Saturday, April 28, 2012
Moe Larry Confidential
So Moe falls through several floors after Curly uses a power saw on the door that fell over on Moe... eight years later, Curly and Larry join Moe on the first floor. "Aw, c'mon, Moe! You only fell twenty feet!" proclaims Larry. I'm reminded of a similar tactic used by the Looney Tunes people who routinely spliced their one-reelers together to cobble together feature length pics with new footage. Daffy Duck gets mistaken for a goose that lays golden eggs, and is kidnapped by evil mobsters: the smart small one, and the dumb giant one. Daffy Duck gets shot and lays a golden egg. Cut to the new footage, where the mobster shoots Daffy several times, and Daffy lays several golden eggs. The cops fortunately save Daffy... eventually. "Can we get you anything?" they ask Daffy. Daffy says "Yes. Get me a proctologist." The point being, the screenwriters are clearly bored and seeking a challenge. But before we get to that, a brief shout out to my friend who loves the screeching noise the door makes at 2:41. Fine, groaning.
Upon second viewing of the post-fall footage, let me rephrase. Moe hits Larry and Curly. Larry says "Aw, you only fell 14 feet? Why are you getting sore?" This, of course, merits Moe using Larry's and Curly's heads against each other. Suddenly, an insurrection, as Curly and Larry double team Moe. Thank God for the plot contrivance to save Moe from certain death at the hands of Curly's stomach and Larry's foot in Moe's ass. The Stooges have won the big jackpot!... I mean, their job applications have been accepted, and they're going to be police officers, of all things. Obviously, the police haven't seen any Stooge shorts before this one. I mean, somehow all of this explains the rise of Daryl Gates.
And the Stooges couldn't have joined the force at a more urgent time. A mysterious Ape Man has been committing burglaries across the city. The head of the Citizens League is breathing down the Police Chief's neck right to his face, and cracking walnuts for Curly at the same time! What a multi-tasker. Good thing for that guy constantly hitting the desk, as even Curly's cavity-ridden teeth are no match for walnut shells. Curly, of course, throws away the edible part of the walnut and happily wolfs down the wooden shells. Good fiber! Good enough for that tapeworm, of course. In case you couldn't tell, this is one of those time-stretching moments. Why, even the dialogue between the chief and the Citizens League guy stops to wait for the laughs! We, on the other hand, move on. There's a nice stunt where the Citizens League guy, Mr. Dill, knocks a glass of water into Curly's hat; Buster Keaton-collaborator Clyde Bruckman didn't work on this script, but Keaton's presence is at work in this gag somehow.
We're at about the Act Two mark, so let's go to the phones. The first call is so the boys can do their three part harmony: Larry first, then Moe, then Curly. The second call sets the rest of the movie into motion. Moe uses great movie acting to let us know the nature of the phone call: "You say the Ape Man's robbing a store? Where? ... Yes? The Brooklyn Building!" Or is it the Bruckman Building? Wow! We were just blogging about him... and so, just as the telephone has made life better for society, it's made life harder for the Stooges as it proves to be their greatest obstacle to leaving the building and catching the Ape Man. Moe gets so upset with the phone, he throws it as hard as he can... just as the chief walks into the room. We'll leave it at that.
Cross fade to Gypsom Good Antiques, where the Ape Man apparently is at. The Ape Man locked the door behind him, so the Stooges need to find the "pass key." I'd hate to spoil what happens next, so I'll just say it's similar to what happens with Daffy Duck in A Pest in the House. God bless you, YouTube! Warners is finally willing to risk letting people see Looney Tunes for free in a smaller picture with not-as-crystal-clear image quality. We'll have to wait for A Bird in the Head for the "gorilla breathing down my neck" gag, sadly. Sorry, we're back to the Stooges now. Moe says "I'll lead the way... go ahead!" You know, Bill Murray did something similar in Ghost Busters during their big final confrontation.
And now... time for another time waster. Curly gets the orders to stand guard, while Moe and Larry go off and do their own thing. Curly finds a rocking chair to stand guard in. A strange-looking cat is seated in semi-loaf form flush with the rocking chair. Curly uses his normal voice: "I'm not afraid... What's there to be afraid of? Babies are afraid! I'm no baby..." Why, it's like Bobcat Goldthwait using his regular voice... just not right. Okay, so we got a cat and a rocking chair. The cat's tail appears to be hooked up to a wire... sorry, I probably shoulda said SPOILER ALERT. What's the point of giving an ASPCA Alert? This is the comedy exemption. And so we have the ballet of cat's tail and the rocking chair for several seconds. Somehow, something's missing... enter the cigar. Curly takes a lit cigar stub out of his hat and starts smoking it. Finally, that awful moment happens when chair beats tail. The cat starts screeching. Curly swallows the cigar and gains his footing. Curly lets out his own screech at 9:17. Sometimes that's all you can really ask of a Stooge film: a good moment like that. It might not go viral, as the kids say nowadays, but it should.
Curly finds Moe and Larry and lays out his ordeal. Curly says that a woman screamed and scratched him on the leg. Now, the modern touch that even Maxim magazine might appreciate: Larry says, very salaciously, "Is that bad?" and straightens his tie. Moe says "Is she pretty?" then comes to his senses. They investigate. Nope, no lady by the rocking chair. Curly swore she was there; well, he could swear, but Moe reminds Curly with a slap that it's a bad habit. Always with the jokes. Moe asks if Curly has a gun... Moe asks Curly if he has a gun. Is that too confusing? Do I have to say "Moe asks Curly if Curly has a gun"? Do I need to get to bed? Yes. Better forge ahead anyway. Curly has a long, belabored explanation of where his gun went to. The NRA should be proud. The NRA will like this next part even more: Moe hands Curly his gun and says "Maybe it'll give you some courage." Before that, we see the Ape Man picking up a female mannequin... so cynical. The Stooges are more of a checkers kinda comedy team, as opposed to chess... the Marx brothers aren't exactly chess, but they're at least Grand Masters of checkers. Officer Moe's laying down the law, while the Ape Man's laying down the mannequin on the floor. "Don't let anybody comes in, don't let anybody come out. You get it, dontcha? All right. Now no more of your screwy ideas. THERE'S NO DEAD WOMAN IN HERE!......NYAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!" Moe and Larry jump up onto Curly. Sadly, their fear is short lived. Moe figures it out. "It's a dummy, like you!" Moe THROWS THE DUMMY INTO THE OTHER ROOM... and it lands on the Ape Man. The Ape Man throws the dummy right back. Just before it hits Moe, Moe says "A dummy can't hurt you!" What a strange thing to say! Larry finally gets one line: "Say! For a dummy she sure gets around!" Moe takes charge again, saying "There's something rotten in Denmark, and we're gonna find it!" Curly gets excited. "Oh boy! We're going to Denmark!" Moe should've hit Curly at this point, but instead he says to Curly, Damon Runyon style, "We are searching for more clues, and don't disturb us!" Curly displays more inappropriate gun etiquette, but doesn't scare Moe with it. No time for that now! We gotta catch up to the plot! For some reason, Moe and Larry leave Curly alone a lot. Must be part of their secret comedy formula.
Curly wanders around a bit. It seems aimless at first, but his feet manage to find the cat's tail again. Curly gets scared, and hides under what looks like a bearskin blanket. He gently kicks a hat stand. The hat stand falls against the wall, and drops a hat loudly onto Curly's foot. How come plots aren't this ambitious anymore? What happens next is arguably another time stretcher, but for me it was absorbing enough to not be. Curly confuses the hat on his foot for a stranger. The third time he's ready with his gun and... DOWN GOES CURLY'S FOOT! No, let's get serious here. It's not all comedy violence. Curly's agony dies down a bit when Moe and Larry show up. Curly forgoes the explanation about what he thought he saw and goes right into that his big toe's been shot off. Moe says "Next time you handle a gun, shoot yourself in the head." Curly asks "I'll make a note of it... how do you spell 'head'?" Moe says "B.O.N.E. head!" and hits Curly in his bone head with the handle of the gun... destroying it beyond recognition, of course.
Suddenly... the Ape Man backs into the room. Moe and Larry point their guns at him and tell him to stick 'em up. The Ape Man growls and bends the gun barrels, rendering them as useless as cartoon guns with their barrels bent... well, arguably, that's not always the case. When Elmer's gun gets bent by Bugs in The Unruly Hare, it works fine! It still fires, anyway, just in reverse. Check it out: 3:11! Love that toon. I haven't heard the DVD commentary on that one, but I think the guy would say it now looks like a Bugs Bunny cartoon made in the 1980s. JMHO. Anyway, the Stooges realize they're dealing with an actual ape. Not bad for non-biologist knuckleheads! Curly yells "A chim-a-nee-panzee!" Larry gets another line: "That's no chimp, you chump! That's a gorilla!" The boys run away ... but before that happens, listen to Moe's reaction at 3:08, more ape-like than human, JMHO. Anyway, the boys run away with the gorilla in pursuit. Now, THAT's an Act break! Good teaser. I should do the news!
I hate to be tawdry, but I think the gorilla's junk is visible at 3:22... anyway, the boys run through some doors. Apparently, the gorilla gets hit by the doors and decides to go the other way... getting the opportunity to scare the Stooges a second time. The boys ... Moe and Larry hide behind a crate. Moe whistles at Curly, who immediately goes into the Curly spiral on the floor, then he waddles his way over to Moe and Larry. Uh, way to kill some more time! I hate to drone on too long about this one, but it's an interesting exchange. I'm easily interested, anyway. They're all trying to catch their breath. Larry says "Boy, we've sure been running!" Curly replies "Yeah. And when we catch our breath... we're sure gonna run some more... all the way home!" But before that happens, the plot rears its ugly head. Turns out this Mr. Dill from before is actually the chief thief! Figures. These citizen leagues oughta be outlawed. Especially that Peace Fresno thing from Fahrenheit 9/11! Anyway, turns out the ape is a former circus ape, now being trained for larceny, petty or otherwise. Wait, it gets worse! Dill's planning on becoming Police Commissioner! The Stooges, ever the impatient heroes, decide to take down this crime triumvirate then and there... with bent guns. Moe quickly uses the ol' gun finger in the coat pocket trick... do I really need to hyphenate all that? In this era of global grammatical errors?
Anyway, moving on. They confront the crooks. Moe gets to call the guy "Dill Pickle"! I love it! In his eagerness, however, his finger pokes through the coat pocket. The gambit is compromised. A half-epic fist fight breaks out. Fists flying everywhere! Three individual Stooge-crook fist fight pairs waltz away, leaving us once again focused on Curly. Curly's bad guy hits him rapidly in the face seven times, but Curly stops him by saying "WAIT A MINUTE! This is getting monotonous!" Must be part of Man Law or something. Alas, Curly stops his fight only temporary. At least the crook is a good listener, and rectifies Curly's complaint by hitting him in the stomach instead of the face. Don't count Curly out yet. He's got some length of brains yet, and uses Moe's ancient "See that?" trick, and ultimately gets the better of his bad guy. Triumphant in victory, Curly turns and, Punch Drunk style, revs up to help out his fellow Stooge in the midst of his pummeling. We find out it's Larry, who is failing miserably against the NBA-sized goon working him over. Curly has trouble with this guy, too, and lands ass first on a sword. Standing up, no less! Something vaguely gay about that, but we won't explore that here further. Curly's able to take that ordeal, however, and have it happen to the bad guy! The guy bounces quickly back from the sword, and Curly takes him out in style with a final punch to the kisser. Curly's celebration is much quicker this time, as Moe's rolling around on the floor with his bad guy. Curly grabs a giant-ass wrench and tells Moe to roll the bad guy over so he can hit him in the head with the wrench. Yup, you guessed it... The bad guy gets it in the head with the wrench anyway... I dare not spoil it. Victory to the Stooges! Moe and Larry give each other two kisses on the cheek, European style. Curly grabs Moe's head and kisses him on the lips. Ah, sibling rivalry. But just before Curly and Moe get their gay wedding, the gorilla returns, and he doesn't want to be the ringbearer. Moe eases the fear of the other two and says "Don't be scared... don't be scared... just RUN!" And run they do. Curly called it before. But this is no mere cartoon! There's no long horizontal background to run against!... too many examples. The next room has a giant trunk in it. Moe and Larry claim it for themselves. Curly has to fend for himself again. Curly hides behind the replica guillotine, then manages to get his head stuck in it. Maybe if he pulls the string, he can get his head out... Moe and Larry emerge from the trunk. The blade falls. Moe passes out. Larry tries to catch Moe on the first bounce. Curly yells "I don't want to be dead! There's no future in it!" Must be a Greatest Generation thing. After The Hunger Games, who knows how people feel anymore. Curly has a downright Cartesian moment, or maybe like Roman Polanski in The Tenant. He says to himself "How can I be dead? I'm talking!" And perhaps because of this realization, he stops talking. Cut to the gorilla, playing with the mannequins again. This time he knocks the head off one, causing it to fly over to Moe and Larry. They both faint and fall back into the trunk. I dare say Larry gets his own head injury at about 7:43! I hope I'm wrong.
Next scene: back to the gorilla. It finds something other than mannequins to play with this time: a bottle of nitroglycerin. The gorilla takes an interest in it, uncorks the bottle, smells it, then starts to drink. The gorilla likes it. We've got a gorilla with a taste for nitroglycerin on our hands, folks. Thank God there's just the one bottle. Back to Curly who emerges from the fake guillotine intact. And much like Screwy Squirrel in Happy-go-Nutty... do I have to hyperlink everything for you people?... Curly champions the plotting power of rubber, but is still scared of the guillotine nevertheless. Damn French. (I should know! I've got French relatives on my mother's side) The Stooges are reunited. All preconceived notions erased, we're back to a clean Stooge slate. Enter the gorilla with a bellyfull of nitro. Again, gripped by the fear, but Curly's had enough. Much like the shell-shocked America of today, there's nothing left that the establishment can throw at us. Curly charges that gorilla head first and... fade to white, just like Syriana.
Fade to white like Syriana, but unlike Syriana, the Stooges give us the loud boom. The dust settles. The boys emerge from the rubble. Moe declares that they got the ape man. Curly declares that it was a solo effort, and holds up the gorilla head to prove it. The severed gorilla head has got one last trick up its sleeve, and the boys start up their running ways once again... is it just me, or do they run off making chimp-type noises? Get those knuckleheads some bananas!
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan