Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dogs and Babies and Stooges... oh my!

Parenthood. An inevitable stage of human development, or just all that stuff that the "breeders" do? Even the Stooges weren't invulnerable to such deep, philosophical questions, and as much as a nightmare as it would be for about 99.9% of humanity to let a Stooge near a young child... it did happen on several occasions. But at least it appeared to be an accident... Let's start from the beginning of this shaggy dog story, so to speak, shall we?


We see the Stooges on the right side of the law at the start, as they operate their Rube Goldberg designed dog washing business. Actually, we start with the customer who makes his way to their shop with the smartest, most tolerant dalmatian in the world. Bess Flowers stars once again as the long suffering high society wife... hmm! Interesting resumé. Wonder if it's worth it to look her up in all them old movies... Palm Springs Weekend? Probably not worth it. As for the husband... there's something unsettling about that guy. I just can't put my finger on it. Lane Chandler, I think it is. Being a nerdy film critic, I guess I just can't handle all the machismo.
Anyway, so we head to the dog washing business, where the poor mutt's manhandled from the start, falling down a chute onto a conveyor belt. The first indignity is a contraption with feather dusters on it. Then, the dog goes past a circular device with six gloves on it to Larry who uses a cake froster to apply soap to the dog. Then, in reverse, back to the gloves which suddenly, through movie magic, have human arms in them! They scrub the dog, flip it on its back, continue scrubbing, and generally humiliate the dog as much as possible without actually killing it. Curly operates a stationary bicycle that powers the dog's rinse water. Curly complains that he's "not getting anywhere" in his job. Moe provides meaning to his work by operating a hand that slaps Curly in the ass. Damn near half of the first reel is squandered on this conveyor-belt-based dog washing operation. Final charge for services? Fifty cents!!! Well, it was the Depression, and fifty cents was actually worth something. And their business was relatively eco-friendly! They didn't have coal to burn to power anything.


Continuing the eco-friendly theme, the Stooges' car is Curly powered. As for the non-Stooge part of the film involving the rich white family, well... there may be a weaker film than this out there, probably one with Joe Besser. The wife is going to get revenge because she thinks the husband's gone ahead to Palm Springs without her. She goes back home, forgets her key, and leaves the baby by the front door as she goes around to the back to see if there's a window to crawl in through. Not as bad as, say, 3000 Miles to Graceland in terms of plot contrivance, but whaddayagonna do. The Stooges, in their car being pushed by Curly, just happen by the house when the baby's left on the doorstep. Thinking it's been abandoned, they take it to give to the police... but maybe they'll take care of the cute little fella a while before they go to the police. That'll pad out the film a bit more! At this point, Moe has a very rare moment to himself. Sounding a bit like Shemp, Moe muses "I dunno... it was my idea, but I don't think much of it." Okay, so that can be said about every Stooge film ultimately, but tis a rare occasion indeed when they achieve lucidity. The car, pushed by Curly, slowly trudges on, but they're out of frame, so the mother comes back in front of the house and, in utter horror, finds the baby gone. Fortunately, the husband's car is driving off and she at least has the comfort of thinking that husband took junior to Palm Springs. But what is she to do at this point? We'll leave that aside and get back to the Stooges, who are busy smuggling the kid into their apartment in A BAG OF GROCERIES. There's a sign on the door of their apartment complex that says "No dogs or babies", but it's all good because they're smuggling the kid into their place INSIDE A BAG OF GROCERIES. Vernon Dent has an all-too brief scene as the tough but fair landlord. The kid, INSIDE A BAG OF GROCERIES, starts to cry. Curly pretends that he's crying. The boys get him inside as quickly as possible, and I assume to GET THE KID OUT OF THE BAG OF GROCERIES. I'm trying very hard to censor myself here... Oh! They also rig the kid up to a Goldberg-esque pulley system so they can HIDE THE KID INSIDE A BASKET FROM THE LANDLORD. They have a little trouble putting the kid back in. Too bad the ASPCA can't get redress on old films like this.


Admittedly the line between acts two and three is awfully blurry, but I suppose it begins in earnest with a newspaper with the banner headline screaming "Manning Child Abducted"... something like that. The boys quickly put two and two together... rare for them... and make plans to return the kid as quickly as possible. Curly gets dressed up as the boy's mother. He fits the part except for his ugly, stick-thin legs. You'd think, being a fat man, that he'd have fat legs, but a good premise is a good premise. Sponges are used to pad out his legs, covered up by pantyhose or God knows what.
Now we come to perhaps the film's sole redeeming feature: Bud Jamison as a very VERY Irish cop. He takes an immediate liking to Curly and the kid. "Ah, a fine brat of a boy, Mrs. O'Toole." Curly makes a poor choice of place to stand: in front of a sprinkler. Water fills up the sponges, making his legs unsightly in a new way. Bud Jamison puts two and two together, and the chase begins. The scene I love is where Bud starts running, screaming "Come back here! Ya can't get away with that!" I love it because he runs away from the microphone, and his voice sounds far away. God bless them for not re-dubbing it in. It's downhill from there, so to speak, even though the altitude doesn't change. Moe and Larry duck into a Chinese laundry... hoh boy. Yup, you can tell what's coming. Now, apparently, Wikipedia's all over the gobbledygook that Larry says and was able to make sense of it. I guess the closed captioning on the DVD is just that good... I hope. Even though it's offensive, the last third of the plot hinges upon Moe and Larry as ethnic laundrymen, so in it stays. They run with Curly and kid inside of a wheeled hamper. That the film and sound are sped up doesn't help much. To cut to the end of the chase, everything turns out all right, but some of the cops don't seem too happy about it. Mom's happy to be reunited with baby, "...but you're the dirtiest baby I've ever seen!" Well, just as the car companies were turned into tank companies for the war effort, so too do the Stooges modify their dog washing operation for young kids. Curly wants to do something to help, but ends up ruining everything. Maybe it's too subtle, but the baby ends up getting spanked by the six-hand part of the dog washing contraption. Frankly, it left me feeling a little dirty.

Good double bill with: The Way Things Go

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

No comments: