tough and Hard to Catch
In the summer of 1941, four unemployed youth known alternately as "The Dead End Kids" and "The Little Tough Guys" see a movie. Then, handsome Billy Halop (as Tommy Davis), wisecracking Huntz Hall (as Albert), chubby Bernard Punsly (as Bertram), and tag-along Gabriel Dell (as Edward) buy beds in a flophouse for the night. Also sleeping at the hotel is Tommy Kelly (as Steven Bell), a runaway with pneumonia. Figuring the lad will either die or be too sick to fight back tempts thievery, and a fight breaks out...
The ruckus forces "The Dead End Kids" to leave town by rail, taking sickly Mr. Kelly with them, as Mr. Halop has become close to the teenager. We learn Kelly ran away from a well-to-do home due to being pushed around by an older brother. The quintet is riding the rails. When discovered by a trainman, they must make a fast getaway. Unfortunately, Kelly falls between two train cars, and is ground to death. Halop decides the gang must inform the boy's mother (they were going to take Kelly home anyway).
Unable to share the sad news with motherly Virginia Brissac (as Alice), Halop and the lads instead lead her to believe they are there to meet her dead son. They move in to await his arrival, enjoying Ms. Brissac's hospitality. We meet big brother Dick Hogan (as Don), who is even nastier than Kelly remembered, and pretty Grace McDonald (as Norene Steward) who dates Mr. Hogan but also arouses Halop's interest. Halop gets a job in the local service station while his "Dead End" friends sell magazines door-to-door.
The plot thickens when Halop discovers brother Hogan is involved with racketeers. Hogan plans to frame Halop for his crimes. The cast also has to deal with the fact that their host family is waiting for a dead son to come home. The looming threat of World War II is woven throughout - early on, the draft-aged youth don't want to defend a country that has failed them. All of this makes "Mug Town" one of the more tense entries in the series. The screenplay encompasses tragedy, comic relief, and war propaganda.
Note this was the penultimate Universal Studios "Dead End Kids" film and the last appearance of Bernard Punsly in any of the related films. Off on an "East Side Kids" adventure, Bobby Jordan returned for "Keep 'Em Slugging" (1943). Both he and Halop would join the World War II effort in real life, which elevates Halop's closing line in this film. Following service, Halop was lured back into the juvenile film fold to start the "Gas House Kids" (1946). After that, everything merged into "The Bowery Boys" (but without Halop).
****** Mug Town (12/18/42) Ray Taylor ~ Billy Halop, Huntz Hall, Dick Hogan, Tommy Kelly