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On Dress Parade
Dead End Kids at Military School

USA 1939
produced by
Hal B. Wallis, Jack L. Warner for Warner Brothers
directed by William Clemens
starring the Dead End Kids (= Leo Gorcey, Billy Halop, Bobby Jordan, Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell, Bernard Punsly), John Litel, Frankie Thomas, Cecilia Loftus, Selmer Jackson, Aldrich Bowker, Douglas Meins, William Gould, Donald Douglas
written by Tom Reed, music by Howard Jackson

Dead End Kids, later East Side Kids, Bowery Boys

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Slip (Leo Gorcey) is your typical problem child, spending his time in the pool halls rather than in school, spending his money on gambling, and always ready to get into a fistfight or the like. But Slip is also the long-lost son of a deceased army general, who has asked his best friend Col Riker (John Litel) to take care of his boy. And since army people have always suffered from a significant lack of imagination, the Colonel thinks taking care of the boy is to send him to military school. Of course, Slip refuses to go, but is tricked to believing the only alternative would be reform school, so he joins.

At military school, Slip is quickly on course to become the worst cadet ever, and he doesn't care of course - and then he learns from a friend from the outside (Bernard Punsly) that he has only been tricked into joining, so he leaves immediately - or tries to, because his fellow recrutes under the command of Cadet Major Rollins (Billy Halop) try to make him stay ... by grabbing his bag and humiliating him by making him chase after it. The situation eventually culminates with Rollins falling out of a second storey window, and now Slip feels responsible (if in all fairness it was an accident and Rollins initiated it by having all of them play catch the bag).

Now Slip wants to remain in military school, just to make up for what has happened to Rollins, and he is soon at the top of his class in pretty much every subject. However, his fellow cadets avoid him, making him (rather than themselves) responsible for what has happened to Rollins. Only Rollins has forgiven him, actually.

Of course, you know by now where this all leads to: During a maneuvre, an airplane crashes into the ammonitions depot, which is to blow up every minute now, but Slip saves one of his fellow cadet's (Gabriel Dell) life, almost losing his own in the process. But now he's the celebrated hero of his regiment and is presented a medal for his bravery!


A pretty unsubtle hour-long commercial for the army that's annoying especially for the messages it transports: That the army is apparently a solution for everyone's problems, and everybody is prime army material if only motivated the right way. and the loss of individuality that comes with it is a good thing, too. And it's actually ok to trick young men into joining the army. In this respect though, army recruitment films over the decades (think also An Officer and Gentleman, Top Gun, Battleship and countless others) have not really developed any sort of subtlety over the years, the genre seems to be quite simply refinement-resistant.

Back to On Dress Parade though: Other than the fact that Leo Gorcey brings the sole touch of colour to this annoyingly straightforward and predictable film, and does the best to carry it, there really isn't much going on, even the other Dead End Kids seem to all be cut from the same cloth and do their best to not show too much individuality - which of course badly hurts their dynamics as a group, that in other films even borders the anarchic, which is only another reason why this film is pretty much a bore.

Waste of time, actually.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD