Sunday, June 24, 2012
February 4, 1944 (Ten Films Remain)
Fuller Bull, the Managing Editor of the Daily News (played by Vernon Dent) is having a bad day. He sends for his reporters, and in hobbles a bunch of guys in casts and crutches! What gives? Well, there's this big fancy wedding, see... think weekend party at Bill Gates' house; the good one. Yup! Surrounded by ex-Secret Service and former Pinkertons, no newspaper man's going to get near that place. Unfortunately, the Daily News' chief competitor, the Daily Star Press, has the headline in big lettering: "Mother and Two Sons Charged in Fatal Shooting"... sorry, wrong one. It's "Prince Shaam of Ubeedarn Engaged to Margaret Dumont... I mean, Widowed Socialite." Well, I'll be damned! See, they use the name Ubeedarn so as not to offend anyone... or at least, limit the offensiveness to, I don't know... the ENTIRE MIDDLE EAST!! Why not... Vernon Dent says twice "They got the story!" Some might even venture a guess that it's the same clip of audio! I'll leave that to the real experts. Anyway, Vernon's having such a bad day that he fires all four of his crippled reporters and hires three Stooges! He thinks they're working for the Star Press, but it's one of those visual things like the Mad Magazine foldout, or like is in that video for Yolanda Be Cool, specifically at 1:34 and all that follows from it... sorry, SPOILER ALERT. Moe gets in a delightful pun at Larry's expense, while Curly does his best Jimmy Durante all over a new cigar. Spoiler alert: the cigar ends up getting mashed into Moe's face. Can you believe that? Curly takes out a new cigar, removes its band and puts it to his ear and pretends he's listening to a radio. Moe hits Curly in his bald head and Curly's temporarily stunned as we hear the sound of birds. Gotta keep up with the Tex Averys of the world. Curly tangoes Moe off the screen, Stage Left.
Next scene: Fuller Bull's office, where the Stooges enter and the pretty secretary leaves. Curly begins to follow the secretary until Moe whistles for him to return. Curly does so, using his pivot foot to turn around. The pleasantries begin. Vernon asks the boys "How would you boys like to do a little work for me?" Seeing as how he just fired four used reporters, you'd think the Stooges might be a little skeptical. The ambiguity continues as Moe says "We do the best work in town!" Larry adds "And it's guaranteed!" Curly goes into his sales pitch while Moe just gets angrier and angrier... Larry the Enabler doesn't mind Curly's shenanigans! And then, that horrible moment occurs when the Stooges realize they're in over their collective heads with one good brain in it. Curly tries to get in one last punchline but gets slugged in his waistline by Moe at about 3:17. This one he's not too happy about. Moe has to step on his foot as well just before he tells Vernon the truth. Vernon sweetens the deal: "Get me a picture of Prince Shaam and I'll give you each a $100 bonus." At this point, Larry has to explain to Curly the difference between "bonus" and "bogus." Curly goes into a reel-stretching dance, which immediately gets cut short when Curly sees Moe's face.
The handshake contract is signed, and Vernon even throws in a free camera. Curly starts to leave the wrong way, turns around and destroys Cigar #2 with Moe's face. Moe gets very pissed off at about 4:07. The boys go into the hallway, and NOW... now it's time for Curly to do the dignified walk back after going the wrong way down the hall!
It's a little early for the act break, but the next scene is the Van Bustle residence, where Bud Jamison is trying to get... wait for it... a cook and two butlers. Stooge fans take note: this may be the only time when there's two occupations split up among three job openings in a Stooge film. Moe takes charge of Bud's phone call, and all seems to be going well... Bud has to suffer through two awful puns, to which he replies "Such levity. You remind me of the Three Stooges." Eugene Ionesco couldn't have written that better; of course, it'd have to be in reference to himself. BTW, ignore the parrot in the background. IGNORE IT!!!! Also, try not to spend too much time on the fact that the Stooges got past all the armed guards. A YouTube poster asked this very question. I suppose the correct response is: are you a Stooge fan or not? What do they do in every film? Sneaking into one building or out of another. That's one thing they're good at: sabo-fuge! Subter-tage! You get the idea... Curly gets poked in the eyes, making a xylophone sound at 5:29. And finally, for once we get to see Larry screw up the menu! He gets a can of peas from the cupboard, and a box of dog biscuits... You see, there was this... ah skip it. I gotta go anyway.
Back. You know, we never do figure out what Moe's got in that little paper bag!
Next scene: the killing floor that is the swanky party. Things seem to be normal enough... until Curly and Larry emerge with the inedibles. Curly runs afoul of a pretty blonde and hits his head at about 6:19, making a sound I've never heard before or since. She's taken, of course, and Curly hightails it out of there when the blond's man steps up to protect his turf. Curly heads over to the two main guests... it's PRINCE SHAAM!! Curly shoots a look at the camera to remind people of the importance of this plot point. And by the Prince's side is Ms. Van Bustle, played by Symona Boniface, the slightly Sephardic Margaret Dumont of the Stooges. We get a nice close-up of the canopies... I mean, the hors d'oeuvres. Even though they're made of peas and bog biscuits, they look nice! They got olives and everything. Does Van Bustle appreciate this? Of course not! Curly strikes back, barking them out of the frame. Then, like Homer Simpson, Curly forgets what he was doing and gets hungry, so why not partake of some of the food he's holding on his tray? While he's unable to make the connection that someday he might want to be responsible for some edible food for a change, he does manage to throw away his whole tray of Stooge canapés... I'm going to assume that's the correct spelling... God bless you, Wikipedia! May you never have to go dark again. Like all good Stooges, they never look where they throw something, and the canapés land on the Justice of the Peace from Oily to Bed, Oily to Rise... among others. Curly is as shocked as anybody, and retreats to safety next to Larry. At this point, Curly uses his regular noir voice (7:21), ordering Larry to try and get a picture of the prince. As if Curly didn't make a spectacle of himself enough, he starts "peddling" the lemonade as though he's a newspaper boy on a streetcorner. "HERE Y'ARE FOLKS, GITCHA ICE COLD LEMONADE!" Screenwriters take note: concurrence. As Curly belts out his sales pitch to the balcony, he picks up a glass with a small hole in it, through which trickles down a steady stream of lemonade. The glass is aimed right at a woman's back, and she screams in horror. Curly eventually figures out that the glass has sprung a leak. It takes him a couple tries, but decides to turn the lemons of a broken glass of lemonade into... ah, skip it. He drinks the glass of lemonade, while a dude to his left looks on; first in horror, then in heterosexual gaiety. I think it was the guy taking a "bath" shower in A Plumbing We Will Go! IMDb... Activate. Looks like I gotta modify the database myself. Later. Curly drinks the rest of the glass of lemonade the regular way... I was a bit confused by this at first, mostly because there weren't the usual drinking noises. Those come later. Emboldened by his triumph, Curly doubles down on the loud sales pitch. The onlooker's amusement turns to horror as Curly grabs ice cubes with HIS BARE HANDS and drops them in the other glasses of lemonade. I guess the Stooges weren't involved in making that, as it turned out the way it should. Bud Jamison steps in and tells Curly "Go get the ice tongs!!!" at 8:23. Is that weird of me to like that line reading? I thought so. Curly continues to make a spectacle of himself, and he moonwalks out of the room. Thank God they filmed it at 12 fps; otherwise this picture's going to go over budget!
Meanwhile, Chef Moe is on the phone with Fuller Bull. He tries to watch the boys through the kitchen's swinging door. Curly goes through the door just as Moe's got his nose in the space between the door and the wall, and snap goes the cartilage! Moe's nose is trapped and Curly starts laughing, or n'yuk-n'yuking. Moe eventually gets his nose out and tries nursing it back to normal. Curly gets the only pair of ice tongs he can find... the kind for industrial-strength blocks of ice, and ends up hitting Moe with them on the way out. Moe uses them on Curly's head at about 0:43-0:46. Curly half-sounds like a gobbling turkey as a result. Eventually, Curly gets back to the task of filling the lemonade glasses with ice cubes. Mrs. Van Bustle ... I don't get it. I thought she was widowed; doesn't that make her Ms.? Anyway, Van Bustle looks in horror as Curly's using the embarrasingly giant ice tongs for his labours. "I think it's silly, too, but orders is orders!" Government regulations. Is there anything they can't slow down? Curly hangs up his ice tongs and continues "Lemonade? Ten cents apiece or three for a quarter." Van Bustle says "WHAAAT?" Curly quickly responds to market demand: "I'm sorry. Have all you want. It don't cost anything." Vintage society Curly. Curly forgets Bud Jamison's orders from before and helps himself to a second glass of lemonade. He drinks it all in one take, and FINALLY! We get the drinking sounds. And even better than that, Curly hits his stomach, and we get an awful splashing sound. Curly waits for the entire sound to subside, and Prince Shaam and Van Bustle react in as dignified a manner as they can muster, and simply walk away.
Back to Moe. Boy! Larry really doesn't get the screen time this time! Back to the kitchen, where the epic struggle between man and turkey is about to get ugly. The turkey's got most of its neck left, and gets Moe good with about three spits of salmonella-laced water. Moe subdues the unruly turkey for now.
Next scene: Larry! Finally! Here he's sneaking up on Van Bustle and Prince Shaam with the camera. I like the part at 2:08 where Prince Shaam speaks because he sounds just like Bluto. I guess I should point out that Larry overhears that the Prince and Van Bustle are going to elope the following week. Then, the slapstick interferes. The piano lid falls down on Larry. Van Bustle says "I'm sorry, Prince. These stupid people!!" Ouch. Larry gets the last laugh, though, as he inadvertently rips Van Bustle's dress. Actually, she gets the last laugh, because she picks up her dress, and knocks over Larry because he's still standing on it. Bud Jamison orders Larry and Curly back into the kitchen. Curly gives Bud the ... you know, the back-and-forth hand thing. Some Stooge fan I am! I don't know what that's called! That happens from 2:54 to 2:58. Technically, not a time stretcher in the usual sense. Curly and Larry take off running. Never a good sign for those in a running Stooge's path. In this case, Moe, who's holding a big stack of dishes and... yup, much like Stan in Our Wife Moe gets knocked over. The genius of Our Wife, of course, is that some mysterious force closes the door too fast on Stan.
Moe would normally be much more upset about the dishes he dropped. Not so this time for two reasons. First of all, they're not even his dishes. Second, Larry saves the day and calms things down with the tasty bit of gossip he overheard... oh, right, he heard it firsthand, so technically it's not gossip. Larry also adds "But I didn't get a picture!" Curly mans up and grabs that camera and heads right back out there to get a picture... he hopes. Sending the chief bomb thrower for a stealth mission's always a good idea. Meanwhile, the struggle between man and cooked turkey's about to heat up, so to speak. Moe runs over to rescue the turkey from the oven. Larry also runs over, waiting for his chance to take Moe's place, but is stopped short by... screenwriters, take note. Sure, you admire your Sorkins, your Chayefskys, your Eszterhasses, what have you... but THIS is writing. Larry notices gum on his shoe! He bends over to ... to scrape the gum off, I guess. Anyway, Moe grabs the turkey from the oven and places it on the absolute closest thing to him: Larry's back. Larry turns and gets the turkey onto the table where it belongs. The pain of Larry's burnt skin takes a back seat to Larry's hunger when he spots the turkey. He reaches for the turkey with his bare hands, but Moe thankfully intervenes. Even low society types have some manners. Moe gives Larry a mighty slap, sending Larry to the kitchen wall, where he pushes over the parrot cage. And unlike a canary in the coal mine, this bird's going to spread its comedy wings!
Cross-fade from the parrot climbing into the cooked turkey to the big fancy dinner scene. So far so good, until... Moe trips, and sticks a whole plate of mashed potatoes onto a guy's face! Lol. Fortunately for us, it's the same guy who just finished wiping the peas and dog biscuits off his face. Moe's line at 4:08 seems to be dubbed in! Good for them. Meanwhile, Curly sets the turkey down on the table. We can hear Symona Boniface say "Humiliating." Curly says "Hey! I just gave you the boid!" Beautiful double entendre. With that, Curly sets about trying to carve the bird. First, the sharpness of the knife must be tested. Sadly, Curly doesn't have a hair long enough to do so, so what does he do? What anyone else would in the same situation, of course, and pluck one from Van Bustle's head, of course! Well, it's her fault for having her head turned away from Curly in the first place. This happens at about 4:33, and Symona once again proves herself to be the Stooges' equal. She's not really a high society type at all, is she?
And so... the epic struggle between man and turkey on the table continues, as only it could in a Stooge film. Curly goes in to stab the turkey TWICE! Both times it slides off the plate, and both times Van Bustle lightly screams in shock. Moe intervenes and orders Curly to carve that damn... darn turkey. Curly gives it a good stab, and the parrot inside shrieks. Most of the people at the table are paying attention. Then, the turkey stands up and starts walking across the table. Now, EVERYONE at the table's paying attention. We get individual reaction shots from Van Bustle, then the Prince, then Curly, then Bud Jamison who walks in, then Curly again, who's now gobbling like a turkey himself. The turkey makes its way to the end of the table, then falls right off. Not as spectacular as the turkey mishap in, say, Jodie Foster's 1995 film Home for the Holidays, but close.
Prince Shaam is outraged and leaves. He says "This is an outrage! I am leaving!" Bud Jamison knocks the Stooges' heads together and storms out himself. Van Bustle gives the Stooges the ol' triple slap. Curly's about to strike back, but she barks first, and they run off. Didn't I tell you? She's practically the fourth Stooge! The boys retreat to the kitchen. Larry wants to get while the getting's good, but Sergeant Moe quickly reminds him of the mission... and the money. Curly takes charge in his own small way, telling Moe not to shoot the picture until you see "the bags under his eyes." Get it? See, there's this expression... ah, skip it.
And then... the awful truth! Prince Shaam is an actual sham, and Bud Jamison's his partner in crime! Diabolical. We see the two of them trying to open a safe by flashlight. Cut to the Stooges walking down the hall... followed by the parrot-turkey hybrid! This is clearly the part that stretches the film out to 16 minutes. As usual, we'll have to forget about how the Stooges know where to go, but they stumble across the "Prince" and Bud Jamison. Moe snaps a picture of them. We get a nice long shot of Moe doing so. The light of the room goes on. Man, that's a tiny safe! Of course, a giant fist fight breaks out. Moe takes on the Prince. The Prince hits Moe and we hear a weird wood block sound. Twice. Bud takes on Larry and Curly, one Stooge under each armpit. Curly knocks Bud into a chair with his stomach. Bud gets up and rips off a chair leg, and I'll be damned if he doesn't look just like Lou Dobbs from 7:02 to 7:04. The audio is sped up during most of this part. How did they do that? I wonder if Pinnacle Studio can make it normal again. Bud easily takes out Larry, then Curly with his chair leg. He goes over to take care of Moe and... cue the two-men-in-the-same-coat fist fight waltz. Oh, it's all too terrible to contemplate. I'll cut right to the end of the chase, where Moe wins, then looks in horror/anger over at the other two who seem to be sleeping on the floor.
Back to Fuller Bull's office. The Stooges walk in with their heads held low! They sadly inform the boss that the Prince is not actually a prince, he was arrested for safecracking, and that there's no wedding. Ever the savvy newsman, he tells the Stooges that it's the biggest news to "hit this town." Which is good, because he'll probably have to write it himself. Vernon hands Curly the check, and Curly gets rather excited about it, helping himself to a cigar. Well, the Depression was hard, even on the Stooges. So hard that they had to reuse the footage of Curly reacting to the destruction of his second cigar when his third cigar gets ruined. Just then, Ms. Van Bustle comes into Fuller Bull's office! She grabs Curly, lifts him high up off the ground and smothers him with kisses. Curly tries returning the favor but ends up kissing Moe instead. Van Bustle exits stage left as quickly as possible to avoid the carnage. Moe and Curly start going at each other with slaps to the face. They reach a stalemate. Moe takes out his frustration on Larry. Larry tries complaining to Fuller Bull about it, but alas, Moe and Curly get into it anew. Even Larry's shocked by it!
Well, it's not one of their Western pics, or one of their haunted house pics. What's the proper genre? I guess it's another one of their "cooking for high society" flicks. The real star this time is that walking, talking cooked turkey. I have a feeling we haven't heard the last of it..................................
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan