Sunday, June 10, 2012

And a phony at the express!

This one seems very familiar... maybe it is!  Well, all these Stooge films blend together eventually, especially if you're old like me.  But let's dive right in to Phony Express all the same, and pretend like it's new...


The Old West town of Peaceful Gulch is under siege from gunfire.  The mayor, or someone very mayor-ish, is crouching behind a desk with an assistant.  The mine payroll is safe, for now... but who will get rid of these guys riding up and down Main Street firing their guns?  The Stooges, you ask?  They're wanted for vagrancy, as their Wanted poster shows.  Their reward is very low, so it makes more sense to re-label them as Marshalls that are coming to clean up the town.  The bald dude gets a face full of ink just for good measure.  The bald dude is Victor Travers... and apparently he's playing a newspaper editor here.  Boy, did I misread that.  Vic's finest role, of course, is as "Man who gets a face full of Mashed Potatoes" in 1944's Crash Goes the Hash.
Meanwhile, the Stooges are hiding behind a very thin tree from a REAL sheriff.  The boys emerge at the right time, then run away.  The problem's not with them running away, however.  The problem is where they stop.  This time: next to a wagon run by Abdul, peddling Abdul's Cactus Remedy.  One of those things that cures all ailments and polishes wood furniture.  At $1 per bottle, you'd be a fool NOT to buy it!  Curly craves a bottle, and forecasts's mankind's future health problems.  He says "Hey Moe!  Buy me a bottle.  I can't sleep!"  Moe replies "You sleep 12 hours every night!"  Curly retorts "Yeah, but I'm wide awake all day!"  This whole sequence sounds dubbed in.  The real movie they were filming on the set at the same time must've been awful loud.  Moe starts hitting Curly.  Curly protests, adjusts his hat and says "Okay, NOW!"  Moe switches up his thrashing procedure just for good measure.  Stooge Rule #1: you're not allowed to choose your punishment.
Suddenly, the plot rears its ugly head... "Abdul" gets an urgent telegram.  So urgent that he's forced to ask the Stooges to take over the business.  He may regret that decision yet.  No sooner than about nine or ten seconds after "Abdul" leaves, the Stooges destroy the stock on hand.  A dozen or so bottles of Cactus Remedy crash gloriously to the ground.  Ah, gravity... man's oldest, most silent nemesis.  Moe orders the other two to mix some more while he does some "shpiel-ing."  Curly helpfully replies "I think you've spielled enough already!"  After Moe gets rid of Curly, Moe starts his sales pitch.  That nosy-ass sheriff wants a bottle of cactus remedy pretty badly!  Why, he almost deserves what's going to happen to him.  Anyway, time for alchemists Lawrence and Curlington to go to work, preparing a fresh batch.  Pardon their Scotch again!!  The mixing begins proper... hang on a sec...  The mixing begins proper.  Curly points out that alchemy's more of an art than anything.  You mix a little of this and a little of that.  Larry picks up a giant jug of hydrogen peroxide, smaller than the Costco size, and says "Say!  We've got plenty of this."  Curly says "Then I'll try that!"  Eat it, S.J. Perelman.  Learn from THAT, Damon Runyon...  They do it again.  Third time's a spanking, as the old wives tale goes.  Curly pours in black stuff, and the mixture turns black.  Curly pours in another clear liquid that doesn't seem to want to leave the bottle, turning the mixture clear again!  Cool.  Mr. Science?  How dey do dat?  Curly keeps going.  Notice Curly's face change at about 3:38.  This is some powerful chemistry!  Larry, giddy with excitement, hands Curly another bottle and says "Here's another one."  Nuggets!  It seems to be more than mere baking soda, as the concoction starts spilling over onto the table, setting the table on fire.  Back to Moe, who's still charming the crowd with his sales pitch.  The sheriff is having none of it and demands his bottle... or else.  Moe stands right next to the closed curtain and says "Lumbago!"  Curly says "Lumbago!" right back and hands Moe a bottle through the closed curtain, socking Moe in the jaw in the process.  Moe socks back, hurting Curly tremendously.  The sheriff uncorks the bottle.  The cork ends up in Moe's eye, of course.  Where else?  Moe pre-reacts to this as the sheriff goes to uncork the bottle.  For Moe's sake, we cut to the cork already in his eye.  The sheriff takes a mighty, confident swig, and we hear the usual Stooge short drinking sounds starting at 4:38.  The sheriff licks his lips a couple times.  I only mention it because it sure looks weird.  Must be the mustache.  Then, the cactus "remedy" starts kicking in.  The sheriff looks like Gene Kelly a little bit!  Surely the stuff's working!  But then... nope.  His mustache starts twirling.  Never good.  Unless he's going to be in an old-timey boxing match... what is that annoying ad with the theme music from Eyes Wide Shut?  Heineken?  The sheriff carefully falls down, as directed by the stuntpersons shop steward.  Moe makes his getaway already.  The sheriff proclaims "I've been poisoned!"  And so, the Consumer Protection Agency was born.  God bless the Stooges, who are already at the reins of the horses we can't see, planning their getaway.  The sheriff yells "Come back here!" but the Stooges are already gone.  The sheriff throws the bottle in disgust.  We hear a loud explosion, and we see the Stooges covered in singed clothing, standing on the wagon wheel's axle, riding off into the afternoon sun.  Perfect time for an Act break.


The phony newspaper article is in place.  The Stooges have been deputized to stop the arch bad guy, Red something-or-other.  Gaylord quits?  Crop failure?  Crikey!  Bad news is a constant, no matter what times we're living in, modern or not.  Bud Jamison plays the arch bad guy this time.  Somehow, I just can't accept him in that role.  Kindly but dimwitted Irish policeman, sure.  Anyway, there's three cowboys reading the newspaper article.  The Stooges show up, and the three cowboys run inside the saloon, alerting "Red" Bud Jamison.  Jamison says "Wild Bill Hiccup!"  Hiccup.  Wyatt Burp.  General Jack D. Ripper... Comedy names are a constant, no matter what era it is.  Time for a time stretcher.  Moe tells Curly that Curly's face scares people; they need to clean up to look presentable.  Each Stooge brushes the other's back with their hands, then they turn around.  Moe turns around a third time, but too early, getting a face full of Curly's hand.  Time to go inside.  There's no buffet for the Stooges to run to inside this saloon, but they'll run and push people aside for free drinks!  Under the delusion that the Stooges are bad-ass marshalls, Bud offers the boys a drink.  Curly and Bud grab strange pewter-plated mugs, but the director's going to make us wait for them to get shattered.  First, Curly raises his mug, which has Bud's mug above it.  Bud gets a face full of brewski.  Curly helpfully says "Hey!  You're supposed to drink that, not rub it in!"  Curly then n'yuk-n'yuks as slowly and as long as possible to stretch out the running time of the pic.  Enter the dame.  Curly is mesmerized.  You might want to have your children leave the room during 6:32-6:36, just in case.  They start dancing.  Ever the gentleman, Curly tells the dame "You dance like you got your legs on backwards!"  Soon after, Curly accidentally pours the rest of his drink down the dame's back.  She doesn't get upset enough about this.  They don't quite go into bee-down-the-person's-back dance routine or the ice-cube-down-person's-back dance routine, but Curly does end up back-kicking Bud in the ass, doing his version of the moonwalk.  Meanwhile, Moe and Larry try cutting in on the dance floor, and end up dancing with each other.  So gay.  Back to Curly, who picks a fight with a wooden column.  And then, our hearts are broken as we find out the dame's true intentions.  She leads the dance over to the bad guys, ready and waiting to do Curly Bill Hiccup in, but Curly's got a few tricks up his sleeve... or, in his hand, rather.  Still holding his pewter beer stein in his hand, he swivels around, knocking the bad guys out with it.
The plot tension is ratcheted up.  The bartender finds the Stooges' "Wanted for Vagrancy" poster.  Bud vows to "stop his (Curly's) Hiccup."  But Curly finds Bud, inadvertently giving Bud another face full of beer foam.  Curly gives Bud the ... you know, the hand-following routine at about 8:12, more slowly than usual, seeing as how they're all drunk, and with a little extra tacked on for good measure.  Bud one-ups Curly, showing him the barrel of his gun, Stooge style... yes, I had to look that up.  Bud tops it off by shooting Larry's beer stein.  Larry dives behind the bar's counter... all part of the plot, folks.  The screenwriters are just that top-notch.  "Turkey in the Straw" stops playing on the piano at this point.
By the ancient rules of combat, Bud officially challenges Curly to a shooting match.  Curly takes out his slingshot, which Moe takes from him after getting hit in the face with it.  Moe gets a little pissed off, and looks for a gun for Curly to use, helping himself to one of Bud's guns.  Larry sets up bottles on the bar, and helpfully "psst"s at Moe and Curly.  Curly shoots, and Larry breaks one of the bottles.  Curly does three more, then gets too cocky.  Curly tries a fancy shot, pulls the trigger, but the gun doesn't fire.  Larry hits the last bottle anyway... idiot.  Moe helpfully says "Huh!  He scared it to death!"  Bud's not buying it, and points a gun at Moe's face.  Curly accidentally shoots a light fixture, and hits Bud on the head with it.  Fade out.
Fade in to next scene: Payroll guards!  The boys are outside a bank, during a "bright full moon," armed to the teeth.  Curly's got one of those bandito-style bullet belts as suspenders.  Time to stretch out the run time of the pic again.  Curly and Larry do a right-face motion while holding shotguns.  Moe gets hit with two ... shotgun barrels!  Two pairs of shotgun barrels.  Then they see that Bud Jamison is inside the bank.  Thinking nothing of it, and with Bud no longer sore at the Stooges, they let Bud go on his merry way... back inside the bank.  Moe gets hit a couple more times with shotgun barrels, and the boys end up in front of the mom and pop store, where Moe gets hit a couple more times.  Are they trying to say that the Army is kinda stupid?  During WWII, no less.  Treason.  Just then... a giant explosion!  How far from the bank were they?  Curly sees a smoldering crater in the wall of the bank, and declares "Termites!  And big ones, too!"  The official bank entrance is still intact, and the Stooges try to get in through that door.  Meanwhile, five burglars with bags of coins leave through the smoldering crater.  There's a modern-day parallel there someplace.  Instead of Curly's head used to open a door, Moe's head gets used, with a little push from the butt of Curly's rifle.  The boss runs up and screams for help, and runs into the bank.  Guess who the Stooges bring out?...
Next scene: the boys are hot on Bud's trail... is that Curly howling?  Good Lord.  Maybe it's Sheb Woolly.  We'll hear this howl a few more times, so get used to it.  Eventually, we see that the bloodhound is Curly.  He does have a nose like a bloodhound... and the rest of his face don't look so good either.  Moe gives Curly a treat, and almost loses a finger in the process.  Time for Moe to get hit by a branch... at the end of 2:27.


Might as well make the switch here.  Moe gets satisfaction for his second branch hit, while the boys run afoul of a skunk.  Damn!  Curly almost takes a piss on a tree.  Damn Hays code.  Curly gobbles like a turkey at 3:28... and I probably better go.  Society just can't handle my sense of dedication to you people.... and I'M BACK!!! I suppose I would be remiss if I didn't complement the sound editing at 3:12... I mean, damn!  Curly's an actual dog now!  Moe says "He's got the trail of the skunk!"  The actual skunk runs into a skunk-sized tunnel.  That's a well-trained Hollywood skunk they got there!  Well, the Stooges always worked with the best.  Curly goes to the tunnel entrance and starts digging, showering a mighty reign of dirt upon Lawrence and Moseph.  At the age of 17, by God, Curly goes into that tunnel, and at 21 he emerges triumphant, having vanquished his foe, and wearing a skunk-skin Daniel Boone cap to boot.  And by God, he was rich.  Does Moe appreciate it?  Of course not.  Curly protects himself from an imminent eye-poke with a lift from the tail on his skunk-skin cap!! 
Larry gets a chance to shine for once, saying "Hey!  Hey fellas, look!  A cabin!"  The end of the film's approaching, so it must be the bad guys' hideout.  Somehow it looks like their stunt doubles running up to the cabin.  Nobody home, so in they go, the nosey noses.  Moe orders "Search the joint... SPREAD OUT!!!"  Curly manages to always find something inedible to eat, forcing us to watch his confusion as he chews so dedicatedly.  In the instant case: moth balls, or "peppah-mintys."  Let the mastication begin!  Curly enjoys it, and goes for a giant second helping.  Curly steps on a board and hits Moe in the chin.  Moe makes a noise of pain, while Curly makes the same noise he made when first tasting the moth balls.  Very unsettling.  Another rare Larry moment, as he discovers the money hidden under the same floorboard.  Economy of gesture, economy of plot.  Always a good thing.  Moe grabs several large bags of coins.  Meanwhile, the bad guys approacheth.  Larry's holding the bags, and the three knuckleheads hurry and look for places to hide.  The dough is hidden in the fireplace in the center of the room.  Larry suffers collateral chin damage as the money is deposited in said stove.  Curly, not having read any Daniel Goleman books in his life, can't help himself and tries to make a withdrawal from the stove.  Moe pushes Curly away, and hard.  So hard, in fact, that Curly lands ass-first in a bear trap.  Great.  Just when things were sailing smoothly.  Well, Curly sailed pretty smoothly into that bear trap, I'll give you that.
So, Curly now has a giant toothache in his ass.  Moe rips off the trap... but gets an idea.  Inspiration comes from the darnedest of places... cool!  I spelled 'darnedest' correctly!  No red squiggly line under it.  Squiggly, too!  Anyway, the point is, the boys get the rest of the traps to use on the approaching bad guys!  The bad guys must be laboring under the laws of Zeno's Paradox, because they should have been there by now, and at least have heard Curly's loud cries from horrific ass pain.  The boys set the traps, and the bad guys see the lifted floorboard.  The bad guys go out the back and see the Stooges.  Curly offers himself from afar to the bad guys like some sort of sick worm wanting to be eaten by a fish.  The ruse WORKS!  All four bad guys feel Curly's pain.  Unfortunately, Moe runs out of good ideas at this point, ordering Curly to go back inside and get "the dough."  Curly starts to do this, when... Bud Jamison and a friend!  They're at the front door that Curly just locked.  The break down the door, but don't find Curly!  Just an empty floor where the money should be.  Bud throws his cigar butt into the stove.  We see Curly sitting there.  Very unusual to see a Stooge just sitting still.  A roaring fire starts.  Curly nyaah-nyaahs.  Bud doesn't hear it, and thinks to check the stove.  The bullets on Curly's belts start firing.  The stove turns into sort of a Roman candle from hell, flailing around in its place in the center of the room.  Oh, it's the fourth of July, I tells ya.  Bud gets an ass-full of bullets and crawls away.  I hate to think what happens to Curly's back.


Best Stooge Western ever!  At least, until the next one...

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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