Friday, November 18, 2011

Rock, Paper, ... Avalanche?

Time for this week's Stooge film: Rockin' Thru the Rockies. It's a rather nondescript one, if I do say so myself. Not in my regular Stooge short regimen, or pantheon. The problem could be the presence of too many Stooge staples: the swinging branch, the running to dinner, the running afoul of a wild beast during sleep... let's take an in-depth look, shall we?


You do have to give them credit. At least the setting seems unique. It's a period piece, such as they are. The Stooges were on a tight budget as it was, but fortunately the props they work with are pretty ancient as it is. The Stooges play guides taking a troupe of three lovely ladies and their battle ax manager across the country to an engagement in San Francisco. It's apparently the post-Civil War period and they've got a covered wagon, so it's basically the blind leading the blind. Now, like any seasoned film star, the Stooges believe in a good segué as much as the next guy. Here's the segué we get to introduce the Stooges: the battle ax says "Where are those three SUN BAKED HAMS?" Cue the swinging branch gag! The third one always does the trick. To further set the setting, Moe says "Quiet! You want the Indians to hear us?" As always, Curly provides the counter-intuitive genius: "Yeah! I'm sick and tired of looking for Indians! Let them look for us for a change!" Ever the parrot, Larry repeats this line, which Moe finds to be the bigger insult, apparently. Thank God the battle ax rings the dinner triangle. She's strong enough to knock their three heads together, and she does, further threatening to shoot them if they don't get them to San Francisco in time. Tough crowd! Moe does the lousiest job of sweet-talking ever, and spares their miserable lives for 13 more minutes, long enough to indulge their love of food. To the corn beef we go! Right after Curly almost kisses Moe on the mouth.
The boys... well, Curly, runs afoul of a stubborn can of corn beef. Curly tries opening the can with an axe... gee, I wonder what's going to happen. Moe and Larry go double-team on Curly's ass: Moe with a fist to the stomach, which causes Curly to bow forward, and Larry with a fist to the head, which causes Curly to stand up straight again. Oh, dude! So harsh. You may never see this move again! But circumstances were dire, and you'd think Curly would get the message. No such luck, and he ends up causing further damage. Long story short, Curly ends up shooting Moe in the foot and scaring the horses. After the ruckus dies down, one of the goils says to Curly, "Well, if there ARE any Indians they certainly know where to find us!" Curly doesn't quite espouse his logic on that particular topic, but he does make another desperate attempt at an actual joke. Larry gets a big line at this point: "Indians, Indians. Hah hah! Why, there isn't any of 'em for miles around!" I understand that this part was submitted to the Oscar committee. Alas, they didn't think Larry was Oscar-worthy that year; Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia Story would just have to do. Politics. But this might as well be the unsubtle transition between Acts One and Two. Judgment call on my part, I know.

We meet the Indians. Since they're movie Indians, we don't have to feel as bad... something like that. Well, they are comedy Indians, of the "Escrow" tribe... get it? New Stooge character actor Dick Curtis will just have to do as the chief Indian. He says "How," of course. Curly says "How do you do," giving us a glimpse into future post-stroke Curly line readings. The eviction notice is given: the Stooges and company have two sundowns to get going. Far too lenient. The Indians leave, but the seeds of future plot developments are planted: one of the Indians fancies the white chicks. Dick Curtis makes an interesting grunting noise , and says "You keep-um mind on business. Make-um whoopee later... not bad!" They're only human!
The "Indians" leave and the boys return to the business at hand: going from the frying pan to the fire. Curly ends up firing the rifle again, and the horses get so scared, they loose themselves from their connection to the wagon and run off. Curly ends up killing three ducks. Everyone else exclaims "Look at the horses!" Curly, the lone voice of insanity, says "Look at the ducks!" Moe and Larry say "Never mind the ducks." Frankly, it's sloppy direction. They should've had Curly say it three times, and on the third time, have EVERYONE say in unison "NEVER MIND THE DUCKS!!!" Hopefully, the Farrellys won't make the same mistake with their crappy reboot.
The battle ax tells the boys that the only thing keeping her from shooting them is that she's out of bullets. Curly helpfully says "Oh, I've got plenty of bullets! I'll be glad to lend you some!" Curly eventually comes to his senses and takes his bullets back.
Using a blatant plot device, the Stooges manage to build half-decent shelter for the night using scenery from the girls' show. Curly also manages to ruin two guitars, using them as "snow shoes." We don't see him actually wrecking the guitars, though. I guess technically the Act Two break should've been when night fell and the boys were asleep. As we find out, Curly also barks in his sleep! What would Freud say about that?
Anyway, how to get a wild animal into the plot? Genius, that's how. Curly is given a bear hyde as a blanket, but he needs a mattress as well, so he goes out into the snowy night to get one out of the wagon. He leaves the door to the temporary shelter open. Cue the REAL bear. Long story short, this leads to a variation on ANOTHER classic Stooge theme where the boys think their fellow Stooges can make animal noises. Curly reaches for the real bear, thinking it's the bear hyde. The bear growls like the MGM lion. Curly yells "Hey! Quit snoring so loud!" Long, long story short: Curly scares off the bear by barking. Brother bear scared off by evil, insane white man, in other words. Finally! I'm putting my Native American college courses to work. Curly's stunt double leaps in between Moe's stunt double and Larry's stunt double and promptly goes to bed. Fade to black.
Now, this should probably be the act break between Acts Two and Three here, but I'm going to wait until the ice fishing gag for that.
The next morning. Moe and Larry find that Curly has hogged all the blankets sometime in the middle of the night. Retribution is swift and in the stomach. Curly notices the ceiling is pregnant with many snow babies. Moe tells Curly to brace it up with a pole, but what good would it be if we didn't have the Stooges covered in snow? I'm assuming it's fake snow made out of asbestos. Well, it was lighter and looked better on film. Also, real snow might be too heavy. Curly makes a good Woo-Woo noise here. (Curly 1:31) Whew! Haven't gotten a blank.gif message yet. Curly bad-libs again, saying "I'm sorry, Moe! A lizard! I mean, a blizzard!" Long story short, the Stooges rudely wake up the girls, and shock them with the threat of changing clothes. Such gutter behaviour, indeed. Darwin must be spinning in his grave. The Stooge love affair must be at an end, or at least at its first seven year itch. Case in point: Curly beans Moe with the non-blade end of an axe, and when he comes to, he ends up telling Curly "I hate you!" Sounds like the proper Act break to me.


Here's another good screenwriting tip... maybe not. Still, the Stooges found it necessary to justify a close-up shot. Larry's pumping water into a bucket, but because it's cold, pumps ice cubes instead. Moe sees this in the wide shot, and looks rightfully shocked and disgusted. We then get a close-up of the pump coughing up a whole bunch of ice cubes. Oh, but it doesn't end there, my friends. Moe tells Larry, "Look! Gold!" And of course, like an idiot, Larry bends over and looks for gold, and Moe proceeds to dump all the ice cubes into Larry's pants. The battle ax is not amused by any of this, of course, and orders the boys to get breakfast for everyone. The Stooges love food more than gold and proceed to break into the canned corned beef once again... gone! All the food's gone! Larry says, "Bears! They've eaten it up! Nothing left!" Maybe that was the Oscar part, I don't know. In his delirium, Curly gets the idea to rig a sail to the wagon, in the hopes that it will act like a boat on land. The battle ax, weary from battle, agrees to try it. I almost hate to hear that level of resignation. Moe starts barking orders and generally gets caught up in the moment. For once, Curly brings HIM back to earth! (Curly 4:09) I dare say the whole film's worth it for just that moment. Sorry, but I don't know how to make a hyperlink to a YouTube video go to the spot I want it to. Work on that, Google nerds!
Next scene: the sail's built, and people keep saying "Well, all right!" Finally, we get that unison we should've had earlier. Now, some might mistake Moe's line at this point for love of country, but I think of it more as just the latest in a lifetime of Curly rebuttals. Here's the scenario: Curly says "Hey! Maybe we'll be like Columbus and discover a new country!" Moe says, "This country's good enough for us." Well, you gotta feel national pride some of the time. Larry keeps the madness going by saying he'd like to "discover" something to eat. Time for the big fishing scene. Now, you probably know what's going to happen, but there's at least one surprise on the way. Oh yeah, and at 4:50, Moe says "A blue... who's talkin' to you?" Gotta like that. But the surprise is at 5:34 here. The not-so-surprising part, well... let me put it this way: Curly ends up saying "Hey! This fish looks like Moe." You'll see a play on this theme later on in "A Bird in the Head," and it's done a little better there, in my humble opinion. Or maybe I'm just saying that because that's the second Stooge short I ever saw.
Now, since they squandered so much time already, there's 90 seconds left in this picture. You can do the math on this one: is that enough time to squeeze in a kidnapping subplot? I didn't think so either. But the Indians were decent enough to leave a note... in English no less! Apparently they refer to the battle ax as "Hatchet Face." They kidnapped the three girls, and apparently didn't do a very good job of it, because we hear screams as soon as the note's read. All in all, it's handled far too efficiently, but there's just enough time for Moe to suffer another massive head injury as the wind picks up, and carries the besailed wagon away to God knows where.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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