Sunday, December 25, 2011

Stooged in a Hole, or The Fashion of the Christ

Well, it was either that, or go with "Cookoo NOT on a Choo-Choo." Personally, I think I made the right choice. I'm not as proud of myself as The Donald Trump is proud of himself, but ultimately I think the Stooges owe a little bit of a debt to Laurel and Hardy in general, and in particular to the premise of their mean-spirited romp Towed in a Hole. Yes, it's time for our next entry in the March of the Stooges, Cookoo Cavaliers. It's not one I see on an at-all regular basis... although I do think I watched it a while ago. I think we TiVo'd it off of IFC or AMC or TCM... one of those channels. So let's get started in earnest.


Always good to open with a great comedy sign on the side of a truck. We see the boys trying to peddle some fish. Larry's driving, and Moe and Curly are on top, sitting in a boat tied to the truck. Moe and Curly are yelling through horns, and Moe's blowing through his... hmm! Sounds vaguely like how they play the shofar! Moe tells Larry to stop the truck. Fortunately for them, Moe and Curly don't fall off the truck. Let me get that right: Moe tells Larry to "stop the boat." We'll leave that for now. And then, we get to the more blatant Towed in a Hole reference. The Stooges end with the premise where L 'n H began with it. As some of you may remember, Laurel proposes the idea at the beginning of the film of cutting out the middleman and fishing for their own fish. The Stooges have been at it for at least a month... oh, right. SPOILER ALERT. Literally! Anyway, all three have their feet on the ground and get ready to pound the pavement some more trying to sell fish. Larry proves himself incompetent with customers as he grabs a basket of fish, sees a pretty classy lady approaching, and GETS SCARED! He gets scared, drops the basket, and retreats to Moe's side. A sad day for Larry fans everywhere. (Larry 1:20)
The blowing of the first sale begins. Curly steals the "haddock" joke from Horse Feathers, a Marx brothers feature film. The lady is unimpressed, and even fires off a joke of her own! Moe tells her that the fish in the picnic basket is a "weak" fish. She smells it from a distance and says "Smells strong to me!" She makes this comedy racket look too easy... you know, I kinda thought that looked like One-Take Anita Garvin. The Stooges are now stealing Laurel and Hardy's cast, for God's sake!!
A dog then smells the fish and rolls over on the ground, then gets up and runs away. Director Jules White's specialty: directing Stooges and dogs. Undeterred, the boys get back to blowing their horns. Can you even doubt that Larry and Curly will end up blowing their horns into Moe's ears? Why not? Not enough kitchen sink gags to go around.
A customer up high asks what kind of fish the boys have. Moe, just like he did in that one with the kidnapped baby... one of them, rattles off a long list of fish instead of food you shouldn't feed a toddler. The lady asks for a mackerel. The boys run to the back of the truck, open it, and smoke emerges from the back of the truck. Apparently, the fish smell so bad, it's visible in the air. Curly pulls open a drawer on the back of the truck, takes out a gas mask, reaches in to the back of the truck, and gets a fish. Curly then throws the fish at the lady, and the fish rightly hits the lady right in the face. The fish falls into her flower pots on her ledge and the flowers quickly wilt. The woman comes to and throws the fish back down, hitting Moe in the kisser. At this point, Moe says "We've been trying to sell these fish for 30 days... and haven't got rid of one!" Now, in a nice twist... okay, just nice to me... they quickly decide to change their business plan. Larry's off-the-cuff remark is how they decide this time. A rare occurrence indeed.
It's not quite Act Two time yet, folks. First, the boys go to the local real estate business shop, where Jerry from two films ago comes out and sells the boys some real estate. They want to open a saloon, and this dude says "Oh, I have the best beauty saloon in all Mexico!" Lynton Brent, a painfully white white guy, is talking in a bad Mexican accent and appears to be more tan than Snooki is orange. Well, it is indeed all related, and most of the cast of Jersey Shore is in that new Stooges feature length movie, so why not? It's one of those acting jobs that actual Mexican actors would rightly not take. To cut to the chase, Jerry the Mexican entrepreneur, tells the Stooges "You give me $300, and I'll give you the business!" Let the stereotyping begin!


Scene: Cucaracha, the "busiest spot on the map." Well, the Stooges visit a lot of fictional places... better check Wikipedia just in case. Ooh! How about Google Earth?... (later) nope. Nothing on Wikipedia, and Cucaracha took me to a Mexican restaurant in Minnesota! Made-up place called "Cockroach." Go figure. We see a "Mexican" taking a siesta on a spot near the sidewalk, and the Stooges blaze into town in their truck at 12 fps. The dude doesn't wake up. See, according to the stereotype of the time, Mexicans are apparently lazy. And yet, they work hard for very little money and even less legitimacy. Go figure. Daffy Duck was also guilty of this with his racially-tinged cartoon Mexican Joyride. Well, it was a different time. Still, not as bad as that one Stooge flick with the earthquakes, right? who's lazy? I don't feel like looking it up. I must continue to march ahead.
The boys pull up to their business, which looks in a little bit better shape than the house on the defunct orange ranch of It's a Gift. Curly, getting ahead of himself as usual, introduces us to the first, or second or third, sequence that will help to pad this film out to two reels, or about 16 minutes. He does a pantomime sequence where he pretends to be a bartender, with the aid of some strategically placed sound effects: clinking glasses, falling ice cubes, that kind of crap. They eventually make their way to the locked door of the business. No key. Moe tells Curly to use his head. It works on the first knock!
It's around this time that the boys eventually realize it's a SALON and not a SALOON. You'd think the sign on the front of the biz that says "Beauty Salon" would've tipped them off, but apparently they're all illiterate. Lousy FDR and his corrupt Department of Education! Usually Professor Moe takes over at a time like this, but in a rare bid for alpha male supremacy, Professor Larry says that there's a lot of money to be had in making dames pretty. Curly offers his own advice with a hair bleaching formula that includes gasoline. We'll try it in another film, I'm hoping. Moe gets blocked from poking Curly in the eyes with the ol' hand block, but he's always able to get around it later on. Time to clean up the joint, an act that you'd think would be boring, but not with the Stooges! Moe gets a face full of powder, and Larry laughs at his misfortune. That's twice now in this film he's done that! He's getting a little cocky, dontcha think? Moe and Larry eventually both gang up on Curly. Larry gives Curly a couple good socks on the back of the head that, frankly, I don't think he deserved. Larry's getting VERY cocky and disrespectful in this one! That faceful of perfume wasn't enough justice.

I'm going to attempt two pics here. See what I mean about illiterate?... never mind. I guess it's at the top. Yes, you've seen it here first, folks. I'm doing more than one pic from now on! Anyway, perhaps this is the proper start of Act Two. We'll call it two and a half. The boys are busy painting misspelled words on their newfangled store front, when their first customer arrives: a slick Mexican cowboy and his four girls... burlesque? Brothel? Bordello? Something beginning with 'b' comes to mind, but never mind. This is a clean family pic, all you filth-ites out there. Okay, they're chorus girls. Close enough. The dude wants his four brunette chorus girls to become blonds. Is it safe to say that you don't usually see naturally blond Mexicans? There was a dude I knew in high school who started out life with gorgeous blond hair, only to see it turn brunette in his tweens or teens. Poor fella. Then there was the black dude in college who started out as a redhead but became a brunette when he grew up. Me myself, I'm getting all this awful grey in my hair lately. Too much sugar. I don't wanna grow up! Waaaah. Anyway, enough of the follicle eugenics. Back to the damn Stooges.
The girls are introduced, and Curly gets to do some flirting. He seems to be the best one at that. All the girls are cute enough, which is the problem. I guess the fourth one, Rosita, is supposed to be the ugly one, but did you see her wave? She's got 'tude, dude! She's not wearing glasses, so she's not ugly, as these films go. Damn! Larry really is a naughty boy in this one: he's hitting on TWO of the dames at once! (Larry 8:52) I guess the moral of this Stooge fable is: never leave your girl or girls at a Stooges' beauty parlor. And yet, in they go. The blind leading the blind. Curly takes a chance at some more flirting, and he goes in for a kiss. Why does Moe always try to intercept these kisses, either directly or indirectly? Explicitly or implicitly? Doesn't he know he's going to scream that he's been poisoned and slap Curly? Moe kicks Larry in the ass and wastes a perfectly good punchline opportunity. Larry said to the chick whose looks they're about to destroy first, "Did anyone ever tell you you have beautiful black eyes?" Kick from Moe, and all Moe says is "Get back there and get to work." Sheesh! Why not something like "Your ass is going to be black and blue in a minute!" Oh, right... family friendly again. Just family friendly stuff like eye pokes and throwing fish at ladies.
The first lady sits down, gets a cloth thrown over her like at the barber, and she says "I'm going to take a nap." Uh huh. Well, the Stooges had good screenwriters working for them, one can't help but admit.
The fun begins. Curly cracks two eggs over the lady's hair and uses an egg beater on the top of her head. The lady has to sit there with egg yolk over her left eye. Whatever they were paying her, it clearly wasn't enough. Curly runs afoul of a clothespin that won't stay put. I can safely assume he's using a clothespin on her hair, can't I? This is a Stooge beauty salon, now. Gotta keep that squarely in mind. Meanwhile, Larry goes out to look for some mud. Finding some in a wet hole in a sidewalk, he cheerfully fills up his bucket and heads back in. The three of them proceed to cover the woman's face with the mud, as we hear her muffled ... shrieking? I hate to overemphasize it, but that's just the chauvinist in me. The mud looks more like chocolate frosting at this point. Moe goes to work on the girl's fingernails with a big-ass pair of scissors. What a nightmare... and I'm not even a girl over here!
One cross-fade later, and Moe's indeed spraying the girl's hand with a paint sprayer as discussed earlier in the film. The girl now has a thing over her face that looks sort of like an onion, or maybe a small sink with some of the pipe sticking up. It has to be seen to be believed. Why don't we call this Act Three?


The torture continues, but at least the Stooges are messing themselves up too. Curly ends up with a veritable paint beard from Moe's sprayer. They still haven't gotten the big thing of concrete off her face yet. I'm assuming it's concrete; good comedy facial material, for one. Curly begins pulling big tufts of hair off the woman's head. You think one would do the trick, but the woman stays in the chair all the same. Larry starts delicately hitting the woman's concrete-covered face with a hammer and chisel. He hits himself with the hammer, then he hits Curly AND himself in rapid succession. Moe joins in on the fun after he gets hit in the face with a dislodged chunk of the concrete. At no point do the other three women beat the sh... stop the Stooges from whatever the hell they think they're doing. Moe takes up the hammer and chisel and proceeds to hit Larry and Curly. Moe, in an unusual moment, asks Larry for the thing the workman left behind... and Larry gets a big-ass drill! Moe goes to work. Is the woman dead yet? If she's not after 4:51, she'll never be. Well, it was obviously a dummy, but still... Jesus! The woman, groggy, gets up with some concrete dust left on her face, and a nice Larry-sized bald spot on the back of her head. She walks out of the salon and Moe tells Larry and Curly to get the other girls. All too convenient. Time to ruin three girls at once.
Moe, after a failed "See that?", throws a glass bottle of hair remover at Curly. It hits the wall in a magnificent explosion, and then... time for another proxy. A dog gets soaked in some of the hair remover... gee, I wonder what's going to happen? Will Curly put A and B together, just like with the alum? Will we? The boys end up spritzing each other with the toxic hair goo they've made. Moe and Larry get big facefuls of it, but their eyes don't burn out so it must be okay. Larry makes his girl look like Ed Grimley at 6:33. Things go from bad to worse when Moe calls for hot towels. Oh, great. They'd probably use them, too! They're just Mexican girls, who's going to care?
And then... FINALLY! The dude comes back with the first girl, and even though they appear to have dubbed his lines in later, he's in a mind to shoot the boys so full of holes that they'll look like some kind of bloody Sierpinski Sponge... I mean, Swiss cheese. (Menger sponge? I like Sierpinski better.) Unfortunately, he waits to see what his other three girls look like. Normally, I'd hate to spoil the surprise, but I'm so down on this particular short that I'll tell you what happens: two of the girls look like Larry, and the one on the right looks like Curly! Their fashion crucifixion wasn't as long and drawn out as the first woman, to be sure. The boys make their escape, but end up running down the street being shot at by the girls. A fitting ending to an unfortunately awful Stooge short. It's fine when the Stooges are hurting each other, but in this case they've crossed the wrong line. I'm going to do like the Maltin book and give this a one-star rating, or a BOMB.


-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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