Busy Bodies... I mean, Busy Buddies.
Vernon Dent seems to be disguising himself as a mere ordinary customer! Nice try. He orders hotcakes. In Curly-speak, that's "collision mess." Curly lights the stove with a match and takes a couple steps back. The stove explodes and the tiny hot plate leaps up in the air... hmm, this seems very familiar. You'd think they'd have pancakes going all day just in case, but never mind. It's like the way Jack in the Box was for a few weeks a long time ago, where everyone waited like runners at the starting line, waiting just for you to come along and fire the pistol. Like you're something special or something. Harumph! Socialism, I tells ya! As in An Ache in Every Stake, Curly has trouble with the giant... you know, the giant cloth bag thing you squeeze to get frosting and or pancake batter out of. This time, he only hurts himself instead of others. Meanwhile, in another part of the lab... the dry ice is boiling over! I mean, the soup! The soup sounds strangely like the brewski Curly was having trouble with in Dutiful but Dumb... what can I say? That film had an impact on me. Curly runs over to take care of the soup and singes his fingers, the knucklehead. Don't worry, because the next act of knuckleheadedness isn't far behind. Curly throws his oven mitts onto a plate, which look strangely like... yup, you guessed it. Pancakes. Curly confuses them for pancakes, and sends them out into the world to be eaten at Moe's request. This is worse than Memento!! They have a giant spring-loaded device like in a pinball machine to push the plates along the counter. Vernon's impressed for now. Moe goes to fetch Vernon some coffee while Vernon tries to cut into the oven mitts. Vernon BENDS HIS KNIFE on them!! Vernon loudly complains and asks for the chef. Curly happens to be close by, so he steps up and starts waving a very large knife into Vernon's face. Dude! Curly asks if Vernon's casting aspersions on his cooking. Vernon is very blunt and says yes, and orders Curly to eat his own handiwork. At least he's got the right knife for cutting oven mitts. Curly gets to work and seems skeptical... eventually he's spitting feathers. Customers: 1, Cafe: 0. Meanwhile, Larry's got his own customer asking for chicken soup. Larry tries to make a different suggestion, but the customer insists. Larry says "Oh, you've been here before." Larry places the order, which Curly translates as "cackle soup." Depression-Era chicken soup means pouring hot water through a chicken. Even Frank McCourt on his worst day couldn't handle this. Curly sends out the soup with his pinball machine device, and it lands on Moe's back, causing hilarious third degree burns. Moe climbs over the counter to get to Curly. Counter customer Victor Travers seems skeptical. Well, he got a plateful of mashed potatoes in his mug in the last pic, so he should be used to this kind of thing. Moe finds Curly hard at work on the next thing: picking a cob of corn one kernel at a time with a special wrench, which Moe uses on Curly's nose. Curly hits Moe with a rag and shuts the door to the kitchen. So far, this is my favorite moment of the film: Moe feels the wooden door, finds Curly's head, and hits the door as hard as he can. We hear a boxing match bell, and Curly yawlps in pain.
Larry's got two customers now, and they want eggs. The kitchen just gets bigger and bigger in scope. Curly gives egg orders to a nice chicken sitting high up in a box nest. Eggs start rolling out rather quickly. We only ever got about one egg a day per chicken when we had them. With the eggs, Curly seems to actually be cooking normally for once! Thank goodness he puts the shells into the pan. I was starting to get worried there for a sec. He tries his exploding oven ritual again, but it's a no-go. Curly orders the oven to do its thing, but it's still a no-go. Curly approaches the oven, grabs hold of the frying pan, and ... BOOM! The eggs go flying. You'll never guess where they land... yup. On Moe. Moe's got a fried egg Tonto mask with self-ejecting yolks for eye holes. The yolks eject. Moe grabs a meat cleaver. Curly ejects himself from the kitchen with his pinball machine device. His head hits the cash register and the register says "No Sale." Finally, some truth in advertising.
Curly's busy working on the menu. The menu reads....
...I hope I have that right. Meanwhile, Moe seems to be going over the café inventory! I feel a major plot point coming on. That dude standing there's the landlord! Oh, crap... no, my bad. Apparently he's the pastry delivery man. Well, even the Stooges gotta have something edible in the shop. Moe tries to placate the angry middleman with a cup of coffee. Concurrently, Curly's using a coffee cup to paint the sign... hoh boy, here we go. To cut to the chase, Curly puts on an apron, and ties himself to the giant rack holding all the pies. Moe can't pay for the pies, so he has to give them back to pastry vendor Fred Kelsey. At the proper moment, Curly lurches forward with a mighty bark and looses at least one pie right in Kelsey's face. The edict is issued: the Stooges owe him $97 or he takes over the "restaurant." Personally, I think the Stooges should take the latter right now... and let Kelsey take over the restaurant, too.
Next scene: the Stooges are working for some fly-by-night organization called the "SellWell Advertising Corporation." They get a penny for each poster they put up. Time for some Stooge math. Curly draws in the air this time. Depression-Era calculator, if you will. Thank God in the 50s they get to spit out paper tapes again. Curly makes a reference to the year 1992 and gets hit, stepping backwards into a bucket of poster glue. Curly kicks his foot, and Moe gets a new chin-do of poster glue. Curly nyaah-nyaahs in horror in response and runs off. I should probably mention that they double up on it at about 7:19. This also happened at about 4:56. Must've had some new sound guys apprenticing at Columbia that week.
Curly's putting up a poster upside down on a fence. At Moe's command, Curly takes matters into his own hands and rectifies his mistake by ripping out the boards of the fence and putting them back into place, but upside down. The boys make the mistake of actually reading what the poster says. It's about a "Carrot County" milking contest, and the prize is... yup, you guessed it. $97... I mean, $100. They rounded to the nearest one hundred. Thank Goodness the Stooges had actual mathematicians working for them to figure out all this stuff, even when Curly et al. couldn't on screen. Moe volunteers Curly to be the sacrificial lamb that enters the cow milking contest. Curly protests, saying "I've never even SEEN a cow!" City boy. Just then, fate intervenes, and we hear the grunting of a bull. Moe looks and sees stock footage from What's the Matador on the other side of the fence. Curly's forced in through a convenient door in the fence. Soon, we hear a crunching sound, and a Curly-sized mannequin flies over the fence.
Take Two. Larry goes to get a blanket out of their car. The blanket will be used to catch Curly the next time he flies over the fence. Moe assures Curly that "it won't happen again." Curly agrees, saying "Yeah! I'M NOT GOING IN THERE AGAIN!" My second favourite moment in the film. Moe and Larry get ready with the blanket. Crunching sound. Mannequin flying. I guess the Stooges couldn't afford fancy trick photography like Buster Keaton... nor did they have the expertise of Elgin Lessley or Fred Gabourie. I guess Moe and Larry just hold still REAL GOOD, and wait for someone to stand Curly on his head so he can fall over.
Take Three. Moe gives Curly a whistle to blow so Moe and Larry will be able to coordinate their blanket-trampoline efforts. Curly goes back in. Crunch. Whistle. Moe and Larry take off running with the blanket. Curly blows the whistle about ten times, but ends up high atop a power pole, stuck in some sort of perpetual motion machine powered by humiliation. I should probably mention that this whole sequence is a person favourite of mine and a good friend of mine. Successful Shout Out accomplished.
Next scene: carnival footage, set to the tune of Genesis' hit song Abacab. Well, it just should be, anyway. Dolly back from a comedy map of a cow. We don't dwell on this as long as we do on other comedy maps, for the sake of all the vegetarians in the audience. A lot more of them back then during the Depression, believe it or not! Moe explains how great the map is to Curly. Then, Larry asks a brilliant question: "Yeah, but where do you get the milk from?" Moe's stumped... and we can clearly see the map has no udders on it. Behold the Emperor's new map! Moe goes into Doubletalk mode as wholeheartedly as he can for about 20 seconds or so. Curly, however, goes for Larry's sloppy seconds, so to speak (asking "Yeah, I understand... but where do you get the milk from?") Oh, I'm so unhip. Moe gets agitated and forces Curly over to the milking contraption they have set up so Curly can practice: a rubber glove hanging from an upside-down glass jug of milk. Curly starts practicing. Moe quickens Curly's pace, until it becomes too much. You might not see this coming, but we get a one-shot of Moe, and Moe gets squirted with milk somehow. We get to use our imagination! And we imagine Curly aiming the glove at Moe. Moe gives Curly a mighty zetz at 2:30. Curly himself seems to be surprised at the suddenness of it. Just for that, Moe gets a second milk shower. That seems to happen a lot to Moe lately. For every one hit he doles out, he gets two back. Not always easy being king.
Next scene: the contest proper, where we meet the current reigning milking champion of Carrot County. He seems to be the Greatest Generation's version of Donald Gibb, or "Ogre" from several Revenge of the Nerds films, and an ogre in several current CapitalOne commercials... you know, "What's in your wallet?" My answer: not much after grad school! Guess it's back to holding up 7-11s for me. Anyway, Curly approaches the ring as "K.O. Bossy," the challenger, sporting a slight case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from cramming too much too late for the big "final exam," so to speak. You might of noticed it earlier when he was practicing his milking on the jug and glove. The crowd shows Curly no respect, especially when he has trouble entering the ring with a broomstick yoke holding several empty pails. The pails end up on the heads of Moe and Larry. The crowd's laughing grows in intensity. Unfortunately, they don't have the time to devote to this as Stan and Ollie devoted to climbing into ONE UPPER BERTH in Berth Marks, so Curly quickly enters the ring and meets the game-faced champion. What an odd-looking bird... and the champ's pretty weird too!
The champ shakes Curly's hand, much like what Popeye did to Bluto's hand in Can You Take It (1:55). Eventually, the milking contest begins in earnest. There's much ado beforehand, and even during the very approach to the cow, but it all just can't be commented upon, I'm sorry. Curly sits down beside his cow. We get a nice cinematic shot of the cow looking behind itself. Like Pavlov's dogs, Stooge fans are waiting for someone to get kicked. Instead, we look over at the champ, who's already one bucket ahead. He's using the cross-jet method! Niiiice.... I'm going to leave the section from 4:46 to 4:48 for better minds than mine to comment on, I'm just sayin'. Good Lord. Meanwhile, Curly keeps getting swatted with his cow's tail. So, much like his apron, he ties the cow's tail to his stool. The cow whips the stool out from under Curly, and Curly falls on his ass. Curly says "GIMME BACK MY STOOL!" The cow does... right in Curly's head. Cow: 1, Curly: 0. Lights out for Curly. The referee starts counting to 10... It gets worse. Moe and Larry intervene. The referee gets to 9 and Moe asks the referee "How many chances does he get?" The referee starts over at 1. Then, Curly's cow rings the bell. And you thought the 1919 World Series was rigged.
At about 5:50, Curly's laying down on his side, so Moe presses a stool against Curly's ass, and helps to lift Curly and stool to sitting position. I just thought I'd go the extra mile to point that out.
Cut to the referee who says "Ladies and gentlemen, there will be a one minute rest between rounds while they bring in fresh cows." The crowd applauds. How did people LIVE before the internet? Curly yells like Moe at about 6:10.
The second round begins. Curly and the champ cross paths again but without incident. Curly arrives at his fresh cow, which talks to him with Moe's voice. And I thought they weren't paying attention to the ref! Curly starts milking, but has to tell Moe to calm down! Lol. At about 6:46, that is. Before that happens, the cow kicks Curly. Curly's hurt at first, but then loudly exclaims "IT'S MOE!" Good thing only we know who Moe is. Moe's inside the cow with the glass jug of milk from earlier. Curly starts winning the contest. The champ is confused!
But then, like most cheaters... well, the average cheaters who manage to find new ways to wreck the illusion, Curly gets sloppy and queers the deal. He pulls the "whatchamacallit" off of Moe's glass jug, gets scared, throws it away and hits the referee in the face with it. The crowd boos at about 7:32... twice! Again, sloppy sound work that week at Cannery Row. The champ says "Foul! Foul!" and earns his SAG card. Curly's bucket fills at the fastest pace yet, and then the glass jug falls into the bucket. Epiphany, thy name is Stooges.
The crowd is thinking about storming the "ring." The referee points to Curly and says "You're disqualified!" Curly walks up to the referee and says "What do you mean, disqualified?" The referee mouths the word "disqualified" as Curly says it. The champ points to Moe in the bull costume and says "FAKE! Oh..." and turns the other way to do something retaliatory. That's when Moe gives the first kick, but the champ's ready to react and grabs this fake bull by the tail. The crowd makes that same booing noise. The champ whirls the bull around by the tail and flings it. Turns out Larry was in the bull as well... the non-head part. Hierarchical stuff.
Curly tries confronting the champ, but gets choked and flung out of the ring instead. Does this mean the boys don't get to keep their café? I guess this is what you'd call the Stooges' "Shaggy Dog Story" period, more or less. They've already done the original, better-structured scripts, so now it's time for some wandering down primrose paths. Slightly better than Playing the Ponies, anyhow.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan