Sunday, July 24, 2011

THX 1938

Boy, there just aren't enough hours in the day, but I'm almost ready for another week of movie reviewing work. And it's time for the next Stooge flick: Termites of 1938. And at the time this one was made, there was no more reliable comedy crutch than the wacky dumb black person. Unfortunately, the Stooges relied on this crutch quite a bit. Why, in one Stooge short, Larry goes "What's the idea, porter?" Different times. Turns out it was Moe with ink on his face... I think that was the one where the boys invent a stupid fly catcher... one thing leads to another, and Moe ends up taking an inkwell in the face.
But back to our instant case. Listen to Wikipedia; they know all. This time, the boys find themselves reincarnated as exterminators once again. At 2:39, Curly uses his regular voice. Love it when he does that. Meanwhile, a high society type is in need for an escort to a fancy party. At least she didn't need three. Such a blatant plot device. But back to the three knuckleheads. They're in the midst of an R&D session at the exterminator shop. Larry's the old-fashioned rat trap man, while Moe's more of the Rube Goldberg school... actually, when you get right down to it, the Three Stooges are a walking, talking Rube Goldbergian-type noun. The boys run afoul of the cutest mouse in movie history, second only to that mouse from The Green Mile. Almost forgot about that little guy. He gets the last shot of that pic, if I recall correctly. The other three hours of the film are kind of a blur. Is this not the role Sam Rockwell will be remembered for? I'll bet he didn't REALLY have a mouthful of his own excrement. Anyway, the Stooges' million dollar rat trap misfires, Moe loses his hearing, takes a phone call, makes some wonderful miscommunications, and boom! The boys enter high society. Well, even high society folk need to laugh sometimes. Even in Laurel Canyon! But before that happens, we see the dumb maid get the wrong number out of the telephone book. To be fair, she was just one off. Also, the crack the snooty white woman made about discrimination kind of freaked her out. A lot. Gee, this setup seems awfully familiar. Oh well.
Act two. The boys arrive in the usual disgraceful jalopy. Why, they end up perturbing the help! The nerve. They further make asses of themselves during their big introduction, but for some reason the people think they're college boys. Some of the lessons from Hoi Polloi stuck, apparently. Dinner is announced, and the Stooges are first to the big fancy dinner table. They manage to not steal the silverware, but Curly makes a peculiar observation: "Why so many? All you need is a knife!" Remember that, as it just might come up later on. Professor Moe explains the silverware situation. There's four spoons and three forks. Moe says "You start at the far end and work your way down." Curly, ever the helpful Stooge, gives Moe half of his napkin by ripping his in half. It's going to be a long, dark night of the soul. Meanwhile, Bud Jamison gets it into his deluded head that he must emulate the Stooges' behaviour, as they seem to be the toast of this gala affair. Let the emulation commence! Curly throws peas up into the air, catching them in his mouth. Bud does likewise. Everyone else does too! Well, human see, human do. Mashed potatoes are placed on the end of a knife, which is then dipped in peas. Bud does the same, as does everyone else... or did I merely dream it? The stakes are raised by Moe, who proceeds to eat a Cornish game hen with corn cob holders. The other Stooges do likewise, Bud does likewise, and the rest of the blooming idiots at the table do likewise. I double-checked this one, and it does happen.

Music is playing. Normally, incidental music is absent from a Stooge film, but there's an orchestra in the staircase area of the house. Curly thinks the flute player's trying to catch mice. The Micro-Phonies conceit is bourne. They play the song Curly played so famously in Dutiful but Dumb. Must be a public domain number or something. Without realizing it, Moe grabs a saw instead of a bow and ends up sawing his cello in half. At least he stopped at his legs. Mice emerge from the freshly-sawed cello. Everyone panics. Curly does some breakdancing, lands on his tummy, making a loud drum noise in the process. It's Bedlam with a capital b, I tells ya. Curly does a 360 on the floor, apparently the first in filmed Stooge history.

Act Three. The boys get to work looking for pests to exterminate. They don't start with themselves. Larry and Curly team up. Larry's got a very, very large drill. Curly's on insecticide duty. Moe runs afoul of a rug. Muriel ends up getting a metal drill bit in the ass, and her head emerges through the staircase. It's too wonderful, I tells ya. The big finale: the boys are done in when the man of the house returns and throws a lit gopher bomb at their escaping car. The Stooges theme is played at the end of the film almost in its entirety; almost unheard of in Stooge etiquette. They must have had a different sound editor that week.
Well, this is a little bit like A Plumbing We Will Go. The same high society dame is in both, anyway. Somehow, I don't see Termites of 1938 becoming part of my regular Stooge viewing, but who knows? Death before Besser!!!!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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