Friday, December 28, 2012
The Knucklehead Jungle, or Duke York as 'Machete Kills Again'
Opening shot: Don't laugh. It ate up the whole film's budget! We get a nice shot of the inside of a police car, and a rapid dolly back to show the whole car. Surely this was taken from some other Columbia pic? Then again, they seem to wait long enough for the audio coming over the speaker: an APB about three criminals on the loose. I still have my doubts, which are reaffirmed in the next few shots: stock footage of police cars on the prowl. Stock footage, and more stock footage! And then... back to the car marked "P.D." from before. The driver gets out and goes Stage Right, so to speak. Next scene: he walks past an extra-large trash can. The trash can moves. The guy turns and looks........... holy cow! It's Cy Schindell, the Guy who Turns and Looks! He does his thing at 1:11. Fortunately for us, the Stooges aren't very good at hiding... or are they? I wonder how long it really took to get them out of that giant can, then untangle them from the tripartite human pretzel they became. Larry lets out a nice low-pitched scream when his foot gets bitten.
Next scene: the police station. The boys spy a pigeon resting on a stool... get it? And so, the Zuckers and Abrahams were born. Vernon Dent plays the very very bad cop this time, even tougher than the detective from Six Pants. The Stooges pulling an (armored?) car robbery? They couldn't pull a muscle! I know, I know, but contortions aside, they're the prime suspects. There's three of 'em, after all! Will this change the Stooges' street cred as we know it? Dent orders Larry to sit down. He confuses an ordinary chair with an electric chair. Street Cred restored. Dent tells them it's a lie detector. All three of the Stooges strongly object. Street cred back in jeopardy? Larry goes first. For me, it's hard to top the time Moe Syzslak took the lie detector test, but the Stooges at least get credit for pioneering lie detector jokes technology. Fate thrusts Shemp into the hot seat... rather, Moe stepping on Shemp's foot. Shemp fails to pass Moe's question about taking a quarter out of his shoe. Lol. A lot of money back then! Dent ends up failing the lie detector test, and breaks the machine! The lie detector makes a noise that usually only happens in WB cartoons. Is Cannery Row stealing WB's sound effects? Probably. The machine's now broken, and Shemp isn't helping it recover, either... hmm! The technician's fooling with knobs as the pen moves. Is HE just moving the pen? Cannery Row. Very interesting, but also shtupid. The Stooges run out of the police station. You know, as anyone would, and can. Fade to black.
Fade in on the sign of the Elite Café (pronounced "e-light," according to Shemp). This is rare in a Stooge short: there's so much story to get to, they don't even cross-fade from the sign to the next scene! As it turns out, they don't actually work there, but the owner and proprietor, the lovely Christine McIntyre, said they do. She'll live to regret that. As she explains to the Stooges, she's in kind of a jam herself, as she can't make a go of the restaurant business. Case in point: she says "Most of my customers sign their checks instead of paying!" Those were the days. To keep this from turning into a straight drama, the Stooges go over these checks, and discover that... it's all their checks!!! And even though Moe's as guilty as the other two, he doles out slaps to others instead of slapping himself in the face. Surely the Farrellys did that in their little movie: a self-slapping Stooge? Oh, and going over the checks helps to stretch out the time a little bit. Just a little bit. Moe sends Miss Harmon off to the store, and the Stooges begin the long, slow process of getting that café shut down for good.
First customer: it's the guy who was the Stooges staff sergeant once... Blystone, I believe his name is. Stanley Blystone, I presume! He asks for the short ribs, but Larry insists the guy try chicken soup. Blystone grabs Larry by the scruff and reiterates, with great emphasis, "SHORT RIBS!" Guess I'm killing time, too! I only mention it because Larry responds with a choked-up "Short ribs!" I dig that sort of thing. I guess I'm just a Sadist that way. Reminds me of that "Sweet roll" bit on The Electric Company. What a bitch! Anyway, Larry places an order for chicken soup, customer be damned. Larry sticks his tongue out at Blystone. Soon after, Larry gets hit in the head with a breakaway dish. Back to Shemp, who wastes time showing us how NOT to make chicken soup. A chicken is not a tea bag!!!!!!!!! The boiling hot soup ends up on... where else? Moe's back! The Stooges are still stuck in the Depression Era when it comes to running a café. Moe seeks revenge for his scalded back. Meanwhile, Shemp's on to fried eggs. He uses scissors to cut the eggs open. I just thought I'd mention that. Shemp also steals Curly's gas-powered oven routine, the doity rat.
Well, Shemp must be doing something right, because the eggs are perfectly formed when they end up on Moe's face! And on top of that, the yokes pop right on out, almost as if on cue! Does Moe appreciate the effort and craftsmanship that went into the eggs? Of course not! What does he know from cooking? Meanwhile, Larry's in the main dining area working on the big menu sign. As you can see, short ribs is at the top, and crossed out. LOL! But Larry's hard work is about to get interrupted by those two Howard boys a-fightin'. Moe's out of ammo at this point, having damn near beaned Shemp with a cup in the kitchen. Moe grabs a rag and throws it at Shemp. Shemp ducks, but someone does get hit with it... why, it's Officer Vernon Dent! Reminds me of that one crash in the movie '10'... oh, surely YouTube doesn't have that? I better check, just in case..........
....ah, skip it. Back to the Stooges. They're trying to placate an angry Dent with some café food, but the menu's apparently limited to what the Stooges have made so far: chicken soup. Not good. Moe saves the day by bringing over a "cup of hot Java." Vernon has calmed down and gets the plot rolling again. He shows the boys a picture of another suspect. Moe says "Hey! That's one of the guys that was in on the car robbery!" Shemp concurs, saying "Yeah! I'd know him anywhere." We'll have to leave that aside for now, as Dent sure does. All he says is "I thought this was a Lefty Loomis job." Ironic now that it's Loomis Fargo Armored Trucks. Maybe that's what they were parodying. We close the scene with the old switcheroo gag. See, Larry's painting the sign, and using a coffee cup to hold the paint and............. Fade to black.
Fade in on an alarm clock in the kitchen. It's lunchtime, and Shemp wants to go out to eat. Moe's having none of that, of course. Meanwhile, a new plot wrinkle: McIntyre comes into the kitchen holding a letter, and she's positively beaming! It seems to be good news. She says that someone wants to buy her estate for $1,000. She can finally pay off her bills! She leaves the kitchen so the Stooges can talk smack about her behind her back. Moe asks "Do you think she's getting gypped?" Oh, I'm just glad Andrea Dworkin didn't see that part. The point is, this deal sounds a little fishy. They're going to investigate... but not on an empty stomach. Speaking of fishy, Moe helps himself to a fresh clam. Traif! Traif!!!!
Moe goes to join his two Apostles at their proverbial Last Supper. Moe must be the Christ figure because he gets to sit in the middle of the table. Anyway, he's about to get crucified by a particularly grabby clam. And so, not only is it time to kill more time, but it's time to kill time Dutiful but Dumb style! Why, Moe even makes noises and slaps his face like Curly! How are they going to solve the mystery of the mystery house buyer if they can't even get to the bottom of the Case of the Disappearing Crackers? ...Never mind, he figured it out. Good Lord! More channeling of Curly. That was a good one. Eventually, the clam ends up on Moe's nose. Does Moe show gratitude when Lawrence and Sheffield remove it? Of course not! Just the ol' double wham to the gut, then to the forehead. Fade to black.
It's a little premature, but it has the heft of a serious Act Break. Fade in on the McIntyre estate spoken of before... I'm sorry, Harmon. Anyway, the bad guys are reading the newspaper. Only in a Stooge film will the Stooges make the front page. The gaunt Frank Lackteen, Dent's assistant from A Bird in the Head, plays an even badder guy here as one of Loomis' gang. Time to get rid of those Stooge boys. Loomis poses the same existential dilemma that Moe posed in Six Pants: "They're not going to just walk right up to us, are they?"
Next scene: the Stooges walk up to the door, with poor McIntyre in tow. Lackteen and... I should probably point him out by name at some point. Diminutive leading man and new perennial Stooge heavy Kenneth MacDonald is Lefty Loomis, the leader of this tiny gang. They hear the Stooges plain as day, and prepare for an ambush. McIntyre's got a key, but it won't open the front door, so a mini-quest to open the front door begins. See also: Laurel and Hardy in Night Owls. Meanwhile, there's a teeny peephole in the wall facing the front porch where a window might normally be. Lackteen's got a rifle, looks through the hole and says "It's them!" MacDonald gently orders "Let 'em have it." Lackteen sticks the rifle through the hole. It ends up near Shemp's head. He turns around and reacts in shock at first. Then he says "Oh! A piece of pipe!" He tries to pull it all the way out of the peephole, but Lackteen pulls back, and a tug of war begins. Shemp loses and cries to Moe about it like the big baby he is. What a sore loser. Moe goes over to heap verbal and physical abuse upon Shemp. While this happens, McIntyre is standing near the front door, and a sinister hand grabs her and pulls her inside. Moe and Shemp are still going at it, of course. Moe says "You had a... hallucination!" He has a little trouble delivering the line, but it's good enough for the director. Shemp responds, "No! I had a hunk of pipe!" Moe slaps Shemp on the forehead, then grabs him by the hair and drags him over to the front door. That's one great thing about Shemp: you can grab him by the hair. Curly, not so much. They finally notice that Gladys (McIntyre) is gone. Meanwhile, Larry emerges from inside the house with a crowbar, asking Shemp and Moe "Hey fellas! You think this will open it?" Larry sets himself up all too well for a beating.
Next scene: inside the proverbial lion's den that is the McIntyre house... estate, rather. The crooks have to come up with a new plan to kill McIntyre and her three Stooges. They don't want to get blood all over the inside of the house, I guess. Still, they're going to use brute force, and his name is Angel.
Introduction of Angel: apparently the idea of showing the shadow of someone first is credited to Michael Curtiz. I learned that from Joe Dante and the commentary on Gremlin Stew... I mean, Gremlins 2. We get that here! Well, even Stooge short directors like to do things differently. I kinda like how MacDonald tells Angel, "Strangers in the house!" Maybe it's just me. Angel's got a giant machete and goes to use it on the intruders. This'll eat up some time, as Angel suffers near miss upon near miss, setback upon setback, in achieving his implied goal.
First up: McIntyre... I mean, Gladys... it's not enough that she's tied up and gagged. Now Angel's gotta machete her, too! Fortunately, the voice of Moe spares her for a while. Not often that that happens. Shemp gets scared by a body with a sheet over it. This leads to a good gag. Shemp tries to speak to Moe in code: "Washington is gone!!!" Alas, Moe doesn't turn around to look, so Shemp gets dragged into the next scene, hair first.
Next scene: Angel meets up with the Stooges, but has to wait for the perfect moment to use the machete. Shemp gets to do yet another variation on the old "What're you growling at?" routine. Angel has to be careful with the machete; that's a real one! Shemp runs into a room and starts to barricade it, which will inevitably lead to him un-barricading it for Moe and Larry, and letting in Angel after Moe and Larry get scared and run off.
Next scene: the violence / comedy ante is upped... albeit slightly. Shemp ducks behind a covered cabinet with a mannequin head on it. This mannequin head serves as Shemp's proxy head. Angel hits the mannequin head with his machete, and Shemp briefly confuses it with his own head. What a maroon. Well, to be fair, anybody'd cast about in a moment of stress. Shemp manages to find another way out of that room.
Meanwhile, just Moe and Larry emerge into the hallway. It works better with three Stooges, dontcha think? They see Shemp, they all get scared, and part ways again. Moe and Larry end up in the Angel room themselves, locking the door behind them without seeing Angel, of course. Realizing it was Shemp in the hall, they try to leave, but Angel grabs them with his giant hands. "Let go of my shoulder! I want to get Shemp!" Moe tells Larry. Moe and Larry eventually leave Angel holding their coats.
Next scene: the hallway, where Moe and Larry run out one door and back through the Angel room, with Angel close behind. Next scene after that: a new set. Thank God! That must've been a busy weekend of shooting! Moe and Larry run through a doorway fraught with dramatic tension like two Girly Men. Angel follows, but stops at the threshold. The camera pans up, Citizen Kane style, and we see Shemp holding a giant barrel. He drops it on Angel and... WHAM! Angel has been neutralized, for the purposes of this film.
Next scene: Moe and Lawrence find themselves back in the same hallway, but this time they run afoul of Loomis and Lackteen. Another chase ensues, with Loomis and Lackteen firing guns now! They either missed, or hit the Stooges in their soft buttocks, the only area of the body where someone can get safely shot and suffer a comedy wound. Back to Shemp's trap, where one of the bad guys gets the patented barrel treatment. I can't tell if it's Loomis or Lackteen from the grainy YouTube video, but it looks like stuntmen have taken their places. The third bad guy eventually gets the barrel treatment, and we see a shot of McIntyre looking scared. Some part SHE's got in this picture!!!!!... damn. YouTube doesn't have everything after all. Better upload something myself.
Even though the bad guys are trapped in their barrels, one has managed to find a hole in the barrel and is shooting out of it. Meanwhile, we see Moe and Larry. They run into each other in the hallway and fall down. All the running they've been doing, they must be plum tuckered out! Back to the Barrel Boys who, like proverbial lemmings, follow each other into either a dumbwaiter shaft, or one of those doors on the second floor that leads directly to outside, like Buster's house in One Week, because with a mighty crash, the non-Stooge threesome ends up on the ground outside, in a giant pile of broken barrel pieces. McIntyre smiles with the joy of triumph. A trio of cops quickly takes care of the three crooks.
Moe and Larry, trapped in an endless loop, much like Keanu Reeves at the beginning of Matrix 3, end up in Shemp's barrel spot. Shemp's got one more barrel in him, and he lets Moe and Larry have it, but instantly regrets it. No reprisal for Shemp this time apparently, partly because time has run out, partly because... well, mainly because time has run out. Poor, poor direction. Moe slaps the nearest thing to him, and that's a flour-covered Larry.
So, the question is, is this one of the great ones? The answer: nah.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan