Sunday, January 06, 2013

Clutch Cargo

If you're like me, you've probably seen Wham-Bam-Slam! first, so Pardon my Clutch might seem a bit stale, but remember!  Clutch came first.


Moe and Larry are pacing back and forth and almost run into each other in the process.  Almost. Their three daughters are in the room with them... wait a minute!  Their wives?  Well, we just got another news flash out of Saudi Arabia about a 70-year old man marrying a 15-year old girl, so anything's possible.  Nothing gay about that, right?  Anyway, Claude, the Stooges' quasi-doctor friend of 15 years comes out of the bedroom, and informs everyone that he gave Shemp a sleeping pill.  You could argue that, with tools like sleeping pills, just about anyone can seem doctor-ish.  Reminds me of Bugs Bunny in The Big Snooze, and the part they had to cut out for TV.  What did they have to cut out?  Sleeping pills!  Dangerous stuff.
One of the goils asks Claude, "But don't you think we ought to call a doctor?"  "Why throw money away?" asks Claude in a real condescending tone.  I guess that means health care back then was only on the verge of collapse, not post-collapse like today.  These days, you have the finest health care in the world if you own the hospital; just ask Bill Frist if you can find him.  Besides, Moe and Larry are true believers in Claude.  Having said that, Claude informs them that he's got to go get his "doctor book" and that he'll be right back.  You know, an actual doctor might not need a book... ah, skip it.  They dub in Moe saying "Sure!"
Exit Claude, who leaves Moe and Larry in charge of Shemp's recovery.  Things crumble right away when Moe reads the label on the bottle of sleeping pills: "Take one pill, wait fifteen minutes, then take second pill."  Larry notes that it's about time for that second pill!  Even though Claude just said he gave Shemp the pill ten minutes ago, but never mind.  Moe's about to reassure the girls, saying "Anything will be all..." WHAM!  Into the wall.  I was starting to worry. Where's the senseless violence to remind me that this is a Stooge film and not some lame Joe Besser- or DeRita-only Columbia short?
Next scene: the camera's in Shemp's room now.  We can see him in the bed and hear him snoring.  Moe and Larry approach the bed and look upon Shemp, covered from head to toe in blankets.  Moe acts the mother here, saying "He's sleeping like a baby!  It's a shame to disturb him!"  Larry fights through that, though, saying "Yeah, but he's gotta take his second pill so he can sleep!"  Shemp keeps snoring.  Moe waits a beat and says "Maybe you got something there!"  Time to wake up Shemp.  Even when he's sleeping, Shemp can still do the ol' switcheroo.  That buys him a little time, but soon enough he's rudely awakened by the other two.
So... Moe forces Shemp to follow the pill bottle's instructions.  Now that he's taken his second sleeping pill, he has to "skip an hour."  I wonder if anyone else back then thought this was a little strange for sleeping pills.  "Get him the rope!" says Moe.  Yup, that's where they're headed.  Reminds me of that Monty Python bit where patients at one particular hospital have to do heavy lifting and obstacle courses... "Fractured tibia, Sergeant!  Proper little Momma's boy, aren't we?"  Oh, the irony; Moe and Larry go to sleep while Shemp, the sick one, has to jump rope for an hour!  Credit where credit's due: they are good, waking up to tell Shemp "SKIP!!"  And skip he does.  At least, until he trips over himself.  So THAT'S why there's a freeze-frame in Wham-Bam-Slam!  In that one, they must cross-fade to a different scene.  Still cheaper than filming that whole scene over.
Next scene: the triumphant return of Claude, doctor book in hand.  Claude finds the three of them asleep, Shemp resting in the chair.  Claude yells "HEY!"  Shemp wakes up and continues skipping, then Moe and Larry explain the logic of that.  Indeed, what's the point of following instructions to the letter if you confuse the meaning of the words?  Maybe Claude's a half-assed doctor after all.  Then again, what kind of a sleeping pill is there that you have to take every hour?  Must be a 50s thing, or maybe they're old comet pills.  Anyway, Claude's got his doctor book, so it's time to really go to work on Shemp.  Must be a bad tooth, dontcha think?
Claude starts with the old reflex test, hitting Shemp in the knee, but with the wrong kind of hammer, of course.  Shemp acts nonchalant as he kicks at the wrong time, but where's his Oscar for that?  Cheated again.  There's a shaggy dog moment in the diagnosis, but it gives the Stooges a chance to harmonize, or do a fugue... or something.  Never mind.  Then, Claude looks at Shemp's love handles.  Just lifts his pajama top right up like he owns the joint.  So tawdry.  The Hays Code regulators must've fallen asleep themselves!  Claude says "He's got a rash.  The book says a rash can be caused by excessive use of the gray matter of the brain."  I dare not spoil Moe's and Lawrence's reaction to that.  "It ALSO says a rash may be caused by a bad tooth!"  Now, I've heard of some bad things that a bad tooth can do to the human body, but a rash ain't one of them.  I think they're just going for the comedy body parts.  I mean, if Shemp needed a gastric bypass operation, or a heart bypass, or an appendectomy, or if they need to leave a whole toolbox full of tools inside of a surgery patient, well... there's always Men in Black for that.  Not terribly funny, though.  A little tooth xylophone music?  THAT'S funny!  I'll just skip to the last note.  There's a direct linear correlation between the older I get and the more squeamish I get.  One to one.  Shemp didn't seem to be having too good of a time either, frankly.
And so, Claude's determined to pull the bad tooth.  Shemp asks, "Is it gonna hurt, doc?"  Claude says, "Oh no.  I'll be fine."  ...I'm sorry, that would've been funny.  No, Claude says "Oh, I don't think so."  That's much worse.  Time for Time Killer #1: the pulling of Shemp's tooth.  They do it all: a piece of string tied to a doorknob, a curtain... and many others.


We're close to the Act break anyway.  Shemp's tooth has been pulled, and he does his usual bit of saying he's fine, then falling down.  It's starting to worry me.  Claude gives Shemp the old sales pitch you might recall from such other shorts as Laurel and Hardy's Them Thar Hills and the Stooges' own Idiots Deluxe.  All Shemp needs is to get away for a while, commune with nature, real Walden sh... stuff.  Moe and Larry pass a passed-out Shemp back and forth between them as Claude's sales pitch continues.  The Stooges?  Sans voiture?  Quel dommage.  Why, Claude's got a car AND camping equipment!  And he'll let the Stooges have it for the low low price of 900 bucks.  Surely the Stooges could afford that, even on their meager Cannery Row salaries and with a little help from the FDIC.  Shemp passes out, then asks for champagne.  Wham-Bam-Slam! diverges slightly at this juncture, if memory serves.  Too lazy to confirm it.  Someone else do it for me, huh?
Cross-fade to next scene: the busy bee household, where the Stooges are handling camping equipment, and the girls are doing stuff as well.  I almost forgot about them!  Larry says that maybe they should ask Claude how to set up a tent.  Ranger Moe takes charge, saying he knows how to do it.  They set about practicing.  This was in the days when tents were very solid structures indeed.  Look at that 4x4 beam that Moe and Larry are holding!  Will they hit each other about the neck and face with it?  Fingers crossed... Oof #1, Oof #2, Oof #3.  Iconic.  They're just about finished raising their makeshift tent.  Moe yells "NARCISSUS!"  Apparently, that's his wife's name, played by Wanda Perry.  Rather strange name.  Even most of the one percenters don't pick that name for themselves, even though they act like it!
And so, the last step in putting up this makeshift tent is to tie ropes to things.  Moe picks the thinnest lamp he can find, Shemp picks a table with a vase on it, and Larry picks a doorknob.  We get an all-too-brief shot of the tent standing in all its glory, what little glory there may be in the first place, and... one of the goils opens the door.  They're not pulling teeth this time, however.  The tent falls, one of the goils falls, and Moe and Shemp get hit on the head.  The statue behind Shemp also falls, even though we didn't see anyone tying a rope to its stand.  Larry's got some good advice for all of us: "Next time you come in, knock first, and then DON'T COME IN!!"  Good luck trying to forget that one.  The goil he was talking to slams the door in his face.  Rather, his face gets slammed by the door; she may not have been meaning to hit his face with it.  Larry's face is collateral damage once again; what a fate.
Everyone recoups from the fallen tent by slapping each other in the face.  Larry gets double slapped in the back of his head.  Moe takes charge of the situation and orders another stab at the tent.  Fade to black.


Fade in on Claude's car.  It's going to be a perfect day.  Claude's car is driving up to the house.  Claude stops, and there are two medium-sized explosions from the exhaust pipe.  What is this?  The '30s?  When cars were just that shaky?  The boys come out of the house with their hands full of luggage.  They do a massive double take when they see the car.  Claude comes up, saying "Well, boys, there she is!"  Larry asks, incredulously, "Yeah, but WHAT IS IT?"  Claude says "It's a Columbus!"  They get two jokes out of that, and they keep ribbing Claude as he tries to sell the car to the rafters.  Then, he walks off to get breakfast!  Probably just as well.  Kinda like how Moe and Larry used to always leave Curly alone so he could get some hilarious mayhem done.  Moe hits Larry on the head with a fishing pole... some kind of pole, anyhow.
They approach the car.  I only point this out because Moe gets on the wrong side of the car.  His showbiz instincts are right, of course: better to be near the camera than farther away from it... or not?  Moe gets hit in the head by one piece of luggage.  Another one sails past his head Stage Right.  He then gets hit by a softer duffel-type bag.  Even though Larry saw that one hit, he still acts as innocent as a lamb when Moe calls the two of them over.  Retribution is swift, as it sometimes is in these Stooge shorts.
Time to stretch out the plot a little bit... but how?  If they get that car loaded, they might have to film the boys driving someplace, which they're not budgeted for.  And so, as if on cue, the air starts leaving the rear driver-side tire... I'm sorry, this is the right link.  And again they get to do the old routine: "What are you hissing me for?" asks Moe as the car slowly sinks on the rear driver's side tire.
Time to change the tire.  Shemp and Larry remove the flat tire, almost... I'm sorry, this is the right link.
Now, HERE'S a plot wrinkle that wasn't included in Wham-Bam-Slam!, and rather wisely at that, but you be the judge.  We see Emil Sitka stick his head up from behind a shrub... and he's got a funny look in his eye!  Not funny ha-ha, either.
Anyway, back to the tire.  The problem: the jack used to lift the car wasn't attached to the axle.  Two reasons: the camera would have to be put in a funny place to show that, and 2) the hubcap makes it too easy!  Just think: we could've had hubcaps with knobs on them today.  Damn movies.  Anyway, a solution is presented: simply pull the tire out, and everything will be just fine... I'm sorry, this is the right link.
And so... someone's foot gets smashed by the fallen car... I'm sorry, this is the right link.  Well, you gotta hand it to the Stooges.  This situation is handled with their own brand of extra-violent humor: for example, Shemp offers to liberate Moe's foot with the help of an ax: "I'll chop it out!"  Wince if you must, but it's good enough for trapped loggers.
Another shot of Sitka.  And, another plot wrinkle left out of Wham-Bam-Slam!: in getting Moe's foot out from under the car, Shemp pushes the new tire with his ass, and the tire starts rolling away!... damn.  I thought they'd have the part where Terry Thomas and Milton Berle crash in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.  They probably have the similar scene from Rat Race.  Sheesh!!!  And so, the Stooges burn some more time chasing down the errant tire.  Guess where the tire ends up?  In the worst possible place, of course: at a gas station.  The proprietor of said station doesn't see the tire roll up and deposit itself amongst the other smaller tires, but he sure sees the Stooges try to get away with their tire!  No dice.  The gas station attendant offers to hit the boys on the head with his mallet if they don't pay $15.97 for the tire.  Damn!  That's like... a million in today's money!  This gives them the chance to recycle their bit: "If I thought you meant that, I'd like to see you try that again!"  Take his word for it: he means it.  This is business, after all!  Fortunately for us, the Stooges have a plan: lull the guy into a false sense of security, then stick a tire over him, trapping his arms, leaving him free for the Stooges to lay down some whoop-ass of their own!  Oh snap.
Cross-fade to the car.  The tire's on, the gear's loaded... all we need is the people!  The Stooges and their wives gather round the car.  Moe starts barking orders, including "Shemp, gimme a hand!"  Shemp says... ah, skip it.  And now we come to what may be the highlight of the whole film!  Oh, the comedic possibilities of a giant load of gear.  Larry's on one side of it, while Shemp and Moe are on the other.  Moe throws a rope over to Larry's side, and the rope goes round Lawrence's neck.  Moe starts pulling on the rope, and Larry starts getting choked.  They don't hear Larry's pleas, but they see him hanging by his neck, pressed against the pile of stuff.  Shemp helpfully says "You can't ride that way, you'll unbalance the load!"  "GET ME DOWN!" says Larry, trying to enunciate clearly in spite of the force of the rope.  Oh, that's definitely the highlight; I can see why they didn't repeat it in Wham-Bam-Slam!  They take a long time getting Larry down; great time killer!
Another shot of slippery Sitka.  And now, they all climb into the car.  Larry gets on top of the pile of luggage, for some reason.  He grabs a bag before it falls.
Claude waves goodbye to everybody.  The car groans, then explodes three times: once in front, once under the midsection of the car, and one explosion in the rear.  The car lurches five feet, stops, and Larry falls off the mountain of gear, taking most of the mountain with him in the process.  Talk about your mountaintop removal!  Sheesh!  Claude reacts to all this, sort of; sloppy direction.  Everyone quickly deplanes the car, and Moe ends up giving Larry a spanking.  There's no crying in Stoogeville... is that a new Zynga game yet?
Back to crazy-ass Sitka, who now makes his move; for what, I have no idea.  He hands the boys his business card: "Talent Scout - Acme Pictures - Hollywood."  Couldn't be any worse than Columbia.  The boys are starstruck.  Larry asks "You want us for the movies?"  Actually... guess it's too late to cut this short.  While Moe's strangling Shemp during their rehearsal, Sitka tells them he wants the car!  Dayamn... Billy Wilder stole that gag for Sunset Boulevard!  Sitka offers $2,000 for the car.  It's at this point that that rat Claude shows his true colors... he's worse than Col. Tom Parker!  He gives the Stooges their money back, saying "I didn't sign nothin'!"  What an I... what a weasel, I mean.  No offense.  But just before Sitka hands over the money... two white coat boys come up!  This is strangely similar to that other one... lemme see if I can find a link to it.  Rhythm and Weep!  That's it!  Only this time, it's all of the rest of us who want to kill ourselves.


Claude says "Wait for me!" and runs after Sitka.  Moe distributes the $900 to his peers; Larry and Shemp get $100, and Moe gets the rest.  Shemp starts to act goofy; Moe asks him what he's doing, and Shemp says "I'm hungry, too!"  Moe slaps the silly out of him, and slaps Larry for his bad ad-lib, and rightfully so.
Well, I did it.  I just went through Wham-Bam-Slam! and, using my crackerjack sense of new footage versus old, I've determined that the percentage isn't as low as I thought.  Wham-Bam-Slam! contains approximately 32% new footage, the rest being imported from Pardon My Clutch.  They even went to all the trouble of bringing back one of the goils from PMC to assist in the stitch job.  Hard to say which I like better; probably Wham-Bam-Slam! because a) I saw it first, and b) it's clearly got the better title.  Sometimes it goes that way; you just get it right the second time.  But I'll allow that Sitka gave an inspired performace.  Versatile guy!  Too bad he got stuck with the Stooges...

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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