I always get that wrong. You know, there's only three Stooge films with variations of "phony" in the title; there just seems like there should be a lot more. There's Phony Express, the Curly classic Micro Phonies, and this week's Stooge short, Matri-Phony. According to IMDb movie trivia, we're now into the accordion-based faster Stooge theme. I was wondering when we'd get to it! Sooner than Dizzy Pilots, that's for sure.
Scene: Ancient Erysipelas... seriously, don't Wikipedia that word. A writer was getting back at his ex-girlfriend... something like that. The boys play pottery and stone men in this "ancient" civilization, yet their sign declares them to be the biggest chiselers in town. I thought lawyers were considered that! As usual, Moe and Larry always try to put a damper on Curly's excitement. Sight gags are plentiful, and a recurring gag is established early on: Curly will hit his head on the swinging wooden sign many a time before this particular 16 minutes is up. Larry's ear ignites a clay fight. As any dedicated Stooge short watcher will observe, this happens far too early in the film, but the plot's going to cut this short anyway. The boys run afoul of one of the Emperor's henchmen who has hung one of his proclamations on their business wall. The boys start to take it down. Obviously, they forget whose rule they live under, but are quickly reminded and so Moe begins to hang it back up. Curly gets a faceful of paste that he wasn't ready for at 3:11. The sign ultimately ends up getting destroyed, but this is overlooked for the time being as the henchman spies the goal of the banner's message. The Emperor wants to wed a young redhead, and one apparently walks by. All the girls' hair is black and white in the Stooges' world. The boys get back to work. Curly avoids hitting his head on the sign, but Moe teams up with the sign to prolong the insult. The redhead doubles back and tries hiding in the Stooges' shop... I guess this means Act Two begins, if a little early... nope, Act Two begins with the big fadeout and fadein. In the meantime, the boys start trying to hide the redheaded girl. Curly uses the ... I don't know how to spell it: "Bene-foo-ja-timiny-horonjy" line. Is this the first known instance of it? Maybe the second. "See what I mean?" asks Curly a second time. He's getting so heartfelt these days, especially the "the back of the drapes!" section at 5:33. Priceless. The girl is eventually discovered hiding in the giant vase. Well, it's no The Front Page, but there's some kind of genius plotting involved.
We fade in upon Emperor Grabus, played by Vernon Dent. Vernon... I mean, the Emperor is squinting his eyes... and if you're cynical like me, you can guess what's going to happen in Act Three already. Grabus puts on his glasses, as directed by Monte Collins. I guess the rule is if you write the Stooge script, you have to act in the Stooge film as well. The readhead... redhead is dragged into Grabus' court and introduced by a complete anti-Thespian as "the fairest redhead of them all." She's also the feistiest, as she hits that guy and tries to make her getaway. The Stooges are also brought in, with sharp spears pointed at their glutes. Larry ends up not being guarded at that moment, and tries to make his getaway, ass first, but quickly ends up with a spear pointed at his ass, and so he reluctantly rejoins his fellow Stooges. What a traitor. And now... the part to pad out the film. Curly gets his chance to make a getaway, but can only back out of the palace. He ends up with a sharp leaf in his glutes and rejoins his compatriots. What a traitor. The confusion is drawn out for as long as possible.
Emperor Grabus eventually gets the redhead under control, declares she's the new queen and orders her dressed in royal garb. His attention eventually turns to the Stooges and quickly orders them thrown to the lions. The guy who turns and looks plays a gladiator. He's apparently the first that gets hit on the head.
There's an awful lot of riffing in this one! Note how Moe slaps Curly in the face at 0:03. It goes downhill from there, of course. A second guard comes up and starts asking the first guard questions. Ventriloquism time! Unfortunately, the second guard's a little bit smarter than the Stooges and he figures out what's going on. Larry ends up saving the day, however, making up for his earlier transgression. With the two guards knocked out, Moe and Larry get a costume change... but what about Curly? The Stooges end up in the girl's room. Turns out her name is Diana. I must've not been paying too close attention to the film or something. And now... time for another BLATANT time-killer. While Moe and Larry console the girl... I think she's about as nutty as the Stooges are! Look how she joins in the Stooge huddle at 1:47... anyway, while that's going on, Curly goes over to the food table, and heads right for the traif, of course. There's a giant crab as the centerpiece of the table. As we come to find out, it's not quite cooked, and it starts grabbing things off of Curly's plate. Thankfully, Curly holds very, very still so the crab can very slowly work its comic magic. Curly eventually gets the better of the crab, and sets Texas food trends for the rest of forever with his World's Largest Crab Sandwich. However, the crab's not quite dead yet.........
The ruse is ready. Curly's all dolled up in queen garb, and the Emperor's come to pitch some serious woo. Moe assures Curly in his deep threatening voice that everything's going to work out all right. Moe tells Curly, "Go on! Get sexy" at 3:52. Rephrase: the Emperor calls Curly a 'kelpfish.' Moe, disgusted at seeing what little he has to work with, says "Kelpfish!... Go on, get sexy." Curly does a massive double take, and rightly so... and so, the Emperor is let in to chambers. Needless to say, all comic hell breaks loose. There's comedic conflict over poisoned wine, and as it turns out, that crab's still got some life left to give, taking it out on Curly's finger. The three of them end up knocking the Emperor unconscious and try to make their escape, but are forced to run back into the chambers. Curly uses his pivot foot to turn around. The Stooges jump out the window and we hear the sound of spear on glute. I hate to spoil the ending, but it's similar to the ending of the much better Dutiful but Dumb. I guess Diana made her escape after all... or earlier, one of the two. Why do I get the feeling we're going to see clips of this edited into future Stooge shorts? ...guess not.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan