Spooks Run Wild

Spooks Run Wild is a 1941 American horror comedy film and the seventh film in the East Side Kids series, starring Bela Lugosi, Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, and Bobby Jordan. Released in 1941, it was directed by Phil Rosen, in his first and only outing in the series, and produced by Sam Katzman (under the company name Banner Pictures). It is based on an original script by Carl Foreman and Charles R. Marion.

Spooks Run Wild
Theatrical poster
Directed byPhil Rosen
Produced bySam Katzman
Written byCarl Foreman
Charles R. Marion
Based onstory by Foreman & Marion
StarringBela Lugosi
Leo Gorcey
Huntz Hall
Music byJohnny Lange
Lew Porter
CinematographyMarcel Le Picard
Edited byRobert Golden
Distributed byMonogram Pictures Corporation
Release date
  • October 24, 1941 (1941-10-24)
Running time
65 minutes


Members of the New York City East Side boys club—leader Muggs (Leo Gorcey), Danny (Bobby Jordan), Glimpy (Huntz Hall), Scruno (Sunshine Sammy Morrison), Skinny (Donald Haines), and Peewee (David Gorcey)—reluctantly board a bus bound for summer camp.

The bus stops in the town of Hillside, where Muggs and his pals flirt with Margie, a soda fountain waitress (Rosemary Portia). While they are there, a radio broadcast announces that a maniacal "monster killer" is in the area. When they arrive at the camp, the counselor, Jeff Dixon (Dave O'Brien), complains to his girlfriend, camp nurse Linda Mason (Dorothy Short), that he will get no work done on his thesis because of the rowdy juvenile delinquents.

One night, Nardo (Bela Lugosi), a mysterious caped figure, and his dwarf assistant, Luigi (Angelo Rossitto), ask a local gas station attendant for directions to the hilltop Billings house, which has been deserted for years since its owner was murdered. After he leaves, another car arrives and the attendant recognizes the driver from his mystery magazines as Dr. Von Grosch (Dennis Moore). The attendant believes that Nardo is the killer and Von Grosch is hunting him, and he alerts the local constable that Nardo is a suspect. One night, Nardo and Luigi sneak into the local graveyard and are shot at by a grave digger.

That same night, Muggs slips out of camp hoping to rendezvous with the soda fountain girl, and is followed by all his pals. The East Side Kids get lost in the woods, and when they wander into the graveyard, Peewee is also shot by the digger. The boys take Peewee to the nearby Billings house, where Nardo tends to his minor injury and gives him a sedative. Nardo lets the boys spend the night, but Peewee disappears while sleepwalking. The rest of the boys are unable to sleep because of Nardo's strangeness and Peewee's disappearance. Linda, meanwhile, also disappears while out searching for the boys, and Jeff goes to the police for help.

When the boys confront Nardo, he claims not to know where Peewee is, but insists that the boys remain in the house. Muggs distrusts Nardo and on his command, the boys attack him and roll him into a carpet. Skinny and Glimpy disappear through a secret passage, and Scruno is spooked when Nardo reappears. At constable Jim's office, the grave digger recalls seeing the boys, and Jim believes they may have fallen into the killer's hands at the Billings estate. The boys, meanwhile, search for Peewee, but are continually being surprised by the appearance of coffins and objects that move themselves, and by the disappearance of their pals through walls and closets.

Linda, meanwhile, accepts a ride from Von Grosch, who takes her to the Billings house, ostensibly to help the boys. Muggs and the boys succeed in terrifying Nardo by pretending to be a ghost, and they finally find Peewee back in bed. Just after Linda and Von Grosch arrive at the house, Von Grosch attacks Linda.

The police burst in and accuse Nardo of being a killer, but Muggs has already learned that Nardo is merely a magician. When they all hear Linda screaming inside a locked room, Muggs climbs onto the roof and enters the room through a window. While he struggles with Von Grosch, who is the real "monster killer," Linda opens the door, and the police arrest Von Grosch. Later, Nardo performs magic tricks for Jeff, Linda and the boys, and when Muggs goes into a cabinet after a disappearing girl, he emerges with Scruno in his arms.


The East Side Kids

Additional Cast

  • Dave O'Brien as Jeff Dixon
  • Dorothy Short as Linda Mason
  • Dennis Moore as Dr. Van Grosch
  • P.J. Kelly as Lem Harvey
  • Angelo Rossitto as Luigi
  • Guy Wilkerson as Constable Jim
  • Slim Andrews as Hank (uncredited)
  • Jack Carr as The Hillside Mayor (uncredited)
  • Pat Costello as Bus Driver (uncredited)
  • George Eldredge as Policeman (uncredited)
  • Joe Kirk as Camp Counselor (uncredited)
  • Rosemary Portia as Margie (uncredited)
  • James Sheridan as Cop (uncredited)


Since the series inception in 1940, the East Side Kids films had been, for the most part, a well balanced mix between comedy, drama, and social relevance. Following Huntz Hall's introduction into the series with 1941's Bowery Blitzkrieg, which made famous the Gorcey/Hall banter, producer Sam Katzman decided that the seventh film in the series would not only be a change of pace, but, would also be one of the biggest East Side Kids extravaganzas yet.

With that in mind, Katzman enlisted the screen writing team of Carl Foreman and Charles R. Marion to pen the screenplay, which would feature Monogram's two most popular draws for the first time together on screen: Bela Lugosi and the East Side Kids. Foreman was paid $25 for his original story an $200 for the script.[1] The film was originally known as Trail of the Vampire[1] then Ghosts in the Night.[2]

In April 1941 Monogram announced that Lugosi would make two starring vehicles for the studio, The Night of Horror and Kiss of Death and would also appear with the East Side Kids in Ghosts in the Night.[3]

At the last minute, with Bowery Blitzkrieg director Wallace Fox already attached to Columbia's The Lone Star Vigilantes, Katzman hired Russian-born director Phil Rosen, who had just finished filming Monogram's "The Deadly Game" to helm the production.

Angelo Rossitto was based on the strength of his performance in Hellzapoppin'.[4]

Ghosts in the Night began filming in early August 1941, around the same time as Bowery Blitzkrieg was making its way into theatres. By the time filming wrapped only a week and half later, the film's working title was changed to Spooks Run Wild and hit theaters on October 24, 1941, just in time for Halloween.

East Side Kid Donald Haines' last film. Haines enlisted as an aviation cadet for the United States Army Air Forces during this period and was later killed in action in 1943.


The Los Angeles Times said that "for some fans it will lack the usual spontaneity of these pictures, even though there's a fair measure of laughs."[5] The New York Times said the script "must have been the distillate of some addled witch's brew. The sum total as represented... is less horror than horrible."[6]

Follow up

Lugosi and the East Side Kids were later reteamed in Ghosts on the Loose, which was also originally known as Ghosts in the Night.[7]


  1. Tom Weaver, Poverty Row Horrors! Mongram, PRC and Republic Horror Films of the Forties, 1993 p 45-52
  2. Miriam Hopkins Likely 'Mississippi Belle' Lead: Blore, Fields Assigned Lamour Back to Jungle Florodora Girl Sought 'Kids' to Scare Lugosi Sheila Ryan Re-signed Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 12 Apr 1941: A9.
  3. Fifty-three Feature Program Announced by Monogram: Film Company Maps Season's Production at Opening of Franchise Holders' Convention Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 05 Apr 1941: A3.
  4. Hedda Hopper's HOLLYWOOD Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 13 Aug 1941: A10.
  5. Spooky Film Previewed G K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 06 Oct 1941: 22.
  6. Review of film at New York Times
  7. DRAMA: Ava Gardner Awarded Lead in Film Thriller MacMurray in Musical Johnson to Go Romantic Wartime Novelty Slated Lavery Signs at R.K.O. College Talent Sought Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 09 Feb 1943: 9.
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