Monday, April 18, 2011

Public Domain Entropy in the Court

Guess I better start having caption contests or something. Well, even though I, like all Stooge film collectors, possess exactly 5,000 copies of Disorder in the Court, each one with a different cover, I'm going to go with good ol' reliable YouTube for this one once again. This seems to be the first Stooge short where they've condensed the opening sequence with the three of them and the title card. They ran out of creative title card ideas or, more likely, trimmed some of the fat at Columbia. Do the Stooges REALLY need a separate title card? This is Cannery Row, mind you! We're having trouble enough with that damn Gable pic and he's just on the bus the whole time!
Anyway, I just love a good courtroom drama. We open with the finest actor that ever walked the face of the earth, the valedictorian of his high school class of 1902, James C. Morton, sporting a very, very bad wig. Tip: if you're an older gentleman, go with the grey wig. Make the sideburns match at least! Morton plays the guy that swears in all the witnesses and such. It used to be a separate job back then. And so, the prosecution begins in earnest. Gale Tempest, dancer at the Blue Iguana... I mean, the Black Bottom Café... oh, that's even worse! She swears she didn't commit that murder on February 13th. "Then WHO DID?" Objection. Grounds? Umm, isn't the prosecution supposed to have some idea of who committed a crime when they go to trial? I know, I know, there I go again looking for logic in a Stooge short. Old habit. Fortunately, Bud Jamison provides the objection, and he's sporting some serious eyeliner here. He mentions the jury, and the camera dwells on the jury long enough for us to have a hearty laugh. In this, the age of EXTREME short attention spans, it seems incredibly long.
My three main witnesses... the very idea. Jamison motions for a recess by telling the judge he'll be right back. In for a penny, in for a pound, right? The Stooges have gone out to lunch, and are now engaged in an epic game of onesies. Jamison takes all this surprisingly calmly. There follows a soon-to-be recurring gag with a comedy gate separating the trial audience from the trial. How many more have to die?
Speaking of dying, Curly gets sworn in at this point. It's five hours of my life... that I will cherish forever. The older I get, the more I like it when Morton screams "SIT DOWN!" at Curly. I don't know why. I must be a cynic.
The eye-poking sounds seem to make their debut here. Maybe it's me, but that sounds an awful lot like a hair getting pulled out of someone's head with a pair of pliers. So Curly gives testimony. I've never heard him so hep before! It's kinda unsettling, I hate to say. This leads to the next plot development: they 'act out' what happened at the club. Well, 16 minutes is a lot of time to kill. My next objection: Larry confuses Morton's wig for a tarantula that's crawled onto his violin bow. Panic sweeps the courtroom... at least, amongst the Stooges. Moe, in the throes of a serious fear transferral, steps on the wig, and grabs the gun of the courtroom officer and starts shooting at the wig. Now normally if this happened... never mind. This was the midst of the Great Depression, after all. Things were just different. Plus, we didn't have all these damn computers that are ruining everything nowadays.
On to Part Two. Sigh. They've replaced Zeta-Jones with a younger model in those T-Mobile ads. But they're using the guy from Burn After Reading! It's all Coen-nected. Anyway, the Judge warns the Stooges to control their "killing instincts." The older I get,... Anyway, Moe swallows the harmonica, leading to more hilarity. The re-enactment continues, forcing Moe to sharpen his killer instincts. He sticks Curly's head into a letter press and starts squeezing Curly's head with it. I hate it when they do that, but Moe gets his for that. And a bunch of other stuff happens. The prosecuting attorney seems to be the snooty director from Movie Maniacs! I'm too busy to look that up, though. Somebody else do it.
Anyway, my verdict. Let's get it over with. They stretch out the boring parts too much, but they manage to cram plenty of gags into the second reel. Bubble gum, a loose parrot, an out-of-control fire hose, it's got everything. And yet, it's not one of my favorites. Brideless Groom, on the other hand, a public domain classic! We'll get to that one in a few years.

good double bill with: Buster Keaton's Sidewalks of New York (1931), because the dialogue was TOTALLY STOLEN... I mean, you just might recognize some of the courtroom dialogue and action.  Personally, I think Buster does it better, don't you folks?

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Next week: A Pain in the Pullman... with James C. Morton as Paul Payne! The heartthrob of millions.

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