Tuesday, April 17, 2012
At Play in the Fields of Icons of Infamy
The boys hit the start button and end up as cut-rate fix-it men. Does Moe actually say what I thought I heard him say? 'Fraid so. "Cut-rate repairing while you wait!" Ah, puns. They march giddily down the street peddling their lack of wares without a care in the world. Only one thing can distract them: a gorgeous customer. They were going left, she's going right. Curly starts going right. Moe's next, followed by Larry. What is this, a cartoon? They follow the woman to her door, and she gives them the ol' triple slap. The woman's door says she's a mind reader, so she spares herself the wrath of the Stooges' handiwork. Here's a sequence worth noting: Larry's wearing a wooden sandwich board. Moe goes in for the punch, but Larry raises the sandwich board just in the nick of time. Moe cradles his injured fist. Larry, triumphant, lowers his defenses and indulges in a jolly laugh, but Moe gets him with the other fist. Larry threatens to strike a laughing Curly, until.... another customer! She doesn't appear to be a kindly old woman about to be shut down by the government, so whatever happens to her is nice and deserving, and possibly comedic. Mark the Stooges' words here, as ye will hear them again at least once with Shemp. The stern customer who scared Curly announces "The doorbell isn't working. Can you fix it?" Moe asks mockingly "'Can we fix it?'!" Larry, ever Moe's lap dog, does the same. "'Can we fix it?'!" The very idea. Curly asks, "Can we?" Why can't problems ever be solved easily? Why is that part of God's design of the universe? Hard problems? The way the woman does a 180 and marches back into the house only compounds her need for retribution, Stooge style. Before that happens, there's some comedy when Larry and Moe try to get through the door at the same time, Larry with his sandwich board doubling nicely as a Curly surrogate. Curly uses an anvil as a battering ram to force all of them through the door at the same time, falling down flat in the foyer, making the noise they use in Gymkata. (0:23:15) ...at last! The big plot reveal at 2:05... I hate to spoil it, so maybe you better watch the film first before you bother with my ramblings. God bless you, 69789Darius! May you be a thorn in Crackle's side forever... okay, back to my ramblings. The Stooges have once again indeed invaded a Nazi den, and Vernon Dent plays one of the chief Nazi denizens. We follow him back into his chambers, where he's plotting with a... hoh boy, I'm assuming he's supposed to be a high-ranking Japanese officer, and the other one is supposed to be one of Mussolini's best and brightest. At least the Japanese guy has a better accent!... never mind.
Back to the Stooges. Curly makes like a human cartoon and follows a cord under a rug while la-leeing to his heart's content. This should eat up some time! Curly finds his way to a radio. He turns on the radio. Angry Moe comes over to assess the situation. Curly hears a little snippet of a game show (the $64 question, announced by Stooge regular Eddie Laughton). Moe takes over for the announcer. Nice setup for a knock on the head. Remember, screenwriters: it's not about the knock on the head! It's how you set up for it! Much like Lucy with the football: always a fresh, new, cutting-edge seduction to lull dumb ol' Charlie Brown into flying through the air and cracking the back of his skull. God bless him, he never did learn how to punt properly. Speaking of questionable setups, Moe tells Curly to go away and take the radio that doesn't belong to him. Curly, ever the literalist when it comes to Moe's orders, takes the radio to the limit of its electrical cord. Electrical cords must've been made of really, REALLY elastic rubber back then, because... yup, you guessed it, the radio bounces back, bouncing off Moe's head. Only in the Stooge-iverse. Moe then takes this radio THAT DOESN'T BELONG TO HIM and breaks it over Curly's head. The radio never had the snowball's chance. Did I mention that it wasn't his radio in his house? I mean, I hate the Nazis as much as the next guy, but man! A little respect for the radio!
Larry finds the wire... well, 'a' wire that he thinks is the right wire, that's the important takeaway there. Curly approaches Larry. Larry's in a happy mood, perhaps still triumphant from his discovery. Love Curly's reaction at 3:50, 'nuff said. Curly goes to work destroying the wall. Curly pulls the wire and dislodges a framed picture from the wall, which lands on Larry's head. We hear the sound of shattering glass. Didn't that also happen two pictures ago? Meanwhile, Moe's standing by a light switch, and is he looking ready to be hit with something. Curly, not content to create destruction in two dimensions, finds an endless wire to pull on... how long will this go on? Longer than the wire from A Plumbing We Will Go? Lamentably, no. There's a phone at the end of this wire! It erupts from the wall. It rings in Curly's hands. Curly yells into it "This line is busy!" and throws it at... yup, Moe. Moe throws it back. Curly appears really traumatized by this, but gets over it quickly. He grabs the next wire and says to the camera "Another one!" LOL...shh! Don't want to wake the neighbors. (Curly 5:01) What will be at the end of this one?
We're close to an Act break, I can feel it. Enter... hoh boy. Enter Dudley Dickerson. Now, normally a brother shouldn't take getting shoved away by Moe, but maybe it's a blessing in disguise this time. Still... dude! WTF? We hear a loud crash after Dudley exits stage left. That doesn't make matters worse at all! Moe pries the doorbell off the wall... I hate to call it, but I think I know what's coming.
I need to see some Nazis soon or I'm going to lose faith in the plotting on this one! Moe pries the doorbell off the kitchen wall, and it makes those very VERY loud prying noises we sometimes hear. Somehow it doesn't fit the size of the object, but that's just a lover's complaint... something like that. Yup, I think I guessed it... time for Moe's Adventures through the Kitchen Wall. Don't worry, this won't be the last time. Curly asks Larry to give him a help. This is of course the turning point in the battle. Moe wins the battle against the table he's standing on, and Dudley of course is collateral damage. Moe finally enters the wall at about 6:37. Someone seems to think that the giant 4-by-6 that lands on Moe's head is real... I seriously doubt it. Moe's feet give the kitchen wall a few last kicks for good measure, and mere seconds later Moe ends up where Curly and Larry are. Curly confuses Moe with a dandruff-stricken termite far too quickly. Moe confuses Larry with a termite with big blue eyes later on... at the PROPER PACING! Sheesh.
Now, each time Curly says nyaah-nyaah in panic is different. At 6:58, it's especially so, knowing that Moe's not going to take what he just went through very well at all. Alas, Moe's powerless to pull Curly into the wall on his own, so he just beats him over the head.
Next scene: outside by a power pole... hoh boy, I think I know what we're in for. As a prelude, Curly drops a heavy object on Moe's foot. Moe goes to work on Curly's nose with what looks like an airplane propeller! Apparently it's some sort of industrial-strength two-handled wrench for the big nut jobs. Moe then puts Curly's nose on a big metal wheel that generates lots of sparks... guess I should learn what some of these things are called, huh? No time, we gotta forge ahead to what some have called the most violent sequence in Stooge short history: Curly going to town on Moe's head with his spiked shoes. There's just the one spike, but it's enough to cause emotional damage for all of us. The fact that there's a plunger noise when it's "pulled out of Moe's head" accentuates it nicely. Moe loses the battle with Curly's armed leg, reduced to a mere shell of his former civilized self. Moe is in primal fight or flight mode, and says "Lemme at him!" It's full-on fight mode now. He goes at "Curly" with a flame thrower, causing "Curly" to scramble quickly up the pole.
Time to switch to Part Two. Curly's at the top of the pole in some sort of swing. All part of the New Deal, apparently. Curly goes to work snipping some wires. Of course, these wires are special, and for the sake of the children out there, they generate big sparks when cut. Don't want to give kids the wrong impression about everything, now! Curly drops a tool, of course, and it lands on Moe. Moe takes out his frustrations on Larry, but does he really have to karate chop Larry in the neck? The grand jury's still out on that one. Curly confuses the wire he's holding with threading a needle, and he wets the tip of the wire with his tongue! He gets shocked, causes a small explosion, falls out of his swing, and causes a big explosion of his own on the ground below. They're perfectly okay in the next scene, of course. Alive, anyway. Curly, however, has some leftover electricity from his ordeal, so Moe sticks a light bulb in Curly's ear, of course. The light bulb starts going off and on, of course. To counteract this, Larry sticks a screwdriver in Curly's non-light bulb-filled ear, of course. There's an explosion, of course. Everything's okay after that, but Curly doesn't say "Ready for testing!" and we don't see a sign on the door that reads "Please nock." (sic) Listen, judge...
The comedy of repetition is a tricky business. I was young at the time, but Saturday Night Live once did this so well. I think the biggest laugh I've ever had in my life was from that split second when we first saw Dana Carvey as Mickey Rooney the SECOND time they did the "Theater Stories" bit. The makeup was so much better, and he had short stumpy legs... freaking hilarious. The other big laugh I had once was ... well, it kinda doesn't relate in this situation, but I'll tell you anyway. Homer Simpson was trying to get rid of a trampoline. He throws it into a canyon, but it bounces back, and smashes Homer into the cliff edge he's standing on... like the Road Runner and Coyote. Homer says, "If this were a cartoon, the cliff would break off now!" It was daytime when he said this. Cut to nighttime, and he's still stuck in the cliff, with a trampoline over his head. The indignity of it all. Homer whimpers, "I'm thirsty!" The cliff immediately starts breaking off, and he plummets to the canyon below. Biggest belly laugh I've ever had. Well, it was pretty damn memorable, anyway. It's best to leave things alone for a while and come back to them later.
Anyway, we start Act Three here with a fade-in from black, and we fade in on Curly back up in his swing amongst the wires. There's more wires this time. Not bad.
Curly's become more of ... I hate to say a master, but less of an apprentice when it comes to messing with the wires up high. Cut to a montage of people on the phone, complaining about their lack of service. There's a siren noise that they used later on in Listen, Judge, when Shemp is in the throes of extra-electricity-induced agony. Operators are going crazy. Things are spinning around. Back to the Nazis, whose radio service is out. The stern woman is sent to have someone fix the radio. Let the dramatic tension begin. Back to a singing Curly in the sky with radio wires. Curly tries to get decent phone service while up there, but no luck. Dudley Dickerson's phone service is strangely okay... but we'll fix that. Wait for the laugh!
Back to Curly. Moe and Larry are starting to wonder what exactly he's up to. So am I, for that matter. Turns out his swing can traverse the length of the power cable, so he starts to roll. He goes to the window of the Nazis' comm center. He swings back, gets shocked, swings violently forward, and Curly's double smashes onto the floor of the comm center room, and nearly loses his balance, on top of it! Time to inadvertently be a hero for your country, Curly.
Meanwhile, Moe and Larry enter the hallway. Moe rightly asks "Where is that dumplinghead?" Great question. Moe and Larry enter a room and eventually see the picture of Hitler on the wall with the giant swastika flag next to it. Moe hits the picture of Hitler in the head and says "It's Schicklgruber!" According to Wikipedia and some historians, Schicklgruber was the name of Hitler's mother. Hitler's father was named Hitler, though! Ah, the sins of the father. But we'll leave that for now. Moe's line seems to be dubbed in at 3:30.
Moe and Larry start to leave the room, but they see Dent and one of his flunkies (the Japanese guy) approaching. Larry steps back into Moe's chin at about 3:34, and Moe seems to get pretty hurt by that. They proceed to hide. Dent and the Japanese guy enter the room. They heil the picture of Hitler...which seems to be different somehow, but I can't quite place it. I never was good at those things in the paper with the six visual differences between the two same panels. Moe gets another chance to trot out his Hitler impression, while Larry comes from behind with the mallet and knocks out some bad guys. Back to Curly, fiddling with his radio. Cut to a bad looking model submarine. Curly finally realizes what's going on and goes into panic mode. Footprints approaching! He hides behind the door. Moe Hitler and Larry the J... Japanese guy march in. They only get one line in and then BOOM! Right on the head. See, Curly didn't know who it really was. He goes to the window. He walks back toward the door. Hitler Moe and Japanese Larry are standing up, and they ain't happy. Curly says "Heil! Heel!" Moe hits Curly. Curly finally realizes "It's Moe!" Time for a little exchange of violence. Moe hits Curly in the mouth with the hammer Curly used to hit them, then Curly hits Moe in the head twenty-two times. You can tell from the sound effects. Back to the submarine captain trying to call in. The Nazi captain, speaking in English, tells the boys to take over the sub through remote control. The boys gleefully oblige, causing the submarine to jump up out of the water like a flying fish trying to reenact a sine wave. Radio noises abound as the Stooges' busy hands turn knobs and dials like nobody's business. Cut to a bunch of planes in the sky. Cut to one pilot realizing he's looking at a Nazi sub doing a comedy jig in the water. Time to drop some bombs. Cut to a submarine filling up with water. Definitely stock footage from another, better movie; they don't seem to be Nazis.
Next scene: the Stooges are satisfied that they've saved the day. We'll leave that alone for now. Triumph quickly turns to horror as they realize that the bad guys have come to and are staring them down. Vernon Dent says "FBI, huh?" Curly brilliantly, or not so brilliantly, retorts "No! I be Curly!" Cue to hit him on the head. Vernon falls backwards on a man holding a box of explosives. Box of explosives, meet floor! Floor, meet Giant Explosion! Take that, The Way Things Go!
Well, guess I better wrap this up, so after the giant explosion, the Stooges have four bad guys trapped under a giant girder. Time to have a little fun turning them into a human xylophone. Only in the Stooge-iverse, where all heads have perfect pitch when hit with any kind of mallet substitute. The Stooges have plundered this territory before, the territory of the iconography of WWII fascism, but a little more successfully in my not-so-humble opinion. Here, they focus on havoc fundamentals, and lay the groundwork for future shorts, perchance to even lift footage from the old films to do it that much quicker!
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan