Saturday, March 23, 2013
Next Stooge: Fuelin' Around
World War II is over and the Marshall Plan is re-building Europe... but there are some who are still pissed off. Take Capt. Rork, for example. He and his two thugs are spying on one Dr. Sneed, a rocket (fuel) scientist who has since changed his name and moved into the suburbs, the American version of the Garden of Eden. They plan to kidnap him and take him back to Germany... I mean, the fictional country of Anemia... so that he may finish his new revolutionary rocket fuel, which Anemia will use as a stepping stone to... what else? World domination. From the hedges, they look in the window of the Professor's house and see Larry standing there, nattily dressed and smoking a pipe. It must be Prof. Sneed. "There's no mistaking that magnificent head of hair," sneers Capt. Rork.
As it turns out, the Stooges are putting in new carpeting for the real Prof. Sneed, played by the Fourth Stooge, Emil Sitka, who some have speculated looks a lot like Larry, so why not build a plot around that? Sitka looks a little like Einstein in this one, however. Anyway, the Stooge fun begins when Larry says "My men are hard at work on your carpet." Moe objects. Larry revises his earlier statement, but Moe still gives Larry the works, and hits him on the top of his head with a pair of scissors, and almost cuts the tip of his nose off when he guides Larry gracefully back to work. Shemp's about to take a bite of sandwich when Moe tells him to go back to work. Shemp gets hit in the head by a door when Christine McIntyre comes in, and has the nails in his mouth for lunch instead. Shemp's about to kick the ass of the person who opened that door, when... why, it's the fetching Christine McIntyre! Kill or pitch woo... just like a lightswitch. Shemp's in woo mode now. McIntyre is Sitka's daughter, and apparently she's just as smart as the father. I heard that about Einstein's wife as well. Sounds about right. Sitka gives the Stooges a verbal nondisclosure agreement, which Moe agrees to abide by. McIntyre acts sweetly towards Moe, and that seals the deal. Moe starts swooning like Curly used to. Moe seems to be missing his second premolar on the right side.
Larry's swooning on his own while working, which proves to be a little dangerous. Especially for Moe. Larry cuts right through the tip of Moe's shoe. This is perverse to me for a few reasons, mostly because I don't believe Larry is strong enough or the scissors sharp enough to do that. But it sure snaps Moe out of his reverie. Can't argue with results! Besides, that's what he gets for almost cutting Larry's nose off. There's a crunching sound, and Moe screams in pain even though his toes are really okay. Moe gets revenge on Larry by hitting Larry in the head with a hammer no less than thirteen times. That's lucky! I apologize.. that's twelve times on the head, and once in the face, and that one makes a gong sound. The professor and McIntyre are leaving and Shemp follows behind... a little too closely. Shemp gets his nose caught in the door. Apparently, McIntyre won't stop trying to close the door, either! Shemp pops his nose out of the door, making a champagne cork sound. (See also: Pink Panther cartoons)
Moe goes over to Larry. We stay on Larry, who clearly looks a little ticked off. Moe goes over to Shemp and hands him the wrong end of a tape measure. Moe stands next to the door and Shemp takes the tape measure to the other side of the room. Moe is supposed to look at his end of the tape measure to get the correct distance, but it's probably against movie regulations. Movie plot regulations, anyway. No measurements or currency amounts. That's how all the great scripts operate. Future-proofing kinda stuff. And so, Moe asks Shemp how many feet he has. Shemp's answer: priceless. For everything else, there's MasterCard. "You skillet-head," exclaims an agitated Moe. "GIMME THAT TAPE!" he says after that. Shemp obliges, and Moe gets hit in the face with a giant cloud of measuring tape.
Moe's upset, but takes a different strategy for revenge this time. He tells Shemp that they'll forget about it, so Shemp gets back to work. Shemp's standing on an unsecured stretch of carpet. Moe picks up the carpet at his end and gives it a good YANK. Shemp ends up in A GIANT CRASH. This may be the highlight of the whole film right there! But every action has an equal and or opposite reaction, and Moe ends up smashing into the door after yanking on the carpet. Fortunately for him, Sitka and McIntyre have geek stuff to attend to. Gravity and Potential Energy are not finished with Shemp yet, as a vase on its side rolls off a shelf above Shemp and... CRASH! Right on the head. Shemp is close to the ground already, but the vase makes him collapse completely behind the chair.
Cross-fade to the bad guys outside, who plan on kidnapping the Professor (or Larry) as soon as one of them comes outside. Wipe-fade back to the Stooges... is that even a term? They use it in the Star Wars movies a lot, anyhow. Larry and Shemp are hard at work putting tacks in the carpet, when Supervisor Moe notices this giant lump in the middle of the carpet. Moe tries asking Shemp about it, but Shemp's too engrossed in his work. Now, either Moe makes a fatal error in judgment... or it's time for America's Next Great Three Stooges Time Stretcher. And.... THEY'RE OFF! Moe decides to crawl under the carpet and investigate this lump himself. Back to Shemp and Larry, busy nailing away. And they've rounded the corner, and Larry and Shemp meet in the middle and finish the job of nailing in the carpet. They stop before injuring each other. They look over and see a huge person-sized lump in the carpet. "Say, he wasn't kidding! That IS a big lump!" exclaims Shemp. Lawrence the Contrarian says "Aw, it's just a wrinkle. Flatten it out." Maybe it's just me, but I'm in the mood to skip over this part. See also: similar scene in A Bird in the Head.
Moe is finally bourne anew from the carpet at about 4:27. I guess any more than that would just be gratuitous. "Hey Moe! YOU was that lump!" says Shemp. "And you'll be the next one!" says Moe, but they help him out just the same. Moe heaps physical abuse upon his unders, first Shemp, then Larry, who he hits on the head with that same hammer from before, with the same cadence as before. Cross-fade to next scene as Larry's beating continues..........
The Stooges leave the house, and they're very, very nattily dressed. Just like they probably were in real life. Time for the baddies to strike. The Stooges make it as easy as possible for them, too. The Stooges go for a little stroll in the yard next to the hedges, walking in a straight line. The order is: Shemp first, then Moe, then Larry. Larry gets grabbed first, then Moe. Street-fighter Shemp is a little harder to get, but the bad guys ultimately prevail in this game of tackle football for keeps.
Next scene: stock footage of a plane to Anemia. If this were Indiana Jones, there'd be a map with stretching red lines. And music, sweet music, there'd be music everywhere... sorry, got sidetracked again. Doing too much at once again. Damn you, Words w/Friends!!! Then, there's a train. Then, the Anemia town square... wow! It's actually them! Not just stock footage of a Jeep. The Stooges are actually in it, and they pull up to the loading dock of a big brick building. Larry says "Reminds me of the reform school!" Oh, but his delivery's so wooden! Surely, they slipped him a Michael Finn or some sort of Voodoo zombie drink with enough wasp venom in it to catatonicize a human porcupine! Moe gives Larry a swift kick in the ass, but there's no big kick sound to signal it. Larry stumbles. "Did you stumble... PROFESSOR?" asks Moe, reminding him and us that Larry's supposed to be in character. Shemp tries a clever trick to get away, but the Anemian guards weren't born yesterday. No, there will be no "Charlie who walks like this" to save their kosher equivalent of bacon this time, I'm afear'd.
Commandant Dent walks by the Stooges. The Stooges have a few lines, but are whisked away all the same. Dent and Rork exchange pleasantries, and Dent presents Rork with a medal. Rork informs General Dent that the professor's fuel will be ready in two or three days... or else.
Next scene: Moe's hitting the books. "Elementary Chemistry" in English! Great choice. Moe is staring wide-eyed at the book; he seems to be freaking out a little bit. Shemp wonders what the audience might be wondering at this point: why don't they just tell the Anemians that they've made a mistake, that Larry's not the real professor? Professor Moe gives the other two a brief lesson in Logic 101: "Because they'll go back and get the real professor, and SHOOT US!" The ruse must continue. Alas, the truth will not always set you free, I'm afear'd. Larry agrees, saying "It's our duty to posterior!" I think Shaft said something similar to that. Larry seems to be channeling Stan Laurel to a degree. Larry walks away, and Shemp takes his place, and dumps some pyrogallic acid into the mix. It's a powerful reducing agent.... like I need to tell you. Their unholy concoction starts bubbling big time. "If they put that in an airplane, something's bound to happen," posits Moe. "GET SOME MORE STUFF!" he orders Shemp.
Shemp starts climbing the shelves to get more stuff, and in his haste he gets hit on the head by a vase-like object an unprecedented second time in the same pic. This time, a giant empty jug. Dazed, he returns to the floor and walks back over to the table. He takes the funnel and, still dazed, puts it into Moe's sleeve instead of the bottle holding their brew. Moe notices in the close-up shot. Moe stands up and slaps Shemp, verbally admonishing him as well. But every action has an equal and opposite reaction, which probably doesn't completely explain why Shemp knocks over the Stooges' brew. We watch as the table catches on fire. "SOMEBODY PUT THE FIRE OUT!" Moe exclaims eventually. Larry... incidentally, where was he when all of this was going on? Agitated, Larry grabs the smallest fire extinguisher he can find and runs to the fire. "LARRY, C'MON!" growls Shemp. Larry tries putting out the fire; unfortunately, it's not in Moe's face.
Alas, no time to eat, drink and beat Larry. The concoction's the priority! Moe gets a cork and puts a cork in it... the cork won't hold! Their solution's producing too much gas. The cork pops, sounding a little too much like the proverbial champagne bottle, and the cork lands in Rork's eye. But Rork lets it pass, as there's rocket fuel on the line. Moe sells it as best he can, and Rork is impressed. The Stooges try to leave, but Rork stops them for a second. He'd really like to have theat formula first! "Oh, yes, the formula...." says Moe. Moe relegates the job to Larry, who relegates to Shemp. Shemp starts in on the double talk. Ah, the double talk. You know, it'd make a great YouTube mash-up... can someone else do it? I have neither the time nor the place.
That seems to be going well, when suddenly... enter General Dent, and he doesn't look pleased. Not pleased at all. Does he know what we know? If so, he doesn't say so at first. Rork and the Stooges keep going. Dent opens the door and motions to someone in the hall... oh, he knows. Enter Sitka and McIntyre. Hoh boy. The Stooges do what they often do in a situation like this: head for the nearest open window. But the Anemian guards are one step ahead: one button push and DOWN GOES IRON BARS!
It's probably time for Act Three, but we've still got six minutes. Dent threatens Sitka with death if he doesn't make with his formula. McIntyre tries to help, saying "My father has a very poor memory." Shemp helpfully says "DO IT TO JULIA!"... sorry, wrong reference. He tries to make a joke out of it, but Moe hits Shemp with one of the guard's guns. Pistol-whipped!
Dent knows the professor's valuable, so instead of killing him outright, he downgrades his punishment to a night in the dungeon. Rork chews out the Stooges a little bit. Then, Dent proceeds to strip Rork of his medals and accolades. Right in front of the Stooges! Is there an unlikely alliance in their future? Oh, I believe so!
Cross-fade to a slightly different laboratory, where the Stooges are pacing back and forth in their regular clothes. No lab coats this time. Larry has a rare alpha moment. They resume their pacing, and Larry and Moe have a collision that looks kinda real! Moe's taken aback by it a little bit, anyhow. God bless 'em, the scene goes on a little longer than it probably should have. Lol. Mercifully, we cut to Sitka and McIntyre in a jail cell. The room that the Stooges are pacing in is directly above their cell. Sitka has a rare dramatic moment when he says "I wish we could do something to help the poor fellows." A posthumous Thalberg Oscar is perhaps in order? Just then, a guard brings a tray of nourishment for the two prisoners. At least Anemia abides by the Geneva Conventions. The guard is Jock Mahoney, and I believe he was the guy who convinced Sally Field to do the damn Flying Nun show. It's the Smokey and the Bandit movies he should've talked her out of, tee hee hee. As in a previous Stooge short they appeared in together, this guard has a thing for McIntyre. McIntyre motions to Sitka to try and grab the keys while she sweet-talks the guard. She's probably laying it on too thick, but Sitka's not working fast enough, the old coot.
Sitka eventually gets the keys, and at just the right time, too, because Mahoney gets very bashful and starts walking away. It's at this juncture that he proves himself to be an honorary Stooge when his head runs afoul of the dangling lamp. He eventually collapses in the hallway, just out of sight, making a thunderous crash in the process. Lol.
The Oppenheimers start to unlock the cell... but wait! They can't leave the Stooges behind. McIntyre starts tapping on their ceiling; the Stooges' floor. Sorry, I couldn't resist. The Stooges listen to the message. Moe eventually asks Shemp "What does it say?" I'm sorry, but you're going to have to see it for yourself. Another good idea for a YouTube mashup. Could someone else get started on that, please?
After that doesn't work, McIntyre tries talking to the Stooges, saying that they have keys. Larry squats down to the floor and says "We'll be right down!" Moe lifts Larry up by the hair until he's standing up. "How are we gonna get down there?" asks Moe. Larry comes up with the idea of burning a hole in the floor with the "rocket stuff," as he calls it. Brilliant! Larry gets to work and pours a small amount of it in a ring shape on the floor. He stands inside the ring, of course. A few seconds later... plop goes Larry through the hole. McIntyre consoles Larry's stunt double soon after. Now you're probably asking yourself, aren't the Stooges prisoners, too? Why aren't they in a jail cell? Moe falls through the hole next, but he's proud and he does his own stunt on this one. Screw the completion guarantee, the insurance men never watch these things, anyway. This one's for the fans!
And now, it's Shemp's turn. Alas, he doesn't quite make it down, as General Dent and an assistant grab Shemp before he can drop down. A tug-of-war begins, much like over Sharlto Copley in District 9, more or less. This ought to kill some time! Shemp's neck gets stretched at this point, and he starts to sound like Popeye. Fortunately, Dent's covering Shemp's face so you won't see the horrible, horrible expression on a man's face when his neck gets stretched like that. Too, too gruesome. "My NEEEEECKK!!!" he says. Moe gets kicked a couple of times in the face. Shemp eventually tells Dent and his guy to let him go, and he'll give up. What goofs! Shemp punches 'em both in the face for good measure once he's made it to "safety."
The quintet escapes the jail cell, but two thugs are waiting for them. They all go back into the cell. They then push the jail cell door open with such force that the two thugs get their heads caught in the surprisingly flexible iron bars. Shemp goes back for the jug of "rocket stuff" and kicks the two trapped guys in the ass for good measure.
Next scene: outside. They all pile into the Jeep from before, but wouldn't you know it? It's out of gas. What a shock. "We're cooked!" complains Moe. "Oh, no we ain't!" exclaims Shemp, their cartilage-less knight in shining armor with the jug. Larry complains that it's not real gas. "It may not be gas, but it packs an awful wallop!" says Shemp as he pours it in. Moe happily pats Shemp on the head.
General Dent and his coterie show up and guns start blazing. Fortunately, they're really bad shots. Moe starts up the Jeep and out comes wallop #1, burning all the bad guys' clothes. Not their underthings, of course.
The Jeep takes off. Alas, Wikipedia doesn't know what set the Stooges got to use, but it's pretty damn impressive! Fade to black.
Well, I seem to be a sucker for these Stooge shorts where they attack the Nazis or get kidnapped to a foreign country, or travel to a foreign country to get kidnapped. Dutiful but Dumb comes to mind. And with the ad hoc chemistry experiment, also a bit like Pardon My Scotch. Hell with it: four stars. Despite the lump in the carpet segment. Which reminds me: always take up the tacks before you take up the carpet.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan