Friday, February 15, 2013
N'yuk Like an Egyptian
How come they never get to play three pharaohs? No, it's three used chariot salesmen for them, but they seem to be spending most of their time fixing the chariots up. We jump right into the thick of it with Moe under one of the chariots, barking orders as usual. And then... a quiet indignity. Moe quietly gets a face full of soot. Well, it's not like a pie, I suppose. Moe stands up. A few seconds later, Shemp notices the dirty-faced Moe and he knows something ain't right. When Shemp does his double take, he's holding a feather duster, and the feather duster loses about five pounds of dust. Moe grabs the feather duster from Shemp and lets loose the other five pounds of dust on Shemp's face. Spreading the joy. Again, no sound effect. So disorientating for me! Thank goodness for Larry whose episode's a little more normal. He's painting the chariot, moves his hand, and notices that there's a hand-shaped spot with no paint on it. He does a massive double take... or is it a single take? I'll leave that for future generations to decide. He looks at his paint-coated hand and reacts a second time. Fortunately for him, no one saw this, but he looks around anyway. He opts to take care of his hand later and quickly paints over the hand-shaped spot in the paint job.
Back to Moe and Shemp. Shemp says "Say Moe, I think this tire needs a recap!" Moe says "So does your head" and hits Shemp in the forehead. Not terribly clever at all, but at least we get the usual bonk sound that I, the Pavlovian Stooge film watcher, have so come to depend on lo these many years now. As for Larry, he's returned to his lackadaisical painting ways, and briefly confuses Moe's ass with part of the chariot that needs painting. Let me tell you something: if there's one thing Moe hates more than anything in this world, it's getting his ass painted. He looks behind himself in horror. It happens an unprecedented second time. Time to put a stop to this nonsense right now. He regrets that it has come down to this, and he's trying like hell to take the high road here... then his face gets painted by Larry. I guess we're just lucky that Larry's also got a chariot in front of him! Maybe that will get some of the paint. Larry dips his brush in the bucket... they had paint buckets in ancient Egypt? Anyway, he quickly notices that some of the paint... quite a bit of it, actually... ended up on Moe's face. Moe takes the brush and laughs to try and relax Larry. Larry laughs, but he's still got reflexes like a cat, and he dodges Moe's attempt to smite him with the paint brush. Then, swollen with pride, Larry says "You missed me! Nyaaaah...." and sticks his tongue out so it can get painted. So like Cy Schindell in the previous flick, I'm a Monkey's Uncle. Moe smites Larry's face four times with the brush, then angrily puts the brush into the bucket... but who makes that grunting sound? It doesn't sound like Moe!
And then... a customer arrives. They stop cleaning themselves off, put the paint away someplace, and Shemp is dispatched by Moe to the customer's side. Shemp says to the guy "Something in a nice clean used chariot?" The customer is about to explain that he's the Pharaoh's assistant in need of three fortune tellers, or that he's the tax collector come to give them their final warning, or... you get the idea. No time for that plot development yet. Time to sell this bird a chariot. Moe says to the guy "I'm Honest Moe, he's Honest Shemp and that's... that's Larry." Larry winces, but a good joke's a good joke. Can't fight it. Can't fight the gravity of a good joke. They pause for the laugh, and Moe gives Shemp the secret signal to run off... for some reason.
Moe then launches into his sales pitch... dayamn. He's done his research! Or maybe he's run afoul of his share of used car salesmen in his lifetime. Time for a little payback! Moe says "This buggy was owned by an old couple in Babylon. All they did was drive it up to the Temple once a week!" Some things never change. Personally, I want a vehicle that can handle more than just a routine, but that's just me. Meanwhile, back to Shemp, who's putting on a fake beard... fake beard? Larry makes the mistake of pointing out the paint job, saying it's the original paint. Moe quickly diverts the customer's hand from the paint to the tire, where the customer notices how, uh... loose the wheels are. Moe explains that away, though, better than he thinks. Or maybe worse. The final offer for the chariot is 400 shekels, and... old man Shemp suddenly arrives to start a bidding war. He gets a little too eager, and after bidding 700 shekels, the customer says "You can have it" and starts to walk away. For some reason, the rival customer sticks around and doesn't pay for the chariot! Makes me want to put my hand to my chin. Shemp gets in a mumbled ad-lib before the deal rewinds and starts over. Back to the original 400 shekels. The customer reaches for a bag of money, which Moe aggressively takes. Larry aggressively hands the guy a receipt, and they all aggressively get the chariot off the lot, where it promptly breaks down. For a used chariot lot, they sure have a lot of privacy. In our modern times, car lots, used or new, and their inventory, can usually be seen! But there's still the offices where the paperwork gets filed and the seized loot gets divvied up somehow.
The customer notices the freshness of the paint, and a few seconds later the whole chariot has officially broken down. That's what he gets for being a young man... middle-aged anyway. If it belonged to an old couple, they probably didn't weigh as much.
Now, I should probably do a short Screenwriting 101 lesson here so I feel I haven't lost much credibility. So far, we've seen the opening routine, and we're about to head into the routine changing irrevocably. Men in Black... the 1997 sci-fi comedy, not the Stooges' 1934 short... is my favorite example of this, as that starts with a routine blowing-up of a rogue alien, but the routine is altered when one of the agents finds he's getting too old for this s... for the job. Time for Tommy Lee Jones to recruit a new agent. In the case of Mummy's Dummies, it's time for the Stooges to find a new line of work, as their customer was the Chief of the Palace Guards, and he's not happy about his chariot breaking down in such spectacular fashion.
I should mention the awesome camera work at one point here. Larry's hand gets stepped on and the camera dollies back. Sure, it seems like nothing today, but that was the whole budget right there on this film! Moe says "I'm gonna get myself a cheap lawyer!" More timely than ever.
Scene: the Palace proper, where King Vernon Dent... I mean, Rooten-tooten, is getting fanned by lovely damsels. And yet... all is not well! Mo kingdom, mo problems, as The Daily Show might say. Despite his sporting chin-do, the financial reports are grim and, more urgently, the dude's got a bad toothache. Philip van Zandt's bringing the bad financial news, so he must also be a usurper to the throne somehow. Sorry... spoiler alert. But the King in all humility keeps things in perspective, and tells Van Zandt "How DARE you bring me this MISERABLE report, when I suffer like a dog with a toothache... SILENCE!!!!!" Even the report itself is against the King! Such insolence.
Meanwhile, the Stooges are brought into the King's midst. Van Zandt tried to explain about a crop failure and a flood on the Nile. He's good! He's been reading his Bible, but to no avail. It's the Stooges' turn at bat now. After the usual Royal preliminaries, it's down to business. Rhadames, the Chief of the Palace Guards, wants the Stooges dead for the 400 shekel deal gone sour. Ever the loyal Stooge, Shemp tries to make a getaway, but even the plants are against him. King Rootentooten gives this matter the attention it deserves, saying "I have no time for such trifles. Throw them to the crocodiles!" Then, he makes the mistake of adding on a bit about his toothache. The Egyptians gave us hieroglyphics, beer and the pyramids... You'd think they would've given some thought to dentistry.
Anyway, the Stooges, their olfactory senses working a little too well, devise a quick plan. If they cure Vernon Dent's... Rootentooten's toothache, they might at least get a reprieve before being thrown to the crocodiles! Shemp's got a wrench on his tool belt, so that ought to be enough. Rhadames protests, but the King is desperate. "Come forward, knaves!" says Rootentooten to the Stooges. Time to kill some time.
The time killing begins when Shemp puts on his trademark Coke bottle glasses. "Where'd everybody go?" he asks. Moe grabs Shemp by the hair and guides him over to the victim... I mean, the patient. The King sees the wrench up close, and closes his mouth tight in protest. As with Dr. Sheldon Kornpett with his patient at the beginning of The In-Laws, Moe has to explain to the King that his mouth has to be open... like this! At that moment, Shemp goes under Larry's arm and gets the wrench into Moe's mouth. I don't know if it's the highlight of the film, but it's a sight to behold. The choreography! Fosse couldn't have done it better. Shemp pulls Moe's tooth, making a champagne cork popping sound that will be overused in Pink Panther cartoons later on. Shemp celebrates prematurely, and Moe has to go over and point to the fresh black black gap in his teeth. This eats up some time. Well, they had to do that back then to wait for the audience's reaction to die down. Shemp may not be able to see with his glasses, but even he's able to see that... after removing his glasses, that is. Shemp tries to apologize, but for some reason it's not good enough. Some people's standards are far too high. But Moe tries to be polite about it. He puts Shemp's glasses back on for him, THEN slaps him in the face!
Attempt #2. Shemp uses his wrench again, but this time on the King's nose. He really needs a better pair of glasses. The Stooges manage to extract the King from his throne, and down on the floor they all go. The guards rush over. "Your highness!" says one of them. Oh, this is probably not going to end well........
Next scene: It ends well! The King finds his tooth on the floor, and more importantly, the pain's gone. The Stooges then rise quickly to the top of Egyptian society, becoming Royal Chamberlains by royal decree. Rhadames protests, but the fight's been pretty much beaten out of him. Everyone exits Stage Right, but the Stooges stick to their proletarian roots and hang close by the camera. Shemp confuses the word "chamberlain" with "chamber maid." Professor Moe corrects Shemp, explaining that the King wants them to "look after things." Ever the pessimist, Larry says "Yeah, we might have to pull another tooth!" Shemp says "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it.... Not bad!" Moe, ever the joke killer, says "Not good" and hits Shemp with his own wrench. Shemp gets in an ad-lib, I assume, before fading to black.
Fade-in, where the Stooges are busy getting accustomed to the good life, Egyptian style. There is a period of adjustment with these things, as you'd imagine. But soon enough they'll have to be protecting their Status Quo from usurpers and the like. Besides, it's not all fun; Shemp has to serve himself grapes! Larry gets them fed to him by a pretty babe. Must be a seniority thing. A little later, Shemp suffers a shock to the cuticle during his manicure. He says to the pretty manicurist, "Careful! That's me under that nail!" We'll leave that aside aside for now. Moe sets the boys into action, as it's time for the King's "afternoon nip." Off to the wine cellar they go! Shemp gets his flirting rudely interrupted by Moe.
Next scene: the tomb of another King. Oh, those Egyptians and their tombs! I could've sworn the tombs were off limits once they were filled, but what do I know? This is the Stooges we're talking about here! Philip van Zandt and the Chief of the Palace Guards enter this tomb. Now, according to its official IMDb page, van Zandt's character's named Futamon, and the Chief of the Palace Guards is named Rhadames, so I'll try to stick with those from now on. And so, van Zandt lays out the scene for the Chief of the Palace Guards: the tax money was all collected, but Futamon just didn't declare all of it. Frankly, this is much worse than just wanting the throne to himself! Futamon redistributed the wealth to two different spots: a casket, and a basket... sheesh, that rhymes. I'm just so disgusted with myself.
Next scene: the Stooges are having a little trouble finding the wine cellar. What else is new? Rather, what else is old? They do the old "door is on the right" routine... I'm sorry, here's the right... er, correct link. This ought to kill some time before they stumble onto Futamon's evil scheme! Sorry... spoiler alert. Moe draws Shemp into the mix, but Shemp ends up pointing to his left!!!!! They end up picking the door on the right, and they leave the scene Stage Left.
Next scene: the Stooges stumble upon Futamon's financial double-dealings. They don't hear the Stooges come in, and they make sure to spell it out as plainly as possible: Futamon will give Rhadames a share of the loot for keeping quiet... the Egyptian version of "hush money," as it turns out. The Stooges run away, but to keep things interesting, Shemp runs through the wrong side of the door. A mighty chase ensues, which quickly turns into a battle over the door: the Stooges try to keep the bad guys in, and the bad guys try to get out. The Stooges, forgetting their lofty position, see some guards coming and instinctively run away. Again, to stretch this bitch out to 16 minutes. The guards apparently only answer to Rhadames, who orders the Stooges gotten "dead or alive." "Search every room in the palace!" says one of them. Seeing as how they're only about 15 seconds behind the Stooges, it shouldn't be that hard. But the bad guys need all the help they can get, apparently, and they ask an oxen-headed Oracle where the Stooges went. The Oracle tells them, and off they go.
When the coast is clear, the Stooges run back into the tomb with the hidden goodies in it. Moe's reasoning: "They won't look in there again!" And off they go. Two guards are in the adjacent hallway and hear the Stooges close the door behind them.
Back in the musty old tomb that's been seeing a lot of action lately. Moe and Larry are hiding in the basket, which seems to be empty of goodies now. Remember, there are two guards hot on their trail. Now, there's a crucial split second here that you might have a problem with, as do I. Moe and Larry duck their heads down, and the lid of the basket goes down. The one guard turns his head and can see for that split second that those two idiots ducked their heads down into the basket, but the guards proceed about their business as if nothing happened. Not to mention that all they have to do is LIFT THE LID OF THE BASKET TO LOOK INSIDE! But we'll leave all that aside for now and proceed as if none of that happened.....
So, the guards approach the basket, suspicious of something. The guard pushes on the lid of the basket and says "Hmm! That's funny." And so, rather than lifting the lid of the basket and looking inside, they decide to give it the ol' stab test. It's more fun that way, and will kill some more time. Stab #1: Larry gets it in the... I'm sorry. For some reason, I must not be in the mood for this right now. The basket gets stabbed five times, and one Stooge has to cover the other Stooge's mouth when the one gets stabbed. "Nothing in there," concludes the one guard. And frankly, who could blame him for reaching any other conclusion?
On to the rest of the room. The mere peasant of a guard opens the King's coffin. The King, mind you. Boy, those Egyptians must be rolling in their graves! Anyway, spoiler alert... we get a glimpse of Shemp in disguise. He was able to quickly wrap himself in a bunch of gauze, move all the swag that was in the coffin, and hide in there. Lol. "Good ol' Puddin-takeit! He sure was an ugly old cuss!" says the guard. What a dolt. I'm assuming that that's the correct grammatical spelling of that strange comedy name: Puddentakitt. Alas, Wikipedia and the IMDb don't have everything.
And now, a shot for film students to take note of. After the guard closes the coffin back up, we get a shot of the inside of the coffin, and... wow! Look at how that's lit! Worthy of James Wong Howe or whoever worked for Michael Curtiz. Of course, Lucien Ballard moved on to working for Kubrick; he cut his teeth on a few Stooge shorts! Anyway, Shemp starts to get a noseful of dust. If he sneezes, the guards might notice that, who knows. And indeed, the guard notices. But Shemp's ready to bonk him on the head with a hammer that looks like the kind that geologists use to tap on a chisel to split open rocks. Alas, not as noble a cause here. The other guard draws his sword and prepares for battle, but Moe emerges from the basket and bonks that guy on the head with ... a bottle, apparently, or a very brittle brick. DAMN YOU, YOUTUBE AND YOUR TINY PICTURES!!!! Moe goes to open up the coffin and... yup, you guessed it, Shemp hits Moe with the specialized hammer. Time to kill some more time. A shame, too, because Shemp uses that hammer with such authority and quiet dignity. They all start to leave the tomb, when three more guards show up. Shemp takes off. Meanwhile, the guard that got hit with the bottle comes to, so Moe has to hit him anew. And just when you think they're going to start the old "Let me in!" routine again with Mummy Shemp... it doesn't happen! Nice pass fake. Here's what does happen... the doors of the tomb open, as if being opened by two or more production assistants and... the basket slowly emerges from the tomb and stops. I haven't seen anything like it since the "Eat me" cake from Animal House. And here's the capper: a periscope emerges from the roof of the basket. Comedy, thy name is The Three Stooges.
A shot from inside the basket ruins the illusion. Moe tries to work the periscope with little success. Back to a shot of the basket (exterior), which now sprouts two pairs of legs and moves considerably faster. They better get their ass wallside if they hope to maintain an illusion! If you look quickly enough, you'll see that one pair of legs is pointed one way, and the other pair the other way. Lol.
Back to Shemp who's running as fast as he can at his age, and in a mummy outfit, no less! Surely he must be guilty of a crime most heinous, even for a newly appointed Chamberlain. Shemp's got a bit of mummy wrapping dangling behind him, and a guard standing at attention does the smart move: he dives for this bit of dangling wrapping. I mean, anybody could just tackle Shemp as though it were a game of football. Shemp runs the other way when he sees another guard.
Back to the basket, still walking happily along, periscope sticking out for the whole world to see. But as with all baskets, this one eventually finds a place to settle down, so Moe and Larry find a nice place next to the wall to stop and sit. Just before that happens, however, Rhadames and Tutamon (according to Wikipedia) appear in the same hallway, and have ample opportunity to see the incendiary basket with all the illegally hidden goodies that were once in it sitting itself down in the hallway. I mean, you know how the human brain works! How much visual stimulation do you need? I get one glimpse of a basket sitting itself down, a half-second at most, and that's it for me. I'm changing my paradigm right then and there. Alas, Rhadames and Tutamon are too busy fretting over their ill-gotten gains to notice the big anthropomorphic basket sitting itself down, literally right in front of them. Perhaps it's for the best. Thank goodness they're not sweating the small stuff right now. "We cannot allow those rascals to get to the King," says Tutamon. Oh, they won't, but why don't they go into the next room and look for them there? Tutamon leaves, and Rhadames finds something nice to lean against. For the Chief of the Palace Guards, he's old and tired, and his current retirement plan doesn't provide enough excitement apparently; hence, this ad hoc deal with Tutamon for hush doubloons. And so, Rhadames leans against the very thing that could alter his fortunes considerably, were he curious enough to lift the f... the darn ol' basket lid. Rhadames doesn't even notice the periscope that sticks up out of the lid; he might have heard it, but isn't interested enough to turn around. Well, he eventually turns around, but the periscope has already vanished, just like his lust for life. But Rhadames does get suspicious of this giant vase next to him, so he gets up and looks at it. A perfect opportunity for Moe and Larry to move the basket a little farther away. Rhadames goes back to his leaning position and... DOWN GOES RHADAMES!!!!! That does it. FINALLY it's time to open that basket lid. Moe quickly punches Rhadames in the forehead. Rhadames grabs his face in pain. Larry makes with the rock hammer and... DOWN GOES RHADAMES AGAIN!!! And this time... he's out cold.
Back to King Vernon Dent, who's getting served a beverage by a "pretty girl." I think it's Suzanne Ridgeway, as I recognize her from Loose Loot. Alas, the scene ends far too quickly. Back to the hallway, as Tutamon has returned. "RHADAMES!" he exclaims. Just then, in an inexplicable bout of insanity, Larry leaps from the basket and makes a distracting noise to distract Tutamon. At least he's not in his underwear making chicken noises and flapping his arms like a bird. But, can't argue with results! Moe smites Tutamon upon his head with that same hammer! They may not have been using this tool for the last ten years, but it's sure come in handy. Now, normally a guy that gets hit on the head with Moe Howard's Silver Hammer will be out cold... but as we're learning about the Stooge-iverse, ass burn trumps head injury. Tutamon steps backward and sits on a vase with a fire burning in it. Tutamon lets out a mighty yell and stands up, away from the fire. (I'm telling you! Jerry Stiller!) But Larry and Moe are too busy congratulating each other to notice yet. When they do notice that Tutamon's not out cold, Tutamon has already aimed his sword, and he charges at Moe like a bull in the ring. Tutamon ends up stabbing the wall next to Moe, which is actually a curtain... the curtain that King Vernon Dent is behind. For the sake of finishing this film, we'd better set aside yet another plot inconsistency. When you're King, the first thing you have to learn is to shut out as much of the rest of the world as possible... especially whatever's behind you, apparently. King Dent gets stabbed in the ass with a mighty BOINGGG!!! sound, and his mug flies far into the air. Alas, the mug smashes over Dent's head... but at least it doesn't have anymore liquid in it! That would be far worse, getting hit with a full mug.
Back to Tutamon who's trying to extract his sword from the spot it's in... apparently, Dent's ass has turned into stone, and only King Arthur can get that sword out. Either that, or the basket lid's tougher to get a sword out of than previously thought. Ample time for Moe to smite Tutamon on the head anew with the same old hammer. And this time, there'll be no stepping back onto that open flame!
Back to Mummy Shemp, who's found a new room to run into. But it's got a guard in it with the same old strategy: if you see a rogue mummy running around, pray to Ra that it's trailing a bit of the wrapping behind it. This time, the guard stabs the wrapping with his spear... rather, the rug next to it, and he reaches down and picks up the wrapping. He starts pulling on the wrapping and it makes the sound of a fishing pole line being reeled back in. We see Shemp unraveling and spinning around at... oh, I hope for his sake that it was 8 fps, but it might be 12. We get a shot of the guard pulling on the wrapping... dude! I hope for his sake that it was at 8 fps!!! Second segment of Shemp spinning and spinning, which ends with him heading towards the guard... somehow, I don't think that was supposed to happen. A shot of King Dent and his three floozies watching as Shemp spins around. Third segment of Shemp spinning around, and this time it looks like they didn't rewrap him to do the scene. Shemp collapses and King Dent approaches him with sword drawn. This time there's no doubt. The punishment for impersonating a mummy and getting caught grey-handed? Death. "You shall DIE for this!" exclaims King Rootentooten. In real life, though, Shemp and Dent were apparently good friends.
King Dent's about to put Shemp's red red vino on tap, but Moe and Lawrence intervene at the last minute. Moe and Larry carry the basket in, exclaiming "Don't shoot!" for some reason. Larry shows the King the bag of tax money, and they both lift up the bodies of Rhadames and Tutamon so the audience can see without repositioning the camera so that it's looking down into the basket. "Splendid! Splendid!" says the King. A second royal decree for the Stooges? Unprecedented! This time, the King offers his daughter's hand to one of the Stooges. Well, it's better than the usual inbreeding that occurs at the royal level. Like idiots, the Stooges assume that the daughter's the pretty floozy standing next to the King, and they try to stand next to her like garter snakes in heat. The Stooges try to establish a pecking order amongst themselves; Shemp says "Ain't I the First Chamber Maid?" Ah, the ol' callback. "Call in the princess!" declares King Dent. "(Wait a minute!) Ain't this the Princess?" asks Larry, pointing to one of the non-Suzanne Ridgeway floozies. "No, no, she's only a slave!" says the King. She puts a hand to the King's cheek, but he shakes his head in disapproval. Nice moment.
Alas, the boys have even less of a sense of decorum. To set the stage for all of us, Moe says "If she's a slave..." then the Princess must be ten times hotter than that! Well, she knows how to sashay into a room, anyhow. Alas, it's Dee Green, and somehow her teeth are worse than the last film. Go figure. The boys wince, and even start to cry a little bit, but the King's far too happy to notice this insult to his daughter. "Let the lucky man take one pace forward!" says the King. Moe and Larry take a step back... take a step back, but that's good enough for the King. Boy, he must not like his daughter that much either. Dent congratulates Shemp, calling him "my son." "What's the matter with him?" Shemp asks the other two, but it's too late. Princess Dee's got Shemp in a headlock, and Shemp's trying to get away. Final shot of the film: Shemp's struggling to get out of his headlock, and he says "Do something!" Someone.. or rather, several people off screen, start gently pelting Shemp with rice and old shoes. And even though Shemp's nose was apparently completely lacking cartilage... dang! That second one must've hurt. Frankly, that first one probably more. The fourth volley of shoes contained about twenty shoes. Boy, those Egyptians really knew how to celebrate.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan