Thursday, February 07, 2013
The Clan of the Cave Stooge
After no less than two wacky title cards, we get a nice long dolly shot into the heart of darkness: a cave wherein lie three sleeping cave-Stooges. You can tell because they're shirtless and sleeping on the floor under a bear skin blanket. I mean, it's obvious, ain't it?
I hate to pit Stooge against Stooge, but no Stooge snores better than Shemp. He always brings his A-game to the snoring.
Alas, Moe's story takes center stage now. And even though they're supposed to be cavemen, their dreams are haunted by love. The lost loves of yestercave. Time for Moe to talk in his sleep, thinking that Shemp's a pretty girl. I don't think they've done this gag a whole lot, but it still seems old. Shemp gets sufficiently horrified, however. But it's been a while since he's received a complement on his looks, and apparently he'll take anything he can get, even from a sleeping Moe. Trying not to wake Moe, Shemp brushes off Moe's somnambulic advances... something like that. Now it's Larry's turn. In his sleeping state, Moe confuses Larry's curly hair with the petals of a flower... gee, I wonder what's going to happen? Larry takes his abuse like a disgruntled Stooge, and Moe never wakes up! God, Larry's such a tool. Moe continues his quasi-mumbling. He says to his dream girl "I'll give you security." What a strange thing for a cave-Stooge to say! But it's all leading to the following, folks: Moe says "What will you give me?" That's Larry's opening to hit Moe in his sleep. Something cowardly about that, but that's Larry for ya. Moe wakes up, angry of course. Larry tells Moe "Wake up and go to sleep!" Moe complains that Larry ruined his perfectly good dream... you rarely ever hear people do that in real life, let alone cavemen. Shemp stays asleep through the disturbance, but Moe and Lawrence quickly return to sleep, and they're all facing Stage Left, blowing on a plant. I know, I know, normally I'd say "That's so gay," but I'm trying to follow the advice of a poster I saw. I still reserve the right to call things "retarded," however, which kinda describes the entire Stooge catalog in one word, in a way. Or maybe just "childish." But trudge on I must.
Anyway, as I said before, the Stooges are all asleep, blowing on a leafy plant. Cross-fade to next scene, where the plant no longer has leaves. See, they blew off all the... ah, skip it. And then... even though they're cavemen, technically, the brainpower of Rube Goldberg courses through our collective brains. In this case, Moe's got a string tied to his foot, and the other end is in a river so fake, it would make Night of the Hunter blush. That's the whole Stooge short's budget right there, I betcha! Hollywood water don't come cheap, you know! They have to have it trucked in all the way from Marin County, where George Lucas gets his cut, then promptly gives it to charity. Apparently, caveman Moe caught a fish, but it sure looks like a production assistant's tugging on the string tied to his foot. Moe gets up and goes to get the fish. And by golly, there's a dyed-in-the-wool actual living fish, all right. Screw the ASPCA and Peta, it's a living, breathing fish. It gets worse, so let's get back to the action. Moe goes to wake up the other two to show the great fish they now got. He hits Larry on the head with a special small club several times. Larry wakes up normally, almost eager to greet the day. So much for intelligent design. He then taps out the NBC logo on Shemp's head and, as in several Tex Avery cartoons, the sound gets cut short to hilarious effect... okay, the hastiest example I can find is a clip from Happy-Go-Nutty where the dope who chases Screwy Squirrel around falls from a great height. Screwy steps out of the way at the last second, and the dope makes an impact crater with his ass, resulting in an explosion sound. The explosion sound gets cut off at about 5:22 in this link. Sorry, that's the best I can do for now.
So, all the Stooges are awake now, and Moe shows them what he got. Cut to a close-up of the fish... oh, how cute! That fish is actually barking! Must be a dogfish. No, it's trying not to die. See, the clever audio editors dubbed in a barking sound every time the fish opens its unfortunate mouth to filter air out of the water its SUPPOSED TO BE IN. Shemp gets excited, proclaiming "A dogfish!" Ever the doubting Thomas, Larry says "I hope it ain't got fleas." For this he gets an eye poke from a hand with fish goo all over it. Shemp gets tasked to prepare the fish while Moe and Larry go to take "a dip." So ga... stop it! They're dead butch. Everyone in Hollywood knew it. Why, they even helped out a Hollywood fegeler or two by casting them in bit parts. Larry's pun was pretty good, but Shemp's about to outdo him. Moe asks Shemp, "Did you take a bath?" Shemp replies "Why? Is there one missing?" I know, I know, but I just want to see if anyone's paying attention. Oh, the loneliness of the long distance blogger. Anywho, exeunt Stage Right Moseph and Lawrence. We now focus on Shemp and the untidy business of food preparation, Survivorman style.
Shemp should've not forgotten his own strength, seeing as how he was able to blow off the leaves of a dead plant in his sleep. He sets down the fish, probably now dead, and blows on the campfire spot. He blows too hard a second time, and a miniature volcano of dirt and ash blows up into his face. He waits about ten seconds, makes a half-assed attempt to wipe off his face, then says "How do you like that? The fire went out!" Lol. Well, things moved slower back then. Very slow. Shemp proceeds to gather some dry kindling for a fire, then takes out a lighter. We gotta keep this bitch moving, after all. Can't be wasting time rubbing two sticks together now! "Don't fail me, baby," Shemp says to his lighter. Shemp must've been the hippest of the Stooges, at least for the '50s. Curly was chic for the '30s and '40s; long time to be chic! Alas, very few wanted to copy his hairstyle. 'Tis quite popular now, though, in this Rogaine-sparse age. And did I mention that he's still got dirt on his face? Shemp must've been the hardest working Stooge. No wonder he fizzled out after eight years. He didn't go into it for the long haul like Moe and Larry.
Anyway, Shemp gets a raging fire going, and surprisingly doesn't get scared by it. You know, I'm starting to think that they're not really cavemen! Shemp then proceeds to chop some lumber. Hey, he's not going to... he does! That's Larry's bit, damn it! Shemp chops one piece of lumber, and the piece of lumber flies high up into the air, then comes back down on LARRY'S HEAD! Breaking into a million and six pieces. Larry, damn it. Larry. I forget which one right now, lucky for Shemp. Shemp regains his balance after being hit on the head by kindling... well, the stream ate up their budget, so they couldn't afford the piece of wood that breaks into kindling. Shemp happily gathers up kindling to dump on the fire, and then... "Milkman!" someone says. Geez. Anyone left who was trying to retain one small shred of suspension of disbelief? Just me, I guess. Sheesh!!
Shemp goes out to greet the milkman, who has a cow named Sassafrass. Shemp tries to help the milkman by singing the saddest song in the world as he milks. Of course, this wouldn't be a proper Stooge film if Shemp didn't get splashed in the face... oh, thank God! I was starting to get worried. Shemp in turn tries to milk the indignity of it all for as long as he can... see how I did that? Ten seconds! Not bad!
Back to Moe and Larry who have returned from their "dip."... Sorry, I spoke too soon. They're apparently starting their dip now. Moe violently washes his face with the icky stream water. Frankly, I'd probably react the same way. And even though they're cavemen, they're not so uncivilized that they don't have their own towels! The down side: the "towels" are just giant palm leaves or something. Moe washes his face with it. Frankly, he'd probably be better off leaving his face alone. The leaves probably have some kind of waxy buildup on them or some kind of corrosive oil. Moe says "Boy, the water's sure cold today!" Larry takes this very much to heart, and carefully sticks one hand into the water, waits a beat, then says "Oof!" and starts vigorously "drying" himself off" with his towel. Moe turns and watches... oh, Larry's in for such a beating, but I'll take bets on Moe pushing Larry into the water... damn. Well, from a legal perspective, the statement's correct, but screw that. Moe just pushes Larry's head into the water. Next scene: a crunching sound. Moe lifts Larry's head out of the water and boom! A turtle's stuck to Larry's face. Moe pries it off and wonders what they'll have for supper. Well, cavemen probably didn't worry about keeping kosher, why should the cave Stooges? Now, if I were Moe, I'd probably dip Larry's head in a second time to see what else his savory proboscis would lure to the surface, but that's why I'm me and Moe is Moe. Don't want to get the stream community too jaded, after all! They'll stop biting at Larry's nose if he sticks it in there too often. Moe pushes Larry off-screen and tells him "TAKE THE TURTLE!!!" Oh, I hope that that was improvised.
Next scene: Larry goes inside and shows Shemp the turtle. Shemp's about to make butter with some of the milk. Pretty sophisticated for cavemen! And so, they start to make the butter... geez! Get a room, guys! I know, I know, shame on me and my filthy mind, indeed. Boy, this plot's moving right along! The time killers are disguised pretty good this time. And so, a few seconds and one cross-fade later, the butter's done. "Grade A!" says Shemp.
Meanwhile, back to Moe, who's already put in a full day at this point. Time for a well-earned nap... and time to kill some time. Just then, a bird lands on Moe's head and starts pecking at Moe's head. Moe can't see what's on his head, but he cuts right to the chase and assumes it's dinner. He grabs the biggest stick he can find and hits himself promptly in the head with it. "Ow-ow-ow-ow! OW!" he says. Oh, they totally dubbed that in later. I guess the bird made too much noise or something. Boy, some Master's Degree I got. I don't even know what kind of bird that was! But this next one I know... a duck! Boy, now it's really time to kill some time, if what I think is coming is indeed coming!
And so, the epic battle of Moe v. Duck begins. Oh, I can't bear to watch, but I have to. There's no reason why the rest of you shouldn't go out into the lobby til this all blows over!!!
Long story short: ducks are still smarter than Stooges. Final score: duck 14, Moe 0. And I count every time Moe splashed the water like an idiot. He was starting to channel Curly a li'l bit there! And... was that duck laughing at Moe? Fade to black.
Fade in: a meal is complete, the fish having been eaten. And more importantly, Moe's ass has been quickly healed, and his thoughts turn to the cave ladies. Time to get "dolled up," as he says. Yes, it's a unisex expression now. Time to kill some more time. Moe tells the others that he dreamed about Aggie again last night. Shemp and Larry start getting too complementary about her, so Moe has to keep them in line. To compound matters, Moe hogs all the cologne, and starts putting butter in his hair. He's either "dolled up like never before," or he'd make a tasty dish for a hungry bear. Just then, the joyous laughter of cave women. Next scene: the girls proper, but they've got their faces hidden behind fronds of leaves. Gee, I wonder why? I just have absolutely no idea!
The boys get their special "courting" clubs. This must be George Basalla's favorite Stooge film of all, if he were to watch Stooge films. The boys run out and lightly tap their girls on the head with the courting clubs. No response. They try again. No response. Maggie says "Let's just ignore them, girls." Clever plan!... I guess. The Stooges give another tap to no avail. Finally, Moe says their names and they turn around. Aggie says "Hello, Moe! Whaddaya know?" Shemp and Larry give a contemporary 1948-type response to that. At least, I hope that's what it was. And so, the girls introduce themselves. Personally, I think Maggie's the real attractive one, but that's just me. And poor Shemp, he gets stuck with his foil from Brideless Groom, the wonderful Dee Green. Poor thing, she came from Peoria, got chewed up by Hollywood, and returned to Rockford to retire. 'Tis the curse of Rockford, I tells ya! To accentuate things, Dee's got a blacked-out tooth. See, she's the ugly one, you see...
Shemp and Dee trade some light-hearted jabs, but alas, Dee is not turned off easily. And, she doesn't seem to get it. And unfortunately for Shemp, he can't seem to escape Dee's orbit... could Shemp be falling in love? Of course, he gets mad when Dee hits him so hard... twice, no less! Dee... er, I mean, Baggie goes in for a kiss, but Shemp resists... or demurs? While Shemp resists the affections of Baggie, Larry and Moe get busy going in for the big final "I Love You" clubbing. Larry clubs Maggie... lucky bastid... and she faints, saying "He loves me!" Moe does the same with Aggie. As the Stooges get older, their girlfriends remain in their 20s. Baggie reaches for Shemp's club. Shemp takes off. Baggie's getting a little pissed looking now! She ends up tackling Shemp like in football... I know, I know, their stunt doubles. Cut 'em some slack, will ya? Alas, Shemp is weaker than this she-warrior and he gets clubbed by Baggie, which makes a broken cymbal sound. "I idolize ya" says Shemp as he falls. That's a powerful club! Or a weak Stooge.
But just then... three other cavemen show up. "Look! They're stealin' our women!" says one of the cavemen. And, why look! It's good ol' Cy Schindell, the guy who turns and looks! A perfect caveman if there ever was one. Enjoy him while he lasts... which seems to be for one more short, called Crime on their Hands. Anyway, the three rival cavemen chuck their spears, and end up hitting Moe, Larry and Baggie in the ass. Funny... Baggie doesn't seem to scream that loudly about it! Caveman Schindell yells out the battle cry "You stole our girls, you horse thieves!" The guy on the left says "We want 'em back!" in a real snivelly, omega-male performance. I'm sorry, I mean he was great. The Stooges were lucky to have him. The Stooges prepare for battle, which probably means hurling butter at the other three guys. Actually, they've got some pretty sophisticated weaponry for cavemen, and they've prepared for a long drawn-out conflict well. They run over to a tree, load a plaster rock into the branch, pull the branch back, and let fly with the plaster rock. How many years did it take our ancestors to figure that one out? Direct hit! DOWN GOES CAVEMAN #1! Next up: they hit Schindell in the face with either a spherical wad of mud, or a fresh baby mammoth turd. Gosh, I hope the latter! Either way, Schindell's horrified with the unpleasant result. Maybe they actually used tasty chocolate pudding. Man, I must be hungry... in the midst of being sick as a dog with quasi-bronchitis-ish symptoms. I'd rather die here in America than walk out healthy from a French hospital, that's for sure.
Up next: Larry gets a fish... from somewhere. Seems to be real! Can we get a Stooge prop historian in here? Caveman #3 gets hit with it, but is more confused than vanquished. The other three retreat to behind a giant boulder. Shemp prepares another mud/dung "blockbuster." Larry gets ready to hurl it and... hmm! It's not going to end up where it should, is it? BOFFO! Fraid not. Well, as Curly would often say, Larry was a "victim of circumstance." Poor fella got stung by a bee! Or as others would say... there are no accidents. Larry doesn't want it bad enough. Either that, or the plot was getting a little boring. Larry's punishment is light, however. One slap! General Moe knows that the stakes are higher than normal, apparently, asking Larry "What's a matta? Dont'cha know how to fire a gun?" Then slap. Gun, he says! A tree branch! This puts their other scenes in a different context indeed, when Moe gets slapped in the face by a whooshing "gun." ...BULLS' EYE! Nice... that didn't take as long to find as I thought it would!
Anyway, Moe loads up the "gun" himself this time, and he lets another dungster fly at Schindell. Schindell ducks behind the rock and, so relieved he wasn't hit in the face with it, comes out from behind said rock and says "You missed me!!!!!!" You'll never guess what happens next... That's Curly's bit, damn it. Cy was not cool with that second one. Not cool with it at all.
Just then... Shemp runs up with a whole giant nest full of tiny eggs. Not thinking clearly, Moe quickly loads the whole nest into the tree branch and lets it fly. Boy, does it fly! They haven't even hatched yet! We don't see it hit the guy, as it needs to be carefully arranged first; hence, the sneak preview of the dufus coming out from behind the giant rock. And then, we see the carefully-arranged wreckage... the dude's got the nest on his head, two eggs for eyes and... egg earrings? Anyway, there's yolk all over the top of his head. And, if the Stooges are lucky, the guy's headed to the hospital with a severe case of salmonella, or whatever you get from uncooked eggs. I know, I know... if you're like Rocky Balboa, you get awesome! Duh!!
The nest-hat guy recovers from his various indignities rather quickly, and the non-Stooges threesome converges with spears in front of their giant rock headquarters. Moe better come up with another game-changing idea, and quick. They're no match for tough guys with spears. "Get the poison gas, Larry!" says Moe. Whoa dude... are these cavemen about to learn the lesson of World War I early? Larry runs off camera, returns with a skunk. The skunk is loaded into the tree limb and sent flying out into the battlefield... all in one take! Pretty ambitious, even for the Stooges! It works like a charm: the skunk delicately lands where it's supposed to, and the non-Stooge cavemen with feces on their faces turn their tails and flee. Mind over muscle.
The cave Stooges remove the gas masks from their noses and give a celebratory victory whoop. The girls run over and hug their saviours. Why, Shemp even allows Baggie to hug and kiss him! She would've been awesome in battle, probably. We'll save that for the sequel.
And then it fades to black.... that's it? No skunk call-back? No morality play about how mustard gas was wrong then and is wrong now? Not this time, nope. Besides, they've already done enough shorts copying the end of the Marx Brothers' Animal Crackers, where everyone gets knocked out and falls to the ground. Sometimes even the Stooges gotta celebrate a victory. For some ingeniuity and this one's uniqueness... not a lot of cavemen Stooge shorts, and they probably won't be done as well as this one... three and a half stars.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan