Booby Dupes. Does the plot sound familiar? Fish salesmen want to cut out the middlemen. See, they think that the fishermen that do all the work are the middlemen. Go figure.
Even though this is a virtual remake of Laurel and Hardy's Towed in a Hole, writer/director Del Lord officially takes all the credit. Apparently, the Stooges are ripping off their own Cookoo Cavaliers as well. We see the boys driving through the studio back lot in a van with the word "FISH" painted on the side. Moe's driving, Curly's riding shotgun, yelling "Fish!" out the window til he's hoarse, and Lawrence is snugly in the middle, blowing a horn into Moe's tender right eardrum. In Towed in a Hole, Stan was on horn duty. Incidental music is playing, but suddenly stops. Curly tells Moe to stop the "car." The three open the hood and investigate the motor, which turns out to be a turntable with a record. After revealing the comedy name of the song, Moe throws the album away which turns out to be more like a boomerang than he thought. Moe gets hit by the record and he and Curly exchange n'yuk n'yuks. Curly covers his head, because he senses that Moe's going to start destroying the records on it, but unfortunately for the records, Moe's a little smarter than that. Moe hits Curly in the stomach first. Curly covers his stomach with his hands, leaving his head exposed, and smash go the records.
A customer interferes with the Stooges' ritual violence. She asks what kind of fish they have. Moe and Larry engage in a different Stooge ritual: listing things. They list a bunch of fish, more or less. The woman asks for catfish. They do their three part harmony and open the back door of the truck. A bunch of cats get pushed out of the truck. Curly picks up a fish skeleton that still has a head and says "Oh, look! A skeleton fish!" The woman leaves almost instantly, undoubtedly on her way to alert the Better Business Bureau.
The Stooges have a problem on their hands. Their inventory's been eaten by a bunch of cats, and they need more! Moe words the problem perfectly for the setup by saying "We need to go out and BUY more fish!" Enter Stan Laurel's original conceit that the boys go into the fish catching business in an attempt to save money by not buying it themselves. Curly says it right the first time and, like Oliver Norville Hardy before him, Moe says "Say that again!" Moe stops the repeat a little sooner than Ollie, saying "When you didn't know what you were talking about, you really had something!" There's a modern-day parallel there someplace, I know it... Anyway, Moe sits on the fish skeleton, and there's the sound of a thousand pin pricks. Not a lot of time is stretched at this point, surprisingly! But Larry and Curly put a little fun into the job of extracting fish bones from Moe's ass by turning it into a case of "She loves me, she loves me not..."
Next scene: a uniforms store that also does cleaning and pressing. We see Moe and Larry dressed up in sailors' uniforms. The bickering gets started right away when Curly complains that, since this was his idea, he wants to be Captain of their impending fishing vessel. Moe steam-presses Curly into submission. Larry salutes Moe as quickly as possible to avoid similar treatment. Moe and Larry storm off, leaving Curly alone. They seem to do that an awful lot! Curly's head may have cooled off since his incident, but he's still steaming in his mind about his demotion. Fortunately, fate intervenes on his behalf, as similarly sized Vernon Dent gives his suit to Curly, mistakenly thinking that Curly's an employee of the uniform store. Vernon goes behind the ... you know, one of those partitions you step behind when you have to change clothes. Curly asks Vernon for the pants and proceeds to steal Vernon's clothes in earnest. Moe and Larry have a brief scene outside the tailor shop where Moe karate chops Larry on the side of his nose. Aye indeed!
Screenwriters take note: now, I don't know what it's called officially, but it's the ancient ritual of establishing a pattern. Curly steps out of the tailor shop in Vernon Dent's snazzy duds. Two bikini babes... 1940's era bikini babes... walk by. A guy in uniform says "Hi babe!" and walks off with both of 'em. Only in the movies. This teaches Curly what to do, and alerts us to the all-too-likely possibility that Curly's going to get slapped in the face instead. Spoiler alert: it works just as well for Curly! At least, when the two ladies he approaches see the uniform. Who's going to steer this comedy out of the Blue Lagoon and back on course? Enter Moe and Larry who know that Curly's not a real captain. They start to go to work on Curly. The girls go to work on Moe and Larry who get knocked way off of Stage Right. Yet somehow they end up in garbage cans a little further upstage. Continuity error! Curly puts a little icing on the viciousness cake when he slams the garbage can lids on the other two's heads. As Gordon Sumner once observed, love is stronger than justice.
Was I the only one who thought of Steve Lawrence in 1984's The Lonely Guy? He seemed to spend the whole film with a gal on each arm. This was just before AIDS put a chill on the tail end of the late 60s sexual revolution. Curly, despite his phony rank, isn't able to hang on to both girls for long. The three of them end up on a bad-looking beach set. We see a few other pairs of female legs already there. One of the girls leaves, and the other one, well... disappointment seems to set in at about the 5 minute mark. Curly gobbles like a turkey for the same reason as the last one. But then... the plot intervenes. The girl can see her boyfriend from very very far away... you'll never guess who it is! That's right! It's VERNON DENT! And he's wearing Curly's clothes and hat. The girlfriend tells Curly to "get out of here" and he does... or does he?
Much like the token white people in The Gods Must Be Crazy, I guess just the fishing subplot alone wasn't enough for this Stooge flick. Vernon Dent once again vows to kill the guy who crossed him. But before that happens, Vernon takes a little break, and sits down in the sand, leaning up against a Curly-sized hill of sand behind him. This is the part of the film that stretches time out to two reels, or about 16 minutes. Another continuity error: Curly's hiding a makeup box over his face, but the box moves off the hill and closer to ground level at 6:26!! And then... the epic struggle as Vernon tries to plant an umbrella in the thin layer of sand covering Curly's stomach. Maybe this part doesn't last long enough. Curly reaches his pain threshold and rises up out of the sand. Vernon flies off Stage Left, and does a handstand right into an ice cream man's inventory. They're just trying to keep it fresh. After all, Vernon did cake duty in An Ache in Every Stake.
Next scene: Curly made his getaway, and now the three of them are with a candidate fishing boat. Curly hits the side of the boat, but salesman and longtime Stooge foil John Tyrell stops him, saying that he might ruin the paint. The Stooges get screwed in a lot of business deals, but this time they do it to themselves, as Curly and Larry outbid each other on how much to pay Tyrell for the boat... including their car. I haven't seen anything like it since Laurel and Hardy's Thicker than Water. And much like The Yoke's on Me, the Stooges laugh loudly to themselves because of their lemon of a car. Tyrell laughs and tells them the boat's a lemon! Not a lot has changed since WWII, has it? The Stooges rush to inspect the boat. Curly's foot goes through the bottom of the boat and lands on Moe's neck. Let the games begin! Moe tries biting, but grows weary of the taste of Stooge flesh, and goes to the backup: a wrench. For some reason, the editors break from tradition and don't show a Curly reaction shot. It's all one take, and Moe ends up c'mere-ing to Curly through the hole in the boat. Finally! Now we get an edit! Well, I had a feeling Curly wouldn't be able to stick his head through the hole in time to get in that same shot. Curly's head comes through the bottom of the boat and Moe puts his wrench on Curly's nose. Curly gobbles like a turkey yet again. Curly comes down to ground level, and Moe destroys yet another saw, this time on Curly's neck. Curly gobbles like a turkey YET AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It's not getting old, is it?
And now, the wince-worthy part. Well, I'm getting on in years, and I might have found this funny younger in life... actually, probably not. Ollie gets a nail in his foot in The Music Box and I didn't care much for that either. Here, Moe gets crucified... I mean, he gets nails in both feet. Well, I suppose he had it coming, getting in the boat while the other two are fixing the bottom, but still... For the Stooges, revenge is a dish best served piping hot right out of the boiling oil. Moe politely asks the other two for a spare hammer, which he promptly uses to hit them in the head with. Funny here, not so funny on the New York subway... I'm not even going to look for that one on YouTube, but I'm sure it's probably there, with a comment by Sado360 about how f@@@king hilarious it all is. Weird people out there. Moe makes a half-hearted attempt to catch the other two, but they crawl under the boat, so he gives up and sets himself up for the next injury. He gets in front of the back of the boat, and bends over in front of the propeller. Larry, subliminally sensing Moe's position, says "Hey! Let's try the motor!" Let the grinding begin! Why does this remind me of Cinemax?... Anyway, Moe's pants are ripped to shreds, but fortunately for us, his boxer shorts are intact. Moe's much more motivated to catch Larry and Curly this time. Apparently, his dignity's more important than needing to get a tetanus shot. Let the chase begin.
Next scene: Just outside Warehouse 23, where the damn boat's finally in the water! Good Lord. Well, you gotta hand it to this film. In Towed in a Hole, they never even made it to the water! What's that all about? Anyway, Moe says "Turn her over!" to Larry. Larry says "Turn her over!" to Curly! Curly starts to try flipping the boat. Alas, this isn't Pirates of the Caribbean 3, so it doesn't happen. Larry helpfully adds the qualifier: "The MOTOR, you dope!" To save time, Curly knows what that means, so he turns the motor on and makes a foghorn noise. To stretch the time out further, the boat's still tied to the dock. Moe notices that, and tells Curly to "pull that rope off" of the pole it's tied to. Curly ends up pulling the pole down onto Moe's head. Part of the pole snaps off, and Moe's damn near in a coma. This is one of those injuries where Moe's too shook up to seek swift retribution against the aggressor (Curly in this case). Fortunately for all of us, he quickly shakes it off, and continues steering the ship, even though the wheel came off. He pushes it back into place, and the boat limps on into the next scene.
Next scene: the boys are away from the pier. Curly gives a half-ass normal human laugh at about 2:25! We can't have that! Moe orders Curly to throw out the anchor. Curly obliges, and tries to tell Moe that it didn't have a rope tied to it. Moe orders Curly to START FISHING!!!! (my emphasis) Curly uses a heavy metal sinker on his fishing pole, for some reason. He swings his pole, hitting Moe in the head with the heavy metal sinker. Oh! That's the reason! Moe rips off the steering wheel and heaves it at Curly... rather, about 45 degrees away from Curly and right into the water. Curly yells "WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO NOW?" Moe says "We'll FEEL our way home!"
This is probably not a good place to call for an Act break, but it's kind of significant in the Stooge mythology, or ethos, or whatever word you'd want to call it. There's a brief window of opportunity in the bicker-fest between Moe and Curly, and Larry tells Moe to "Shut up!" Let's just let that sink in for a second... okay, that's over. And even though Larry steps back from his declaration, Moe still gives him a good slap to the face for good measure. The scene goes on longer than it should, and the two riff at about 3:14. But then, the focus shifts to Curly who thinks he's getting a nibble. Let the fishing begin! Curly must've found a pocket of flying fish, as one sails over his pole. He moves the pole to where the fish landed in the water, but they're too smart for that, and another one taunts Curly by leaping out of the water. A third one leaps. Then, Curly loses his pole and he grabs a big stick to beat the fish with. Gee, I wonder who or what will actually get hit? Hmmm.....
Curly picks up a piece of bait and says "Bait!" Armed with his magic fish-beating stick and a piece of bait, there's nothing Curly can't accomplish. Time to see if I can blog and have my cat sit on my lap at the same time... so far, so good! Anyway, first it was flying fish, now it's spitting fish that Curly's fighting with. The first volley misses Curly by a good mile or two. He n'yuk-n'yuks in victory until the second volley hits him. He regroups with another piece of bait and gets hit in the face a second time with the third spit. The fish starts biting the bait in Curly's hand. A mighty, time-stretching struggle ensues, but Curly eventually lifts his mighty fish-bitten limb up and hauls in the first fish. Moe's impressed! At least, until the first bad joke. The fish starts leaping around in the boat, as if it were being lifted by some mighty invisible string. Curly grabs his fish-beating stick and... yup, right on Moe's head. I feel a profound sense of closure.
And yet, the struggle continues. This is the second traumatic injury that Moe has suffered that he hasn't seeked retribution for. Economics trumps all as they struggle to keep the struggling fish in the boat. Curly's sense of mayhem leads him to bloodthirsty new heights as he puts down his giant fish-beating stick and grabs an ax instead. He hits Larry in the back with it. Fortunately or unfortunately, Larry's just hurt a little bit, and manages to scramble out of the way towards Stage Right. Curly continues chopping away at the bottom of the boat in a pathetic attempt to catch that fish. The mortal blow to the boat comes at about 5:01, and the water starts fountaining in. The situation would be more tragic if they didn't have a backup boat next to their boat. Moe and Larry use tiny pots and pans to bail out the boat. Meanwhile, Curly tries to use modern scientific methods and logic to bail out the boat without exerting as much effort as Moe and Larry... and he proceeds to drill holes in the bottom of the boat with a "water-letter-outer." He's not as concerned this time when the water starts pouring in through drilled holes as he was when the water was pouring in through an ax-chopped hole. Moe intervenes, but all Curly says is "I'm letting the water out!" I feel cheated out of a comical explanation.
Next scene: the boat is in the process of completely sinking, and the three of them each have a tiny pot to bail out water... I'm going to be really embarrassed if it's 'bale' instead of 'bail'. Better not look it up. Anyway, Larry's line gets sabotaged by a faceful of water at about 6:02 or so. He says "We're getting some... PLACE!" The emphasis on place seems to be water-oriented, I'm just sayin'. Moe and Curly are giddy from impending failure, and soon after the boat finally completely sinks into the briny deep. Moe and Larry head for the backup boat, with Moe declaring that it's "every man for himself." Moe and Larry proceed to crank up the dramatic tension by awkwardly climbing in to the second boat. How soon is this one going to sink? Moe tries lifting Curly up into the boat by his nose, but alas, Curly's too heavy. The boat starts to sink when both Moe and Larry get to the end of the boat that Curly's closest to, and the tiny boat starts to quickly fill up and sink. Next scene: the boat's now fine, and the boys are bailing out the rest of the water. I guess the script didn't anticipate the developments of the last scene.
Time for the big WWII-related finish. A plane's flying overhead and the boys desperately try to thumb a ride with it. Fortunately, they have a bamboo pole and a sheet to make a makeshift flag out of. Curly notes that the sheet has some paint on it, but doesn't note that it looks like the flag of ... you guessed it, Japan. I guess a swastika would've been too passé at this point in the war. The bombs start falling, but they're not exploding. Just kicking up a lot of water.
The boys eventually put two and two together, but the bombs keep falling. Moe says "It's the Stooges!" but to no avail. The bombs fall twice as hard now! I failed to mention it, but Curly said, rather prominently "I saved the Victrola!" once they all get settled into the backup boat. Moe uses quick thinking to put a propellor on the turntable, and stick it in the water, and the boys make a quick getaway out of harm's way. We see a tiny boat sail off to the end of the tub, and that's the end. This one seems to fall in that range of not too terrible, but not too remarkable either. Three stars out of four.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan