Saturday, January 12, 2013
That's odd! They've reverted to an older version of the Stooges theme. Am I watching the right one? Apparently! I can't keep track anymore, but this seems to be the first appearance of Jerry Stiller precursor Philip Van Zandt, who unfortunately committed suicide when his career fell into a post-Stooge slump. But once, he ruled the Stooge world as the hot new bad guy on the block! All hail Van Zandt!
As for the Stooges, they've just returned from a hard day of Knighting... well, Shemp's got the outfit on, anyhow. "Gimme a hand, will ya fellas?" asks Shemp. Oh, anything's a cue for mayhem in these things. Moe goes to work on Shemp's suit with a crowbar... I mean, rooster bar. But even that old dog Moe's having to learn a few new tricks. In this case, never slap a guy with an iron knight's helmet on. You'll hurt your hand! Why, even Larry winced a little bit there! Wotta wuss. But maybe the slap helped a little bit, because the helmet comes off easy now! Moe asks Shemp to hold the helmet so he can hit him on the head with the crowbar. Next, Moe tells Shemp to bend over... I kid you not. Moe starts to go to work on the suit with a sledgehammer, but instead goes to town on the heads of Lawrence and Shempington with said hammer of sledge. They gear up for a second round, but the higher plot intervenes, thankfully. Two of the King's knights enter, looking for Cedric the Entertainer... I mean, Cedric the Blacksmith. Moe explains to the nice gentlemen that they're three troubadours on the way to King Arthur's court, who will end up pulling a sword out of one of them, am I right? Time to kill some time with a demonstration of their troubadouring skills. Thankfully, the guard cuts it short. There's a little more banter... I'll skip that for now. The guards leave, telling the Stooges that the Black Prince wants Cedric's head. When the guards leave, Larry asks the question we're all thinking: "What does he want Cedric's head for? Ain't he got one of his own?" Shemp gives the answer that the comedians in the audience might be thinking "Two heads are better than one!" Shemp and Larry laugh, and Moe slaps them, of course. All their lives. Curly, too.
And then... Cedric emerges from hiding. I thought he looked familiar! Just as the Marx brothers had Zeppo as the handsome young Marx brother that all the lovestruck young people could relate to, so too do the Stooges have Jock Mahoney. I remember him from Out West, where he played the stilted but earnest 'The Arizona Kid.' Here he plays the stilted but earnest Cedric the young and chiseled Blacksmith. Anyway, he loves the fair Elaine who's been arranged to wed the Black Prince. (hiss, hiss) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern... I mean, the Three Stooges vow to help Cedric in his quest for love. So much so, in fact, they do some kind of creepy salute to demonstrate their level of commitment... sorry, but I've been reading one too many Onion A.V. Club reviews. According to them, everything is creepy these days. Even that delightfully repetitive Portlandia show with the one joke over and over! Go figure. They just don't want anyone to have any fun. They use the word "See?" four times, then do the salute again. Cedric crushes their hands. Ad-lib time! Larry says something about not being able to write under water. Preview for Corny Casanovas!!! Fade to black.
Hell with it. Act Two, even though it's a tad early. Scene: a window sill, probably Elaine's. The Stooges have instruments and troubadour costumes, and Cedric's in costume as well. Time for a song! ...sorry, wrong clip. Here's the song. The song appears to be heavily dubbed in, and Moe's doing the soprano part, so it's hard to tell it's him. They've got some decent accompaniment as well! All hail Cannery Row, the cheapskate bastards. Shemp gets a solo part, which Moe stops, of course. Then, a guard shows up, so the boys drop the specific lyrics and just sing. Larry's getting into it! Now, a Stooge song isn't complete without violence, so Moe gets hit by Shemp's accordion on Stage Right, followed by Larry's violin bow Stage Left. It's a sandwich of some bad sort. The guard leaves, and they quickly turn back towards the window, and take up the Cedric-centric lyrics... ?
Next scene: Elaine appears, played by the fetching Christine McIntyre. A damn dirty shame she was stuck in Stooge pictures. She hears the lyrics, and happily joins in with the song at her earliest convenience. She sings "I will raise the shade, the lovely shade when the coast is clear." What a sport.
Enter the Black Prince. He looks out the window, sees the Stooges plus one. "To arms!" he yells to the guards. Hastily enter King Vernon Dent. The Black Prince says "Your Magesty, Cedric the Blacksmith was below." Dude! That guy's got sharp peepers. King Dent is furious, and orders Elaine sequestered in his room. She'll be more easily guarded there, according to him. Now THAT'S creepy! The Black Prince asks "But where will YOU sleep?" Also creepy. Sorry, 'scuse me a minute while I take my anti-histrionics... ah, that's better. The king replies, "Here, of course!"
Cross-fade to King Dent changing into his pajamas. I'm laughing already. Next scene immediately after that... how can I call myself a Stooge fan when I don't know the proper Stooge terminology? What do you call it when they appear from round the corner, one head at a time? They do that bit next, and it's done from very, very far away, and I think I know why. Next scene: close-up, where it's painfully obvious that the trees in the distance is just a bad backdrop. Oh, well. Can't have it all. At least the castle looks real. Maybe it's just papier maché. Well, it was a weekend shoot when the main feature was taking a break, whatever it was. The King's getting ready to lay down, and he walks over and lifts up the shade!!!!!!! Time for the Stooges to go into action. Chief Strategist Moe says that one of them can climb up the trellis! But who?.... as in Fright Night before it, all heads turn to Shemp. Moe and Larry even go so far as to lift him up by his arms! But is Shemp grateful? Of course not. "I get dizzy!" he says twice. In case Elaine gets scared when she sees Shemp's ugly kisser, Larry decides to write a note. Shemp throws some gravel up to the window; when it comes back down, it makes the sound of someone eating olives. Time for a second helping of gravel. Cut to King Dent happily scratching his stomach before lying down. He hears the gravel rapping against the glass, and goes over to investigate. That's when Moe throws a giant rock with Larry's note bound to it. Dent gets hit in the face with the rock, of course! He reads the note, draws his sword, and gets ready to do some slashing.
Meanwhile, Shemp begins the seemingly simple task of climbing a trellis. Moe gets the brunt of it, but God bless him, he never learns to not stand under someone climbing up a ladder or a trellis. Not as bad as They Stooge to Conga, of course. Why is it they only show him just at the bottom of the ladder or just at the top? Dent hides under the covers, and Shemp finally makes it into the room. Time to kill some time! See, Shemp doesn't know who he's talking to, so he just talks as if he's talking to Elaine. This is probably the most important part of a king's job: keeping track of various threats to the throne. The king tolerates these indignities as long as he has to, when suddenly... there's a knock on the door! Instinctively, Shemp ducks under the bed. Something about Stooge DNA. "The guard awaits your order, Sire" says the guard. King Dent bellows out "Good! Send them in!" Shemp freaks out and stands up, totally overthrowing the bed with the overweight king within it. There's a metaphor there, someplace, but physically surely this is the highlight of the whole pic. Shemp's stunt double dives out the window and starts climbing back down the trellis. The King follows! Cut to an exterior shot, where the King is now climbing down his own damn self... gee, I wonder what's going to happen? Yup. Poor guy, the King doesn't know his own weakness. The trellis breaks loose of its moorings to the side of the castle, and the King vacillates back and forth a little bit before completely falling over. All the Stooges and Cedric can do is watch in fascination. And finally, down the King goes like Blutarski after him. The Stooges help the King up, and help get the heavy trellis off of him, but to no avail. The King's still sore, and the guards seize the Stooges plus one. "Take them to the dungeon! The DEEP dungeon!" bellows the King. All right! We get it! You're sore! Geez Louise!
Next scene: the sharpening of an axe. Oh, this looks like the real deal! Notice the scratch marks on the blade. The Stooges watch as the axe is sharpened, and have some surprisingly contemporary comments about their fate. Still, for some reason, the Stooges don't think that they're also going to be beheaded. So while Cedric serves briefly as a beacon of hope for the Stooges, it quickly sours when Cedric informs them that they all will die together, even though Cedric says it'll be an honor to die with them. Moe says "I'm gonna get myself a cheap lawyer!" Larry says "I can't die! I haven't seen The Jolson Story." A Columbia loyalist to the end. Larry starts climbing up the cell door; looks like if he keeps it up, he can get it cell open!
Just then, a guard brings the Stooges a big loaf of bread, saying "Your dinner. Eat hearty; it's your last chance!" Dude kinda sounds like Vernon Dent. As it turns out, the bread is a Trojan horse, full of tools to break out of jail. They set the bread down on a box, giving them a chance to pull out really large tools such as a sledgehammer. Showmanship! Speaking of which, Moe pulls out a hacksaw and rakes it across Larry's neck. Back to the sledgehammer. Lawrence is hammering away at the door, and Moe gets hit with Larry's hammer. "I'll moider you!" says Moe, but there's no immediate physical reprisal! That's a shock. Moe orders Larry to hold the chisel. Moe's getting ready to hit the chisel with the sledgehammer, so Shemp gets into position behind Moe, in order to better facilitate Moe injuring the other two with the sledgehammer. Moe screws up this time, however, only hitting Shemp in the head and not Larry in the hand. What a goof. Not only that, but he hits the chisel with the pointed end of the sledgehammer. Good Lord. It must not have been improvised, but Moe and Shemp take some time for a tooth-related diversion. Moe puts the chisel in Shemp's mouth and hits Shemp in the teeth. Shemp then spits out a bunch of teeth in response.
I noted earlier that Larry's hand didn't get hurt. Don't worry, folks! Order is about to be restored to the universe. Shemp puts his head against the chisel that Larry's holding. Moe hits Shemp in the head with the sledgehammer, and Larry starts crying out loudly in pain. How Corsican-esque. Cut to Cedric looking on in disbelief at these three idiots. He's kinda dim himself, but at least not aggressively so. He may be rethinking his pledge from earlier to die with the Stooges in solidarity at the chopping block. The boys pad out the film a little more at this point, with Shemp trying to nail Moe's hat to his head.
Next scene: Elaine in bed crying. The Black Prince knocks, then just barges on in like he owns the joint, the bastid. He offers a Faustian deal to Elaine: marry him and he will spare Cedric's life... that is, try to persuade the king to spare Cedric's life. I think Elaine should hold out for a better deal, or maybe she'll just have to kill herself. You know, like Juliet or something.
Back to all three Stooges hammering away at the jail cell door. They couldn't bother to give Cedric any tools so he could maybe go to work on his own cell, and apparently he didn't think to ask. It's a cacophony of clanging and sawing noises now. And then... they give up. They've been working on it for an hour, for God's sake! And then... the door swings open. Ain't it always the way? The creaking door sounds a bit like the wagon in Oily to Bed, Oily to Rise. That's Cannery Row for ya. Boo, hiss! Larry says "Hey! There's a draft in here." ...I know, I know, but now I'm thinking, even with that jail cell door there might be a negligible difference in air flow in the room. Larry's just a sensitive, caring soul, that's all, hence his noticing the subtle change. Shemp, on the other hand, is looking right at the door. He even says so. He must be tired from all the sawing or hammering or whatever the hell he was doing for the last hour....
....MASSIVE DOUBLE TAKE!!!!!!!!!!! If anyone on Earth does that better than the Stooges, I don't wanna know about it... except this one. Now they're moving too fast! They stay true to Cedric, however, and immediately start hammering and sawing away on his jail cell. However, the plot stops their progress. Here comes some more guards! Damn, they're in a tight spot. Fortunately, there's just the one guard. Larry distracts him while the other two give him the ol' stool-over-the-head. They push the guard into the cell and apparently lock him in. The guard starts screaming for help until Larry goes alpha-Stooge on his ass. Cold-blooded! Cedric orders the Stooges to save themselves, as other guards are coming. Dude must be psychic! Soon enough, the Stooges are staring down the barrels of two swords, but they're able to do some Jedi mindmeld on the guards and run past. The guards give chase.
And now... time to kill some more time. The ol' hallway with many doors routine. Sorry, wrong clip... Sorry, wrong Stooge film. HERE's the right link! With sped-up audio, no less. An extra bonus. Time to kill some time.
Whew! Finally over. I thought that would never end. Scene: Moe's in a room by himself. Suddenly, he gets wind of the true motivation of the Black Prince. Ah, the old talking killer routine from James Bond, sort of. Moe's in disguise at the other end of the room, fortunately. The Black Prince has to wait until he's officially wed to Elaine, of course. But we've still got five minutes left! Cut to Larry who finds a different room. Larry hides behind a suit of knight armor. We can't see him, and apparently neither can the two guards who enter the room. Larry hits the two guards in the head with the same mace. The two guards think the other hit him, and they jump right into an epic fist-fight. Larry starts doing the play-by-play. He really gets into it! And then, DOWN GOES BOTH!
Next scene: Moe and Shemp enter the room. Larry hides behind the suit of armor again. Moe and Shemp see the two guards on the floor and assume they already killed Larry. Moe says something he instantly regrets: "If only we could get Larry back, I'd never hit him again." Larry says "NO KIDDING?" You'll never guess what happens next. It's at this point that Moe lays out the current scenario to the other two, giving them the opportunity to say "Yes" and "No" in unison. Moe says "...but we'll spoil his little racket!" Larry and Shemp say in unison "How?" Moe answers "I dunno." It's almost worth the price of admission right there. Suddenly, Moe sees the knight's armor and gets an idea. He almost screws up his line, but they couldn't afford a second take anyway.
Next scene: the scene of big finale: the Grand Hall of Dent's castle. All pomp and circumstance. We see the three main players: Elaine, the King, and that blackard the Black Prince. Soon enough, however, our boys show up in their new metal duds. And just as quickly, they hide round the corner, not confident in their disguises apparently. The Black Prince does a little micromanaging of his scheme just barely out of earshot of the King. Just to rub it in that much more, apparently. But the Stooges definitely do hear it: "When the guards hear the fanfare of the trumpets, Cedric's head will fall." They'll worry about the King later, obviously. The Stooges come out of hiding and discuss what they just heard. The Stooges don't have time to fully hide this time, so instead they just put down the ol' metal faceflaps, and hope that all works out for the best. A guard tells the Stooges, "The King commands your presence." Shemp helpfully explains "We ain't got any presents! The stores are all closed!" Boom in the stomach from Moe. And so, off they go to see what King Dent wants. I hope Dent says "I've seen them someplace before... but I just can't place them!" The boys have to introduce themselves, and Moe kicks Shemp in his metal shin this time. Lol. Also worth the price of admission. The King introduces Elaine, and the boys make relatively restrained comments, considering. The King excuses himself, and Moe lays out the Black Prince's scheme to Elaine, including the update about the trumpets. Elaine says "The trumpets will blow when the King announces the wedding!" Moe decides that there's only one thing to do: stop those trumpets. If I were more interested, I'd go back and count the number of times the Stooges put their hands together. One thing I do know for sure: Cedric crushed all their hands, and now Elaine gets to do it. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are weaklings, too. Hmmm... how fortuitous that they're standing next to a giant bowl of fruit.... no, they wouldn't. Would they?
And then, the big announcement. Dent orders the trumpets to be played. Fortunately, the Stooges' hands aren't so mangled that they can't throw some fruit. No one notices, of course. The boys throw fruit at the horns. If I had more time, I might do the links for every edit, but there's quite a bit of them. They start in earnest here, though. There's just three quick edits. A shame they didn't just keep lobbing fruit at the horns in one take. I guess they were short of fruit throwers that hour. Besides, it's a whole different beast from whipped cream pies! King Dent gets frustrated. "Play! PLAY!" he bellows, but Moe's ad hoc plan worked. The trumpeters can't play a horn stuffed with fruit. The Black Prince also calls for the sound of trumpets, but gets a face full of pulp instead. The Stooges savor their victory, but get back to work. Elaine sneaks off to liberate Cedric, and the Stooges get ready to provide a diversion. But what? wonders Larry. "Dance, you dunce!" says Moe. Wasn't that the name of a Paula Abdul album? The boys cheat and use an "ancient" radio for music. They can't play their instruments and dance at the same time; King Dent would surely recognize them then. The boys go over to King Dent and Moe says "Your Majesty, wouldst like to see a right smart dance?" Majesty Dent says "Wouldst!" Unfortunately, he's about to see the Stooges kill some time, kicking each other in the legs, to the tune of "Way Down upon the Swanee River" no less. Well, they seem to get a smile out of it, anyhow.
The Stooges' capering goes on for a while until they break the camel's back by bumping into each other one time too many. Moe takes off Shemp's helmet, and Larry's just enough for King Dent to order them seized.
It appears to be curtains for yon Stooges Three. At least, until Elaine appears with Cedric by her side, pointing to the Black Prince and saying "Those are your real enemies! I can prove it!" King Dent orders the Black Prince to be taken to the dungeon. Of course, they might have to have the dungeon repaired, after what the Stooges have done to it.
One last contemporary touch. Cedric and Elaine appear visibly in love. King Dent asks "My daughter marry a smith?" Shemp adds "Take it easy, King. Millions of women marry Smiths every year." The King declares that there will be a wedding after all. "Sound the trumpets!" he says. Hoh boy, here we go again... Shemp's ad-lib isn't as good as the one in Fright Night, but you can't have it all.
Again, there's something about these Stooge films that have the full weight of a trusted genre behind it. Then again, I'm probably just a raging icon whore, like everyone else publishing directly to the web these days. Epic! Iconic! Game changing! I'll give it three and a half then. Besides, it's good remake material!
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan