Sunday, July 08, 2012
May 26, 1944 (seven films remain)
The sweet old lady from Oily to Bed, Oily to Rise has been downgraded to the Stooges' mother. She and her no-account husband are sitting in their sitting room. Mother's knitting a small patch with three stars on it. She says they've been gone for two days and "not a word from them." Well, that was a big deal back then. She mentions Curly and the Cavalry in the same sentence. You don't hear a whole heck of a lot about WWII Cavalry these days! That's why War Horse was about WWI, I guess. I only mention the Cavalry because it's kinda crucial to the Stooges' eventual entrance, as the three of them come "galloping" round the couch. This is going to get ugly...
Where's the rapid fire gags we've come to expect? What's with this snail's pace? Frankly, I'm insulted. But Curly does get in a nice sight gag when he mentions he has "water on the knee." Pop's shocked, and Mom says "I told you not to let him wear pumps when he was a child!" Another shout out to OtB,OtR. Then, Moe brings the pain when he stabs the other two with Mom's knitting needle. I know he had a good reason to do it, but for me it still recalls those awful videos of modern recruit hazings. There's a reason the magazines started with Sponge & Vacuum and stopped with Glass Eater on that one Simpsons episode where Marge becomes a cop. Moe arguably gets the worst of it, but he asked for it. He asked Pa to kick him in the ass, and Pa really winds up to do it. Pa has to waste the flower water to revive the three of them.
Even the Stooges would've gotten drafted in WWII, but here they didn't make the cut. And after they inform Pa of their future plans, Pa lets loose with a triple-header slap. They all seemed to be in position for that to happen. Then he yells out some practical advice: "Everybody's got to do something!" Pa gets more specific and tells them to work on a farm. Time to break into song. "Oh, the farmer in the dell... ONIONS!... the farmer in the dell... POTATOES!" Curly makes the mistake of ending with "TOMATOES!" and the boys get tomatoes thrown in their faces.
Next scene: the boys drive up to a house in a Mel Blanc-voiced car. This may seem like an old-fashioned Realtor transaction, but at least they didn't have credit swaps or credit derivatives back then. They knew better than to mix real estate and calculus, the Greatest Generation, they did. A nerdy guy takes the Stooges' wad of cash, loads his bags into the Stooges' car and eventually drives off. The Stooges talk afterwards of what an "egg beater" the car was, even though it drove off at about 8 fps. The boys solemnly enter the yard of the house. Curly closes the fence, and the fence breaks down as though it were made of dominoes. Curly picks up one of the pickets and treats it like a rifle, hitting Moe in the head on that "right face." Curly doubles down when Moe gets hit with a loose board on the porch. The needless violence continues. Larry tries to break it up and move things along. Moe has to hit him, of course. The three of them start knocking on the front door. Curly tries to help Moe pull on the doorknob by putting his hands around Moe's waist, but Moe doesn't seem to appreciate it. Moe breaks the doorknob and hits Curly in the chin with his elbow. Curly cries out in pain, more so than usual! In a rare emphatic gesture, Moe drops the doorknob on his foot, but I still think Curly got the worst of it. Moe gives up on opening the door and decides to "crash" it. This with his own house, no less! Curly, for what may be the first and last time, looks for a "crash helmet." He puts a bucket on his head and, uh... goes in through the window, so to speak. So far, this is hands down the funniest part of the whole pic. Moe rains on Curly's parade, of course, and orders him to open the door, after hurting his hand with a second "See that?" fist routine on Curly's be-bucketed head. Curly summons all his available dignity (with Harpo Marx's lower lip) and does just that. The other two enter, and Curly goes through the window the other way and knocks on the door. Moe answers... I assume it's Moe. Curly asks "Pardon me, but is the lady of the house in?" Whoever answered the door grabs Curly by the nose and drags him inside. Must've been Moe, yeah.
We catch up with the nerd in the car who approaches a roadblock. The sheriff informs the nerd that three... three Japanese citizens escaped from an internment camp. I expected them to be called "Japs," of course, but "relocation center"? "RELOCATION CENTER"??!!!!! Somehow, that's much worse. They're also looking for truant circus performers... oh, I see what they're trying to do. They may be circus performers, but at least they ain't no dirty Jap! See, it's okay for me to say it because some of my relatives went to a "relocation center" in Rohwer, Arkansas. Gotta get something out of the deal! The car the Stooges gave away isn't as bad as they thought. It needed a little shove, but it's still running! If the car were in a Laurel and Hardy pic, it'd be a pile of component parts by now. The sheriff and his helper give the car a shove and get a faceful of soot, turning them into... Next scene: the Stooges approach the barn. What? No horizontal wipe between scenes? I feel cheated.
Curly always gets to do his own little scenes. This time, he hears the chirping of young birds. They sounded like baby chickens to me, but they turned out to be ducks. Which is good, because he fills up a hole with water, and we see the ducks slowly rising to the surface as the rising tide lifts all ducks. I'm sorry... ONE duckling. And then... Yes! THAT's what I'm talkin' 'bout! (about 6:49) Horizontal wipe.
Next scene: the Stooges eagerly enter their barn. See, they thought they were getting livestock with the deal. What chumps. They look around, and Curly runs into a giant block and tackle. Larry smugly says "I don't see a single cow!" Curly adds "I don't even see a married one!" God bless you, Ben Hecht... he was ghost writing on this one, surely. Curly gets another moment to himself when he talks to a chicken in a box, thinking it's a waiter. Which came first, indeed? The knucklehead, in this case. The boys regroup just before Curly completely succumbs to cabin fever or Dr. Doolittle Syndrome. A duck runs up. Curly says "Look! A pelican!" Moe says "That's a gander." Curly asks "Mahatma Gander?" Well, they gotta get in some world events every now and again. Professor Moe takes over: "A gander! A gander! A goose's husband!" Curly looks confused. Professor Larry tries to take over, while Moe covers his face with his hand. I think this is the first time Moe gets to refer to his hand as "five delicious flavors." Larry and Moe exeunt Stage Right while Curly gladly takes up an adze in the service of hunger.
Let me just take this rare opportunity to say that I grow weary of this latest Flash player upgrade! They seem to have overstepped the bounds of what a "redraw region" is. Time to start minimizing then maximizing whole windows again. Anyway, Curly finds an ax and starts going after the gander with it. The gander, however, seems to have some divine help from a deus ex machina of some sort, if you will. Curly ends up face first in the mud, and we hold and wait for the laugh. Curly, on the other hand, is rather nonplussed with his new-fangled makeup. He looks over, and we see the goose's head disappear behind a bale of hay. Humane Association be damned. Second funniest laugh of the film. Curly starts to emerge from the side of the hay bale when a goose puppet grabs hold of his nose like it's a piece of a slice of bread! Take that, Jim Henson. The gander ends up on top of the hay bale stack, then lands deftly on Curly's back. Curly grabs the ax and prepares to use it. Then the gander lands deftly on top of Curly's head. Third biggest laugh. Curly prepares to give the gander a good chopping... guess what happens? Curly looks at the mangled ax. Usually it's Moe that does the looking! How does Curly's head do that? Saws and axes don't stand a chance against Curly's corundum-coated cranium. The impacts, however, tend to defy all known laws of physics. I guess Curly didn't spend his childhood hitting himself in the head with stuff, then inspecting the wreckage. "Where's that goose?" asks Curly, pitifully.
Next scene: Farmer Moe's hard at work, tilling the land. I guess he's holding the plow right, but he's got a leather strap around HIS head! Go figure. We see Lawrence AND Curlington with harnesses, pulling the plow. Moe's really getting into this whole farmer gig. He's already picked up a dialect of Amish or something as he orders his oxen forward. After about ten seconds, however, the plow hits a giant rock, and everything else also grinds to a halt. Time to blast. Moe orders Curly to get blasting powder. Curly, in a rare moment of lucidity and honesty, says "What do I know about blasting powder? I'm a horse!" Moe gets pissed off, of course. Back to the barn they go.
The boys go inside and... oh! Okay, the guy said "ostrich." There's an ostrich wolfing down blasting powder. "Explo" brand, no less! Curly is ordered to "get rid" of the ostrich. Curly salutes and hits Larry with his hand. "Oof!" says Larry. Better get the ASPCA back, or at least a professional ostrich trainer, just in case Curly gets kicked in the stomach by the ostrich and suffers a mortal wound. So far, so good. The ostrich plays along and goes where Curly directs it to go. Back to Larry and Moe, who turn their thoughts towards a bunch of pumpkins. They'll make more money selling 'em as Jack O'Lanterns! Ain't it always the way? Just like the meat industry makes more money off Lady Gaga's dresses. Meanwhile, Curly puts the ostrich away using the worst fencing ever: one board about four feet off the ground. I guess the ostrich's not desperate yet. Curly gets inspired and plucks some feathers off of the ostrich... shyeah, right. We hear about three pin prick sounds, and Curly emerges with two big handfuls of ostrich feathers. Time to dance! Right, Ellen D.? Belladonna4577's right. Curly IS the Man... although we haven't gotten to 3:37 yet. He's still the man... especially at 3:17, am I right? Moe and Larry start to notice what Curly's doing, however. "Hey, Pin-up Boy!" yells Moe. Curly hands back the feathers to someone, and starts frügging over to the others. He runs into the block and tackle an unprecedented third time, and this one's the charm. I guess it's time for the act break. As good a time as any.
I didn't talk about it before, but Curly has hit his head against this giant hook hanging in the middle of the barn now three times. Third time's a spanking in this case, as Curly has now made it his life's mission to defeat this thing once and for all. So let's begin the play by play. Curly grabs the block and tackle hook and throws it with all his might. He must've been in a lot of pain already, or thinking about an unrelated thing really really hard, because even though HE'S STARING RIGHT AT IT AS IT FLIES BACK TOWARDS HIS HEAD, he gets hit by it a fourth time. I guess the block and tackle's got more brains. Curly yanks downward on the block and tackle, pulling it from its mooring high up in the ceiling. Curly has finally triumphed... at least until he gets hit in the head with a giant burlap sack that's at the other end of the block and tackle's rope. Moe intervenes. Moe points towards Larry, and Curly follows the length of Moe's arm with his nose. But there will be no Curly and Moe tangoing off screen hand in hand this time. Instead, Curly gets Moe's foot in his ass. A kick so powerful that Curly ends up knocking Larry over. WHAT'D HE DO?! Moe's micromanaging continues. Curly gets hit at 4:08 and makes a sound never heard before or since. Moe hands Curly a very light Jack O'Lantern. I hope it's made of plastic.
Enter the Japanese people. Hmm! Three of them, three of Stooges... maybe they're three Japanese comedians in their own right! Or three presidents of the Tokyo branch of the Stooge fan club. What does the IMDb say? Wikipedia's no help.... alas, they don't get credit on the IMDb page. Needless to say, they're three Japanese Dudley Dickersons in the final analysis. But they prove they're Stooges at heart, as the Moe and Larry of the bunch go off to the right, while the Japanese Curly ducks down in front of the open door, just as Curly puts a Jack O'Lantern on his head. Time for some light fun. The Jack O'Lantern moves to the left on the ledge. Stranger yet, Curly notices this, and asks the Jack O'Lantern why it didn't stay put. The Jack O'Lantern moves back. Curly notices this, and practically thank the Jack O'Lantern for going back into place. Then, Curly slowly gets concerned. Moe's no help, of course... at least, until Moe sees the same phenomenon at work. Moe calms everyone down by saying "Aw, it must've rolled over there." Moe and Larry add their Jack O'Lanterns to the ledge, so now there are three total. They get back to work "polishing" the next three. The other two Japanese rejoin their friend by the ledge. They each take a Jack O'Lantern and duck down. Once again, my complements to the sound department at Columbia who saw fit to repeat Curly's song between 5:25 and 5:33... three times, no less!
Now, here's the part where they blatantly pad out the film. They march their next batch of Jack O'Lanterns over to the ledge as slowly as possible to delay the shock of finding an empty ledge. The Stooges turn around, and Moe says "There's nothing to be afraid of... is there?" They turn around and see that the Jack O'Lanterns have returned... whew! I'm going to cut and paste that from here on out. The Jack O'Lanterns have returned, and the Stooges duck down. The Jack O'Lanterns duck down as well. The Stooges slowly creep back up, as do the three Japanese. The three Japanese punch the Stooges in the face. The Stooges duck down again, but in pain this time. The three Japanese duck back up, then take off running. Moe screams "Hey! Pumpkin thieves! C'mon!" Whew. He didn't figure out their ethnicity yet.
Next scene: the barn door, where Moe and Larry are walking slowly along... you know, to try and catch up to the pumpkin thieves. Curly turns around and looks. Just then, two of the... I'm going to call them 'fugitives' from here on out, I think. Two of the fugitives emerge from around the corner, brandishing large sticks. Moe and Larry chicken out and run into the barn. Curly turns around. Make a note of that, future screenwriters. Curly turns around, and the two fugitives hide their sticks behind their backs. Curly puts his arms around them and starts talking like it's Moe and Larry. Then he gets scared. The two fugitives take their sticks and start to aim for Curly's head. They hit each other instead. Curly goes in the barn.
Next scene: Now the real idiocy begins. Moe hatches a premature disguise plot. He and Larry decide to put Jack O'Lanterns on their OWN heads! Meanwhile, Curly approaches with a big board in his hands. Moe and Larry slowly rise up with the O'Lanterns on their heads. Curly lets 'em have it, and the pumpkin masks crumble into a few large pieces. I guess even balsa wood can do that. And of course, Curly lets loose with the word at about 6:50 or so. He goes on: "MacArthur will decorate me for this! I practically won the war alone!" We get a nice shot of Moe and Larry looking on in pissed-off-itude. Moe starts choking Curly. Curly gets him to stop. At first, I thought it was so that Curly could continue his flight of fancy, but the plot pudding thickens a bit. More fugitives of a similar ethnicity show up. I wonder how often that actually happened. I thought those camps were guarded pretty well. THAT we could afford.
Anyway, the Stooges head over to the ostrich. I forgot about that! Moe looks for something to throw. Apparently, the ostrich has laid some eggs... three, to be more precise. Spoiler alert: I guess Moe remembered that the ostrich was really going to town on that blasting powder, so he thought the ostrich eggs would be like contact grenades, or land mines or something. Six Japanese people are standing inside the barn. Moe throws his egg and there's a giant explosion. Note the way the bodies are laid out this time. Not quite so comical, is it? The sheriff arrives. He congratulates the boys on the "nice work", then of course wants to know how they did it. Curly says they have an ostrich that lays "hand gren-eggs." He slips on a cylindrical piece of wood and throws his egg up into the air. The egg hits him on the head, but it's a dud. Curly ends the film with perhaps the strangest monologue to ever end a Stooge film.
Was that Japanese subplot really necessary? I mean, 1945 was really when the war with Japan became central. As for me, the story I heard was that someone asked one of our relatives if their last name was Japanese. They made the mistake of saying yes. A few days later, off to the internment camp. We never did figure out who got all their stuff. Must've been a Zorba the Greek-kind of Everything Must Go free-for-all. God bless America.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan