Saturday, June 16, 2012

Integrated Thumb Wars

Time for another Stooge film, and time once again for Dudley Dickerson.  Hated by white liberals and his fellow thespians of color alike, I don't know what circle of Hell is reserved for the likes of him, but perhaps appearing in films like A Gem of a Jam for the rest of eternity is punishment enough.  I'm also reminded of a sketch that David Alan Grier did when he was on SNL, a revisionist take on Satchmo... am I the only one who remembers?  Even in the Internet age?  Anyway, perhaps climate change will wash the slate clean for the sins of Mr. Dickerson and many others.


As you can infer from the comedy names on the door, it's not the Stooges' office.  Spoiler alert: they're only there to clean, as Curly's bastardized Latin semi-informs us.  Larry gives us some vintage pre-Charlie Brown wishy-washiness... he might say maybe.  Puh-leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze.  Curly enthusiastically wheezes on the part of the floor he's scrubbing.  Moe senses Larry's up to some corner-cutting shenanigans.  Putting the dust and falderal under the chair cushions!  The very idea...  Moe scolds Larry just the right amount.  See, you gotta be smart!  Moe unzips the carpet and dumps his dustpan in there!  Genius.  Meanwhile, Curly runs afoul of a sneezing marble bust, then destroys his feather duster courtesy of a comedy fan.  Reminds me what I was dreaming about this morning: on the Colbert Report they had the story of power tools that don't cut off fingers.  See, part of the American dream is that when you invent something like that, you patent the hell out of it and make a billion dollars, and you buy yourself a fancy home on a hillside with an elevator that goes down the hill to the guest house.  Right, Tom DeLay?  Apparently, it's not happening for the guy.  What are doctors going to do if they can't treat severed limbs?  Bad for business.  But I digress.  Turns out it's Moe sneezing, but Curly's freshly de-feathered feather duster gives Moe something to really sneeze about.  To compound the insult, Curly further injures Moe by pulling the proverbial mop out from under him that he's standing upon.  Aspiring film directors take note: the mop-based pratfall is gratuitous, and it detracts from Curly's Indian noise.  Moe makes his own noise in response, which Curly makes after Moe hits him in the head.  Curly goes over to the electricity machine that Moe was just at, and throws part of it away.  The part lands in Moe's pants, and is attached to the main machine with a wire.  Apparently, this is the "taser" portion of the machine, and Moe starts dancing around in electroshock-induced agony.  Time for... the other Stooges to start dancing in solidarity!  Curly tears up the dance floor with Moe.  Larry gets caught up in the spirit of things in his part of the office, then falls down like a jackass.  Moe eventually unplugs the wire from the metal plate in his pants.  Curly's still dancing away like there's no Great Depression or World War II to concern himself with.  Moe shows Curly the wire.  Note how Curly follows the wire at 3:08.  I only mention it because usually the Stooges just turn their head when they're following something, but Curly turns his whole body this time.  This is a blatant plot device, but Curly is now positioned perfectly so that Moe can kick him in the ass.  Moe kicks Curly in the ass, and Curly runs across the room.  We hear a crash off-screen.  We then see Curly's head in the fishbowl that Larry was standing next to before he fell down dancing.  It's urgent because Curly's breathing is obstructed by the level of the water.  Curly's blowing bubbles and scaring the fish, for God's sake!  The ASPCA must've been on the set that day, for Curly's head is merely removed from the fish bowl, giving us that giant sucking sound Perot would warn us about some 50 years later.  The Stooges have now set up the perfect time-stretcher that should take us right into Act Two.
For starters, there's the matter of excess water that Curly may have ingested, turning him into a human seltzer bottle.  Moe gets spritzed with goldfish-bowl water about eight times.  The fifth time, he gets spritzed without even hitting Curly first!  Where's the justice?  So that ordeal eats up about twenty seconds.  Note the bad sound effect at about 3:29.  It's a split second of a spaceship / ray gun sound effect.  I demand my money back... alas, like Moleman wanting his four minutes back that he was locked in the Kwik-E-Mart, I probably won't get satisfaction... oh, right.  I didn't pay YouTube for watching this Stooge short.  Never mind!  Anyway, Curly stops spitting water and holds his stomach in pain.  Great.  First the long toothache of the soul, now this.  Suddenly, Curly's stomach pain turns to stomach laughter.  Curly says "Something's tickling me to death!"  Larry gives the plot a mighty Sisyphean push forward, suggesting they put Curly in front of the "flower-scopey" X-ray machine.  Moe turns the machine on and we see that Curly had inadvertently swallowed a couple of goldfish while his head was trapped in the fishbowl.  Moe devises a plan to catch the fish that involves Curly swallowing some string and some bait.  Curly is highly skeptical and visibly resists the idea, verbally as well, but ultimately defers to Moe's rank.  The whole thing's kinda gross, even by Stooge standards, so I'll just skip to the botched joke at the end.  Curly asks Moe "Have you got a fishing license?"  Moe says no, and Curly says "Then gimme back my fish!"  Moe says "Here's one" and slaps Curly in the face.  I guess, like Monty Python, the Stooges were never ones to take the traditional comedians' punchline imperative too seriously.


Suddenly sirens!  For once, the Stooges are legit, as they assume the cops aren't after them.  We see a group of crooks running from the cops.  Did I say group?  I meant a group of three... that's right.  The Stooges meet their anti-matter, at long last.  Plot Device: activate!  A cop fires, and hits one of the bad guys in the arm.  Nothing mortal, but they still need a doctor.  Say!  Here's a doctor!  Hart-Burns and Belcher.  The bad guys enter.  They see the boys, triumphant after the successful live-fish-ectomy.  Moe asks the patient "So!  How do you feel?"  Curly says "Just fine, doc!"  The perfect time for the criminals to state their case: the Stooges have to remove the slug from their comrade, or they'll be forced to put a fresh slug in the Stooges!  Simple.  Direct.  Mametian.  Curly helpfully observes "Looks like a case of life and death.  Go ahead, Doc," subtly or not-so-subtly putting the pressure on Moe.  There's a nice awkward pause between the time that Moe says "Meet my two assistants!" and the time the chief crook says "SNAP IT UP!"
The patient is placed onto the back of a dump truck... I mean, placed on a hospital bed.  The patient asks for anesthesia.  The other crook clarifies: "He wants to be knocked out!"  THAT the Stooges understand.  The Stooges seem to turn into a super-secret order of the Free Masons right before our eyes.  Unsettling.  A medical mallet is used on the patient's head.  The other two crooks miss this "medical procedure" and ask what the "doctors" gave the patient.  Curly answers with some Free Mason code words... I mean, Pig Latin.  The crooks accept it as the Emes truth.  The two crooks wait outside, renewing their promise to kill the Stooges if they don't fix their friend.  Moe finally gives it to Curly for "ratting" him out as a doctor, adding "Now I gotta go through with it!"  Curly steps on a pedal, and the bad guy slides out the window, as though he were gravel in the back of a dump truck, landing relatively safely into the back of a police car below.  There's a delightful setup for this happening, and I hate to spoil it.  Meanwhile, back at the lab... the Stooges discover that the bad guy's missing!  The crook outside asks "What's going on in there?"  There's no time to waste.  The bad guys re-enter the doctor's office.  They see, along with the rest of us, a Curly-shaped body on the operating table, covered in a sheet.  Moe says "Don't worry.  When we get through with him, he'll be a different man!"  Ah, jokes.  Moe starts cutting the sheet with his "hema-glober," narrowly missing Curly and his hemoglobin.  Reminds me of Boobs in Arms with the bayonet and all.  Time to stretch out the film some more with THIS gag.  Notice how the light bounces off the knife.  There must be a giant movie light under the sheet with Curly.  Curly laughs when tickled by Moe's hand.  You think the jig would be up, but no.  Just for that, I'm skipping ahead.  The crooks leave the room.  Moe steps on the pedal and Curly starts heading outside through the window.  Apparently, his heft is preventing him from sliding right out.  He gobbles like a turkey at about 1:34.  The Stooges leave the room, and the crooks come back in.  The crooks lift the sheet to find a skeleton.  I only mention it because the spring noise is the same as in A Bird in the Head when Professor Vernon Dent slips on a bottle, flies up in the air, and lands ass first on a set of dentures... oops!  Spoiler Alert.  I forgot to mention: crook #1 says "Let's get Joe and beat it!" and crook #2 says "Yeah, and let's make it snappy, too."  Holy Redundancy, Batman!  This guy's not planning on staying in Stooge films for long if he's going to pad his parts out like that.  The crooks exeunt the room, and the Stooges emerge from the closet.  Genuis.  They go to the window and hear Officer Kelsey say "Remember!  There's three of them!  Shoot 'em on sight."  Having forgotten that they already captured one of the bad guys in their ruined police car... ah, skip it.  Professor Moe gets the Mistaken Identity ball rolling.  The cops hear Moe talking, then shoot at the Stooges in the window.  The Stooges run out into the hallway, causing a three Stooge pile-up.  You know, some of the best Stooge routines happen in hallways.  Lawrence and Moe zig right, while Curly zigs left.  Moe whistles for Curly, but Curly's got a trick up his sleeve!  No time for the dignified walk back in the right direction.  There's some delightful rupturing of eardrums, then it's time to hide for the Stooges once again.


Enter Dudley Dickerson.  Officer Kelsey subcontracts police work out to him when they see him in the hallway.  "If you see three guys, grab 'em!  They're killers!"  Yeah, piece of cake.  Dudley immediately goes into another room for safety's sake.  That it's the room that the Stooges went into is merely a delightful bonus.  The room turns out to be some sort of mini-museum of the strange and/or Egyptian... in other words, a haunted house.  Dudley's no dummy, however.  Here's another cultural artifact from a different era: Dudley opens a tiny wall safe with his master key and takes out a gun.  A mini gun safe in the wall!  I want one of those, even though I'm philosophically opposed to guns.  We immediately see, however, the reasonableness of giving an easily scared man a firearm, as Dudley backs into a mannequin's hand, gets scared, yells, and runs away... forgive me.  I see now at 3:17 that the room is clearly labeled "Mannikins and Wax Models."  I'd apologize for the oversight, but I think I'll be vindicated in the long run, as clearly the evidence shows that the room is more than that boring description.
Where was I?  Oh, right, Dudley gets scared and runs off, but at least he's armed now.  Dudley goes to open a door, but has trouble with the doorknob.  Turns out, the Stooges are on the other side of the door, and it's time for everybody's favourite game show... Doorknob Pinball!  First up: Dudley, who pulls on the doorknob, stretching it out about a foot and a half.  The doorknob goes back into place.  Doorknob: 1, people: 0.  Next up: Curly, who pulls on his end of the doorknob.  The doorknob stretches out, making the sound of a dying elephant at 3:48.  The doorknob's a little rattled, but it goes wobbling back into place.  Doorknob: 2, People: 0.  Dudley lets out a mighty scream and pulls on his end of the doorknob.  The doorknob stretches out about a foot and snaps back, hitting Curly in the face on the other side.  Curly barks at the doorknob, and the doorknob goes in for another hit just for good measure.  I think it's no contest.  DOWN GOES PEOPLE!  Tune in next time for another exciting episode of Doorknob Pinball.  Curly makes the right move and just walks away.
The plot thickens, as does the goop that Curly falls in.  It's not as hot as the boiling rubber that Moe fell into in Dizzy Pilots, but it's similar to the substance from Laurel and Hardy's The Live Ghost.  Man, I haven't seen that one in years.  Will I be disappointed the next time I watch it?  Probably...
Meanwhile, Moe and Larry run up to the giant box that Curly was just in front of.  You think they'd run into Curly, seeing as how Curly should be just a couple feet away... ah, skip it.  As Stooges often do, Moe and Larry try to go inside the aforementioned giant box.  Turns out it's got a giant puppet of... I'm going to say a '30s era radio star.  I'm sure Wikipedia knows exactly who it's supposed to be... they don't!  I'm going to say Clifton Webb even though it's probably a bit before his time.  Anyway, Curly ventures out into the world, his plaster quickly hardening as we speak.  Curly tries to hide from anyone who might see him and recognize him in his deplorable condition.  Mostly Larry and Moe.  Curly holds still in front of a bunch of boxes, while Moe and Larry back into each other, ass first.  Note the bad edit at about 5:10.  Sloppy, sloppy filmmaking.  Moe's and Larry's asses hit each other, making a horn noise.  Larry screams in horror.  Frankly, who wouldn't?  I would if I found out my ass was made of a giant bulb horn!  Moe and Larry start to bicker over who scared who.  A level-headed Curly intervenes.  Moe starts to scold Curly, then gets scared by the plaster-covered enigma before him.  Larry follows suit.  Curly seems to take a little pride in his small triumph, but quickly stiffens back into character with the approach of another stranger.  Enter Dudley Dickerson once again.  Dudley doesn't see Curly at first, and Curly starts following Dudley.  Dudley finally gets wise and turns around, gets an eye full of Curly, and makes a strange noise at 5:40.  I hope that wasn't him.  Now, I agree completely with "Etherealteredreality" who posted that "DUDLEY IS THE MAN!!", but I respectfully disagree with the time they cite.  Personally, I would pick 5:42, when he says to Curly "You sho is ugly!!"
As with the shampooing of a head, it's rinse and repeat time.  Dudley makes another inhuman double-take noise at about 5:53.  Curly says "Now you follow me!"  That puts Dudley over the edge.  Now that he realizes that what he thought was a mere mannequin is something more, he screams and runs off... although, his heart doesn't seem to be totally into it.
Now for a real test.  Curly stiffens once again with the approach of fresh strangers.  This time, it's the two crooks, looking for a place to hide their loot.  "Hey!  How about hiding it inside this dummy?" the beta crook says, pointing to Curly.  "Okay.  Take his head off."  Curly's head doesn't detach so easily, however.  Time to cut it off.  The bad guy gets a rusty saw.  Curly says "Hey, you can't do that!"  The bad guy asks "Why not?"  Curly starts to explain... but the bad guys eventually run off.  Those bad guys aren't so bad after all, as they have a little belief in the mystery of life.  They run right into the arms of the cops, but they don't need no Johnnie Cochran.  "You got us all wrong!" helpfully says one of the crooks, but the police take 'em away all the same.  Ah, sweet sweet movie justice.
Back to Moe and Larry who we've left alone for far too long.  Time for them to do what is perhaps my favorite Moe and Larry exchange.  Scene: room with a stack of boxes in it.  Moe's approaching from Stage Left, and Larry from Stage Right.  Larry's armed with a giant metal pipe, and hits the first head he sees: Moe's.  Moe's head makes a mighty ringing sound, and down he goes.  Larry runs around the boxes and runs into Moe.  Larry helpfully says "Hey, Moe!  Where were you?  I just knocked a guy cold RIGHT HERE!  I was on that side, he was on this side.  Just as he bent over,... "  DOWN GOES LARRY!  Moe says "Now you're right there!"  I wonder if that was an ad-lib...


And now, one last part to stretch out the running time of this damn Stooge short.  It's a little hard to describe, but I'll try anyway.  Plaster Curly sits down on a box.  Dudley's hiding behind this same box.  Curly places his hands in a very strange way, but never mind.  Dudley reaches up and ends up clasping Curly's right hand.  An epic thumb war begins between the black hand and the white hand.  Did you know that this whole scene is still banned in most of the South?  Curly gets a little bit freaked out at 7:38, but makes a full recovery soon after.  What a silly notion!  How could he suddenly have grown a third black hand?  Preposterous.  The thumb war continues.  Curly shrugs it off, but gets scared again at 7:54, and touches the black hand just to make sure it's real.  Cut to Dudley who's positively pissing his pants at this point.  Sorry, but that's simply the best way to describe it.  Frankly, this whole scene doesn't bode well for race relations, and the way Curly ends the stalemate doesn't exactly help, either, rejecting the whole scenario by falling over backwards.  Separate but equal, I'm afraid.  Dudley gets scared again and runs off, this time for good.  Moe tries to stop him from breaking down the door, but Dudley runs right through two of them.  There's a metaphor there someplace, something about the indignity of the black man having to break down the doors, while the white man more easily walks through the hole that's left.  The Stooges normally open a door to go through it, no matter the size of the hole in it, but apparently the doors are locked this time, and it's not the door to their house, so through the gaping holes in the door they go.  Curly waddles through both doors.  Good direction!  Fade out.  End sequence.
Whew!  I'm beat.  And it's already time for the next one.  I guess this is just an average Stooge short, but it does have that part where Moe says to Larry "Now you're right there!"  Four stars it is.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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