Friday, March 29, 2013
Malice in the Palice... hoh boy, here we go....
So racist... and not enough like making fun of the Amish. MitP is on the big list, and so are the names of all the people who've ever watched it. "Somewhere in the Orient," puh-leeeeeeze. And on top of that, check out that incidental music! They never have incidental music in these things... okay, not never, but 95% of the time they don't.
Fade-in on the restaurant set where hopefully this whole film won't take place. And... what's that on the table? A dead dog? Good Lord. Dig that crazy harpsichord music. Dolly in on the curtains, through which pops the swarthily bearded head of Vernon Dent. His character's named... oh, for God's sake. I'm not touching that one.
...THE DOG'S ALIVE! Awwww.... the thinner bad guy chases it off the table, the bastid. The thin guy's named.... easy, Movie Hooligan. Gotta get through these comedy names. The thin guy's named "Ginna Rumma" and Vernon Dent's named "Hassan Ben Sober." So, with the 'Ben' in his name, he might be half-Jewish for all I know. Besides! There's that character named "Cash drawer" in Kurt Vonnegut's "Player Piano," right? Anyway, they're waiting for their friend named "Affa Dolla" who's got a valuable map. They do the secret handshake and have a seat. "Service!" they start yelling.
Enter the Stooges. Oh, they're going to get served something, all right. And... BOOM!!! Vernon is artfully covered in the wreckage, as is the other guy. Moe has a nice Curly-esque reaction. We hold for the laughs, of course. Spaghetti Face says "Take this off... TAKE THIS OFF!" Shemp obliges, cutting the spaghetti dangling in front of his face as though it were hair. Shemp puts the spaghetti he just cut onto a plate, saying that it's just as good as new. Well, if you lived through the Great Depression, that might be true, but in our modern germophobe days, not so much.
Dent and his partner draw knives on these three scurvy knaves, and for good reason. Is this the end of the Stooges as we once knew it? Will it look like they have two mouths? The pleading begins. "A thousand pardons, it was unavoidable!" pleads Larry. As a former Post Office employee, I know that that's always the right answer. Moe, however, makes an inexplicable plea to Dent's better nature: Dent's about to scalp Moe, but Moe says "This would degrade you!" Dent has a sudden change of heart for the better, and for Moe's better as well, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your POV. I am reminded of a similar moment from Buccaneer Bunny when Bugs almost got Yosemite Sam to blow his own brains out... alas, this copy of it on the YouTube also reminds me of the bad reception I've had to endure many a rainy night. Thanks, satellite TV! Dent declares "You're right. I am an Aristocrat! I am Hassan Ben Sober!" Shemp delivers us the joke we've been waiting for, based around that name. Moe delivers physical punishment upon his elder brother. Shemp retaliates, with that hand waving movement that I still don't know the proper term for, but this time... whoa, dude! He drops his hand right down to the floor and makes Moe hit his head on the floor several times in a row. Game changing. And I don't use that clichéd to hell phrase lightly this time.
At this point, all three of them are on the floor, cleaning up the enormous mess made by Shemp's one quick gesture. There's a frame blow-up at 2:53 for some reason. Maybe Shemp was giving Moe the finger or something, and they couldn't go back and do a second take. Moe breaks a plate over Shemp's head at 2:58 and, caught up in the spirit of the moment, Larry breaks a plate at 3:00.
Cross-fade to the next scene above the table, and focusing on the curtains. Enter Affa Dolla, played by Frank Lackteen, Dent's gaunt assistant in A Bird in the Head. A quick hashing and thrashing out of new plot developments. Affa Dolla has two main points: 1) there's a duplicate copy of the map, and 2) he reminds his two lunkheads that whoever touches the diamond first will be cursed. "We must secure the services of three to do our bidding," Dent tells his fez-wearing, mustachio'd and sideburn'd assistant. They have to hurry because of that duplicate copy of the map... but first, they need to eat. They can't seem to escape this restaurant they're in. Maybe the Stooges won't drop a bunch of plates on their heads this time. Second chances help the healing.
The Stooges re-enter. "What'll you have?" Larry asks Dent. Dent starts to answer, but Moe quickly replies "We don't have anymore." Larry says "All we got left is rabbit and hot dog." Dent says "Rabbit." The other guy says "Hot dog." Larry says "Hot dog! They'll take rabbit!" So corny, so dumb... the one time Moe should've slapped Larry, and he doesn't. I just lost all my faith in humanity. Shemp goes into his magic trick and starts pulling out the endless kerchief with pepper and salt on the end of it. Shemp takes silverware out of his pockets, and breathes on the butter knife to polish it up. He uses Dent's beard to do the polishing.
I apologize in advance, but I have to skip over most of this part, I just have to. I have to, because I hate this kind of thing. I know I shouldn't, but I do anyway. First of all, because the way Larry's holding the cat in this scene. Larry has to pause for the camera, and he's holding the cat by the scruff of its neck as it claws helplessly to free itself. Look how he lovingly cradles the dog by comparison! Anti-cat bastard. Anyway, the belaboured scene involves Larry preparing the food of their two guests, and what everyone else thinks that they hear. So, Moe, Shemp, Dent and his fez-wearing friend, all think that Larry's killing a cat and a dog and making the food. It's a wonderful scene, and a classic that will last forever. I'm reminded of a similar, far superior scene in Playing the Ponies.
So, to cut to the chase, Dent and his assistant force Moe and Shemp to eat, but they refuse. At one point, they force Larry to eat, which Larry does happily. They then push Larry out of the way, and start eating themselves. The meal is interrupted when ... it's a little complicated. Shemp makes a play for one of the hot dogs, and it gets slapped out of his hand. The dog and cat start fighting over it... but personally, I think the cat was lifted by wires. A fight erupts under the table between the cat and dog, and Dent and assistant erupt from their seats, knocking the whole table over. The Stooges start fighting amongst themselves and... Dent and his assistant have found the three they seek! Dent and his assistant start to close the deal, when... a hand emerges from the curtain and throws a knife onto the table! The knife has a message: a note from Omagosh, the Emir of Shmow. Omagosh beat them to the diamond. Dent and assistant break down in tears. Dent says he won't be able to quit his job as doorman at the Oasis Hotel. That does it for the Stooges. They give Dent the business. Dent's assistant's about to cut the Stooges with his knife, but instead asks if they'll give him five for it... he ends up twirling out of the scene at about 8 fps. Epic. That's the one thing about this film that I'll never be able to forget as long as I live.
The Stooges are a bit more positive about the useless map. They're able to turn it into map lemonade. They also have thoughts of being good citizens of whatever fictional country they're currently in. (Hint: I think it's called "Starvania") Why, if they return the diamond to the government, they're sure to get a big reward! So, God bless the thieves who steal things and create economic incentives for do-gooders.
Anyway, time to study the map. The map shows up at 2:56. Moe starts talking at 3:36. You do the math. Way to kill time, guys! Fade to black.
Just one note about the map: they must read from right to left in that country, because the provinces of "Atisket" and "Atasket" are in the wrong order!
Fade in. Scene: the stronghold of Shmow in Shmowland, where security's tighter than Mick Jagger's leotards. To set the stage, we see one person trying to enter. Fortunately for them, they're allowed entry. There's one mean looking guard with a rifle guarding the place. The Stooges have prepared a great disguise, however: the three of them pull up in a sleigh-wagon hybrid dressed as three Santa Clauses. They jingle as they arrive, of course. Why, their horse even has fake reindeer antlers! Lol. The guard's skeptical at first. "Aw, there ain't no such thing as Santa Claus!" he says. The Stooges insist, and tell the guard that they have a present for him. They do? Ah, bribery... works every time. They do have a giant sack, but it's empty. As it turns out, the guard is what they're going to fill the sack with! See, a good disguise will only take you so far...
Next scene: the interior of the palace proper. The Stooges, still in their Santa outfits, just waltz right on in until... they run afoul of a palace guard with a giant scimitar. They would've gotten Dudley Dickerson for this part, but they wanted someone taller and more muscular. So far, the guard's pretty mellow! He doesn't see the Stooges as a threat yet. Meanwhile, the Stooges go to work. A quick huddle, and then they start playing leapfrog, inviting the guard to join in. The guard does, the big dufus. The guard sets down his giant sword, and Moe beats him over the head with it. The guard stands up, and listens to the birdies, takes his sword and skips away. Threat averted. Now if only they could find Omarosa or whoever the hell it is...
Next scene: the Shmow proper! He's still laughing over the diamond, apparently. And who can blame him? The Stooges run to the nearest curtain they can find. Boy! Lot of curtains in this one! Curtains in the café, curtains here... curtains, curtains, curtains! As it turns out... the Shmow's reading the funny papers. Boy, do I feel like a fool. He was so engrossed in the funnies, he didn't even see the Stooges running away out of his peripheral vision. The Stooges cook up their next ruse...
Next scene: the Shmow grows weary of the comics, and is now sitting uneasily in his makeshift throne. He has stolen the diamond from King Rootin Tootin's tomb, but remains unconvinced by tales of some curse. Surely retribution won't be so swift! His main competitors' spirits broken, who's really going to care about one lousy biggest diamond ever... OH MY GOD! A giant Santa Claus approaches, making "gruff" noises like Shemp. It's got three sets of arms, the top two of which are swinging back and forth. The bottom pair of arms are apparently holding Moe's stunt double in place. "Fe fi fo fum..." says the thing. So corny, so dumb. Shemp continues: "I'm the evil spirit that guards the Rootin Tootin diamond!" So far, the Shmow's convinced. Shemp orders Shmow to hand over the diamond. Shmow throws his hat to Shemp, and Shemp removes the diamond.
Now what? Oh, Shemp's all too ready to boss someone around for a change. "The spirit commands you to stand on your head in that lily pond until FURTHER NOTICE!" The Shmow obliges. And just when the Shmow's ears are full of water, the black guard returns. Larry's head emerges from the disguise, and Shemp orders Moe to get them the hell out of there. And it almost works too! They're too tall for the entryway and collapse in a giant heap on the floor. The guard gives chase.
The Stooges pick themselves up off the floor, saying "Oh, Oh, Oh." The guard shows up with the sword, and the Stooges say "OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" See how they did that? Moe and Larry zig, while Shemp and the guard zag. Just as Curly is often left to his own devices, so now is Shemp. Shemp runs into a corner, but don't worry. The Good Lord, or whoever watches over the Stooges (Satan too, maybe?) have seen fit to put Shemp into a corner with many tools of the Stooges' trade; mostly, a big plate of soft fruit. But before that, Shemp decides to try matching his enemy with similar tools, and he reaches up to a shield on the wall to grab a sword. He grabs a tiny knife instead. Realizing his mistake, he gives the knife to the guard. "Here, hold that," he says. The humorless guard bellows "I'LL KILL YOU!" We'll see about that, mister. Shemp grabs a slightly better weapon, a sword that looks like a fencing foil. But Shemp's not a fighter, he's a lover, or something else in the non-fighter category. And just like the Blue Raja refuses to take up knives instead of forks and spoons, Shemp turns to ingenuity instead of simple, brutish swordplay. He stabs one of the round pieces of fruit off of that plate, and hurls it at the guard. The guard angrily wipes the fruit pulp off his face. Shemp goes for a second, followed by a banana. The banana lands right in the guard's mouth. Well, they probably just rolled the film backwards. Needles to say, the humiliation of that slows the guard down a little bit. The guard gains his composure and says "Why, you..." A damn shame they're enemies; this guard's practically a Stooge himself! One more piece of fruit in the face, and the guard needs to take a break to recoup.
Enter Moe and Larry. Moe sees the guard backing up to the wall, a giant vase just above his head. Moe removes the guard's hat to make sure it doesn't cushion the blow from the vase one bit. "Your hat," says Moe, handing it to the guard. "Thank you," says the guard, as we await his massive double take that's surely to come. Hmm! They seem to do a frame blow-up at 6:43. See, they couldn't afford to do a close-up shot, so they have to get the lab to do it. That's half the film's budget right there! The guard starts to say "Why you..." again, but Moe pulls the piece of fabric that the vase is sitting on.
I'm telling you! The black guard was framed! He just sits there, looking angrily over at Moe until the vase hits his head. The vase doesn't shatter, though; it merely bounces, which makes it just that much more painful. Shemp picks up the vase and drops it on the dude's head a second time. The guard's pained look on his face changes only slightly. For some reason, the guard's not falling down. The Stooges soon figure out why: the guard's sword is standing him up, so Shemp kicks it away out from slightly in front of him. The guard gently plummets to the ground, ever so subtly catching himself before impact. And on top of that, it was done at 12 or 8 fps, probably, with wires to gently lower him down, I'll bet! My picky friend would be all over that. So fake, so phony. When Chris Farley fell forward like that, all he had was his giant stomach to catch him! Now there was a born stunt man.
With the security guard vanquished a second time, using repeated comedy blows to the head, that's that. "Well, that's that!" says Moe, as all the Stooges do that hand gesture signifying that everything's been all tied up and taken care of, every last loose end plucked from the garment, perfection and/or normalcy completely restored. On to the next challenge. Still, something doesn't feel right... oh, right! The Shmow's still standing on his head, but the lily pond has no more liquid in it! The guy falls over, his legs landing on the edge of the lily pond. I hope that was the stunt man.
Cut to the next scene. I guess it was a stunt man. The Shmow is standing up now, and Moe prods the Shmow's new-fangled giant stomach, swollen with lily pond water. Just as the Road Runner cartoons have their own laws of physics, so too do the Stooge films, and the bad guys have the ability to hold enormous amounts of water in their bellies. They are also just as good at spitting it back out again. They position the Shmow just right so that he starts filling up the pond with all the water he drank. I hope they hooked up a hose to the side of his face away from the camera. Moe tells the female statue that normally fills up the pond, "Sister, looks like you're out of a job!" The statue also starts dispensing water, but it turns around so that the Stooges get soaked. Moe woofs at the statue before they all run off into the sunset... or as close to it as they can get within the confines of the palace set.
...Khashdrahr Miasma! That's it!
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan