Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Still phony after all these years

Oh, right.  Time for this week's Stooge flick.  Well, I should probably recuse myself, as I'm not as big a fan of Micro-Phonies as everyone else seems to be, but maybe I'm overdue for a conversion on the road to Damascus-head.  I will say that it offers Christine McIntyre her meatiest, most autobiographical role in a Stooge film to date.  That's apparently courtesy of director Edward Bernds.  Jules White would have her take a pie in the face or some other untidy slapstick.


All is not well at Radio KGBY.  A blind man can see that.  That the Stooges work there as repairmen is mere icing on this cake of doom.  We hear Larry and Curly grunting away as they work.  If I'm not mistaken, the audio gets repeated once... sigh.  It starts at 0:23, and repeats at 0:28.  Whoever did the editing timed it just right!  Good work.  We get a close-up of just Moe scolding the other two... dang!  He's lookin' older.  Moe lifts Larry up by his hair, and Larry and Curly switch positions.  Now, either Moe's the brain of the three, or Larry and Curly have nothing better to do... probably a little of both.  Moe gets a wrench dropped on his foot and starts hopping around.  Before Larry and Curly get a chance to do some dancing of their own, Moe slips on a piece of pipe, flies through the air, and lands back-of-the-head first into a radiator.  Meanwhile, actress / classically trained singer Christine McIntyre starts singing Strauss's Frühlingsstimmen (Voices of Spring).  Thanks for the assist, IMDb.  I knew you'd know it!  Moe thinks he's dead and says "Hey boys!  I must be dead!  I hear an angel singing!"  He should be so lucky.  The song helps stretch out the running time of the pic.  Moe pretends to play the flute, Larry the piano.  Curly says "My!  N'yuk n'yuk n'yuk.  Ain't she pretty!"  Moe says "Boy, you can say that again."  Curly does.  Moe slaps Curly, but protests to remind people of the joke.
The song ends, and the boys applaud.  Hopefully the glass separating them from the recording studio was sound-proof enough.  The boys revel in the joy of song and/or McIntyre (mostly McIntyre, probably) til the boss, Fred Kelsey, shows up.  I'm reminded of the boss in the Looney Tunes cartoon Tick Tock Tuckered.  I do like the part where Kelsey says "Not one eeny itty bitty good... YOU JUGHEADS!!!"  Meanwhile, for McIntyre, the performance ends and the nasty business side of showbiz begins.  Stooge heavy Lynton Brent is a heavy of a different stripe here: an agent!  Yecch!  And then... the plot thickens.  McIntyre explains that she's singing under an alias: Alice Andrews.  Kinda like Soderbergh's cameraman alias Peter Andrews, huh?  See, McIntyre's father doesn't want her to be a radio singer.  Incidentally, her family name is Van Doren.  They'll just have to wait for television to drag that name through the mud.  In her roundabout way that gives the appearance of bootstrapping American exceptionalism, McIntyre wants to get a job singing for Mrs. Bixby, a character yet to be portrayed by the terrific Symona Boniface, the Margaret Dumont of the Stooges, but more Sephardic.
Meanwhile, back to the Stooges.  Their feelings for Christine McIntyre long forgotten in the drudgeries of their work on the radio station's pipes... easy... they spot a chick walking down the hall.  Having no steak at home, Larry and Curly turn to get a good look at this bit of hamburger, hitting Moe about the face with steel pipe in the process.  The girl doesn't quicken her pace, nor slow it down, nor stop to help Moe in his latest time of distress.  No, the Stooges will have to handle this by themselves, the only way they know how.  Moe hits Larry and Curly with a wrench.  Unfortunately, the real world steps in to intervene in the form of their boss Kelsey.  Can I confess that I like the way Larry says "Hey, what's the idea?"  There's something sweet about how he mangles the word 'idea.'  Must be an East Coast thing.
Now how can I call myself a Stooge fan and not know what that gesture's called?  At 3:32, Curly uses the back-and-forth hand gesture and, in what must be the first time, he gets a sound assist to go along with it, so the hand gesture sounds like one of those party favor thingies that spins one way, making a racket while it does.  To end the gesture, Curly displays the back of his head to Moe in what is apparently supposed to be an offensive manner, but Moe's too furious to be stunned by it and offers the wrench to the back of Curly's head instead.  Kelsey intervenes, and Larry and Curly pick their steel pipes up off the ground as quickly as possible.  They end up hitting Kelsey on the head, and decide to hit the road instead.  Hmm!  Do the pipes sound the same the second time they hit the floor?  3:21, 3:45, you decide.  As for me, I should probably get to bed.
A little bit more.  Occasionally, the boys get a big enough of a head start when they're running away from one of their many pursuers, but not this time.  Kelsey follows the boys right into the nearest recording studio where they sabotage the recording session of angry Italian Gino Corrado.  You might remember him from An Ache in Every Stake like I do.  It'll give me an excuse to watch Casablanca and Citizen Kane again to look for him as a waiter.  As for this film, the Stooges raise about as much hell as they can in a small space.  Curly dives under the piano, Larry behind it, while Moe bravely tries to hide behind Corrado as Kelsey pursues him with the giant oversized wrench.  Kelsey slugs Corrado with the wrench, and Corrado falls on the couch.  Curly meets his match in Heinie Conklin as Heinie barks back at Curly underneath the piano.  Kelsey proves he's as bad as the Stooges as he gets his head under the piano lid.  He kicks Curly lightly in the face under the piano, so Curly grabs Kelsey's leg and takes a bite out of it.  It looks like Kelsey seriously hurts his head at about 4:22.  I seriously hope that that's not the case.  Moe laughs, steps back, looks at Gino Corrado, points to Kelsey and says "Boy, right on the head!"  Corrado obliges and hits Moe on the head with his violin.  There's a nice twang sound at about 4:30.  Corrado now grabs a sword and goes after Moe.  Moe grabs a standing microphone... sigh.  Is there NOTHING that doesn't beat the sword these days?  Maybe a tub of pudding.  Damn, I must be hungry.  Corrado takes a mighty swing, misses, then takes a mighty fall.  He must've earned his stuntperson union card on this one.  The Stooges quickly file out of the room, run down the hall, and go into the nearest door.  Corrado's not as observant as Kelsey and he runs down the hall past the door the Stooges just went into.


It's a little early for the Second Act, but things are about to settle down now, or simmer down now if you're a hardcore SNL fan.  The Stooges look around this new room they've stumbled into.  Moe commandeers another standing mic, while Curly and Larry head over to the sound effects table.  Percussion equipment abound.  Larry heads right for the coconuts and makes a galloping horse sound.  Moe says "Quiet, numbskulls!  I'm broadcasting!"  And he does.  He starts off as a smarmy ad pitchman, then segues into a corny soap opera.  Larry starts playing an album, the one that McIntyre just cut.  It's Curly's turn now, as he heads over to another microphone and starts lip-syncing to the album.  Curly grabs a hat, and Moe grabs a towel to wrap around Curly's legs.  The muse strikes Larry as well.  Meanwhile, Symona Boniface FINALLY shows up at about 6:15 at the reception desk.  Back to the Stooges, where Curly's really dolled up now!  Good Lord.  Moe's found a flute, but can't remember where he's supposed to come in.  A wonderful mini-comedy of errors within the larger comedy.  Symona enters the studio and gets an eyeful of this travesty, and is swept off her feet nevertheless.  There must be an old rule about the fake being better than the real deal, even though this is surely the exception to the rule. 
Screenwriters pay attention to this part here.  As you might notice, the album has suddenly grown by a few extra piano notes at about the seven minute mark.  Bad editing on the part of the filmmakers perhaps, but screenwriters and filmmakers have had a long running feud in Hollywood about how to handle audio playback in films.  Since it's such a pain in the ass to get the original audio from all angles, conversations are often re-recorded.  I'll give you the latest greatest example off the top of my head.  In the original Robocop (1987)... SPOILER ALERT... Ronny Cox does the "talking killer" thing to Robocop, and Robocop records it.  Bear in mind, Robocop at the time was in the throes of Directive 4 and wasn't looking directly at Cox.  When Robocop plays it back at the end of the movie, however, we see Cox head on, and he reads the line quite differently.  That's probably artistic license on the part of the director or something.
Anyway, Larry mimes playing the piano quite badly.  The song ends and Symona runs over to lavish Curly with heaps of praise.  Curly makes a strange noise at about 7:19... at least, I hope that wasn't him.  I better start referring to Symona as her character Mrs. Bixby just on general principles.  Mrs. Bixby has brought contracts to be signed!  Moe protests by saying "Now, JUST A MINUTE, lady!"  This should send up red flags for Mrs. Bixby just in general, but she continues as if nothing happened, and she makes the mistake of mentioning money.  Some of you may part company with the Stooges at this point, but they're old school, and there's no deception they won't prolong if money's involved.  Frankly, I'm getting to that point myself.  And, as with most record contracts, Mrs. Bixby's holding a musical party that evening and wants Curly to sing at it.  Moe demurs, so Mrs. Bixby offers $500.  What's that old saw about a fool and his or her money?  But the boys are up to the challenge.  Moe hangs onto the record, and takes Curly shopping.  "You've gotta look nice at the party!"
Act 2.5 - Scene: Mrs. Bixby's house, wehre Moebert and Lawrence show up in tux and tails, with comedy gloves on their hands.  Curly makes a grand entrance in what I'm assuming is a Spanish dress.  That must be why everyone loves this Stooge short, the same reason Tootsie and Some Like It Hot are so beloved.  Trans-America, not as much.  I reiterate: why butler Ted Lorch never played Lincoln is beyond me.  Must be the raspy graveyard voice.  The boys make their way into the foyer where Mrs. Bixby's guests are socializing.  The boys are introduced, and awkward mingling begins.  We see that Christine McIntyre and her dad are at the party, and Christine starts to wonder where she's seen those three before.  Enter Gino Corrado.  The Stooges remember all too well where they've seen him before, and make a hasty exit Stage Right.  Corrado approaches Mrs. Bixby and profusely apologizes for being late.  His glasses are broken and he won't be able to play the fiddle, so he'll sing instead.  A double threat!  Meanwhile, the Stooges plant their album in the record player next to the piano.  How convenient!  McIntyre follows the Stooges' movements until they sit down and try to sabotage Corrado's performance.  Pardon My Scotch ring a bell?  Pardon the Stooges as they hurl cherries, as this is another one of those time-stretchers.  Moe's reasoning for this caloric assault on Corrado: Corrado's muscling in on their "territory."  Corrado's territory is a bit more solid than the Stooges' quicksand, of course, but it's a Stooge short, ultimately, so it's time to play by Marquis de Knuckleheads rules.  The cherries make a nice popping noise as they go into Corrado's mouth.  Curly laughs too heartily at all this.
With Corrado choking, the Stooges exit and go back to the record's hideout.  Curly tells Moe to be careful with the record.  Careful now!  Don't break it!...


With the record in tiny pieces, and no glue to be found, it's time for a backup plan.  Larry quickly leaps into action, and finds a whole cache of records.  He hands one to Moe: "Sextet from Lucy"... something like that.  Moe puts it on the record player, and Larry goes over to the drunk piano player, asking if he knows Sextet from Lucy.  The drunk piano player answers "Know it?  I wrote it!"  Worthy of Sondheim.  I must confess that as a child I didn't understand that part.  But that's what's so great about the Stooges.  They're for kids of all ages!
Moe bumps into Corrado, and Corrado gets a closer look at Moe.  You know, because of his busted glasses.  Moe brushes him off, saying "Oh!  Short eyeballs, eh?"  The ruse holds.  The Stooges stand in front of the piano and begin lip syncing to the Sextet record.  I just noticed Stooge regular Bess Flowers in the audience enjoying the performance!  Her hair's different.
The performance is going swimmingly.  Now, some of you out there might find this next thing to be a case of bad writing, and you're right.  Even the Stooges are only as good as their writing at times.  So, Corrado can't see without his glasses, but he's able to spot the record player.  Just in time too, as Moe gets into his big solo at about 4:57.  Curly is rightfully creeped out.  And so, Corrado pulls the plug on the record player, providing perhaps the biggest cringe-worthy moment in any Stooge film, as the boys painfully try to continue the song in the absence of the record as backup.  (insert your own Milli Vanilli reference here)  Is it just me, or does the record itself start to sound kinda crappy just before it's stopped?  At about 5:16, to be precise.
Corrado enjoys his success in the other room, while Moe looks down Curly's throat.  A fancy water spritzer is employed on Curly, much like was used by Ollie in Our Wife but not as wickedly.  Curly wants to leave, but Moe is against the idea.  I guess they didn't get their $500 yet or something.  They see Corrado, and Corrado gives the boys the ol' slit throat gesture at 5:58 with a nice tearing sound as accompaniment.  As head of the Stooge corporation, Moe makes an executive decision.  It's time to get out of there.  But before they make their escape, McIntyre intervenes to remind them about who gets hurt when such a grand deception is put on.  At the same time, McIntyre needs them to stay and continue the deception.  Curly helpfully points out that "My voice... I mean, your voice is broken!"  McIntyre takes this opportunity to show off.  Mrs. Bixby runs over and rather passive-aggressively demands that the show must go on.  Well, she is footing the bill, after all.
The Stooges and McIntyre get into place, and "Voices of Spring" lives on a second time.  Corrado looks over at the plug on the floor and wonders what's going on.  Moe finally gets his chance to play the flute at 7:42.  Somewhere in the world right now, Ian Anderson is shaking his head.  McIntyre similarly winces, or is she going to laugh?  Screenwriters take note yet again: McIntyre makes a sweeping gesture with her hand as she hits the high note, and hits Corrado on the side of the head in the process.  Corrado gets his revenge perfectly.  He fires a banana into Curly's mouth and exposes McIntyre to the guests just before the song finishes.


The assembled guests are just about to tar and feather the Stooges, but McIntyre intervenes on their behalf... sort of.  McIntyre explains to her dad something about wanting to be worthy of getting the singing job and not dragging the Van Doren name through the mud.  Apparently the East Coast opera circuit's not sexy enough.  But McIntyre wins her father's approval, and the Stooges run from the room, getting records thrown at them by everyone present.  There's probably a metaphor here about how the rich use the middle class, but frankly the Stooges get what they deserve.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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