This isn't one I've seen a million times, but maybe it's time to start, who knows? We start with an establishment with a good comedy name: The Flounder Inn. Priceless. Technically, it's just a restaurant, but never mind. It was the Depression, baby. Everything was an inn. Except Bob Dole's house, of course. The very idea! They had to take in boarders! Then the Democrats had to go to war with Germany and all... but that's a later Stooge film.
We see Curly cooking in the kitchen. Usually not a good sign, but he always dresses the part at least. He's got that big white hat, so he must be a cook. He cuts a potato with a real knife. The knife isn't used for a gag in the scene. Curly makes chicken soup by pouring hot water onto a cooked chicken, and into a bowl. I hope this was a bad chicken soup recipe by Depression-Era standards. For that matter, I hope the whole restaurant was. I mean, inn. But Larry gets his share of the fun. He rings up a fat man's bill by looking at the stains on his tie and on the inside of his coat. Larry asks the customer his opinion of the meal. It's not glowing, to say the least. I thought that fat man would at least give kudos to the custard pie, but really, it's not good to encourage a Stooge to stay employed as a cook for too long. Larry tries to stay upbeat, and instructs the man to tell all his friends about the restaurant. Larry takes the coins from the man, and puts all of them into the till... because Moe's there, watching. This is big-time character development for Larry. Why, second to He Cooked His Goose, this may be the most Larry-rific Stooge short of all!
This one has some great scripting in it. The fat man and Larry all talk about the same menu items, and Moe asks a particularly poetic question. Larry says, "Why did we get into the restaurant business, anyway?" Moe replies, "Why don't catfish have kittens?" Now, I'm no marine biologist ... man, they'll give just about anything a Wikipedia page these days... but I think they're called 'smolts.' Meanwhile, Curly keeps eating peanuts at every available opportunity. This pays off later... sort of.
Damn, I'm getting hungry. Curly also cuts off the sole of a boot and cooks it. He sifts some flour on it, and the camera dollies in on him to accentuate the horror of it all. You know, this episode reminds me of a pizza place I used to live near in Seattle. It was called Andre's, and I ordered a slice. The crust was decent enough, but it looked like something I could make. It had one thin layer of cheddar on it. Looked like the bastard child of one of those pizza recipes on the back of a Chef Boyardee can. Now, I can't read people too good, but I got the feeling that Andre either a) knew the pizza was sh... not that good, or b) just didn't care anymore. He was close to retirement age. It's a sushi place now. As far as I know. Haven't been to that corner of Seattle in a while.
Anyway, back to the important comedy proceedings at hand. I want to get this over with while it's fresh, and I don't want to cost the state of Florida any more than they've already spent on this. The peanut gag is further compounded by the fact that there are trays of mints, peanuts and hot chili peppers by the cash register. One unfortunate white guy tries some peppers. Cut to the next scene, where he lets go of a mouthful of cigarette smoke, pretending he burnt his mouth. Not bad. He grabs the nearest thingamajig of water and starts chugging... and THAT'S the very sound effect in Super 8 I was talking about! Somebody get on that right away! The guy gets to do it again in the scene, so that's TWO mouthfuls of smoke for one pepper. Not bad. The other gentleman with him seems vaguely Mexican, and has a generous helping of the hot peppers. See also: Mexican Joyride with Daffy Duck. Ol' Art Davis must've remembered this film... or maybe it's just such a universal gag. If they were savvy businessmen, they'd charge an arm and a leg for the water.
Enter Act Two: Because of budget constraints, the bad guys that set the plot in motion are customers of the Stooges. They do the dog as a hot dog gag... or at least the good half of it. For the whole half, see Malice in the Palace. At 5:28, Curly yells at a dog that's trying to steal all the weiners, and he uses his REAL VOICE! Frankly, it's unsettling, but I can't get enough of it. One of the bad guys gets a big laugh when he says "Never mind that hot dog," but screw it. He's the bad guy. Doesn't deserve it. The conceit is bourne: the bad guys will sell off their bad horse to the Stooges in exchange for the restaurant. Moe goes three rounds with the swinging doors and handily loses. As the Stooges leave, they try to take some stuff with them. Curly tries in vain to make off with his beloved tin of peanuts, but ends up spilling them. The two bad guys are ruthless businessmen and see through the Stooges' pathetic attempts to cut and run. But Curly manages to make off with some peanuts from the bins next to the cash register and... yup, you saw it coming a mile away.
The Stooges go to meet their horse. It's one of those comedy horses with a bowed back. Only Curly seems to care about the horse's welfare. Curly is ordered to go and walk the horse around the track. Moe and Larry look for a clock to time the horse. There's one in their suitcase. Now, for all you guys out there, Moe and Larry show us all how to empty a suitcase. I mean, REALLY empty it! Proper like. And of course, the seemingly simple act of taking a clock out of a suitcase just can't be simple in a Stooge film. Larry goes for the gusto by saying "How time flies!" A face with an unruly mop of hair on it just begging to be slapped, if ever there was one.
Now for more complex plotting. Curly goes for some of those "peanuts" in his jacket pocket. He's got a big handful of the hot pepperinos in his hand. The horse goes to eat them. The horse's mouth burns up. Apparently, it was legal at the time for horses to smoke cigars. The horse runs off at less than 12 frames per second to find a source of water. The Stooges move slowly to compensate. Moe then eats some of the peppers. Now, for all you germophobes out there, let me repeat that... The horse just ate peppers out of Curly's hand. Moe then eats some of those same peppers. Then Curly after that. And I thought Pink Flamingos was bad. Larry doesn't have his "pepper run" moment, but he perhaps does it one better. Moe, in anger, of course, shoves a big handful of peppers into Larry's mouth. Larry screams for water... just like that other one about the big French clothing shop inheritance! Anyway, Larry looks for water, but Moe, Curly and the horse have already emptied the nearest trough of water. Larry grabs a big jug of something and starts chugging. Larry screams, "It's kerosene!!!" The horse has a strangely anthropomorphic laugh over it. Frankly, I was a little insulted at the time that Larry didn't spit fire after drinking kerosene, but sometimes you shouldn't have it all. And on top of that, it was the Depression, you know!
Act Three. The day of the big race approaches. Larry further pads his part, as he's the jockey who will ride Thunderbolt to victory... maybe. I guess I forgot to mention that. The horse is named Thunderbolt. Now, the simple act of getting onto a horse is not so simple in a Stooge film. Moe and Curly attempt to throw Larry up onto the horse, but Larry flies backwards, and a very very thin straw stunt double lands ass-first onto a pitchfork. A fatter, but still kinda thin, stunt double of Larry stands up, pitchfork still in ass, and starts running around like an idiot, alternately screaming and calmly asking for help in removing said pitchfork. Frankly, that's just sloppy sound editing. When Larry first lands on the pitchfork, he kinda sounds like Joe Flaherty to me, but I haven't the time nor the resources to properly draw the connection. This must be the part of the film that's padded out for time... oh, right, the big race. Anyway, there's a big comedy horse race, the horse eats peppers, runs the wrong direction, and Curly and Moe have to act as the proverbial mechanized bunny in a dog race, holding a bucket of water for the horse to drink. Moe and Curly then just HAPPEN to stumble upon a motorcycle with sidecar. Curly gets in, holds the bucket of water on a stick, while Moe drives, and guess what? Is there any doubt that this horse race was over before it started? Well, sometimes you gotta earn your happy ending by writing it yourself. Frankly, W.C. Fields couldn't have done much better. The Stooges each end up with a whole thanksgiving turkey in front of them. Curly at least spills his drink in a comical fashion. The horse also enjoys some nice oats on a silver trough-shaped platter. You know, this all reminds me of a Warner brothers cartoon... I'll never be able to find it the way I'm Googling it, that's for sure. Anyway, it's a boxing match between a giant guy and a wimpy guy. At one point, they start going around the ring, acting like a child's choo choo train. It gets cut abruptly short, and the big boxer says "Why you not like my choo choo?" I may never forget that for as long as I live. But the reason I bring this up is because there's some device that helps the wimpy guy win against the big musclebound boxer. I hesitate to call him a thug, for some reason, but I guess that's what he is. The wimpy guy wins the match, and the trophy goes to... the device that helped the wimpy guy win! Why can't more of these kinds of films end like that?
Good double bill with: The Longshot
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan