Monday, October 31, 2011

Three Sappy People by Dawn's Early Light..........

If I recall correctly, the first Stooges videotape we got back in the day featured Dizzy Pilots, A Bird in the Head, and this one: Three Sappy People. And in it, the Stooges may be up against the greatest challenge they've ever faced: they're up against someone as loony as they are! The sad saga of Lorna Gray / Adrian Booth's career is an interesting one if you've got the time to read it. Not me, I gotta keep moving. How she failed to get a cameo in Crimewave I'll never know. Do your research, Raimi! Incidentally, it's apparently not too late... Here, she's the engine that drives this one forward. Let's have a look-see, shall we?


Here's the scene, folks: we start with a glimpse into the life of privilege, where this so-called "Great Depression" hasn't inflicted Sherry Rumsford hard enough. She's late to her own party but makes a grand entrance... in her car! We'll leave behind the logistics of that for now and focus on the dilemma of her poor, upper-middle-class husband who's at his wit's end. It's a good thing he loves her, otherwise... And yet, there's a kernel of universal truth there someplace. Boy, I guess it doesn't matter if you're rich or poor: this life's going to be hard for you either way if you're socially inept! A friend suggests these three psychiatrists... The Stooges must've lost the coin flip this time, because they play three guys that get mistaken for the psychiatrists, in lieu of the elegant simplicity of playing the psychiatrists themselves. Scene: the office of Dr. Z. Ziller, Dr. X. Zeller, and Dr. Y. Zoller. I guess they're German. Technical note: as the camera dollies back towards the center of the office, the camera's rolling at 12 frames per second, and the painter and phone operator are working a little more feverishly than normal. Fate sweeps them out of the office. The phone operator exits through one door, the painter through another. Things were more uptight back then. As the painter leaves, the Stooges enter at precisely the same moment. Just go with it. Larry's big moment: he says "Looks like there's nobody here!" Curly easily steals his thunder, though. The man is a comedic genius with a ladder. Apparently they couldn't get a balsa wood prop ladder because Moe ever so gently gets hit in the head with the ladder in a separate shot. The phone operator comes back in and asks "Say! What war is this?" More timely than ever. When it's the Three Stooges, it's obviously World War Three! Duh! Finally, their profession is revealed: they're from the phone company, and they're here to help. The ten scariest words in the English language, especially in this context. The boys, having already begun the hard work of destroying half of the psychiatrists' office, change focus and get down to the hard work of destroying the other half of the office. Moe and Curly engage in a brutal game of tug of war. Curly loses. There's a mid-scene edit so they can carefully set up Curly with paint cans on his hands and a board on his head; Larry, of course, doesn't pull off the illusion as well as Moe.
Fate intervenes again. The Stooges are presented with an economic incentive to pose as the three psychiatrists. I still probably didn't get it right, but apparently in this film Curly's about to be a father, but he could use a little cash, of course... I'm not over-using the word 'apparently,' am I? Boy, I'd hate to see THAT word cloud! Still, the significance of this scene is not to be underestimated: for once, Curly's called to task by his fellow Stooges for "acting slug-nutty all day." Usually their erratic behaviour is a given, is it not?

There's no fade to black to separate acts one from two, but we gotta trudge on all the same. We're at the Rumsford home, where Sherry's about to leave. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the Stooges arrive on a three-seater tandem. Sherry finds the threesome hilarious, and decides to stay and entertain her party guests after all. The chauffeur looks on in abject horror; hence the picture! Once again, the Stooges show their liberal bias: Sherry invites the boys in by saying "Last one in is a Republican!" The Stooges immediately crash into butler Bud Jamison, who almost as immediately crash-lands into the lap of a party guest. The Stooges only make matters worse with the most obvious jokes. The long-suffering husband says "Now, let me tell you a little bit about Sherry..." ...yup! Can't go wrong with names with two meanings. All this talk about alcohol sends the boys scurrying over to the punch table. What is it with the Stooges and food? Larry gets another chance to strut his acting chops by pointing out that the punch is weak. Ever the experimental chemists, the boys dump more liquor into the punch bowl until it's steaming, as though from dry ice. Man, is my typing getting atrocious of late! I thought I was going to get better at typing as I get older... Oh, right, Moe adds Worcestershire, and Larry adds Tabasco to the mix. More acting for Larry. The husband comes over and says "Gentlemen, would you be good enough to look my wife over, now?" Easy...
Next comes the recurring gag that holds practically the rest of the film hostage: that old reflex test where you tap just below a person's kneecap. The Stooges of course can't even handle that. Fortunately, Curly doesn't totally lose it on Sherry's knee. Curly ends up kicking Moe in the face... or close enough to it. Curly also runs afoul of a comedy statue, quite similar to Harpo in Animal Crackers. How much did THAT cost?

As often happens when the Stooges visit the job creators, dinner gets served. They're first in the race to the dinner table, of course, but we start Act Three with a level playing field. You know, so everyone has an equal chance. Moe reigns in Larry by his curly hair. Curly's seated next to a classy dame, the Countess played by Ann Doran. She's a cut above the usual Stooge actor. She played James Dean's mom in Rebel Without a Cause! God bless the IMDb. Of course, she looks like she's going to laugh when Curly touches her cheek with an electric razor. Such sloppy work. The Countess is working her face over with a ... you know, one of those makeup pads. Geez, am I devolving or what? Is there any doubt that it's going to get eaten? The Countess has moved on to lipstick, so she doesn't suspect anything, except that Curly's still a nut. Thank God the tamales arrive. Curly's confused by his, while Moe and Larry look downright horrified. Technical note: I should probably point out that the same background audio loop is used, as we hear the same chuckle over and over and over and over and over.... but back to the tamales, the food that leads to the big food fight that all these high-class banquets seem to end with. What is it about the upper-class people during the Great Depression wasting food? Such decadence. These tamales seem to be filled with black ink. Larry squirts Curly in the eye, and Curly throws his tamale at Moe, despite Larry's protestations. I only point this out because the tamale gives Moe the appearance of a Devil's beard which he's unable to shake. The food fight quickly turns to cream puffs, given the lack of pies. Ann Doran gets used as a shield by Curly, which leads to her great line: "The King shall hear of this!" Curly, of course, does his move where he winds up to throw a cream puff, gets hit in the face, winds up again, gets hit again... that's his shtick! That's his shtick that he does! Several times in different films. Poor Bud Jamison gets some cream puff residue on the back of his neck, and raises his shoulders in response. The Stooges receive some pay, and the long-suffering husband finally gets some payback. Assault by chocolate cake, if you will. Am I the only one who thought of Joe Pesci's demise in GoodFellas? Similar setup, anyway. Should serve as a nice prolegomena to any future rich eccentrics.


Earlier in the film, Curly said he suffered from T.S. As do we all, Curly... as do we all...

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

No comments: