Sunday, June 05, 2011

Stooges: Three Dumb F... Clucks

Welp, if you've seen enough Stooge films in the course of your life... and I'm already starting to feel like I've seen enough... you'll find that they at least tried to get a variety of plots. Some plots, however, just can't be made once. Whether it's winning that big radio contest, trying to answer the old "nature v. nurture" question, or stopping pa's wedding to the younger woman, one can't help but revisit some of the same old plots. In this case, it's the third plot: they have to stop a wedding.
Ooh! I forgot their exterminator plot! They also put pests into a house to drum up pest extermination business, with a bag of cats in tow, on at least two occasions, with two different casts, but I digress.
We start off with the three of them in one giant jail cell. That's the best place for them, but it's the beginning of the film, so escape is inevitable. The reason arrives: a letter from Ma about Pa's remarriage plans. They GOTTA get out and stop the wedding! The laundry will just have to wait. Curly says that he has an idea in the back of his head. You'll hear Shemp later on use the same line. Must be a Horowitz thing. Larry makes a suggestion: let's use the tools! But what tools, you might ask? Larry co-opts Moe's line: the tools they've been using the last 10 years, only Larry doesn't get to grab anyone by their hair when he says it. They lift up the mattress to reveal a rather large, diverse array of tools. I hate to spoil all the little details, so I'll just point out that Curly's head is the tool that ultimately saves the day.
They break out of jail but only to find that the world's changed, and not necessarily for the better. Electric appliances have almost completed their evil plot for world domination, followed in close second by pollution. Women now have the right to vote, and the world is on the brink of a world war. As for the Stooges, they go from one iron gate to another: that protecting their old man's mansion. Fortunately, Curly's come prepared with a sledgehammer. Moe holds a chisel to the gate and... well, I guess you'll just have to see for yourself. It's actually kinda touching in a way. Merchant/Ivory couldn't have done much better.
As part of the formula, it's incumbent upon one of the Stooges to play a dual role as their Stooge self and the Stooge's father. Personally, Shemp imbued the role with a little more dignity, but he was pretty old himself at the time. Curly was still a relatively young guy, and like most movie actors, he didn't want to be seen as a cruel bastard. The boys break in through a window and find their "pa" enjoying a light lunch. They run over to the table, and pa steps out of the way before anyone can put two and two together and wonder how they cloned Curly and got the clone to act... you get the idea. They look like they unnecessarily used a process screen to show Curly as the father, and Curly's stunt double crashing through the giant window. Well, it was a big deal at the time. Maybe not Bringing up Baby big, but pre-Sony, pre-Coca Cola Columbia Studio big.
The Stooge father hands the boys a big wad of bills... money, that is, not his "bills" bills, taxes, power, water, what have you... and tells them to get some nice new clothes and they can come to his wedding. The boys eventually accept, which leads to the big padded out sequence that stretches the film to 16 minutes. Curly tries on hats. He breaks a few of them, finds many he doesn't like or are way too big for his head... but he finds the one that he likes: ...a golf hat? An Americanized beret? And I thought I was somewhat immune to cultural illiteracy. Not so. But bear in mind: this is the hat he keeps returning to, literally and actually, as Moe throws it away at one point, only to have it return to the top of Curly's head like the proverbial boomerang it's made out to be. Curly keeps this hat under his hat when they leave the store, and it's instrumental in getting us to the next big conceit of the movie; wait for it... the new bride to be mistakes Curly for Curly's pa! After almost getting run down by her car in the street, she mistakes... oh, I should point out that Curly's pa has big mutton-chop sideburns, to help distinguish the two. Now, maybe I'm getting old and senile and have way, way too much time on my hands, but doesn't the sound effect at 1:07 here sound like the sound effect at 6:28 here? Sorry, but that's about as easy as I can make it with my limited technological capabilities here. Anyway, we find out that the wedding's not going to be the happily ever after it's supposed to... ain't that true of all weddings? There's an identity crisis, a run around a flagpole, a climb up a flagpole, a hasty wedding, an elevator, a fall out a window, all not necessarily in that order. Well, some things just defy description... at least, until you see it again. I forget which Shemp film it is, but it's almost frame for frame exact, except for the ending. Here, the boys fall out of a window but don't land in some nice, soft wet cement. They land on top of pa, and drag him back home to ma by his legs. Incidentally, isn't this how every father-sibling relationship ends up? Incidentally, if the answer is "No, it's not" then I don't want to hear it!!!!!!!!!!!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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