Wednesday, November 23, 2011

N'yuks and bolts

Once again, we stumble across a Stooge short that needs no introduction. Without a doubt, A Plumbing We Will Go is one of the (Stooge) greats, and deserves its place amongst the top 10 or 20 Stooge shorts ever made... then again, there is that whole Dudley Dickerson subplot, which I find to be unnecessary. Oh, so you're saying you prefer NO black people to a bug-eyed black person? No, I'm not saying that. Not too many dignified black roles in these Stooge shorts... then again, not too many dignified roles of ANY ethnic stripe in a Stooge film exist. Sure, the rich types start out dignified, but live to see their stations quickly eroded, usually right out from under their feet. Still, there's the whole plumbing sub-plot.  Let's focus on that, shall we?


It seems to have been a while, but once again the Stooges find themselves in the loving arms of the wrong side of the law where they squarely belong. Of course, as an amateur lawyer, even I have to object to the prosecution's argument. "Evasive attitude?" Where is that in the Constitution, exactly? If we started locking people up for "evasive" attitudes, there'd be no one left in the world! Then again... well, for brevity's sake, let's leave aside the fact that the three of them are on the witness stand together as one unit, with Curly and Larry sitting in Moe's lap. Kinda gay? Or very, very gay? Personally, I think Brett Ratner should apologize to GLAAD not for his comments, but for Rush Hours 2 and 3 at the very least. Probably Red Dragon, too. Anyway, back to the trial. The Stooges are on trial for looting a chicken coop that belonged to a woman with a good comedy name. The judge throws the case out, leaving aside the fact that Curly's hat is apparently full of chicken down. Curly lets out a ripe n'yuk n'yuk, then a nyaah-nyaah as he attempts to pluck all the feathers out of the air. Gossip, indeed. Bud Jamison gives Curly a good, swift kick in the ass, and they're off to get locked up a second time. Bud immediately spys the boys trying to fish a fish out of a display bowl in front of a pet store called "The Doggy Pet Shop." Moe gives Curly the ol' Oliver Hardy treatment. You know how Oliver Hardy's always slapping Stan Laurel's hand for one offence or another? Anyway, Curly runs afoul of a mannequin dressed as a cop, and he goes to town on it. Let the slippery slope begin! Guess what happens next... no, go ahead! Guess! That's right, Bud Jamison steps in front of the mannequin, but he manages to hit Curly first. Let the chase begin. Meanwhile, that dirty ol' bastard Monte Collins is performing a magic show that the Stooges get tangled up in. The cop sees them in a magic box and storms the stage. The Stooges eventually get away in a plumber's truck. Trucks were easier to steal back then, apparently. And car accidents were more common. The cop grabs on to ... you know, a thing with wheels on it that gets towed behind the truck? Larry tells Curly to cut it loose, and Bud Jamison ends up in a vat of watered-down plaster, or something. As good a place for an act break as any.


The boys stop in front of a house. Larry and Curly fall out of the back of the truck. "Why don't ya call your stops?" asks Curly. A butler comes out and admonishes the Stooges for being late. (He thinks they're plumbers, you see... well, he's about to go to the School of Hard N'Yuks!) The way I figure it, it's time to apply my "Jerk Mandate" rule. Because the butler acted like a jerk, it's okay if the boys trash the house. Another good example of the "Jerk Mandate:" the demise of Abigail Craven in the first Addams Family movie. Because she acted like a jerk to Fester, she clearly deserves what happens to her... I forget what happened to her. Anyway, back to the Stooges. They see Police Officer Bud Jamison riding after them on a bicycle, grab a bunch of plumbing equipment, and storm the house. They perhaps should've taken one turn in the road while making their escape.
The butler informs them that there's a leak in the basement. Betraying their extreme ignorance, Larry asks "Where's the basement?" Curly compounds the ignorance, and exclaims "Upstairs!" Oscar for Larry, anyone? Nah, his Oscar moment comes a little later on. They eventually end up DOWNSTAIRS in the basement. Moe takes a rather nasty tumble in the excitement but gets right back up again. (Moe 5:08) Professor Moe, at 5:17, for once, has questions of his own: "What do you know about plumbing?" So much to learn. Larry's Oscar moment happens at 5:24 when he says "How can you fix it while it's leaking?" Curly and Moe get sidetracked in a competition to see who can nod their head the most, after which Curly is off to wreak his own havoc. Moe and Larry proceed to destroy the basement, but they do it in small steps. Another Oscar moment for Larry at 6:46. (Larry 6:46) Curly has a moment where he f... messes with the censors at the Hays Commission as he interrupts the shower of some snooty dude. Maybe he's the token Brit, who knows. After the guy wrapped in a towel leaves, Curly proceeds to destroy the upstairs bathroom. They seem to have dubbed in Curly's voice at 7:42. God stops the water once to get a laugh, but after that, Lord here comes the flood. Curly is powerless to stop the water coming from the knob, and the hole's a little bigger than one finger, and the water's more powerful than Curly's hat.
Back to Moe and Larry. Larry suddenly gets inspired to wander off and cause his own damage. But before he goes, he manages to hurt Moe in the process. Moe gets hit twice, then Larry, in a fit of panic, gets hit twice, but I think Moe got the worse end of the deal. Maybe Larry's Oscar moment is at 8:38, who knows. I'm obviously not the one to make the final decision about something this important. (Larry 8:38) Meanwhile, Curly continues on his plumber's journey. It pays off later on, trust me.
And now... enter Dudley Dickerson, the token bug-eyed black dude. He earns his stuntman credentials on this one, as he ends up falling on his ass about twenty times too many for my taste. Oh, I just hope I didn't laugh too much at it when I was a kid. If so, I can never run for president.


I don't know where to break between acts two and three, but perhaps Curly's final plumbing job is a good place to start. Curly managed to get ahead of the water for a few seconds, but alas, his labyrinthine piping could only slow down the water so much. Curly's Oscar moment surely happens at 0:27. (Curly 0:27) Followed immediately by Larry's Oscar moment, when he puts that snooty butler in his place: first in words, and then, with a FACE FULL OF DIRT!! Heh heh heh... actually, it looked more like a square piece of foam... hopefully, it was. Meanwhile, Curly finds his way back to Moe... the hard way. Curly ruins Moe's plumbing work, and Curly has another Oscar moment at 1:28 by screaming "I resent that!" Good line reading. One for the books. They dub his voice again at 1:39, I'm afraid. Curly goes to get another piece of pipe, like he said, and then proceeds to destroy the house's electrical system. Fortunately, he's dried out quickly, after being soaked to the bone, so he'll stave off electrical shock for a while. More capering with Dudley Dickerson. Needles to say, the science of comedy is stretched to its limits in this one, but how can you not be won over by the genial nature of this film? It just wants to entertain! Something like that. Oh yeah, and Larry emerges from the ground like some kind of bald-headed mole. I think they used that clip again in a Shemp film. Most expensive shot of the whole movie right there.

Maybe this is where Act Three begins, even though there's not much left. The Stooges take an early swipe at television, a medium they would eventually conquer. But for now, it provides a good laugh. This is where the comedy dividends pay off with the initial investments made. Oh, the indignities that Bess Flowers has to suffer. It only gets worse, especially after Curly emerges from the basement. Curly patches up the hole he made in the upstairs bathroom with a throw rug. And, of course, as often happens in films like this, we find out that everything's connected. Guess who's house they trashed? Well, I just hate to spoil it, but needles to say, the Stooges never give up hope. The three of them are all in the basement now. Larry tunneled his way back, apparently. Moe tells Curly to "go up and collect for the job." Is he serious? Apparently, deadly serious. When the owner of the house ends up in the basement the same way Curly did a few scenes ago, Moe is rightly enraged. Why, look at the damage they caused by falling into the basement! The magic act also makes a return appearance, and the hole that Larry dug comes in handy, but it also suffers from a plot device: I thought he dug only one hole! Also, the special effect of the final shot: I wonder how it played on the big screen back in the day? Probably not as well as it should have, but sometimes you have to take those visual risks for the sake of the big picture.

And so, is A Plumbing We Will Go better than the sum of its parts? Arguably, not all of the parts, but you gotta admire the effort of the good parts. I understand James Cameron used this film as inspiration for Titanic!... okay, maybe not.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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