Friday, August 19, 2011

B-A-Bay Ruckus

The directors of Three Stooges shorts often don't get held aloft in the directing pantheon, unlike, say, some of the Warner Brothers cartoon directors; usually Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones. But Charley Chase is perhaps an exception. Some of his Hal Roach shorts were pretty inventive. They showed a few of them a few odd months ago on Turner Classic Movies, along with the Taxi Boys and other mostly forgettable ones. Boyfriends? Puh-leeze Having worked with the likes of Laurel and Hardy and... well, what more does one need, really? Charley brings a slightly more academic sensibility to the Stooges with Violent is the Word for Curly. Ah, God bless Wikipedia. Yes, the title is a play on something else. In this case, a parody of a film called Valiant is the Word for Carrie. Now I'm as culturally ignorant as the next internet movie reviewer, but I confess I don't know what that is. Clearly the Stooge film has stood the test of time a little more sure-footedly. But let's just dive right into the plot.


As usual, haute couture is about to get a trident stuck in its ass. Three professors from somewhere in Europe are due to arrive at Mildew College... great comedy college, up there with Huxley and Faber. Meanwhile, the Stooges find themselves not in jail, but in the private sector, with one foot in the cell. Boss Bud Jamison's going to go across the street to get a sandwich and leaves the boys with some rah-rah motivational talk. Up pulls a fancy car with a lewd hood ornament on it. Curly will fix that later. Still, my God! Fox News was right! Damn overpaid teachers flaunting their wealth. The three professors sit smugly in the back of their expensive car, but, boy did they pick the wrong gas station to pull into. The chauffeur goes across the street to get a sandwich too. That must be one hell of a sandwich place. The Stooges set immediately to work destroying the car. Up pulls an ice cream truck in need of repair work. Moe makes an unusual proposition: "Well, we're busy right now, but we'll give you some tools and you can get to work on it yourself!" Something like that. I can't go back to double check it right now. I... just can't. The driver of the ice cream truck goes across the street to get a sandwich; he disappears, anyway. Larry throws the professors' suitcases into the ice cream truck to make room for himself. Curly looks at the bald head of one of the professors, and asks Larry to throw him a bottle of polish. Curly starts pouring polish on the guy's head. Moe goes over to reprimand Curly... then proceeds to buff the professor's bald, polish-covered head with a towel. Worse than that: the professor seems to enjoy it! Curly's job now is to inflate the car's tires. Curly has a little trouble with the air hose as it's whipping around like a cascabel that's eaten one too many Mexican jumping beans... sorry, I was channeling Dan Rather there for a second. Anyway, to cut to the Chase, so to speak, the car explodes, and the Stooges decide to take off in the ice cream truck. Curly has to make a run for it as the truck leaves without him, and he climbs in the back of the truck... hmm! Is this plot development going to come into play later on?


The boys are driving in the ice cream truck. The truck runs out of gas. They remember that Curly's in the back of the truck. They open the back of the truck and find that Curly's frozen stiff. Only one thing to do: thaw Curly out over an open flame. Ah, childhood memories. I remember that one sticking pretty well. Moe makes an awfully snide comment, even for him: "40 minutes to the pound! We'll be here all month!" Good thing Curly was unconscious, and never watched his own work. Curly comes to, and starts freaking out about being tied to a spit over a campfire. What a weirdo! He runs into the nearest puddle he can find. He gets a little short term revenge when he pulls Moe and Larry in with him. Plot device #2: Larry says "Hey! I'll bet there are some dry clothes in those suitcases..." Obviously they have little faith in the power of fire to dry out clothes. Well, being the Stooges, they could mess up a baked potato.
A few hops, skips and jumps later, they find themselves hitchhiking in graduation outfits. The snooty lady from the beginning of the film stops her car and picks them up. They find themselves in a classroom in the next scene. Larry gets a bad case of the blues, and Moe snaps him out of it.. rather, slaps him out of it. And then, to avoid an actual student question, Stooge song history is made with "Swinging the Alphabet." I find the song kind of irritating myself, but I can't deny something its iconic place in icon history. Icon! As usual, Wikipedia's on it better than I ever could. As they rightfully observe, for some reason Curly sings his part faster than the other singers. What a dope. Must be another plot device. Ah hah! But even Wikipedia doesn't know everything! They don't say who wrote the Swinging the Alphabet song.


What Stooge film would be complete without a big dinner scene? The boys make their best dinner entrance yet, and rather quickly make huge asses of themselves. Curly runs afoul of a comedy cucumber. And then... the three REAL professors show up at the college. Now, if it were Vernon Dent, his first order of business would be to take off his coat and vow to murder the Stooges, but this isn't Scrambled Brains. The snooty lady calls the real professors impostors, and the three real professors announce their resignation. On their way out, they spy the laboratory and the ringleader says "We'll give them a going away present they'll never forget!" This was just before World War II started to heat up, so I'll try to keep the German-baiting to a minimum. Besides, they do have a legitimate grievance, but still they leave the door open to get what's coming to them. It's around about this point of the film when I realized that "Super Service" is the theme that's going to come full circle. The boys try to patch things up by tackling the snooty lady in an impromptu game of football using a basketball filled with just a drop of nitroglycerine. What I like about this film is that it's slightly different than the usual Stooge ending. Instead of the cops chasing the Stooges down, the snooty lady tells the Stooges to just get the real professors back and PLEASE GO AWAY!!! Something like that. Finally, someone in a Stooge film makes the ultimate realization: the Stooges just aren't worth all the attention they get.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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