Saturday, January 19, 2013

Nertsery Rhymes 1948

Long before Shrek and its various knock-offs like Hoodwinked!, the Stooges glommed onto the icons of old, trying to increase their own iconisticity as a result.  Well, their haircuts are pretty unforgettable, of course, but there is yet to be a national Stooge holiday.  Then again, there's no day off for Old King Cole, either!  Maybe the Stooges are just as good.  In any case, we've got the two of them together here in the next Stooge film called Fiddlers Three.  And by the way, all you haters out there: just because the last film also featured Vernon Dent and Philip Van Zandt, and was also filmed on the same set as The Bandit of Sherwood Forest, well, they're still totally different!  Totally!!!  Excuse me, I have something in my eye.


Back to the post-Curly version of the Stooges theme song.  And just like the last one we saw, Squareheads of the Round Table, we get incidental music during the opening description text, only not as official-sounding, but still quite regal and very very old-timey.  The description of "Coleslaw-vania" made me want to find this clip of Curly saying "where men are men are men are men..." and then Moe claps his hand over Curly's mouth.  Not so easy to find!  Even though the Stooges are all over the net, they're still not that reference-able.  They're not just text, after all!
Cross-fade to ye Royal Court, where Old King Cole's holding court with a bunch of snooty-snoots, but his fiddlers three are right there by his side.  And even though each Stooge has his own fiddle, Larry's the only one who actually knows how to play, so he's playing by himself.  They sing a variation on the iconic old poem, and the camera dollies in closer.  The guard has to move his spear out of the camera's way.  At the end of the song, Moe knocks Shemp and Larry on the head, but in tempo.  Now that's class.  Close-up of Vernon Dent laughing.  He's got a different beard this time compared to the last one, Squareheads... reminds me!  I better change the title of my post. 'Scuse me!... Okay, I'm back.  Ah, the Age of Blogs.  Who needs steel, indeed!
Anyway, Dent looks more like Santa Claus with that gnarly beard!  I don't think I've ever seen him play such a jolly character.  Surely he'll sour later on!  Amused by the Stooges' antics, he's reminded that it's time for the citizens of Coleslaw-vania to have their Daily Laugh.  Well, I hate federal over-reach as much as the next person, but it's still preferable to the Two-Minutes Hate any day.  And I have to admit, they don't kill time like this too often.  And so, we get a montage of people laughing.  If I had to pick a favourite, I think it's probably Moe; someone seems to be tickling his feet.  Shemp, on the other hand, is faking it.  Totally faking it.  The guard's laugh here has been digitally remastered for THX-quality clarity.  And look!  It's the guy who turns and looks as another guard!  Awesome.  This must've been one of his last Stooge flicks.
And so, it's a portrait of a happy kingdom, much like the beginning of Akira Kurosawa's Ran... based on Shakespeare's King Lear, but I've never seen the beginning of that.  The implication being that this happy, ordered kingdom will all too quickly turn sad and chaotic.  But who will light the fuse of this powder keg?  As it turns out, the Stooges in general, and Shemp in particular, for it is he who suggests that they ask Coley-ol' boy for a favour "now that he's in a good mood."  See?  This is how it begins.  The favor, as it turns out, is that the Stooges want to marry their sweethearts before they're "given the gate."  This in itself is not a problem, and Old King Cole gives the boys permission... but only after Princess Alicia has wed Prince Gallant the Third of Rhododendron.  Oh great!  Now it's The Taming of the Shrew!  Cut to the Black Prince from the last one, who here plays Murgatroyd the evil Royal Alchemist, or something.  When he hears of the wedding of Alicia, he gets pissed off, and he hatches a plot similar to the one of the last film.  Unfortunately, he finds guards all too willing to help him out.  The Stooges, meanwhile, sing a song similar to this one in Dizzy Pilots.  Oh, Mergatroid can't marry her!  He's old enough to be her... her great great grandfather!  Heavens to Merlin, indeed!  Princess Alicia is granted permission to leave, and about two dozen people follow her.  Wotta dish.
And now, back to the stooges, who kill some time for the King with another song.  They do a slight study about how all these guys in the Mother Goose catalog seem to be named Jack.  Same thing goes for buddy cop and Steven Seagal movies.  Shemp acts out Jack and the candlestick.  I wonder if that was really Larry playing the music when Shemp gets his ass burned!  If so, cool!
Next one: Larry as Little Miss Muffet.  This may be worth the price of admission right here.  Betcha Moe can't top that!
...nope, didn't top it.  But they worked out the timing well between the song and the skit.  It also seems to be the longest...


"Capital, capital!" says King Cole.  I thought only Mr. Burns said that!  But then... the plot thickens.  Princess Alicia has been princess-napped!  Time to break the spell of the period piece.  "Phone the newspapers, call the FBI!" says Cole.  Slightly less merry is he, but it's yet another opportunity for the Stooges to stop acting like brainless idiots and start acting like heroes.  God bless the bad guys and the bad things they do, for there would be no heroes otherwise.
But to find the princess and maybe the bad guys what took her, a man must not go unprepared!  He will need tools and provisions!  The Stooges have a horse.  A horse named Sue.  Sue?  Si.  But Sue has no shoes!  Take THAT, Danny Kaye!  Then, the Stooges make a train out of there.  There's no whistle, but Larry does have a squeeze bottle of powder.  Hopefully that will cheer the dour King up a bit.
Cross-fade to the Smith's workshop, and it ain't Cedric this time.  There's wagon wheels everywhere!!  Make me crazy!  No, his name is Will Idge, and he's not there, but he left a nice note in cursive.  Moe takes charge of the Smith-less situation and orders Shemp to fire up the forge... gee, what could possibly go wrong?  Time to dip a limb into molten hot lava!  Before things turn violent, Shemp runs afoul of a talking bellows.... no, not going to do it.  I could link to a cartoon or two, but am trying to cut back.  Anyway, back to the Stooge film.  Shemp fills the bellows up with water.  They start using ye Olde English rather aggressively at this point.  This may be worth the price of adm... nah, I already said that.  Still, lol.  The second shot in the face did it for Moe.  "Giveth it to me.  Thou art a lamebrain!"  Lol.  And then, Larry has to go and be collateral damage.  The circle of violence wideneth.  Moe tries to spritz Larry a second time, but the bellows is empty... or so it would seem.  Larry starts to laugh.  Frustrated, Moe hits Larry in the head with the bellows.  Larry runs backward much farther than he should of, hits the wall, falls on his ass, and gets hit in the head with four horseshoes.  He'd probably rather go back to the bellows at this point.
Shemp's turn now.  He's in for a much worse fate.  Hotter, anyhow.  They take some hot horseshoes out of the fire and place them onto a stool.  They put one on an anvil and Moe asks Shemp to beat the shoe with a hammer.  Shemp refuses on ill-founded principles, as if he's a vegetarian being asked to eat meat.  Moe hits Shemp with the hammer instead of the horseshoe and Shemp steps backward, and ends up sitting on the stool of hot horseshoes.  Shemp be not nimble, but Shemp be in great pain.  Shemp be quick to sit in the barrel of water!  A mighty steam rises from said barrel, and Shemp gets a few seconds to soothe his burning ass.  Moe grabs Shemp by the nose with a mighty smith-sized wrench.
Time for the horse proper.  Larry's apparently awoken from his horseshoe-induced sleep, so he and Shemp get Sue the Horse to be shoe'd.  This must be the part that kills time.  Sure, it cast a spell for a while, but now I'm feeling the lack of budget and time.  Moe tells Shemp, "Lift the mule's foot and pass it to me!"  Great.  Now the horse is a mule!  We can see the horseshoe prints on Shemp's pants here.  No... he wouldn't.  Yes, he would.  I know I should find this part funny, but I don't.  And Shemp's screams are a little too convincing as well.  Of course, I didn't much care for the part in Laurel and Hardy's The Music Box when Ollie steps on the board with a nail in it, either.  I don't know why, for I've never had a terribly traumatic foot injury personally.  "Thou made me shoe the wrong mule!" says Moe to Shemp.  Of all the mistakes Moe's ever made, this is probably one of the worst.  Shemp even says "I think you didst that on purpose!"  To compound it, Moe does the "See that?" routine while holding a hammer.
Time to kill some more time.  This time, Moe actually goes over to the mule, and picks up the mule's foot himself.  While trying to pound a horseshoe in, Moe runs afoul of the mule's tail.  A rather strange camera angle with Moe in the foreground near the mule's hindquarters, and Larry in the background near the mule's head.  Moe comes up with an elegant solution: he ties the heavy hammer to the mule's tail.  Why not?  He's not using it or anything!  Moe'll never guess what happens............
Moe reminds me here of Jack Lemmon for some reason.  Dazed and confused, Moe wanders over towards Shemp.  Larry goes over to Moe.  It's at this point when the mule gives a mighty kick.  Two fake mule legs gently push Larry, which sends the three Stooge stunt doubles down to the first floor.  Apparently, it's a two-story Smith shop.  Go figure.  Must be embedded into a hillside.  It all happened so fast, I was slightly taken aback.  Or maybe I'm just tired.
The Stooges pick themselves up off the floor, dust themselves off, and decide to "get out of here."  They go to the first door they find, and... whoomp!  (There it is)  The princess bound and gagged, and four guards enjoying mugs of mead, laughing it up without royal decree.  Fortunately for the Stooges, none of the guards turns around and sees them standing in the doorway, gawking openly.
Moe gently closes the door and takes charge of the situation: the Princess must be saved!  Larry acts the Wet Blanket in Chief saying "They're heavily armed and they outnumber us!"  Shemp gets tough, saying "Let me at 'em!  LET ME AT 'EM!  I'll tear 'em apart!"  Something like that.  Moe calls his bluff: "What's stopping you?"  Shemp says "Me!"  Priceless.  Probably worth the price of ad... ah, skip it.  At least his foot's not hurting anymore!
Next scene: the King at his throne, being entertained by Muhrgatroide the Magnificent.  Why, he's got a monogrammed cape and everything!  Try not to think about the geography of this scenario too much; it might make your head hurt.  So Murgatroid's got an empty box in front of the King, and he's going to make the Princess appear.  I can't wait to see him pull this off.  But first, a warm-up act.  Mergatroyd makes a fetching young lady appear first.  For a second there, I thought it was Christine McIntyre, but according to the IMDb it's someone named Sherry O'Neil.  Yowsah!  The King certainly thinks so.  And she gets a second scene, no less!  They go and spoil the magic trick, showing the girl as she sneaks out of the box before getting sawed in half.  But who's going to scream?  Where's the showmanship?


Back to the Stooges, who are still thinking about what to do.  Shemp starts getting inspiration percolating to the front of his head.  Ah, the old "a terrific headache" gag.  Wonder where they came up with that phrase?  They go with Moe's plan instead.  I kind of admire the simplicity of it.  Moe and Larry, the most senior of the Stooges at this point, walk right up to the guards and make childish faces at them, saying "Nyaah nyaah!"  As opposed to Curly's "Naaaah-aah!"  Moe and Larry run off, and all the guards give chase.  Shemp cuts the princess loose and she runs off.  Shemp rubs his hands together in pride, then spies a mug of ale, and decides to quench his thirst.  A guard walks up to Shemp, but Shemp's too busy to care.  Besides, he has to take a drink to do a spit take!  The guard grabs Shemp by the hair.  The other guards return, holding Moe and Shemp by their hair as well.  They finally notice that the princess is gone, the idiots.
And Sherry O'Neil gets a THIRD scene!!!  Well, you gotta hand it to her: she's working harder on this than she probably thought she was going to.  Ain't show biz a bitch?
And so, the guards are going to take the Stooges to the dungeon... again with the dungeon.  But before that happens... Sherry O'Neil gets a FOURTH scene!  The guards forget about what they're doing and decide to follow Sherry instead.  Unaccompanied by guards, the Stooges take off.
Next scene: the ladder that Sherry O'Neil just climbed down.  Shemp gets his head stuck in it.  Lol.  This may be the highlight of the film, second only to Larry as Little Miss Muffet.  The three of them climb up the ladder and into Murgatroid's box.  Larry whispers "'Twas a narrow escape!"  I think they dubbed that in later.  The Stooges' microphones aren't that good.
I haven't given notes to future screenwriters lately, but here's the perfect opportunity.  If you've been keeping track, part of Mergatroyd's act is sawing the box in half.  Moe sets up the irony by saying "I think we're safe in this box."  Note to screenwriters: this kind of blatant irony's not popular today, so avoid it if possible.  Or, if you're doing a script for Michael Bay, make it more obvious than this.  And so, Moe runs afoul of Mehrgachroied's giant saw.  All Larry and Shemp can do is watch the saw as if they're watching a tennis match.  There's a metaphor for the sexes here someplace, and if I were better I could delineate it more clearly.  Something about the Sherry O'Neils of the world get spared such indignities that the Stooges go through.  But, Mother Goose doesn't cover this ground, so neither shall I.  I'm slightly tempted to find the link to this Tom and Jerry cartoon where the cat gets sawed in half, and then in the next scene he's got huge bandages wrapped around his torso.  Somehow that's worse than Itchy and Scratchy.
Now it's Larry's turn, and the saw goes for him with gusto: first sawing him in the head, then raked across Larry's ass, then raked across Larry's, uh... crown jewels, so to speak.  That's the last straw, of course, so Larry grabs the saw and flings it at Moe's face.  I haven't seen a scene like this since Daniel Stern in Home Alone 2.  I don't know why YouTube seems to think that Moe's face tangling with one mere cleeted shoe is their most violent sequence ever.  Anyway, Moe flings the saw back at Larry, who gets hit with it twice.  Then, Larry gives the saw a mighty push, and Moe and Shemp get hit with it twice each, for a total of four saw hits.  Here's my question: only four?  Why not six or eight?  Save that for the remake, I suppose.
Moe pushes the saw down on Larry, then they all start shushing each other.  Cut to Murgatroid trying to pull the saw.  He tries to assure the King that everything's okay, then gets back to struggling with the saw.  Murgatroide pulls the saw out, and it has a pair of boxer shorts on it.  This scene is overmilked.  Cole asks again for his daughter.  "Patience, Sire!  Patience!" says Merguhtroid.  Now it's time for swords to be stuck into the box.  Can someone else do the link to Racketeer Rabbit?  Shemp finally gets a part of the action, as one sword goes under his neck, and one down in front of his face.  He asks Larry for help, but Larry gets stuck in the ass with a sword.  Whatever Larry got paid for this one, it clearly wasn't enough.
Now it's Moe's turn.  Moe gets stuck with a sword right on the top of his head, kinda like Tommy Lee Jones in the first Under Siege movie.  Cut to Murgatroid trying to jam the Moe sword further into the box.  This is the greatest Stooge film ever.  Mergatroyd gets a hammer and pounds that one in.  King Cole sits up.  Murgatroid tries pulling the sword back out, and ends up hitting himself in the chin.  The sword's a little bit bent now.  Moe must have iron in his skull!  I'm sorry, here's the right link.  I think we can hear the sound of Moe moaning softly to himself.
More determined than ever, Murgatroid quickly puts another sword into Moe's end of the box.  Time for another sword for Shemp, who gets lightly stabbed in the torso with this one.  Larry starts getting lightly stabbed at the same time.  Epic!  It's at this point when the Stooges have finally had enough, and they erupt out of the box, in the wrong sitting order, of course.  Shemp screams "They got me... THEY GOT ME!!!"  But then, he's relieved that there's no blood.  That Three Stooges documentary produced by Mel Gibson, however, tells a different story.
Just then, Princess Alicia runs into the room.  Oh, it's really going to hit the fan now.  Alicia tells Cole that Murgatroid's the real culprit.  Screenwriters take note: the Stooges weren't actually suspects, but we'll let the implication stand.  As it turns out, Mergatroyd's not that good of a magician, so he tries to make a break for it.  The Stooges grab him and start spanking him with swords.


Now this is just getting silly.  Sherry O'Neil gets one last scene.  I lost count already; what is it, five or six now?  She's already got the guards still following her, and now she gets all the other guys in the room to follow, with King Cole at the end of the line.  There's just Princess Alicia and Shemp left now.  If you recall, Shemp was thirsty when he was climbing up that ladder.  He's still thirsty and takes a drink of water from a chalice.  A few seconds later, gallons of water shoot out of Shemp's sword holes.  Princess Alicia sits in the throne, smiling.  Sloppy direction.  For a second there, I thought Shemp and Alicia would be wed, but no, Gallant the Third it still is.  This is the first time I've seen Fiddlers Three and it's now in my Top 10 Stooge shorts of all time.  Besides, the original Grimm faerie tales were violent, right?  Screenwriters take note: a solid footing in a trusted genre!  Especially if you're writing for Michael Bay.  I better go now.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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