Friday, July 15, 2011

The Three Stooges' "One Week"

Yeah, isn't Buster Keaton's 'One Week' a classic? Some might call it epic. Some may even go so far as to brand it iconic; personally, I'm getting tired of the word 'iconic' and its chronic overusage on the web. Besides, icons like Keaton are only allowed to have one iconic film, and any film buff worth his weight in salt will tell you that it's when he played "Bwana" in How to Stuff a Wild Bikini. Gumby did the title sequence! The point being is that the Stooges ripped off a lot of their fellow comedians, but I suppose history and DVD sales have been all too forgiving. And besides! The haircuts were definitely original. So let's dive back into The Sitter Downers, in which the One Week formula is given the "modern" touch of a sit-down strike, combined with their trademark violent sense of "humour."
We start innocently enough with a ribald introductory "Preface" title card, as was common with most Laurel and Hardy shorts. We see the boys emerge from a nondescript flower shop, and each gets a bouquet of flowers. Even the dog's got a flower in its mouth. We pause on the dog to wait for the audience laugh. They then go to get the car out of the shop. This sequence is too good to spoil, so you're just going to have to see it for yourself. God bless you, 5150Daruis, whoever and wherever you are! I'm just glad the ASPCA hasn't watched this movie, that's all I'm saying. The boys arrive at the place where they're going to use the flowers: their sweethearts' home. It doesn't matter so much what their sweethearts' names are. Just know that they rhyme. Sorry: SPOILER ALERT! The Stooges propose marriage. The father refuses, and lands a nice right hook on Moe's kisser with the kitchen door. The great elocutor of his time, James C. Morton, plays the long suffering father. The idea of a sit-down strike is bourne. The idea of Curly sitting on a comedy pin cushion is also introduced. It eventually happens, of course, and the film is padded out to length by Moe and Larry extracting pins from Curly's ass, one painful one at a time. Curly shares his anguish by using Father in Law's ears to hang on to. Why not, I say!
The local paper, scraping the bottom of the barrel for a front page story, covers the Stooges' matrimony-based sit down strike. A compassionate nation feels the boys' pain and sends fan mail to Morton's home. Amongst the fan mail is an offer for a lot once the boys get married, and an offer for a free house kit... much like the one in One Week!!! I'm just sayin'. The exasperated father calls the governor, but to no avail. A Justice of the Peace happens to be in the home, and the father caves. The boys are getting married. But who's going to marry who? To show what props the girls are in this film, their name pins are placed in a hat and the boys draw lots. Larry gets the fat chick. Ah, gone are the days when she was pining for a boyfriend.
Act Two: the boys arrive on the back of a truck with their wives and lumber for the house in tow. The truck stops calmly so they don't comically fall off the truck. They find out that they have to build the house themselves. The second sit-down strike is bourne. At the end of Pt. 1 on YouTube, the truck driver gets a nasty bump on the head as it drives off, rudely and loudly dumping its load of lumber. The boys' hats fall off the pile, for Gawd's sake! Cut to the next scene, and the boys are having a sit-down strike on top of a sad-looking structure that I hope is not supposed to be their house. The wives tell them to come down. The boys refuse. The fat one gets them down by knocking down part of the structure. The boys' stunt doubles fall down, then get right back up. Damn, do they take a licking and ask for seconds. The fat girl gets a laugh by swinging a piece of lumber to hit the boys with, but ends up hitting the two other wives instead.
The boys get to work. Moe ends up chasing Larry, and the ol' "ruining wet cement" recurring gag is set up. Think of the cement as the glass doors that keep getting broken in Men in Black. Another recurring gag is set up in this chase sequence: Larry runs around a comically large pile of lumber. Will it eventually fall over on one or more of the Stooges? I'll give you a hint. No. What are you, crazy? It's not funny if a Stooge is killed! Just when they get hurt real bad. Sorry, SPOILER ALERT. Anyway, sound analysis time. Maybe it's not this way on the DVD, but Curly's comic whining from 1:37 to 1:42 in Pt. 2 gets repeated immediately afterward, at about 1:44 to 1:49! Damn you, OU812-Dronius!!! Larry takes a chance to exploit Moe's incapacity, but not for long, and the chase continues, going by the cement a third time, this time with the wives close behind. The cement gag rears its ugly head after a stunt worthy of Rube Goldberg... okay, maybe a tenth of a Rube Goldberg.
Act Three: Curly's Dilemma. Curly wakes from his barrel-induced slumber, and chops his way out of the cement with a tiny axe. Just go with it. He emerges with two large concrete shoes. Meanwhile, the house looks even shittier than ever. Curly apparently accidentally burned the blueprint, as Moe explains to Larry. Larry's probably not helping matters much, as he's set himself to the hard task of sawing all the lumber which, according to him, is all too long. The Stooges always help out a fellow Stooge, and Moe tries to get the concrete off Curly's feet. Eventually, holes are bored into the concrete, and dynamite inserted. And then, an explosion! We see a piece of concrete fall into a bucket of water. Seinfeld/CYE fans, take note: there are no small details. Moe and Larry think Curly's dead: time for the old "he owed me a dollar" gag. The wives gather around the smoldering crater. Curly yells from a tall tree: forget about that dollar. For comedic reasons, Curly's new bride tells him to get out of that tree. She grabs a tall piece of lumber and starts pushing it into his grill. Eventually, he falls out of the tree and lands on his new bride! Fortunately, this is not real life, and she's not dead, but she was knocked unconscious by about 400 pounds of falling Stooge. I'm including acceleration into the weight for good measure. Enter the bucket of water from before, and ... yup! She gets hit with water AND a chunk of concrete. Genius. This is probably one of the reasons I haven't seen this one a million times. Just not fanciful enough.
EPILOGUE. The house is finished. And since this is a comedy, we find it to be a comedic work of art, on a par with the house built for Ned Flanders by all of Springfield after the big hurricane... I forget which episode. Classic line: those aren't steps, those are shelves! The fat chick finds fault with a lode-bearing post, gives it a good tug, and down comes the house. Sigh. So much effort put into five seconds of film.

Good double bill with: Pardon my Backfire. Note the age disparity between the old Stooges and their young brides-to-be.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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