Sunday, August 26, 2012
...Coming through the stroke
We see the boys sitting around their humble, modest abode, scouring the newspaper for a job. Something I should probably be doing right now. Moe pooh-poohs Larry's choice of job, and kicks Curly in the face for making a bad joke. To be fair, Moe does lightly tap Curly's cheek with the top part of his shoe... ah, skip it. Moe finds a job that offers free cigarettes. Ah, those were the days. Moe and Larry start to swoon from the job description, but Curly uses logic to bring the boys back down to earth: "What, no matches? I wouldn't work for that piker." Larry seconds that motion and provides Curly with a segué to lunchtime. The humbleness of the surroundings grows more pathetic as the seconds pass: Curly's cooking soup in a bucket. The bucket is warming over an open flame in a makeshift barbecue pit, and the "pit" sits inside an open bed frame. Curly describes the food, and Moe looks disgusted at about 1:11. At least they have a dinner table. Curly serves the soup. It goes downhill from there.
Larry pushes away his bowl of soup after smelling it. Moe finds a horseshoe in his bowl of soup. Go figure. Curly might've spotted that when he... oh, there I go thinking again. I forgot to check my brain at the door. Moe hits Curly in the head with said horseshoe. Larry takes advantage of his not having had a stroke, telling Moe that Curly was trying to poison them! Moe banishes Curly from the house. Curly pleads no contest to the poisoning charge, apparently.
I don't get it! They've been through worse before! Why are Moe and Larry being so harsh to my man? Curly blows his nose at 2:00, and he appears to be close to tears. Not as close as Bam in Jackass 2, but close. Suddenly... Moe's reading the paper, but he's shocked by the words in it. Apparently, their roommate is an heir to a three million dollar fortune! Well, three million was worth a lot more back then. Curly wishes them a fond farewell, but the changed economic circumstances changes Moe's and Larry's tune. They switch to sweettalking mode but manage to keep the plot moving forward quickly as well. A rare feat. Larry and Moe begin to count their chickens. Larry says "We're filthy with dough!" Moe points out that he's filthy without it. In a nice way, though. Moe shows Curly the newspaper and tells him in so many ways that he's rich. Curly's got the right idea, though, saying "Why am I bothering with YOU two hobos?"
Curly, however, isn't above the influence of peer pressure. Larry, then Moe, start to heap on the physical and verbal abuse. Curly calls a time out and asks "Wait a minute! Can't I be a millionaire without you two guys?" Moe and Larry say "NO!" in unison. That's the nature of the Stooge relationship right there in a nutshell. The boys break into a chorus of that old 1912 show tune "Let's go and get the moolah." Well, songs were a lot simpler back then. The song culminates, or is abruptly terminated, depending on your view, when Curly "stomachs" Moe at about 3:26, causing Moe to get his ass burned at about 3:27. Ever the showman, Moe stays on the beat of the music when he screams in pain. Looks like he kinda got actually hurt there!
Next scene: the Link estate, under siege by rain and lightning, but a plague worse than storm clouds is about to enter the estate: the STOOGES!!! The butler, played by Theodore Lorch, gets the worst of it. Moe's coat looks an awful lot like the Dude's sweater. Moe wads up his coat and hurls it at the butler, and hurls his hatful of water at the butler. Larry and Curly shake the excess water off their raincoats onto the butler. And to think that Lorch played the master of the house in Spook Louder some two years earlier. Fallen on hard times he has! Right, Yoda? The Stooges' greed is palpable. Moe talks about hocking the Grandfather clock, for God's sake! Talk about new money. Worse than new money: he's still thinking like a tramp! Curly makes a pass at the maid who looks strangely mannish. Must've been the stroke. Moe reprimands the lustful Curly by pinching his ear.
It's still a little early for Act Two, but there's a major revelation about to be revealed... so it might as well be here. Cross fade to a Clue-type setting, where Detective Fred Kelsey announces that Professor Bob O. Link was MURDERED! Curly woo-woos upon hearing that. Also, the dead dude's body disappeared. Second woo-woo from Curly. Curly stands up to ask a question and the detective goes to work. "Who are you?" he asks Curly. Curly says "I'm Curly Q. Link!" The detective says "Oh! You're the missing link!" I'd capitalize the Link in that last one, but... nah, it's too good. It's going to be a long night. Curly says "No, I'm the found link!" Moe hits Curly in the stomach for telling such a bad joke. Now comes the part where time is stretched out to make this a 16 minute picture. The detective puts Moe in his crosshairs and says "Who are you?" Moe takes a beat and says "Don't tell me you haven't heard of Link, Mink and Pink?" The detective, like the rest of us would like to, says "Never heard of 'em. What do they do?" Moe takes another beat and says "We're in the sausage business! Link sausage, mink sausage and pink sausage!" Then they go into some shtick that didn't work even in Vaudeville. Curly and the detective have a brief Mexican standoff at about 5:26. Everyone in the room looks on in horror. Thank God this outbreak of manliness is interrupted by the sound of someone being strangled to death! Everyone runs to a door where the sounds are coming from. Detective Fred Kelsey opens the door, and makes a gasping noise at about 5:43. There's a dead guy on top of a desk with a knife in his chest. Man, what a violent Stooge flick! The detective says "They got the lawyer, too!" Everyone responds with shock. So much for that joke about a million lawyers at the bottom of the ocean. Besides, the war's still on at this point. Kelsey's voice is dubbed in at about 5:53 when he says "And they stole the will!" Kelsey proves himself to be a good fit for the Stooges when he clears the room by saying "C'mon! Get out of here." Kelsey orders everyone to stay out of the room, and orders the Stooges to guard the door. The blind leading the blind. What could possibly go wrong? The detective calls in the murder and helps the plot along by saying "Yes, I'll file a complete report later." Protocol is so important.
The detective approaches the door. The Stooges do their duty by preventing the detective from just entering the room. But as my college professors might have told me a few years ago, the Stooges lack phronesis.... I forget what that means. Anyway, Detective Fred Kelsey gets a second chance to prove he's as much of a Stooge as the Stooges, and gives the three of them a slap on the face in one graceful gesture. The boys clutch their red, pulsating cheeks and say in unison "Pass, friend!" Kelsey enters the room and makes the same gasping noise at about 6:31. If only there were some easy way to compare these two incidents with each other... anyway, the camera pans over to the desk, and we see that the lawyer's body has disappeared!!! Kelsey goes over to investigate. Yup, it's really, really gone, all right! Kelsey gets scared by the Stooges at about 6:38 and makes the gasping noise in reverse. The Stooges slowly back out of the room and Kelsey says "That settles it." I guess they wanted William Demarest to play the part or something. Detective Kelsey tells ... hoh boy... he tells "Jerkington" the butler to give everybody rooms for the night. Is that also like Clue? Which came first? Probably not this film. The Stooges have been guilty of many a crime in their time, but originality in plots isn't exactly one of them.
And so, groups of people are assigned rooms in this huge mansion. Curly barks at the detective one last time, but the detective barks back! Hella bark! Next scene: we see a hand cut the power. The Stooges are following the butler, but almost instantly freak out when the lights go out. Curly yells out "It's dahk in here!" He ends up on the shoulders of Moe and Larry somehow. Lorch takes charge, saying "Storm must've put out the lights! Come... this way." There are no small actors. Why he never played Lincoln I'll never know. I forget who did... Gary Cooper? Lance Henriksen? Liam Neeson? Damn. I've come unstuck in time!
Next scene: the Stooges' room, where all the furniture has sheets over it. Lorch gives more spellbinding orders, saying "I wouldn't go into that room if I were you! That was the master's laboratory!" Moe says "Laboratory?" Lorch says "Yes!" Genius. "Jerkington" tells Curly that poor Mr. Link was murdered in that room... on the very spot where Curly's standing. Never mind how "Jerkington" knows that for now. Curly jumps away as if being controlled by a greater power. Eventually, the butler leaves, saying "I hope you have a nice, long sleep." The ever psychic Moe channels the spirit of the moment and says "Thanks, Dracula." The way the butler leaves after that doesn't do much to prove Moe wrong. But he does get in a brief look of disapproval right after Moe says that, as if to say "Oh, that wasn't nice..." at about 8:26.
Next scene: the Stooges get ready for bed. Moe says "We might as well go to bed." Now you might be thinking to yourselves that old saw about the unexamined life... Wikipedia?... no, not the album by the Supreme Dicks, released in 1993. Time to get my Yahoo on. Apparently, it was Socrates who said that "the unexamined life is not worth living." Some two thousand odd years later, that smartass and friend of Jerry Seinfeld Colin Quinn said "Of course, the examined life isn't worth living, either." The point is, you might be wondering if the Stooges were as aware of their own legend as the rest of us are now. Some might say no, but I now say yes, and my evidence is here in If a Body Meets a Body. Curly says to Moe "Suppose the murderer comes back again?" Moe tells Curly "Shut up. You got nothing to worry about. If he stabs you in the head, he'll wreck his knife." I guess all those saws that Curly's head ruined over the years DID make an impact after all!
As if that wasn't enough, more hell is about to break loose. Curly's either wearing a nightie or a chef's outfit under his clothes. He goes to bed with his clothes and shoes on. Moe says "Hey! What's the idea of going to bed with your clothes on?" Curly says "I wanna be ready in case something happens!" Larry scoffs at the idea, saying "Oh! A fraidy-cat!" Curly says "Yeah!" And then... Moe and Larry see the logic in it and do the same. I tell ya darling! ALL HELL IS BREAKING LOOSE!
Ah, this one's got a great script. Moe says to Curly "Blow out the candle, or I'll blow out your brains! Or a reasonable facsimile thereof!" Sorry, but I'm condensing a few of the details for time. Larry's already snoring... even though he's probably not asleep at all! Just making fake snoring noises! Like Hans Moleman who was locked inside the Kwik-E-Mart for four minutes, I DEMAND SATISFACTION! Anyway, Moe wakes up Larry and says "Wake up and go to sleep!" Curly adds "... or a facsimile thereof." Larry says to Curly "SHUT UP!" Jealous. They go to sleep.
Arguably, hell starts to break loose now. First up: their room door starts to open, and it creaks loudly as it does. Focus in on Curly at about 0:24, who opens his eyes wide and looks very, very worried. Curly wakes up Moe, but Moe's too tired to heap much physical abuse upon Curly. Curly calms down and tries to fall asleep. Second volley: we see a bird cage with a parrot in it... hoh boy. A gust of wind knocks the cage over. Hoh boy. Curly hears the bird's squeals and, much like Katy Perry today, is wide awake. We see the bird heading towards a skull... hoh boy. We then see the bird climbing up a skeleton. That's one talented bird! Meanwhile, Curly's full throttle scared now. He wakes up Moe and says "Let's light a candle and look under the bed." He sounds a bit drunk. Poor Curly. Okay, I gotta stop beating this dead horse. Moe lights a match with the back of Curly's head. Curly has a delayed response to... sorry. And so, Moe and Curly go to look under the bed. Which brings me to one of my all-time favourite Stooge scenes, and it was the scene where I first came up with my Stooge Time Stretcher theory! On the one hand I'm proud of myself, but on the other I'm also ashamed because I dare question the Stooges' logic.
The filmmakers skip ahead a few steps, much like the way they did with Crash Goes the Hash, and we see the skull that was lying on the table start to enter the room courtesy of the Wheel of Feet (TM, copyright and trademark held by Norman Maurer). A dubbed Moe tells Curly "I don't understand why you should get so spooky just because a guy got croaked in this room." Now you and I might question the logic of such a statement in our post-modern era full of cable shows about psychics and ghosts that linger too long after death. All you really need to know is that they needed some dialogue to pad out the time as the befooted skull makes its entrance from the other room. I'm still trying to figure out how they keep the skull upright with just one wheel of feet. Anyway, Moe launches into his spiel about how there's nothing under the bed. He tells Curly "Now look under there! There's a mattress! And a spring! And a bedstead! And a few termites." Curly says "I don't see no termites!" Moe says "Well, look under here, I'll start again." And he does. LMFAO. Moe says "There's a spring! A bedstead! And some bed slats! There's a rug. And a mattress! And a few ter..." Meanwhile, Curly sees the skull, looks in horror, and interrupts Moe as he's about to make that bad termite joke again. But alas, Curly's too late. The skull has gone behind something before Moe could see it. Moe reprimands Curly: "If you don't stop seeing things, I'm going to gouge your eyes out! Now there's nothing around here, you understand? Here. Take a look under the bed. There's nothing under there but a MATTRESS! A spring, and there's some slats....." I dunno. Maybe it was the weed talking, and there are those that swear by Micro-Phonies as the best Stooge short ever made, but if they don't have this sequence of If a Body Meets a Body in Heaven for me to watch at least twenty times each night before I go to sleep, it ain't Heaven, I tells ya. Not that I expect to make it to Heaven in the first place. What presumption! At this point, Larry wakes up... sorry, wrong link. Larry wakes up and says "Hey! What's going on around here?" Curly tries to explain about the skull head, but it's just about to go around another corner. Moe and Larry look, but alas, the skull head has disappeared a second time. I would say that the timing on that is exquisite, but I dunno... there were a few milliseconds there that they might have seen it. As they ask in the Post Office about an accident, was it preventable? (I'll give you a hint: always say yes.) Sorry, another non-sequitur there. Moe has to take charge. "Now look... once and for all we'll show you THERE'S NO GHOSTS BEHIND CHAIRS!.... hey, is there?" Larry the Enabler's no help, of course. The three head over to the chair. Meanwhile, the skull heads for the bead. Lol. Curly holds the candle down near Moe's ass and says "Oh, I can't look at this. I can't, I can't..." Curly sounds like... Moe gets singed by the candle. He gets burned a lot in this one! Now I'm as big of a wuss as the next guy. I couldn't do like Travis Bickle with his fist next to the blue flame, or Gary Busey in the first Lethal Weapon... of course, Gary Busey did need to seek medical attention after his incident with Mr. Flame. Just remember, kids: a candle next to your ass can be painful. Moe slaps Curly's neck with both hands. In his new-found fury, Moe goes behind the chair to look for Curly's ghost. They dub in his line at 3:09: "Skeletons... Bunk! That's what." Maybe Cecil B. DeMille could afford to put a microphone behind the chair, but not Cannery Row. Meanwhile, Larry the Enabler thinks he hears something and motions to Curly to keep quiet. Apparently, he didn't see what Moe was going to do... yup, just checked the instant replay. He wasn't looking at Moe, and didn't see him go behind the chair, hence the confusion at about 3:13. It's at this point that Moe and Larry go tag-team on Curly. Larry opens with "Now... where's your ghost!" Then the physical abuse begins. Now, Curly said a lot of things, but I don't think he said anything about a skeleton with little feet. But Moe says to Curly "A SKELETON WITH LITTLE FEET, EH?" before hitting him about the head. Larry gets in his own shot, and they frog march Curly back to the bed. Moe says to Curly "If you so much as breathe, I'll rip out your tonsils and tie 'em around your neck for a bowtie. GET IN THERE!" You know, there's stories about how Stan Laurel would f... mess with Oliver Hardy and his ritual golf game after work. I wonder if Moe was late for something that day. Maybe that line was in the script, but I hope not. A line like that, I have to believe it was improvised.
We're about overdue for an Act Break. We've got about five minutes left, but trust me. They're about as action packed as a finale in a Robert Zemeckis film... from the 80s.
Next scene: they scramble back into bed. Moe says "You're a sleep wrecker! GO TO SLEEP!" Moe and Larry are still steaming, but Larry's about to have his proverbial conversion on the road to Damascus. He drifts back off to sleep saying "Ghosts, spooks, skeletons... kids stuff! There are no such things as ghosts!" He may be right, but there ARE such things as skulls on the mantlepiece! The camera pans up, and we see that the skull is hovering right over Larry's head. The skull falls, the camera pans back down, and at about 3:47 we get the long awaited wood block sound. Larry says "Ooh!" from getting hit on the head. The skull conveniently slips away, Stage Right. But let's take a moment and savour that camera work. The Stooge shorts aren't known for flashy camera work or long unedited scenes, but here we have a twenty second long single take, where the camera pans up and follows a skull back down. Busy day for the cameraman on that one! Okay, back to the plot proper. So, Larry didn't realize what was the true cause of the head bonk, and makes his first mistake by accosting Moe about it. His second make was, as the Joker once said, a rather poor choice of words. Larry says to Moe, "Hey! What's the idea of hitting me on the head?" I guess Larry didn't have much choice, but he's set Moe up all too perfectly, and Moe retorts with "I didn't hit you on the head... YET!" Second bonk. "Go on, go to sleep!" Larry makes a disgusted gesture at Moe, rolls over, and sees the skull on the end table next to him. Larry proceeds to FREAK OUT. Larry wakes Moe up anew. Meanwhile, we see the skull bounce towards the edge of the end table. Lol. Good puppetry work. Larry has become a true believer, and says things like "He's right! It's a ghost! It's right there, it... wha?" Moe gets in another good couple of lines: "Oh, you too, eh? I'm going to have trouble with you? Well, let me give you a little advice!" Larry asks, "What?" Moe slaps Larry on the forehead this time, saying "THAT! Now go on, go to sleep before I murder ya!"
The screenwriters must've been using a thesaurus that week, as Moe adds "What are you guys, somnambulists?" Or is it "somnambulas" or "somnambulers"? Something like that. I just can't handle these East Coast accents.
And just when you think Moe's not going to join the Ghost team, the magic happens at 4:21 when a little more hell breaks loose. The skull now has the power of flight, and a cape to boot. It appears to have bat wings now; it's hard to tell on YouTube but they still don't look like parrot wings. The skull flies twice over the Stooge's bed, but twice is quite enough. Curly's advice to stay dressed in this particular bed has finally paid off, and the scared threesome take off into the next room, woo-woo-wooing all the way.
Next scene: the next room, where it's time for some more fancy camerawork. Curly says "See? I told you there was ghosts!" and the camera dollies in on the three of them, starting at about 4:38. Perhaps it's providence, or just good luck, but dolly work in a Stooge film rarely draws attention to itself, or helps to accentuate the mood. Why, even Scorsese must've picked up a thing or two from this scene! Moe once again captures the zeitgeist of the scene, saying "I ain't scared... but LET'S GET THE HECK OUT OF HERE!" They go to the nearest door to find it's locked. Larry, at full throttle scared, says "There must be a key! Let's see if we can find it!" Like idiots, they look around for the key instead of smashing down the door. Well, it wasn't their set to smash, I suppose. At about this point, we see that they're in the laboratory they were warned about not going into. Moe accidentally triggers a not-so-secret door in the wall, revealing a dead body behind it. The dead body leans forward on Moe, and Moe thinks it's one of the other two. Moe pushes the dead body back, but only to have it return for a second helping. Now Moe gets mad, saying "I see I'll have to take action." Moe finally TURNS AND LOOKS, only to have the crew turn on the industrial-strength vacuum cleaner over his head. I mean, he turns and looks, sees the dead body, and gets even more scared than before. Cue the vacuum cleaner at 5:26, and cue the frame blow-up at 5:27.5. Boy, I tell you, if they can figure out a way to make the Flash player start at a certain fraction of a second... that's the next billion dollars for some undernourished geek. As the dead body falls to the ground, no longer braced by a blissfully unaware Moe, there's an unholy chorus of Curly gobbling and giving slow "nyaah"s at the same time. At least, I hope that's Curly on Slow Nyaah duty. The boys run off, crashing through one door, but finding the second one locked. Larry starts screaming "Let us out of here!" Hmm... probably should've capitalized that one. Anyway, Detective Fred Kelsey fortunately happens to be in the hall at the time. Unfortunately, he opens the door and walks through just as Curly tries breaking the door down with a chair. DOWN GOES KELSEY!!! A dubbed-in Moe says "It's the detective! Get some water!" Larry gets a vase and douses both Moe and the detective. The detective has an honest reaction at about 6:02.
Damn! It's late. I gotta get some sleep for a few hours... 'night!
..okay, back to work. It's 1:45am, and I gotta wrap this mother up. The boys try to explain to Detective Kelsey about the body in the next room. Detective Kelsey says "WHERE IS HE? SHOW ME!!!" Curly brings up the rear as the others step into the next room, and Curly goes through the door proper! Running through an open door frame after bashing it out. The very idea. But, yup... you probably guessed it. The detective doesn't get to experience the thrill of the dead body. The Stooges try and explain, but it's all in vain. The detective pushes the Stooges into... well, towards the corner, saying "What kind of a gag do you birds think you're pulling on me?" We get another dolly shot, but it's clearly not as effective as the first. The detective thinks the Stooges are cuckoo, and he goes out the door that the Stooges found to be locked.
What happens next is where all this haunted house stuff finally pays off. Let me put it this way: Scare #1, Scare #2, Scare #3, Scare #4, and Scare #5. (Arguably, scare #4 is probably the weakest one.)
Curly... at least, I think it's Curly!... leads the charge down the stairs into the lobby of the house, where he runs into the maid from earlier. Well, I hate to spoil any more surprises...
The murder is solved, and Curly's holding the will and reading it. Moe tells Curly not to shake. Will Curly inherit a huge fortune and live on Easy Street the remainder of his days? I hate to spoil it, but I'll merely suggest another film with a similar ending. I know I say this about most of the Stooge films, but this one's got to be among the top 5 haunted house ones. This is still one of the ones we'll typically watch when we're desperate and drag out the Stooge DVDs. A classic.
Good double bill with: The Wabbit who came to Supper
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan