Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Yeah, I like these little points..."

Ah, joie de vivre. Is there any human quality more associated with The Three Stooges than this? Watch how they dance-march into Paul Pain's sleeping quarters, thinking the room's for them, and tell me the simple joy of living and breathing is not at work there!
That and the eye-poking, yes. We find the boys living in theatrical apartments very, very far off-Broadway. Curly has an important economic choice to make: does he go for the long-term benefits of the showbiz-related services a monkey can provide, or does he go for the short-term benefits of cooking it and eating it? As always, the free market makes the proper choice... nah, that can't be right. But a Stooge always puts the stage before hunger, and before long Moe is grabbing Curly by the eyebrow and dragging him to his duty. Larry tries the Russian kicking squatting dance he always tries, and they all do that dance they do when someone gets an ice cube or an annoying insect down their back.
But they're not alone in the midst of the Great Depression, when all had to share uncomfortably close quarters. That the legendary Paul Pain has to put up with such childish nonsense must be a real comedown, but the Gilded Age had to come crashing down at some point. All that opulence... it just wasn't sustainable! Unlike today, of course. Pain crosses paths with the Stooges' show monkey, and it's hate at first sight. Moe ends up poking Pain in the eyes, admonishing him to pick on species his own size. The Stooges don't typically poke someone in the eyes outside of their triumvirate, and Pain needless to say lives up to his name. I know, it's probably spelled Payne, but it's too late to change now. There's a certain permanence and an honoring of tradition to the web, you know! Like I need to remind you, faithful readers, Paul Pain, the be-wigged heartthrob of millions, is played by the greatest actor of his generation, James C. Morton, in possibly his greatest role since The Midnight Patrol. What's so great about Morton is his consistency. With a Morton performance, a director knows exactly what he's going to get, and try as he or she might, it won't change from take to take.
But back to joie de vivre. Sorry, joie de vivre. Gotta always have that in italics for some reason. Reminds me! I gotta get that three pack of spaghetti sauce the next time I go to Costco. Anyway, the Stooges get very excited when Madame Showbiz calls, offering a job. In Panics of 1936, no less! Obviously, they haven't seen A Pain in the Pullman. That's all the panic you'll ever need. A representative of Goldstein, Goldberg, Goldblatt and O'Brien calls, if memory serves. So many times the Stooges have relied on this gag, but this time they have an ACTUAL living breathing O'Brien!! His name's Jesse De Vorska, according to the IMDb, and as they say, he's the real deal. Sadly, he left this mortal coil some 12 years ago at the tender young age of 101, having played such roles as the Jewish Football Customer in Employees' Entrance... I know. I couldn't believe it was him either. He also starred in something called Jewish Prudence. It's a shanda, I tells ya! I guess no one's in a hurry to remake that one these days.
Anyway, now that duty has called, much like the Okies in their covered wagons, the Stooges leave their roots behind, and attempt to escape their debts. We don't know exactly how far they have to travel to be in Panics of 1936, but it becomes increasingly apparent that it will be necessary to take a train. And I'm sorry, but even the government back then would be forced to admit that it's a necessary trip. It would also be necessary to totally rip off... I mean, pay homage to Laurel and Hardy's Berth Marks. Hmm! Wonder if any eyebrows were raised over the title back then. Moe actually SAYS the title at one point, and I guess it really, really wouldn't make much sense unless one were aware of the previous film. But while the second act of Berth Marks is minimalist to say the least, the Stooges make it positively Shakespearean in comparison. Just as the real story in The Polar Express is what goes on outside the train, the Stooges know that the real story is not that the Stooges sleep comfortably in the train on the way to their destination. And if you like seeing Bud Jamison hitting his head, you're in for a real treat! SPOILER ALERT. It happens no less than FIVE TIMES here!!! It's a little different each time, to be fair. Just think of it as the beating that Lou Dobbs should've gotten. Also, the monkey proves it's talented at one point. An elegant lady talking in her sleep says "Kiss me!" The monkey is next to her face, and it sticks its tongue out in response. Priceless. If it were a five second clip on YouTube, it'd have a hundred million hits by now. Somebody work on that. There's also an hilarious drunk who shows us why it's not just dangerous to run with scissors. The Stooges are eventually forcibly ejected from the train, but not for the reasons you'd think. As always, they're a victim of soicumstance, but they know the importance of making a grand exit, and while we never get to see them become the official panics of 1936, they for a brief instant become the panics of the open prairie. (SPOILER ALERT)

Next week: False Alarms!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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