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The Bowery Boys: No Holds Barred
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Tag-team comedy is a staple in pro wrestling. While wrestlers like Eric Young and Orlando Jordan enjoy sharing the spotlight together, it is a completely different story amongst Hollywood comedians: Seth Rogen might want to piledrive Zach Galifianakis before he stars in the same film with him.

But Hollywood comedy films were not always focused upon one individual. In the early days of the sound film era, comedy troupes were very popular in films, carrying over from the time of vaudeville. In the silent film era, one spoke of Laurel and Hardy; then in the early sound era, Abbott and Costello and The Three Stooges, among others. Another popular comedy group to star in films were The Bowery Boys, who had a long history together, beginning first as "The Little Tough Guys" in 1938, for Universal Pictures. Audiences saw them grow up on the screen, and invested nearly two decades in watching them by the time their last film together came out, in 1958.

As down and out young adults, The Bowery Boys would face insurmountable odds, and unrealistically overcome them, in a way that would have film audiences cheering (think of the great comebacks by Spike Dudley or the Amazing Red). While they faced monsters like a Bigfoot-like creature in Master Minds, and a motley crew of vampires, man-eating trees, and a killer gorilla in The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters, one might argue that their biggest challenge was in the ring.

In No Holds Barred (not to be confused with the Hulk Hogan/Tiny Lister film from the 1980s) directed by Wiliam Beaudine, and released in 1952, The Bowery Boys take on the monsters of professional wrestling. One of the Bowery Boys discovers that he is acquiring unusual powers, and decides to use them in the ring. Unfortunately for him, his powers limit themselves to just one part of his body, and randomly switches to another part without him knowing. When shady wrestling promoters discover this about him, they kidnap him and demand that he wrestle for them.....or else.

This film is notable for the appearance of some 1940s professional wrestlers, including Ted Christy, John Smith, and the charismatic Brother Frank Jares (best known as the Mormon Mauler from Utah and The Thing; his son, Joe Jares, wrote the 1974 book Whatever Happened to Gorgeous George?). Although his screen time is limited, the Mormon Mauler's rare personality shines through, and one wishes there were more films with him in it.

Final fun fact: look for what might be the first appearance of the "Finger Poke of Doom" wrestling move. Were Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan paying tribute to the Bowery Boys, one wonders?

-- Ranjan Chhibber, PhD