Saturday, June 02, 2012

Richard Fiske 1915-1944

The next Stooge film is Dizzy Pilots and, if I may wax nostalgic for a moment... I know, a contradiction in terms, right?  Do bloggers do anything BUT wax nostalgic?  But once upon a time, the media of record was videotapes, and if I recall correctly, this was the first Stooge short of the first volume of Stooge shorts.  Then came A Bird in the Head and Three Sappy People.  Well, two out of three ain't bad.


We dwell on the comedy letter for far too long.  Thirty seconds?  What, does Moe want to get into narration?  As we hack our way through the thicket of comedy names and comedy places, we find out that the Stooges will have to join the Army if they can't produce a revolutionary airplane as they claim.  The Stooges are as patriotic as the next three Americans with bad haircuts, so I think they're just trying to join the proud legacy of comedies that take place in fictional countries: your Duck Soups, what have you.  Cannabeer... puh-leeze.  Anyway, we dolly back and see the airplane hangar that the boys are hanging out in.  Moe says "Now's our chance to finish the "Buzzard," the greatest plane ever made!"  Everything before that was dubbed in.  Larry boasts that no one ever thought of inventing a plane like theirs, but I think George Basalla would disagree with that.  Curly rattles off some of the inventors that they're in the same league with, making a reference to Don Ameche.  And then... time to break into song!  They head over to a bathtub, and Moe yanks a plunger off Curly's head at 1:39.  Curly seems more hurt than usual by this.  At this point, we find out the boys' ingenious scheme: they're going to take a regular airplane and coat it with hot rubber, thereby making it "waterproof and ice-proof."  Moe hands Larry an oar, and Larry starts doing soldier movements... were they trying to make a statement about the Army?  Conformity in general?  No time for that now, we're at war with the Axis!  Curly n'yuk-n'yuks at Moe getting hit while holding a mallet.  Moe takes the mallet and hits Curly in the head with it, but the mallet bounces back, beaning Moe immediately afterwards.  You always hurt the one you love.  Moe and Curly leave Larry alone to stir the rubber.  They can do more damage that way.
Moe is in need of a vice.  We start with some delightful wordplay, ending in a head bonk.  Then it's off to work, as we see Moe and Curly working together to attach a vice to a table.  Moe starts messing with engine parts, then says to Curly, "Roll me a cigarette."  Let me just take this opportunity to say that I don't condone smoking.  It's a nasty, smelly habit and it should be avoided at all costs.  Back to Larry who's working on his stroke.  Curly tries rolling a cigarette but fails gloriously.  And now, for the part that takes the Stooges into a quasi-existential plane of existence.  Moe says, "Hey, when I say 'now,' tighten this vice, will ya?"  Curly says "You can depend on me!"  Moe fiddles some more with the engine part and his hand in the vice and starts to daydream, saying "Let me see.... now, if..."  Curly springs into action tightening the vice.  I wonder if Moe was actually in pain here.  Hard to say, but I think I winced when I saw this the first time.  When you get right down to it, really, you just shouldn't ask Curly to do anything at all.  Moe says "GET ME OUT OF THIS!"  Curly tries to loosen the vice but turns it the wrong way.  You can tell from the crunching sounds.  Curly asks Moe to help him loosen the vice handle.  Moe hits it, hitting Curly in the face.  Moe eventually extracts himself from the vice.  On the subject of Moe's fingers, Curly says "Oh!  He broke it!  I hope..."  Moe tests his fingers on Curly's eyes to find out.  Curly hits Moe in the head, and the chase is on.  Moe chases Curly over to Larry.  Moe grabs the oar from Larry and prepares to hit Curly in the head.  Curly protests, saying "Don't you dare hit me in the head!  You know I'm not normal!"  Moe winds up for the pitch, nonetheless... hitting Larry in the head.  Larry's hair gets stuck to the rubber-covered oar.  Moe changes focus and prepares to liberate the oar from Larry's hair.  And then... DOWN GOES MOE!  Into the bathtub of rubber.  Curly and Larry help Moe out, after Moe makes sure to get good and soaked by the rubber.  Larry does a little Amos 'n Andy shtick, if I'm reading it correctly... he does that every once in a while.  I guess the Hays Code has no problem with that.
And now, the episode that will seem to consume the rest of the film.  Moe stands before God and all creation with his new rubber suit.  (he growls at about 4:04)  Ever the idea man, Moe tells the boys to inflate his rubber suit with hydrogen gas so they can more easily cut it off.  Moe gets his hands stuck to the sides of his body and says "Now my hands are caught!"  I'm hoping that wasn't in the script.  As always, they pump in a few too many slices, and before long Moe looks like the Goodyear blimp.  Curly and Larry go to get a knife, and... yup, Moe starts floating away.  Good time for an Act Break.


Moe heads for the ceiling and hits his head on the rafters above.  Curly gets in an extremely tasteless bicarbonate of soda joke.  I'm surprised the Hays Code didn't watch this one more carefully.  Curly and Larry begin in earnest to get Moe down from the ceiling.  Strategy one: a long pole, which ends up being a tool perfect for driving Moe's head back into the rafters.  Strategy two: a lasso.  Curly tries it first, but ends up lassoing Larry's neck instead.  Larry tries, but ends up lassoing a piece of wood next to Moe's head.  Larry and Curly try tugging on the rope, but aren't using proper teamwork.  Curly reorganizes the rope-pulling effort, but Larry has to tell Curly what number comes after one.  Larry spits "Two!" into Curly's face.  Curly starts the countdown and returns the favor.  They yank together and bring the piece of wood down.  Curly's excited and confuses Moe for a piece of wood.  Frankly, I've done that from time to time myself.  Strategy three: jumping up and pulling Moe down.  This works best of all... for now.  Moe's back down on the ground.  Both Curly and Larry go to find a knife to cut the rubber off, but throw Moe out with the bathwater.  Moe heads for the ceiling a second time, but this time God's got different plans for Moe.  Moe's inflated body finds an inflated-Moe-shaped hole in the ceiling and sails up through it.  Strategy 1A: Curly gets a rifle.  Larry's horrified that Curly would even consider such an option.  A SHOTGUN's more like what they need!  Curly and Larry head outside with a shotgun.  Curly fires and Moe's rubber suit explodes.  Moe falls to the earth in his p.j.'s and lands in a soft deep well.  Curly and Larry get splashed.  Quite a ride.
Next scene: normalcy has been restored, and it's back to the Lord's work of testing out their revolutionary new airplane.  By the way, the Stooges are the "Wrong Brothers" in this episode.  Get it?  Get it?.... anyway, the plane doesn't seem to have a rubber coating on it.  More problems arise.  Not only do none of them know how to fly a plane, the door of the "garage" isn't big enough for the plane to get out!!!  Maybe this whole plane thing's a little half-baked.  The boys get to work sawing a larger door.  Moe starts daydreaming again, but is awoken by Curly sawing the wings of the plane.  More wordplay.  Then, some "saw-play."  Curly saws Moe's arm... dude!  I don't think I've seen that before.  Curly's head gets sawed.  That happens every other film.  Curly's head ravages another set of saw teeth.  I should probably mention that Curly... not exactly the first person you'd go to if you need someone to check your term paper for grammatical or spelling errors... corrects Moe's grammar during this section!  And Moe's not even technically incorrect!  Oh well.  Just thought I'd throw that in.
Time to warm the plane up, just like a car.  Moe's head gets hit by the propellor.  To stretch the film out a little, Curly confuses the words "contact" and "contract."  Moe tells Curly to step on the "dotted line" and hits Curly in the head with the plane's propeller.  You know, just for good measure.  Anyway, SPOILER ALERT... Moe gets "caught" on the plane's propeller, spins round and round (about 14 times) and flies back into the bathtub of boiling hot rubber.
We skip ahead this time and go right to the two Government stiffs that are judging the Stooges' test flight.  Time for the stock footage of airplanes!  The plane takes off in a comedy takeoff, waving "bye-bye" in the air as it goes.  Curly protests on the grounds of "sea sickness."  Moe provides the cure by putting his elbow next to Curly's head, then hitting his hand.  Sea sickness cured.  Cut back to the plane in the sky.  Cut back to Moe with his head in the clouds, so to speak, dreaming of fortune and glory courtesy of the "Buzzard."  Concurrently, problems arise.  The "Buzzard" is not roomy enough for three co-pilots, and the Stooges start wriggling around anxiously.  The audio of the boys complaining is repeated at least once.  A wire "sproings" out of commission at about 2:37.  It's not their usual sound effect!  Take heed of that.  Moe asks "What was that?"  Curly, bored with plot developments like this that go nowhere, says "Just some little old wire broke loose from some little old lever!"  It was the line to the rudder, as it turns out.  Back to the drawing board.  Moe says "We're losing altitude!  We gotta get rid of some weight!"  Moe and Larry look at Curly.  They're just not thinking long-term at this point.  Time for the old "throw out the clutch" gag.  This is going to turn out to be a perfect day after all.  While this train wreck's in progress, Moe asks Larry to roll him a cigarette.  For some reason, Larry's even less able to roll a cigarette than Curly, so he just hands Moe a cigar.  Moe loses it when Curly throws the gear shift lever out of the plane.  Moe gets a little less angry than he should have, then tries switching places with Curly so he can fix the rudder cable.  Curly throws a second, much larger thing out of the plane.  Soon after, the plane goes into a massive tailspin.  We see another plane at about 4:23, and we hear it in THX!  Pretty kewl.  Moe and Curly seem to be hugging, understandable as they seem to be about to die.  Larry says "Hey!  Are you two guys going steady?"  Moe slaps Larry.  The plane narrowly avoids crashing, but starts to turn upside down.  We hear Moe scream "We're turning over!"  Curly says "I'm losing my mouth!" just before they fall out of the plane.  I'm starting to tear up!  The boys plummet to the earth and are just about to punch a two-bit hole in the ground.  Fortunately, they're all heading for that same well from before.  A lot of callbacks in this one!  The two G-men rush over to the well as if they're able to help.  One of them helpfully donates his hat to the boys, but only after he gets splashed with water.


Time to join the army.  We cut to footage from Boobs in Arms, but with the parts edited out that refer to the prior relationship between the Stooges and the drill sergeant.  See, there was this... aw, skip it.  They've added a new ending, though.  After the Stooges hit the drill sergeant with their rifles, we see them leaving the studio in their costumes and running down the street, but this apparently didn't happen in earnest until Harry Cohn died circa 1957.  Frankly, I must recuse myself from further comment on Dizzy Pilots, since this was such a cornerstone in my formative early years of film criticism education.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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