Saturday, May 05, 2012


Ah.  Is there anything more reliable than the haunted house genre?.... okay, besides that.  Buster Keaton tried one once, Chaplin probably did too, and Laurel and Hardy had a whole ghost ship.  Therefore, the Stooges should be able to rip off... I mean, pay homage to this trusted institution.  Believe me, it won't be the last time.


We start Dopey Dicks.. I mean, Spook Louder, with someone else telling a story about the Stooges!  Good construct.  Well, with the chump change the Stooges were making back then, why should they have to work so hard?  Future screenwriters, further take note how the narrator is introduced.  He's Professor J.O. Dunkfeather, Special Investigator.  Via the now ancient Spielberg formula, we get a special introductory episode, then the episode that consumes the rest of the film.  Dunkfeather examines the skull on his desk, and deduces that the woman committed suicide because of dandruff.  Good comedy suicide, if nothing else.  Now, on to the big story... being covered, incidentally, by a newspaper man NOT named Brown, and not from the Sun.  Shemp will meet him later on.  The Stooges apparently got themselves tangled up in a spy ring.  Ooh!  I wonder if it's more Nazis!  But first, the Professor knows the Spielberg formula too, and he "narrates" for us a few introductory salesman episodes.  Curly raises an interesting WWII philosophical question: if you had to choose between rent and war bonds, do you still have to pay the rent?  Apparently you do.  Damn liberals!  Sorry, but we watched a Chetwynd turd tonight.  Must've done something to my brain.  Spoiler alert: I still don't know what color justice is, but I'm confident it's not white.  As usual, the Stooges try to sell a weight loss machine to the thinnest woman I've ever seen.  They fail because they're lousy salesmen... but they do manage to sell the woman a "No Peddlers" sign, and even install it for free!
Next customer: Symona Boniface.  God, I love her.  Curly laughs at about 2:20, but somehow my ears tell me it's not him.  Symona proves again and again that she's the Fourth Stooge.  Back to the professor telling the story.  The newspaper man asks "But what's that got to do with the spy ring?"  Dunkfeather answers "Nothing!" then looks to the left, then to the right, slowly... as if waiting for a laugh.  A laugh that will never come... except maybe from the screenwriters because they know the Spiel... anyway, on to the third house.  The third house is always the one.  They get a chance to do the old "That wasn't me!" routine.  Moe should really see an anger manager.  The creepy guy at this door is Charles Middleton, and if you're like me... scary thought, I know... you know him best from Laurel and Hardy's The Flying Deuces.  He was also a strong presence in The Fixer Uppers, and played the prosecutor in Duck Soup... I guess the Flash Gordon villain would have to be his most... most iconic role.  God, I'm tired of that word.  Here, he's a mere butler to Graves the inventor.  Good casting, as these two have similar voices.  The Stooges eventually figure out that there's a fourth guy talking to them, and they enter this strange, strange house.  The strangeness only gets stranger.
Moe once again tells Larry to go ahead, but skips the part about leading the way.  We're in the hallway of the inventor's house.  We see a "Russian" clock.  The clock hits 5 o'clock, Russia Standard Time.  Like me, Curly is horrified, then intrigued, saying "Let's come back at 12 so we can hear the whole song!" (4:29)  Curly gets scared by a clock with an owl instead of a cuckoo, and forgets to take his suitcase with him.  Next scene: Graves' office, where Graves tells the Stooges "Ah!  The new caretakers.  Your wages are $100 a month."  Funny, because that's more than what they were making at Columbia.  Graves mistakenly riles up Curly by asking if he's a Japanese spy.  Moe calms down Curly by saying "He said sap, not ..."  You know.  Graves hands the boys a large rifle, telling them to watch out for spies.  Curly takes the gun.  I couldn't help but think of what Homer Simpson said when he got his first gun: "You point it at what you want to die, and shoot!"  Curly does a little more damage than that.  Time for an Act break.


Graves is called away to Washington to demonstrate his new Death Ray machine.  "It will destroy MILLIONS!"  We assume he'll be working AGAINST the Axis Powers.  Ever the heroes, the Stooges demand no royalties.  Larry, however, does ask "Yeah, but what's that got to do with us?"  Graves wants the boys to protect his house from spies.  The blind leading the blind.  Curly gets caught up in semi-patriotic fervor, so much so that Moe appears to be mouthing Curly's lines along with him at about 6:17 for just a second.  Graves gives them one other security tool: a bomb that looks like a cartoon bomb.  The way Graves sells it, it sounds like a neutron bomb: "It'll destroy everything and everyone."  Spoiler alert: it's not that powerful.  Most of the house is still standing once it's deployed.  I mean, the Stooges aren't going to introduce a gadget that sweet and not use it, right?  They wouldn't toy with our emotions like that, would they?  Curly fires the gun again, and ducks just before losing his hat... but loses it anyway.  Not many time stretchers in this one, except here where Moe says to Curly "I'll unload your brains if ya got any!!!"
Next scene: outside the house, where Graves and servant are leaving.  The boys go back inside, close the door... cue the three "spies"!  They look like three guys in costumes to me, but what do I know.  We'll see these three outfits later on, if I only knew which one...
Back inside the house, a piano starts playing.  Curly says "Hmm!  Rachmaninoff's Prelude!  That's a hard piece!"  ...I'm going to take Curly's word for it on this one.  I've got another fish to fry in this one, besides.  The piano starts playing spooky music, interrupting Moe and Curly's dance.  The boys investigate.  Turns out there's just a cat walking on the piano keys.  "Kitten on the keys!" says Curly.  Then, we see the main spy has entered the house, and has a gun on the Stooges.  We then hear an incoming missile.  A pie hits the spy in the face.  We hear maniacal laughter.  The Stooges apparently miss all this.
Back to the professor.  The reporter asks "But, Professor!  Who threw the pie?"  That mystery will have to wait for another 8 minutes or so.  Back to the Stooges, who hear some maniacal laughter of their own.  They mildly freak out.  Just then, the telegraph on the piano starts beeping.  Moe orders Curly to write down the message.  The message finishes.  Moe asks "What did it say?"  Curly says "EEE-EE-EEEE-EEEE..."  As DarkPaladin24 rightly points out, funny as hell.  Larry tries to ride Curly's coattails, but to no avail.  What was he thinking?  Moe decides they should split up.  They can do more damage that way.  The reporter really wants to know who threw that damn pie!  Back to Moe, whose attempt to work alone ultimately proves unsuccessful.  Larry and Curly notice that Moe's gone missing and double back, snooping around the bookcase.  Curly takes some books out of the bookcase and gets a nasty surprise.  It's one of those surprises for his face only; doesn't work on Larry.  But it's not that mysterious, as Larry watches it happen to Curly over and over again.  Curly is pissed, and rightly so!  I hope those boxing gloves were soft!  The bookcase swivels open a second time.  The patch where the boxing gloves came through is not visible.  Moe emerges.  Moe gets his head crushed between the bookcase and the wall by Curly.  Curly feels triumphant.  Curly sees Moe.  Curly stops.  Moe emerges, head slightly more oval-shaped than before, reaches for a giant stick and raises it high over his head.  That whistling sound is heard again.  A pie hits Moe in the face, and a small air bubble pops in front of Moe's mouth amidst the crust and filling.  Apparently, Curly and Larry miss all this, as they only get scared by Moe after he's wiped most of the pie off his face.  The fear threshold is very, very low now.
Curly and Larry run away.  I'm a little confused because the sound clip of Curly from 2:41 to 2:43 is repeated at 2:44 to 2:46 but truncated slightly.  Larry is given a juicy twenty seconds or so all to himself, as he tries to open various doors.  A fine performance.  He gets scared by the skeleton guy at the front door.


Dang!  I got so caught up in the action, I'll be looking out for you... I mean, I missed the Act break, it's so action packed!  The heat is on, indeed!  Back to Moe, who gets scared by a light hooked up to the rocking chair he's sitting in.  The noise he makes at 3:08 is repeated at the end of 3:15.  We see how the lamp is hooked up to the rocking chair.  Simplicity itself, as long as the chair isn't moved too far in either direction.  Enter the third bad guy, the devil at the window.  Cue the vacuum cleaner over Moe's head.  We'll see that again in If a Body Meets a Body... another haunted house classic.  Back to Curly, who runs afoul of perhaps his most elusive nemesis yet: a balloon that gets attached to the back of his coat.  The balloon has a funny face on it, but I think it's supposed to be a Japanese caricature... I'll leave that for the historians to decide, among others.  This may be one of the two or three smartest balloons in movie history.  It first sneaks up on Curly from the other half of the chest he looks in, then manages to stay behind Curly for most of its adventures.  Curly runs into the hall and finds Larry.  Larry gets scared by the balloon.  Curly catches some of Larry's fear and runs, pivots on his pivot foot and runs back towards the camera.  We all hear maniacal laughter at about 4:12, which turns into a loud moan.  Moe emerges and tells Curly of how he saw the Devil, but that balloon's about a thousand and a half times worse.  Moe runs away.  Curly eventually comes face to face with the balloon, and slaps it away.  Will nothing happen to this balloon?  I hate to spoil it, but the balloon eventually gets popped, scaring Curly some more.  He screams and runs away from the impact zone, but it doesn't sound like him screaming.  Curly runs afoul of a mummy in a coffin, and makes a strange noise at 5:06.  Curly barks at the mummy.  The mummy leans forward slightly, and Curly's outta there.  Under the lampshade he goes, only to find the skeleton guy.  An epic struggle ensues.  The skeleton gets away, but Curly fights on with a sheet over him.  Curly enters the hall, still wearing the sheet.  Larry clubs him over the head with a club.  That doesn't usually happen!  Curly gets mad about it, too.  Time for more maniacal laughter.  Back to Moe who runs afoul of a stuffed bear and the monkey we saw earlier, but that he forgot about.  The monkey scares Moe, and Moe scares the monkey with all his screaming.  Moe goes into the hall, and starts to explain what happened to him.  More maniacal laughter.  The three reunited, they head off to the final confrontation.  Three Stooges, three bad guys, one of them with a rifle.  Curly sees the bomb, grabs it and holds it high over his head.  The fuse gets lit by a candle.  Curly seems to go off script at about 6:39 when he says "I mean it!  I mean it!"  The bad guys are scared by the bomb, but not scared enough to leave the house.  The Stooges realize the bomb is lit, get scared, and heave the bomb at the bad guys.  The bad guys end up like the Stooges at the end of Cactus Makes Perfect... not well.
The Stooges have saved the day.  Suddenly... three gunshot sounds!  After that, a pie in the face for each Stooge.  Curly seems to go off script at about 7:10, then Moe asks "Who threw those pies?"  Curly asks that as well.  Frankly, we should all be asking that, but I've about had my fill of movie mysteries in general.


The identity of the mystery pie thrower is revealed.  A pie lands in Dunkfeather's face.  He wipes off some of the goo and smiles, making him look like a clown.  Fade out.  End of film.  I think this is one of the classic Stooge shorts.  I don't watch it often enough.  There may be more time stretchers than I'm aware of here, but they're disguised well, that's the main thing.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

p.s.  Well, I used some video editing software to help me translate the Morse Code sequence.  I think I've parsed it correctly.  It means "Beware Joe Besser"... no, that's not it, but it should be.  I guess it was just nonsensical, or I'm not as good at translating Morse as I thought.  I get "ANBXYSMTDMNSNMIYAI."  Anybody else try that?  Wanna try?  The nuts over at apparently haven't yet... but who's got time, really?  I sure don't!

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