Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Long Toothache of the Soul

Our next Stooge short is called I Can Hardly Wait.  You'll see why it's called that soon enough.  Incidentally, this is not to be confused with 1998's Can't Hardly Wait featuring Tom Cruise wannabe Peter Facinelli and the scrumptious Jennifer Love Hewitt.


The start of the film is clever.  I hate to have to spoil it, even after 70 odd years.  It starts with the boys entering a dark house and going up to a safe.  It seems like a heist picture, when in fact it's merely another commentary on Depression-Era rationing.  Kind of like what the free market does now!  In addition to such off-limit lunchables as ham and eggs, someone's got their pair of shoes in there.  The camera stays on the refrigerator / safe long enough to wait for the laugh.  Fade to the dinner table, where the one slice of ham hovers over a plate, yet to be cooked.  In about a minute span, Curly says "I can hardly wait!" three times.  Moe calms him down by placing Curly's fist on his chin, and his knee to his elbow, and ...  Larry then makes the mistake of telling Moe to hurry up, but instead of an open-faced sandwich, Larry gets an open-handed slap.  Curly slices a loaf of bread in half.  They should feel lucky to have bread, really!  Moe starts flipping the slice of ham and... yup.  What is it with him and pancakes?  And now HAM!  Moe looks in Larry's hair for the slice of ham.  Cut to Curly with a slice of ham on his head.  Curly looks like he's gearing up for a pie fight, but he then realizes he's got the slice of ham on his head.  See, when Curly isn't in control of the ham slice, he demands it be divided up equally.  When Curly IS in control of the ham... time to use the WHOLE LOAF OF BREAD to make a ham sandwich.  He's about to take a bite, when... he realizes there's no mustard!  What was he thinking?  Time to stop and get the mustard.  Curly n'yuk-n'yuks quietly to himself as he puts a butterknife in the jar of mustard.  Moe walks over to intercept Curly's mustard.  Curly looks over and isn't surprised to just see Larry by the stove.  Moe lays his arm on the loaf of bread.  His anger turns to anger-horror as Curly liberally applies mustard to his arm.  "What a slice of ham!" says Curly.  Oh, I forgot to mention that there's an anti-Japanese slur to set the scene.  Well, it was the war and all.  Curly ends up with mustard on his face, and tells Moe he'll clean the ham when he's ready.  Hardcore Stooge fans know what Moe's response is to that.  Still stewing from his run-in with Curly, he takes it out on Larry who's lovingly cooking a pot of steaming hot water.  Moe shoves Larry's face down into the pot, but not too far.  Just far enough to justify the sound of scalding.  Larry cries "You burnt my little bugle!"  Damn!  He looks like he really got hurt.  Columbia probably couldn't afford dry ice.  We go back to Curly who's wringing the last bit of nutritional value out of the slice of ham in his rigorous efforts to "clean" the ham.  He even gets out the washboard.  LOL.  Curly gets out a new loaf of bread and starts cutting it, while singing "She was Bred in Old Kentucky, but she's only a Crumb up here."  Notice how he's cutting the bread, because it's going to get a callback.


This is probably a good time for an act break.  We cross-fade from Curly slicing bread to dinnertime.  Normally this would be the part of the film where time is stretched out, but this isn't normal circumstances!  This is dinner!  Depression-Era dinner, no less.  Now comes the part the Right Wing will never understand.  Moe explains to Curly how a whole egg shell and whole ham bone is better than half an egg and half a piece of ham.  Curly being Curly, he accepts this logic.  There's a nice shot of Moe at about 5:43.  What's unusual about it is that he's just eating and not hitting somebody with something.  Curly swallows some eggshell, and with things like this it always means overtime for the sound department.  Back to Curly's irregular loaf of bread at about 6:00.
Anyway, the nightmare begins promptly at 6:24.  We've seen glimpses of Curly's bald mouth in Dutiful but Dumb, and we saw Moe's filling in the last picture, if I recall correctly.  As with show business, most jobs have ... most American jobs have scattershot dental plans, and being a Depression-Era Stooge was no different.  The Stooges poured their hearts and souls into their scripts, even though Columbia never pitched in for the Stooges' own sets.  The boys have bitten into sharp objects before, but it's been mere passing incidents, never the plot of a whole short.  And so, with all this in mind, after Curly bites into the ham bone, the toothache that consumes the rest of the film begins in earnest.
Moe ends up with a ham bone monocle in the initial confusion, but the toothache will not be denied.  But even in pain there can be humor.  Moe steps on Curly's foot and Curly says "Oh, my foot!"  Larry kicks Curly in the ass and Curly says "Oh, my ...... tooth!"  The Stooges go to bed.
Cross-fade to the Stooges' bunk bed.  Curly's on top, of course.  Even the best of Stooge scholars still can't explain the Stooge Bunk Bed hierarchy.  Must have something to do with the concept of potential energy.  The bed shudders as Curly paces in his top bunk, quietly complaining about his tooth.  Larry's temper flares in this episode.  "BE QUIET AND GO TO SLEEP!" he yells at Curly.  Moe eventually tells Curly to come down and they'll fix his tooth.  Curly steps on Larry's face, then Moe's face. (7:32)  Moe hits Curly in the stomach, but the tooth still prevails.
In lieu of Professor Moe, Moe Howard DDS gets right to work on Curly's tooth.  Moe points to a potential candidate, and Curly's "bunny ears" start to twitch.  Moe tells Larry to get the hot water bottle... Larry doesn't seem too happy with this request.  Now, all you screenwriters out there trying to craft the World's Next Great Sixth Sense clone, pay close attention to this part.  We could all learn a little something about plotting here.  Larry brings the hot water bottle, informing Moe that he couldn't find the official hot water bottle stopper, but offers a cork as an alternative.  Before this happens, Moe looks like he accidentally actually dings his head on the upper bunk at 8:04.  With Larry's work done, he tries climbing back into his middle bunk, but fails.  Moe helps him out, and Larry hits his head on part of the bed in the process.  I'm hoping that one was scripted.  And so, with the unsecured hot water bottle in place, and Moe and Curly in position in the lower bunk, Curly rests his tooth down upon it, drenching Moe with scalding hot water.  I'm starting to notice that every once in a while Moe really loses it, even more so than usual.  8:38 is one of those times.  Anyone else on the internet keeping track of this stuff?  It should be part of the XML revolution, the internet's second wave.  The internet went through its Lambada oh-puhleeze-get-a-room phase and has now matured into the slightly more mature Macarena phase.  Curly climbs back up to the top bunk, re-crushing the faces of Moe and Larry while doing so.  Boy!  Larry's so irritable in this one!  Check out 0:08.  God bless Sean Hayes and all, I think Tobey Maguire would've made a better Larry.
Curly reaches his top bunk and eventually falls asleep.  A dream bubble appears over Curly's head.  Now we're talking!  What does Curly dream about?  Well, this time, he dreams about his toothache.  Funny!  I've had dreams where I'm lying in bed trying to go to sleep.  But enough about me.  Dream Moe says "Come on down and we'll fix that tooth for you right now."  Hmm!  Dream Moe seems to have a hidden agenda.  Anyway, Curly once again climbs down from the bed in a more spectacular three point landing.  The "Ohhh!!!" sound heard in countless Stooge shorts previous is heard at about 0:51 here.  Dream Moe tells Dream Larry to get the fishing line.  What does it say about the Stooges when the Dream Stooges act more "normally" than the Wake-Up Stooges?  Uncharted territory, my friends.  Curly asks Moe "Is it gonna hurt?"  Moe says "Of course not.  I won't feel a thing."  This is what Wham-Bam-Slam meant to do but botched it... just to be different.  The tooth fishing begins.  Curly starts wriggling around like a salmon out of the water.  Moe slaps Larry for good measure.  Curly starts doing his 360 thing.  Larry gets hit on the head with the fishing pole, leading him to rather emphatically say "This is NOT going to work!" at 1:43.  Second plan: tie the tooth string to the doorknob.  I like how Moe points out the simplicity of the plan to Larry.  Since we've still got to get to Act Three, the plan of course doesn't work.  Cross-fade to the Third plan.  I never realized that suicide and pulling a tooth were so similar!  Moe starts to count to three.  Larry, now caught up in the excitement, screams out "Two and a half!"  Curly lands on the floor and gets a double helping of ceiling plaster in the process.  Guess what Curly confuses it for?


The plan of last resort is imminent, but Larry gets another idea.  "Why don't we blast?"  I was wrong.  Jason Alexander should've been Larry.  Listen to the way Larry says "Fourth of July" at 4:16.  Larry goes and gets the firecracker while Moe soothes Curly's nervous ego.  The lighter doesn't work, so Larry lights a match to light the lighter.  Lol.  Somehow I don't think that was in the script.  Well, you gotta hand it to the Stooges.  As riddled with violence as it is, there's some things even the Stooges won't tolerate.  Curly, for example, opens his eyes, notices that he's got a lit firecracker in his mouth, and throws it away.  Curly tries to warn Moe that the firecracker landed near his backside, but Moe tells Curly to shut up.  Twice!  Moe's ass explodes, and he writhes around in pain.  Fade to black.  Fade to the dentist's office.  Curly's forced in by Moe.  Moe's got Curly's arm behind Curly's back.  Curly says "I'm not afraid.  I'm not afraid!... what a liar I am!"  Ergo... ah, skip it.  The film drops three loud hints that this dentist is a bad one.  It's Curly's turn to go in, so he helpfully puts his arm behind his back, and Moe escorts him inside.  Meanwhile, Larry gets to sink his teeth into some serious flirting.  "How would you like to come back to my place and see my coffee?" says Larry.  "Fresh!" says the secretary.  "Oh yeah!  Ground today!" offers Larry.  What a Stooge.  Back to Curly who starts gobbling like a turkey when the first dentist tool approaches.  Curly's tooth is touched by it and Curly has had enough.  He leaps out of the dentist's chair and says "This guy's a butcher.  I heard the other fella say so!"  I should've mentioned that earlier more explicitly, but Curly is indeed right.  I'm paraphrasing like crazy during this portion for some reason, but... oh, hell with it.  I hate to spoil the big comedy surprise, but here goes.  Time for the old switcheroo!  That's the appropriate comedy strategy when it comes to dentist-based comedy.  Take the first scene with Alan Arkin in 1979's The In-Laws, for example... okay, I'm back.  Moe sits in the dentist chair to show Curly how to relax... enter Bud Jamison with an ether-soaked rag. 
To cut to the chase, after Moe realizes what just happened, Moe starts laying in to Curly.  He opens with a gut-head combo, then just starts punching Curly right in the nose bridge!  Curly starts fighting back by making pinwheels of his arms.  Time to fade out of the dream, where we see Curly rather spectacularly destroy the triple bunk bed once and for all.  Head first, no less.  It'll never be done as well again, all due respect to G.I. Wanna Home.  Waking-life Moe punches Curly in the mouth, knocking out the bad tooth.  Curly feels fine once again, and they all fall back to sleep in their giant pile of bodies and mattresses, making a train sound.  Curly gets to be the whistle, of course.


Now let's never speak of this one again.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

For further study: A fine interview with Larry Fine.  Lord help us if they ever shut down YouTube.

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