...okay, back to the films. Time for the next Stooge short called A Pest in the House.... I mean, Three Pests in a Mess. Really, it's an apt description for any Stooge short, dont'cha think?
We start with theme music that sounds more like a Shemp short. A sign of things to come.
Scene: the offices of Cheatham Investment Company. As you can see, Truman should've been investigating shady business dealings that weren't war-related. There's Christine McIntyre, some dufus in a hat, and another shady-looking guy on the phone... damn! Who does he look like? A cousin of Grady Sutton, perhaps. It's Brian O'Hara, and this is one of the films he's known for, according to his IMDb résumé. Well, we'll get to Mr. Noisy soon enough, I suppose.
Well, as Thirteen Conversations About One Thing tried to warn us, they come out of the woodwork when someone wins a sweepstakes ticket. In this case, three guys have a ticket worth $100,000. A lot of money back then. And it's up to the three crooks to liberate these innocents of their winnings. You know, tip the scales of justice back to where they belong: with the Mafia having both feet on it.
Meanwhile, the Stooges are at the patent office trying to patent their latest invention. Moe explains it better than I ever could, but it's a rather dubious flycatcher. Patent manager Victor Travers is the unlucky victim of this explanation. I think he'd rather have a face full of mashed potatoes, don't you, folks? Moe is interrupted twice during his spiel and has to say "That's enough!!" to the other chuckleheads. Moe gets through describing how it works and says "...and at a penny a fly, there's millions in it!" The patent man says "Well, when you make your first $100, bring it in and I'll give you your patent." And off he goes, back into the safety of his office away from the influence of knuckleheads. He'll probably not escape as Einstein did, however.
Time for some Stooge math. SPOILER ALERT: Since an amount is part of the plot, we don't get a wacky number this time. For example, in Income Tax Sappy, Larry asks Shemp how much is ... I think it was 100,000 times 7.5 cents. Shemp's answer: $89.575. In the one where they have to raise $100 over the weekend by hanging posters, they'll make the money by 1992. In this one, Curly starts hammering away on his invisible typewriter, pulls the handle of his invisible slot machine, and pulls out an invisible piece of ticker tape. Moe reads the figure from it first!!! A hundred thousand. Of course, any fourth grader will tell you that 100 times 100 is 10,000, but this is Stooge math we're talking about. Screenwriters take note: as the boys arrive at their figure, Christine McIntyre emerges into the hallway, hears the boys say "A hundred thousand" over and over again, and off to work she goes. She starts crying and tells the boys about her troubles, bare cupboards and what not... Warning flags should've gone up when she opens with "You wouldn't understand, not with all that money." That's the American people in a nutshell, Mitt Romney. We must be ruled with your Mormon iron fist. Sorry, I inserted modern-day politics there! Love trumps all, and Curly gets to take charge thanks to the earlier established plot device. Christine says "Nobody loves me and I haven't any food!" Curly says "I love ya! And they'll get you some food." Nice delegation! More warning flags should've gone up when McIntyre borrows lines from "Old Mother Hubbard," for God's sake! The Stooges' waterworks get going in earnest, and Lawrence and Curlington make car horn noises when they blow their noses. There's a nice play on words involving "getting a bottle." I thought Prohibition ended about 1930 or so, but never mind. Must've been WWII rationing at work or something.
The boys are off to their respective tasks. We stick with Curly, and the tone of the scene changes instantly at about 3:20 or so. Christine changes from sorrowful to playful! What fun. Christine must have some of her jujitsu strength left over from the last one, as she dislocates Curly's shoulder when she pulls him to sit on the couch. Curly gobbles like a turkey at 3:35 and Christine ruins the take. They start moving down the couch, and Curly's ass approaches impending danger. He falls off the couch and sits on a big bunch of long-ass knitting needles. Christine takes it in stride, but clearly she'd prefer that that didn't happen.
As you may recall the description from earlier, the bald-headed one of the lottery ticket threesome has two hearts tattoo'd on his chest. Christine tries to check to see if Curly has that tattoo, but he demurs. Well, it was a different era, and there was that pesky Hays Code to deal with. After the knitting needles episode passes, it's back to work on the tattoo. As it turns out, Curly's a man of many hats, and in this case, many shirts as well. Christine starts rudely ripping his shirts off, and we go through shirt after shirt after shirt. The last layer is some kind of metal breastplate, probably from a gladiator pic Columbia was doing that week. Christine changes her tactic, saying it must be swell to have all that hundred thousand... and then, without realizing it, Curly ruins his chances by telling the truth. Christine quickly gets angry, and slams her hand on Curly's metal breastplate. She picks up the mangled mass of ruined knitting needles and throws it at Curly's head. In keeping with the Ancient Rome theme, Curly now looks like Medusa. That mass of needles on his head may look harmless, but he drinks a glass of water to prove that a) he's got holes in his head, and b)... he must be built upside down! Does anyone you know get water on the brain right after drinking a glass of it?
It's probably a little premature for the Act Break, but this Stooge short's a rambling one, and just rolls on from one damn thing to another... sorry, Spoiler Alert. Moe and Larry return from the grocery store that they stole their provisions from. They get to the door of the offices of I. Cheatham and hear domestic dischord within. Moe's chivalrous nature takes over. He pushes Larry aside, opens the door, and gets hit with a bottle of ink... wait for it. Meanwhile, Curly leaves through a door marked "Private." Larry engages in some politically incorrect humor... hmm! Much like he does later on in Slaphappy Sleuths. Sorry, SPOILER ALERT. Compare these two scenes for me, maybe I'm crazy. Three Pests in a Mess, Slaphappy Sleuths. Nope, still can't see it.
Fortunately for the Stooges, there's usually a bucket of water close by that they can use, much like the folks in The Wizard of Oz were fortunate to have a bucket of water to use on the Wicked Witch. Moe heaves the water on Christine as she comes out. His reflexes must be getting dull, even now. Instead of consoling her, Moe and Larry decide it's time to run off. They pick the closest door. Moe and Larry run inside. Moe and Larry just as quickly run back out, with Curly following. They all run into the wall and go boom. They make a quick recovery, and Moe proceeds to tear into Curly for womanizing gone wrong, until... Cheatham and his goon show up! The Stooges pick a door on the other side of the hallway and quickly run inside. They slam the door and get a hunting rifle dropped on their heads. Notice that there are two rifles above the door. This will come in handy later on. Somehow, the following group of actions is repeated: the two bad guys struggle to open the door, they stop, step back, and start to ram the door. The Stooges come running out, see that the bad guys are there, run back inside and hold the door some more. Let's call this "Stooge Macro 1". So, Stooge Macro 1 plays out, and the Stooges get the second gun dropped on their heads. Curly picks up one of the rifles, and uses the butt of the rifle to hit the door. The rifle fires and we see a man at a window who now has only a smoldering half of his hat left. The hat man runs off. This is what is known as an "establishing shot" or "establishing episode." Moe warns Curly about proper gun safety. Curly hits the butt of the rifle against the door again, saying "All I did was this!" This time, a mannequin falls over. In their panic, the Stooges assume it was a live human being. As with most Adam Sandler comedies, just go with it, but arguably we're not past the point of no return yet, so I wouldn't blame you if you bailed out now. I almost wish I could.
Anyway, Stooge Macro 1 repeats again. To be fair, it's not the exact same footage, and the bad guys have to help the Stooges close the door all the way. I forgot to add that, for some reason, Moe gives the two thugs a Heil Hitler sign. The boys decide to leave the offices of Ajax Sportswear through the window, but their sense of morality and, more importantly, the need to pad out the film to 16 minutes compels them to take the body of the bullet-riddled mannequin with them. Meanwhile, Christine tells the other two knuckleheads that the three with the winning ticket had only $12 left after paying income taxes. Must've been higher taxes on winnings back then, or maybe they're still the same. If it were inherited wealth, that's another matter.
Back to the Stooges, struggling with their newborn mannequin. They try to leave it in the alley, but a policeman intervenes. The boys start to explain that it was all a horrible accident, but the cop points to a sign that says "DUMP NO RUBBISH HERE." The Stooges almost get away with it, but the cop puts two and two together when some of the mannequin's limbs start to peek out of the bag. The cop says "Come back here, you murders!" and the boys start running some more.
Next scene: the Ever Rest Pet Cemetery. The boys eventually decide that this is a good place to leave the body, even though he might not have been someone's pet. Curly gets scared by a particularly aggressive tumbleweed. Moe and Larry take time out to console him, when Larry comes up with a good idea: "Why don't we bury him out on the street?" Curly cuts through the logic of that one: "What? And have someone run him over and kill him again?" The funeral march continues. To kill some time, we focus on Curly, as he runs afoul of the mannequin's hand, which seems to have become a little more human in the interim! Curly keeps getting slapped on his head and shoulder, and then in his face. He drops the uncooperative mannequin/corpse, runs up to Moe and starts choking Moe's neck. Larry seig-heils Curly on the head to knock him loose, then the dialog begins. Curly: "You know that dead guy? He just slapped me!" Moe: "Like THIS?"
A mustachio'd cemetery worker hears all the commotion and makes a phone call, but he doesn't call the cops: he calls Mr. Black, the cemetery owner. Unfortunately, Mr. Black is giving a masquerade party, but comes over anyway. I never saw Six Feet Under... is this the kind of thing that would happen on that show all the time? Back to the cemetery worker, played by 'Snub' Pollard. You remember him from such films as It's a Gift (1923) and It Happened in Flatbush. For me, though, his best role was probably in... I just reviewed it, too! What was it... that's it! As Sheriff Hogwaller in Phony Express. Anyway, the cemetery worker's trying to investigate what's going on, but he gets in over his head. The Stooges are approaching, and there's nowhere to hide. Enter the comedic solution: the cemetery worker finds a bag big enough to cover himself up if he squats down. Larry points to the squatting cemetery worker in the bag and says "There! There's the body..." Curly killed it, so Curly has to carry it to the hole. Curly kicks the dog, so to speak. "This is all your fault!," says Curly, and kicks the cemetery worker. Curly leans down and makes the carrying pose, and the cemetery worker kicks back! Curly asks "Did you kick me?" The cemetery worker says "No." Priceless. Almost worth writing a blurb about!...
Next scene: the cemetery owner (Vernon Dent) and his two awful friends show up to find out for themselves who could be breaking into the pet cemetery this time of night. They have costumes similar to the ones of the three bad guys in Spook Louder. One was a devil, and one was a skeleton in that one, too. What's the third guy supposed to be? A magician? The guy's hat in Spook Louder is shorter, anyway. But back to the instant case. Here's Vernon's plan: "We'll spread out and search the grounds. If you spot anyone... whistle!" I guess that's about what the police would do. Close enough.
They get to work. Vernon is about to run into Curly. Curly almost gets his head bashed in. Twice! The phone rings. Curly finally answers it, then yells out "CALL FOR PHILIP BLACK!" Vernon can't resist and steps forward, saying "I'm Mr. Black!" Curly says "Phone, sir." Curly then realizes what's going on and hits Vernon right in the hat. He doesn't need a giant stick like Vernon does. That's what separates the heroes from the villains. Vernon has a lot of trouble getting his hat off, and tries some short, hard breaths. We cut to Moe and Larry before he can get his hat off. LOL.
Next scene: Moe and Larry are in trouble, and they have no idea the severity of it. The Devil... I mean, the guy in the Devil costume approaches. Larry must be a very religious man, because he quietly steps back in horror, not bothering to tell Moe about it. That's Larry for you: always hard at work trying to take Moe's place. Moe says to the Devil "I think I see something over there. Follow me." Finally realizing he didn't just see Larry, Moe stops. The Devil puts his two-pronged pitchfork on Moe's neck. Moe turns around... ooh! Good cinematography. Moe took a page from Dudley Dickerson's book. Moe runs off and ends up competing with Larry for the same door, even though they supposedly went in opposite directions. They get another opportunity to do the ol' switcheroo at the door gag that happens so often in these "haunted house" shorts of theirs.
Meanwhile, Larry runs into the guy in a skeleton costume. Eventually, after gestating in fear for a suitable period, Larry makes a grand escape, going under the door he just came through. The skeleton is confused. Back to Curly who shouts out "HEY MOE! HEY LARRY! I FOUND THE BODY!!!" Don't think about it. Fortunately, Moe found a human-sized grave that hasn't been filled yet. The three costumed socialites have also found the hole. Vernon gets the ultra-bright idea that the three of them will hide in the grave in the hopes of "catching" the Stooges. Don't think about it. The Stooges approach with their mannequin in a bag. Moe orders Curly to throw the mannequin in the hole. Curly throws the mannequin in. Curly turns around. Suddenly, the mannequin gets un-thrown and lands back up next to the Stooges' feet! Curly turns back around, sees the bag and says "NAAH!! No, no!" Moe says "I said, throw him in and cover him up!" It's going to be a long two minutes. Curly gets his marching orders again, and Moe and Larry leave the scene. Moe says it's to "keep a sharp lookout," but you and I know that it's in times of crisis like this when Curly works best alone. The game of cadaver ping-pong continues in Moe's and Larry's absence. The stakes are upped when Curly gets hit in the head with the mannequin and the mannequin falls back in under its own potential energy. Moe and Larry return, and Moe promises to kick Curly in the mouth. Well, Moe's rubber and Curly's glue, I suppose.
Anyway, the three cemetery-owning socialites must've gotten weary of the game of cadaver ping-pong, so Curly wins in sudden death overtime. The boys start the second phase: piling dirt on top of the body. The three socialites yell "HEY!!!" Moe asks Curly, "What are you yelling about?" It's going to be a long 36 seconds...
The two groups of three finally look at each other in earnest. The Stooges get so freaked out, they jump out of their very shoes, running off in socked feet, with Curly woo-woo-wooing all the way home. I guess the Stooges never really had a big budget, and they never got to make the epic-length Slacker-esque shaggy dog story, but this one's close enough. Also, this is one of those shorts I used to watch all the time, so I probably should've recused myself from reviewing this one, but I'm just a sucker for these haunted house Stooge shorts.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan