Sunday, September 30, 2012
No other place around the place, I reckon.......
...come to think of it, isn't this really what any and every Stooge film could be called? They've had a couple of titles like that; the one that most immediately comes to mind is Idiots Deluxe, but that one of course implies that they're making an extra effort in that one. In The Three Troubledoers, we start with the three troubledoers in question, the Stooges, walking down a path that's probably been worn down by the footsteps of many a TV Western cast that came before... okay, maybe not. I must be thinking of the '50s. Then you'll really start to see some Western action in places like this!
Moe gets the action going by saying "Well, we're pulling into town, pardners. We better spruce up!" They start brushing themselves off, and we find that they're positively covered in dust. Lol. Curly lets out a particularly meaty fake sneeze at about 0:42. The screenwriters must've planned for this, because Moe tells him to "eat his dust like a man." Moe wonders aloud what town they're approaching. As we find out, they're able to read this time, and we see a sign that says "Dead Man's Gulch." The sign's lorded over by a toothless old man whose job is to update the population number on the sign. As you may have guessed, the number drops regularly in this lawless Western town. The boys seem hesitant to proceed, and rightly so. Moe summons up the group courage that they lack individually. "Are we mice or men?" asks Moe. Larry and Curly say "MICE!" in unison. "Don't get personal," says Moe. They proceed.
Next scene: we abruptly leave the Stooges for now, as it's time to lay grander plot foundations. The sheriff of Dead Man's Gulch just got shot. That's the fifth sheriff in six months. Can you even doubt that the Stooges have a future in law enforcement? They, who spent most of the years of the Great Depression running from authority? Is it no longer ironic?
After some quick exposition about the sheriff and the gang of baddies what done him in, it's back to the Stooges, who are now busy dropping their mule off at the blacksmith. Enter a crying Christine McIntyre. I probably shouldn't confess this, but I'm just a sucker for curls. The Stooges quickly run to her side to console her. She's not the femme fatale this time. No, she's the blacksmith's daughter... or maybe she's the blacksmith. In any case, her father's disappeared, most likely "dry gulched" by Badlands Blackie. Don't look it up on urbandictionary.com, that's all I'm saying. We get more description of Badlands Blackie... is it Dick Curtis? Most likely. Curly lifts everyone's spirits, declaring that Badlands Blackie's nothing compared to Coney Island Curly, laughing at about 1:49 or so.
Next scene: Badlands Blackie enters the shop, and in the grand tradition of Manliness, he completely ignores the Stooges and walks right up to McIntyre, offering his rather indecent marriage proposal. Even ignoring Curly's verbal pleasantries! Wow. I know I say this a lot, but this has got to be Dick Curtis' grandest performance yet. If this were a feature length Western, he'd be hailed as one of the great Western villains... or at least, one of the goofiest. Disney oughta sue! The Stooges man up, and poke Blackie in the chest. Larry asks "What's the idea of picking on a girl?" We'll leave that alone for now. Blackie quickly processes Moe and Larry with a horseshoe, and now it's up to Curly. Nell winces in embarrassment. Curly goes for his gun, but gets the whole gunbelt instead. Blackie manages to grab the gunbelt from Curly's hands and throws it away. It lands near the fire; ooh! Good screenwriting! Think also of an opening episode in The Man who would be King. Blackie pushes Curly down (really? Not a stuntman?), and Curly lands ass first on a horseshoe with nails in it. We don't get a good view of it as we do of Ollie's foot in The Music Box, but there will be agony nonetheless. A shame, too, because it's stuck near the tramp stamp area as opposed to more humorously in the cheek area proper.
Blackie looks on in contempt, and we get another glimpse of the gunbelt near the flames. Blackie's tone changes from laid back to angry at about 3:07, insisting that Nell accept his indecent marriage proposal. But, to stretch out the length of the film, Blackie says he'll leave and when he returns, her answer a'better be yes. The troubledoers... I mean, the Stooges hiss in response. This is what they're reduced to. Kinda sad. Blackie, however, doesn't like loud noises, and doesn't react well to the Stooges' hissing... but it's an interesting reaction nonetheless, at about 3:18. Maybe Blackie's a heavy drinker.
Blackie goes over to heap more physical abuse upon the Stooges that they would otherwise be heaping upon themselves. Suddenly... BOOM! The fire lights up the bullets in Curly's belt and they start flying. Blackie starts shooting in response. This is all very distressing for Nell. Moe and Larry take cover. Blackie runs out of the blacksmith shop and falls into the horse trough. See what I mean? Eccentric. Blackie runs off to find some dry clothes.
And probably escape the hailing bullets. And now, budding young screenwriters of all ages... it's time for the Hail the Conquering Hero-esque farcical elements to rear their ugly, obvious heads. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern here, whom we met earlier consorting with the town elder, see Blackie running off, hear the gunfire, put two and two together and have found their new sheriff, a man brave enough to send Badlands Blackie packing. But who could it be? Time to barge right into the crime scene and find out. Meanwhile, like a durned fool, Curly's holding the smoking gun and n'yuk ny'uking quietly to himself. The two serious men quickly make Curly the new sheriff. A blow to law enforcement agencies everywhere... but is this the first one? I think it might be. This is what I get for not converting the Stooge plot elements into XML code.
I can't figure out who the guy with the big-ass moustache is, but he seems like the real deal. What on earth he's doing in a Stooge film, I'll never know. Moe and Larry are made deputies; they just don't know it yet. One of the guys gets in a good joke, depending on your point of view: when Curly says "$100/month? Oh boy! I'll be able to get married!" the non-mustachio'd fella says "See? I told you he was a brave man!" Subtle. I know, I know, I'm just a sexist pig. Reminds me! I haven't even had breakfast yet!
Curly's honeymoon period with his new job begins in proper at about 4:18, making machine gun-ish noises with his pistol. Curly quickly proposes to Nell. The somber Nell will marry Curly on one condition: he brings Blackie to justice and gets her father back. It's love at first sight. Curly gobbles like a turkey YET AGAIN in McIntyre's presence at about 4:32. Well, she's worth it, what can be said?
Curly plays the alpha-Stooge and calls Moe and Larry over. They come out of hiding and quickly accept their new deputy badges. The grim Nell points out that law enforcement officials don't last long in the town of Dead Man's Gulch. This slowly sinks in, and Larry expresses extreme concern at about 4:59, which is surely his highlight in this picture. Moe and Larry, ever the practical ones, decide to split, but Curly stands his ground in the name of love. Moe wins the argument with a slap and a blow to Curly's tummy, and Curly gets pulled along, leaving Nell alone as the scene fades out. Why, she looks like an angel as the darkness consumes the frame!
Next scene: as often happens, time for training. Brando did it in One-Eyed Jacks, Robocop did it in Robocop (1987), and now Curly's doing it here. First up: shooting practice. Curly, a bit overdressed for the occasion, thinks he needs his glasses. As you can currently tell from the message board, this complication leads to some laughs. Then, they each take their positions. Moe's got two balloons, Larry's holding up a cracker, and Curly's holding up the gun. Curly's got his glasses and aims for the cracker. He shoots. One of Moe's balloons deflates. Not bad! Curly must've just grazed the balloon, because it slowly and humorously loses its air. Either that, or Moe let the air out himself. Sorry, SPOILER ALERT. Curly n'yuk n'yuks at about 5:57. I'll be damned if he doesn't remind me of John Lennon. No one says a word, but Moe's reaction to the balloon says it all. Silence is the order of the day as Curly aims for his second shot, in the general direction toward Moe's other balloon. As you might have guessed, the cracker positively explodes in Lawrence's immobilized fingers. He didn't squeeze the cracker; they actually sprung for some explosives! They couldn't afford to pop a hole out of the cracker, I suppose. Curly laughs at his second triumph, then n'yuk n'yuks again at exactly 6:09.
Time for practice of a different kind. As the room grows larger, we see that there's a giant Blackie-sized mannequin in the room. The Stooges go over to it. The mannequin turns out to have ropes attached to its arms and legs. Moe and Larry are on puppet detail, while Curly pretends it's the real Blackie. Think Principal Skinner going to town on that dummy that was supposed to be his mother. Or Curly going to town on the cop mannequin in A Plumbing we Will Go. Oops! SPOILER ALERT. Sheriff Curly eventually reigns triumphant over the Blackie dummy, but Moe realizes that, to win this fight, they need something more: a long-range weapon. They leave Curly alone, as they so often do. We see Larry pouring powder into a pipe that Moe's holding. Hmm! Looks like they're making a ... nope, better not use the phrase. That's how I lost my last job.
Meanwhile, yup... you guessed it. In walks Blackie on the training session. Inner sanctum invaded! The nerve!!! And he's brought one of his goons with him! He gestures to the goon to step over to the side. And then, Blackie puts on his mask and stands right behind Curly. Blackie may seem awful stupid, but he picks things up fast! And then, Curly goes to work on Blackie pretending to be the dummy. Confused yet? Curly pulls out one of Blackie's beard hairs, pulls off his mask, and starts turkey gobbling in fear, backing up to a big stack of hay bales. Blackie, all-too accepting of the premise that Curly's now the sheriff, makes the mistake of telling Sheriff Curly that he's going to count to ten before shooting. This gives ample time for Larry to save Curly's bacon, even though they keep kosher. But before that happens, they test out Moe's super weapon. It doesn't go so well... sorry, here's the right spot.
Next scene: the Blacksmith shop. Man, they must've been short on free locations that week. Blackie's made a quick recovery from his head injury, and is back to pester poor ol' Nell some more. Nell relents, saying she'll marry Blackie tomorrow. Blackie says "Nope, it's gotta be today. There's too many things going on 'round here that aren't to my liking," clutching the tender spot on his skull in agony to prove the point. Lol. A meta-laugh. And off the half-happy couple go. Blackie laughs a bit like Tex Avery at about 8:10 or so.
Blackie and Nell head immediately over to the offices of the Justice of the Peace. I didn't know they had office space for them back then! To stretch this pic's time out to sixteen minutes, the Justice isn't in the office right now, so Blackie sends the kid what told him that to go fetch him. The Stooges are outside, viewing all these plot develpoments in secret, but put two and two together right quick somehow. As usual, time for good ol' reliable Victor Travers to fill the part of Justice of the Peace, just like he did in Oily to Bed, Oily to Rise. The Stooges subdue Travers, relieve him of his wig, and Curly dons the wig and takes the judge's place. Clever, clever! A Trojan Stooge!
Meanwhile, another of Blackie's stooges shows up: a fella named ... Quirt? Sounds like a bubble in a bathtub. He's played by actor Blackie Whiteford. I get the strange feeling that that's not his real name, but no one's bothered to find out what it is. Maybe Ephraim Katz has done the research. I remember Whiteford best as that pushy sheriff that tries that cactus remedy in that one episode a few episodes back. Anyway, Curly enters at about 0:37, doing an impeccable impression of Victor Travers. Curly thinks he has to show Nell that it's actually him and not a real Justice of the Peace, and he does at 0:47. She shrieks in response, and frankly I don't blame her one bit. Hopefully, she's reconsidering her vow to Curly. Curly tries to stall, but goes through the motions nonetheless. He says "The book... oh, yes the book" at about 0:56. Great delivery. Curly asks for the ring. Curly is so impressed with it, that he puts it on his own pinky. Blackie doesn't like this, but still doesn't suspect the veracity of the "Justice." He grabs for the ring much like he did with Curly's gun earlier: a little drunkenly. As the tug of war goes on for the ring on Curly's finger, Curly's wig comes loose from its shabby moorings. One of Blackie's goons figures it out and tries to show Blackie that the Justice is a wolf in shabby clothing. Curly still tries to pitch woo with Nell as the dude dangles the wig over Curly's head. What a sight. Blackie figures it out and lets out a Mitt Romney-esque laugh. And then, at about 1:34... Don Knotts is born. I mean, Blackie totally loses it. Curly manages to escape, knocking down Blackie's goons in the process. "Get 'im, boys! Get 'im!," Blackie says over and over again, thinking the director already yelled cut.
Next scene: the barn, where Curly's running at his new top speed. Bad time for a pivot foot, but pivot he does ne'theless at about 1:43. Oh, there's more action to come in the third Act, folks, believe me. Curly again has to hide in loose hay.
Back to Blackie and Nell. Blackie decides that they need to go to his hideout at Skullbone Pass to get married, away from all this needless excitement. Nell's either very passive aggressive or a really good negotiator, or Blackie's just an ol' softie when it comes to dames, because he agrees with Nell's demands. She'll meet him there at sundown. After all, Blackie's got all the cards, and Nell's dad as a captive prisoner at that. Blackie exits. Meanwhile, Blackie's goons enter the barn, looking for Curly. We get a shot of Curly's head at about 2:23. The one goon starts sifting through the hay with a pitchfork. Finding nothing, he quickly gives up and throws the pitchfork away. It of course lands in the comical part of Curly's ass. Curly can't help but make a noise. The bad guys think it was a dog, so Curly doubles down, yapping like a dog some more. Teachable moment here, kids: sometimes less is more. The goons aren't a bit daft like their fearless leader, and quickly locate the yapping Curly, despite his protestations at about 2:46. To stretch things out some more, the goons stick to the premise that Blackie wants to shoot Curly himself, so the two just tie him up instead. In keeping with the dog theme, the goons cruelly put a giant human-sized dog collar on Curly. Curly makes a noise I never heard him make before at about 3:02. I'm disgusted and attracted simultaneously. I can't explain, or believe, it. But I better proceed with the rest of this review all the same. The bad guys leave, and one of them says "We'll see you later, Rover!" Curly starts barking in earnest now. Now he's pissed, and frankly you should be too.
Where were they when he needed them? Moe and Larry enter from Stage Left. They end up moving Stage Right after coming round the hay bales when they come. Hoh boy... time for another time stretcher. For you and me, getting a giant human neck-sized dog collar off somebody is probably a simple affair, but the Stooges are working on a shoestring of a budget and have to make it complicated. First up: chisel and hammer. Moe starts banging away at the collar, unsuccessfully of course. First he hits Larry's hand, then he hits Curly in the head. Curly just as instantly says "I don't think that'll woik!" Lol. Second up: the crowbar. Oh no... he's not going to do like Cactus Makes Perfect, is he? Yes, he is! Let Curly's agony continue unabated! ...sadly, it doesn't last as long. Curly spies a box of dynamite and finds that to be a better option at this point. Moe gladly abides. So now Curly's got a lit stick of dynamite next to his head. That's my Christmas card this year, that's all there is to it. Just gotta think of a suitable caption now; two of them: one for my liberal friends, one for my Tea Party friends.
Fortunately for the Moral Fabric of the Universe, which I think is what they were trying to recreate in 2008's Wanted, the casual use of dynamite doesn't go condoned here. The fuse goes out (it never does that in cartoons, does it?) and Curly throws it out the window, where it loudly explodes. The whole barn shakes, and the Stooges try in vain to regain their balance. How to get Curly's collar off? Larry picks up a saw and says "Hey! Why don'tcha SAW it off?" Great delivery. Curly takes the collar off so they can start sawing it... Roger Rabbit, anyone? No time for physical abuse, though. They've stretched time too much already, and now they've got to catch up to the plot. But first, Moe grabs his "secret weapon," which is either the world's worst bazooka or a really lame pipe bomb. Or maybe it's a crude version of that pipe bomb they had at the beginning of Saving Private Ryan. There's probably a technical term for what that was. Moe quickly lays down the exposition of the rest of the film at 4:30, and they're off to save Pournelle... I mean, poor Nell. As with the subduing of the Justice of the Peace, we get another quick edit when the boys run into the barn with saddles, we hear the neighing and winnying of horses, and after the edit we see the Stooges on a three-seat tandem, pedaling away to Skullbone Pass. See? I TOLD you there'd be more action to come!
Next scene: Skullbone Pass. You can tell from the sign. Blackie finds the Skullbone Pass Justice of the Peace. He works part time now, but he'll suffice. Ride the High Country strangely comes to mind. Blackie says "She's got 'til sundown!" then looks outside at the sun. It's a cartoon sun, and it dips below the horizon, then back up. Don Knotts is born again at 5:10.
Cross-wipe to next scene: the adrenaline gets flowing in earnest now as we see the Stooges pedaling away across terrain soon to be overused in a thousand TV Westerns. Back to Blackie, who fires a shot to make an announcement. Drinks on the house! How he plans to pay for that, I don't know. The small assembled group of cowboys and prostitutes rushes the bar to partake. Enter sweet, innocent Nell. Blackie positively beams with pride in saying "Here she is! The future Mrs. Blackie! Ain't she purdy?" Back to the Stooges for a short burst, riding around a corner about to be rounded in countless future TV Westerns. Back to the bittersweet reunion of Nell and Blackie, where Blackie has to fend off the perceived advances of the filthy rotund bartender. Blackie sends him for the wedding cake. Oh boy! You know what always happens to cakes in a Stooge film! Tis rare to have a wedding cake in a Western, Stooge or otherwise. Blackie's goons try to warn him, but Blackie's still got matrimony with a capital M on his mind. Back to the Stooges on their bike. They're well overdue to fall off it... whew! Thank goodness. The Stooges see the cartoon sun going down, making a slide whistle sound. Then, there's a brief awkward silence when the sun stops; God bless 'em for that. The Stooges continue riding.
Back to the saloon wedding, where Blackie threatens the Justice of the Peace for taking too long. Back to the Stooges riding, riding, RIDING!!! Then, Moe runs afoul of a low-hanging tree branch at 6:26. They had to dub in his lines later. Back to the wedding, where the preacher asks for the ring. Blackie doesn't have it, so he helps himself to the ring of one of the bridesmaids. The preacher starts to take the ring for himself. What is the deal? Did that happen a lot way back when or something? Blackie gets mad. Next scene: the Stooges finally arrive in busy downtown Skullbone Pass, park their bike, and prepare for some big time ass-whooping. Nell gets cold feet at the moment of truth, so Blackie orders his goons to fetch her pappy. Glass breaks, and Curly yells "Stop in the name of the law!" Something strangely comforting about that, even coming from Curly. Bullets begin to hail. The Stooges seem very, very outgunned. They ready their secret weapon. Moe says "Give 'em the woiks!" The weapon gloriously malfunctions at about 6:59, and Moe gets hit by a spring. Reminds me of a sound effect in Loose Loot... no time to link to it, unless by popular demand. And then... BOOM! At 7:05, down goes Wedding Cake.
Next scene: the powder shack, where so many cartoons have their big finale. Knighty Knight Bugs, the one where Sylvester makes a remote control plane with machine gun, what have you. The Stooges run behind it, and Blackie and his goons follow. For some reason, Blackie, his goons, and the bartender quickly go inside and politely shut the door behind them. I guess they're just idiots. The Stooges appear around the side of it; I can't tell if there was an edit or not on the tiny YouTube screen. There probably was. The Stooges then run to take position and start loading the secret weapon... wasn't it loaded before? Did all the contents fall out when Moe held it upside down? No time for such rational questions, we gotta wrap this puppy up. Larry puts a ... you know, when seven sticks of dynamite are all taped together. Like they have in the cartoons. A septet? The sticks are lit and loaded into the secret weapon. The bad guys emerge from the powder shack, and start shooting. The Stooges haven't prepared for that, and Moe in desperation just throws the secret weapon as hard as he can. When it hits the ground, it fires, seemingly away from the powder shack, but nevertheless, in the next scene we see the bad guys running back into the powder shack, followed by a slow-speed fireball. Up in smoke goes the whole powder shack.
Nell goes to examine the wreckage. To save time, Nell's father is in the powder shack rubble. Nell tells father that Curly's the man she promised to marry. As with Our Wife, the father doesn't like the idea. It probably didn't help when Curly said "Hello poppy ol' pappy ol' kid!" In fact, the father says "Why, I'd rather be dead!" Curly helps out by lighting a stick of dynamite and giving it to Nell's father. You'd think that the father would change his mind, seeing that Curly's at least trying to be helpful, but no. The father takes a few steps, and hangs on to the stick. Finally! Some classy drama in these proceedings. The ending's a little weak, but I'm still a sucker for these Stooge flicks strongly rooted in recognizable drama archetypes, such as the Western.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan