Thursday, April 04, 2013
A Plumbing We Will Go, Part II
Well, we have thirty seconds of exposition before the Stooges arrive. What's the setup this time? Seems that Emil Sitka and Symona Boniface are New Money attempting to hobnob with the Mellons and Rockefellers. Boniface swoons over their latest acquistion: a Norman Rockwell painting... I mean, a Van Rocklin... whatever that is. A painter who died in poverty, not at all like Rockwell. Sitka complains "From now on, I'll have to live in it!" Poverty, that is. Doesn't Sitka look a bit like Tom Smothers? Sitka wanders off, and the butler approaches Boniface to inform her that the plumbing's on the fritz. The butler's played by a bloke named Herbert Evans. Great speaking voice.
Cross-fade to the offices of Day and Nite Plumbers, where we see Moe reading a book titled "How to Be a Plumber." Suddenly, the phone rings. Now, here's where things start to break down for me. First of all, Moe answers the phone, saying "Nite and Day Plumbers!" ....Anybody else have a problem with this? I thought it was called Day and Nite Plumbers! The butler called it that! THE SIGN SAYS IT!!! Moe hangs up the phone. The phone is attached to one of those wooden extension dealies... boy! What do you call those things? Anyway, he gets hit by the phone twice, and ducks the third, getting smacked a third time just for good measure. The first time sounds like the audio was sped up, in addition to the film being sped up. The third time sounds like Curly was dubbing the sound.
Here's the second problem I have with this setup. In A Plumbing We Will Go, the Stooges were only pretending to be plumbers as a ruse to escape bicycle cop Bud Jamison. Therefore, any damage they cause is okay. That it was the house of the judge who let them go at the beginning of the film was the icing on the cake. Here, they're apparently legitimately plumbers with their own business, their own plumbing van, and their own offices, made from an old fire house. If they damage the Norfleet house, they'll have the Better Business Bureau, the local Chamber of Commerce and the Kiwanis on their ass! They'll lose their licenses! They'll be thrown in jail! They'll lose whatever legitimacy got them the plumbing gig in the first place! I mean, has the whole world gone crazy?
Anyway, Moe drives his plumbing truck away from the wrath of the extend-a-phone, and over to the fire pole to wake up Shemp and Larry. This ought to eat up some time... okay, not as much as I thought. Moe pulls a cord next to his left ear, and Larry and Shemp fall out of their bunks far above Moe's head. Well, you gotta hand it to Lawrence: he did his own stunt on that one! Then again, he didn't have far to fall. Also, they had trouble finding a stunt double for Larry whose hair looked like Larry's. Shemp had farther to fall, but it looks like his stunt double handled that one. Shemp's stunt double continues to sleep on the floor, and Larry tries to wake him up. Larry heads for the pole to slide down and drops a bunch of pipes in a bag onto Moe's head far below. Epic. On top of that, Larry lands in the vehicle and bumps into Moe, thereby causing him to hit the gas. Moe and Larry take off, and Shemp soon comes down the pole himself, but is left behind. Shemp picks himself up and has a great line: "We gotta get a longer Jeep!"
Back to the... what's their name again? Norfleet, that's it. Cross-fade back to a big high-falutin' social gathering at the Norfleet residence, where Mrs. Norfleet takes everyone to see the Van Brocklin painting. We see Kenneth MacDonald and Christine McIntyre in the crowd. McIntyre goes with the rest of 'em to see the painting, but MacDonald goes to answer the door when the doorbell rings! Shocking. The Stooges enter, and rightly confuse MacDonald with the butler. They're awfully rude to him, so he's awfully rude right back. "I'm not the butler, he's in there," says MacDonald, weary to his tired, tired bones. "Lead on, pal!" says Larry. "Pal," says MacDonald, as he stews about that slight.
Next scene: the room with the painting. All is right with the world as Mrs. Norfleet's guests bask in the expensive glow of the painting. Personally, I don't see what's so great about it. MacDonald complements Mrs. Norfleet on the painting, takes a drink off the butler's tray, and tells the butler that the plumbers are here. The butler goes at once to reproach them for not using the back entrance, as does Mrs. Norfleet when she hears the clanging of dropped pipes. Oh, she lays down the law on the Stooges' ass, taking back the drinks they took from the butler's tray. Mrs. Norfleet thinks Shemp's hiding a drink, and she asks him to give her what's in his hand. Looks like it's Harpo's blowtorch from Duck Soup. Moe punishes Shemp for his impertinence. Mrs. Norfleet excuses herself and leaves the butler to take charge of the Stooges. Larry and Moe make fun of her. Shemp's low man again! The butler takes charge and orders the Stooges to work, and they of course end up dropping pipes on his feet. The butler ends up catching a vase that almost falls over, but he drops his tray. It's a transfer of impertinence from the Stooges to the butler. Moe goes up to the butler to talk to him, and so he can turn and hit the butler in the head with his pipes, of course, but I'm still scratching my head over what Moe says. Bad script. As the president of the Stooge corporation, I guess he doesn't count his idiocy as part of the Stooge idiocy.
This kinda feels like an Act Break to me, even though it's about a minute and 20 seconds early. The boys are in the basement, working hard to destroy the plumbing. The similarities to A Plumbing We Will Go are more apparent now. Moe tightens the pipe and the leak seems to stop. "It's just a sottering job," he says. "Gimme the blowtorch!" he tells Larry. Larry's using a highly unstable blowtorch just like Curly did in A Plumbing We Will Go... seems more like a mini-flame thrower! Moe's ass gets burned, in a less spectacular fashion than... APWWG? You get the idea. A slightly different wrinkle: Moe gets his foot stuck in a bucket, and asks Larry to get it out. Larry pulls Moe's leg up and gets hit in the chin by Moe's leg. Moe doesn't look like he meant to do that... or maybe he's just that good. Moe knocks Shemp off balance and gets hit in the face with Shemp's wrench... Shemp's wrench! What a strange phrase.
Back to square one, or maybe worse. Moe gets a handful of water from the pipe and slaps Larry in the face with it. Larry tries to say "I wonder where they shut the water off" without thinking about... the previous film. He fails. (Hmm! I was going to link to A Plumbing We Will Go, but it seems to be owned exclusively by Crackle and they won't let me. Their loss!) Shemp theorizes that you must have to go upstairs to shut off the water, as water always runs downhill. Moe calls Shemp an intelligent imbecile, then violently orders him upstairs to shut the water off. This way, they can reuse basement footage from... you know... that has Moe and Larry in it, albeit from eight years ago. Shemp grabs a bunch of pipes and runs up the stairs... gee! Is that an actual basement, or just a basement set?
There's a little extra footage of Moe and Larry that would be a shame to waste. Anyway, Shemp is now upstairs, and he drops a small bit of pipe. Remember that, as it's going to come up later. Shemp waddles around the corner, then proceeds to re-enact what Curly did previously: knock on the shower stall, kick a guy out of his shower (thank God he was wearing a towel!) and proceed to destroy a bathroom.
Back to Larry and Moe. Trying to be helpful, Larry notices that the bucket's filling up, so he does the expedient thing: dump it out on the floor and set it up again to keep catching the drip. Is Moe grateful? Of course not! He hits Larry on the head with the wrench, the big bully. Since Shemp didn't stop the water, Moe orders Larry to do it. Moe gives Larry a special T-shaped tool for turning off the water, but Larry... as in the previous one... ends up catching Moe's suspenders. Larry tugs as hard as he can, but Moe's suspenders are too strong, and Moe ends up getting hit with the tool. Moe hits the wall, then the floor in spectacular violent fashion! The only difference here is that Moe took two hits in the previous venture, then Larry hit the wall twice. That doesn't happen to Larry here. Instead, Larry runs up the stairs, probably at 8 fps.
Back to Shemp, who comes up with a brilliant idea that even Curly didn't previously. "I'll let the water out the window!" he says. He proceeds to hook up a long pipe to the water gushing out of the wall and, at some point, loses focus of the larger goal. Destroy the objective but still survive, I guess. Incidentally, why is water gushing out from where Shemp pulled out the valve on the mixer tap? Oh, I guess it makes sense. Maybe it's an older version that was designed like that, where the valve is connected directly to the pipe. Anyway, Shemp builds his pipe structure the same way Curly built his some eight years earlier... eerie!
Back to the part of the house where things are still dry. McIntyre and MacDonald are whispering next to the expensive-ass painting. Hmm! They're not up to no good, are they? I guess the Stooges will have to end up catching them in the act of stealing the painting, and they can use the ample reward money to offset the cost of all the plumbing damage they're causing. I can't understand what MacDonald's whispering to McIntyre. That's what I get for not looking at the closed-captioned DVD of this. Mrs. Norfleet introduces Mr. Norfleet to this photogenic but criminal couple.
Back to Larry... or rather, footage of Larry from APWWG digging in the yard. A few seconds of that, then Back to Moe, who's recreating the part where, in APWWG, he says "Who says you need brains to be a plumber?" then gets dripped on some more. Similar here, but slightly different. Moe notices a second leak behind him, so he gets a box to stand on so he can fix it. "All these pipes are full of termites!" he complains.
And so, it's time for... old footage of Dudley Dickerson in the kitchen! He's busy peeling potatoes when... oh, snap! The faucet's sho goin' craaaaazy! Moe has the same trouble with this second pipe as he did in APWWG.
Back to Shemp, who's just finished his abstract sculpture. Alas, it's already dripping on him, whereas Curly had a few seconds of victory where the water actually did stop, until it started up again. Even if I hadn't seen APWWG first, this version with Shemp is clearly not as good. First of all, the one with Curly started with a close-up shot, then switched to a wide shot so we could see the extent of Curly's pipe masterpiece. Here, we start with the wide shot, and the water hasn't stopped pouring out of the pipe. Why, Shemp even gives a half-assed performance when expressing concern about being trapped... at least, compared to Curly. I guess Shemp knew that APWWG would be hard to top. Shemp starts boring holes into the floor to liberate the flowing water. At the same time, Moe's fixing the leak in the thinner of the two pipes he's got. There's still the matter of the leak coming from the thicker of the two pipes, but Moe's too old and tired to give a damn about that right now. One out of two ain't bad at his age. He attempts to recreate the line from A Plumbing We Will Go and make it sound fresh. He fails. But he does put some oomph into it when Shemp's first stream of water hits him smack on the head. It's a doozy! The second stream hits without waiting for the laugh. Now it just looks like there's three guys with hoses high over Moe's head. Lol. The streams of water follow Moe as he tries to step out of the way. Much less discipline than in APWWG where, if I recall correctly, Moe moved about a foot at a time in that one before the next trickle landed on his head. And just before you know it... DOWN COMES SHEMP! Dayamn... I'll bet that stunt double got some overtime on that one! Ouch. Having destroyed the thin pipes, Moe orders Shemp to get a new length of pipe. Shemp immediately runs over to the electrical system to get some more pipe. Makes me pine for the moment in APWWG when Curly yells "I RESENT THAT!" at Moe. Great line reading. And so, Shemp reenacts the part about yanking wires out of the pipe. I wonder if electrical systems are like that today. Probably not; too expensive to just use plumbing pipes any old wheres! That's why kitchen sinks and bathrooms are so close together. I've never lived in a house that didn't have two bathrooms separated by an adjacent wall.
Cut to the main part of the house, where a lamp starts coming loose from the wall next to Emil Sitka and some babe. "No, we don't go in for sculpture. Too bulky," he says. Lol. Shemp gives one final big tug and... POW! Didn't think they'd go that far! I never should've doubted them. And now... back to old footage of Dudley Dickerson; looks like Wikipedia got it half right!!! A bit of Shemp yanking on wires and... back to more old footage of Dudley Dickerson, this time with that damn clock. Sounds like they added a little bit to the audio there.
Back to Shemp with a big pile of wires at his feet. He must be near the end! Meanwhile, cut to Larry digging in the yard. It's a bit confusing without footage of the butler accosting him, the big jerk. And back to Shemp who just finished stripping the whole house of all its wires. In a twist on the original APWWG, Moe brings the pipe over to Shemp, water pouring right out of it, rather than the other way around. See, if they really were plumbers, they might know not to mix water and electricity. Just saying. And, back to Dudley Dickerson, who's about to get soaked by the oven, and possibly the light fixture just over his head. Will there be any time for this robbery subplot that will balance out the Stooge-iverse?
Meanwhile, a much younger Larry sticks his head up out of the ground at this juncture. And back to Dudley, who graduated from the "The more you fall on your ass, the funnier the scene is" school of comedy.
Turns out Wikipedia was right after all. Dudley Dickerson, dressed in the raincoat from eight years earlier, comes out and says "Sorry, folks! Dinner's postponed on account of rain!" Let's see André Braugher do better than that! Symona Boniface suggests they all go see what's on television. This was in the old days when the rich and powerful didn't have as much control over what happens on television; of course, the Norfleets aren't at that level yet. Meanwhile, back to our photogenic, crime-happy couple, having found the perfect opportunity to steal the painting. Oh why oh why are the pretty ones always so crazy? Oh, he uses a common knife to cut the painting out of the frame. So lower class.
Now, for those of you who know and love APWWG like I do, I'll bet you'll never guess in a million years what they're going to watch on television? That's right! Niagara Falls! Of course, they'll have to redo the scene because it was Bess Flowers who was the Margaret Dumont-esque matriarch who got the brunt of the water coming out of the TV in that one. Symona lives up to the challenge, of course, and probably does better than ol' Bessie did. The butler runs up and says "Madam! Shall I get you some water?" I'm not even going to touch that one. Soon after, however, Boniface does notice that the painting's gone. A few seconds earlier and she could've seen MacDonald cutting it out of the damn frame!!! Personally, I wouldn't buy a painting on the black market from a thief who has no respect for the original frame, but that's just me. The Macs are about to leave, but Emil Sitka says, as someone often does in these situations when a crime is committed in a nice house like that, "Nobody leave the house! Just a formality." Sitka tries to call the police but gets the Water Department instead. He's confused when he gets sprayed by both ends of the phone. Lol. I dare say he steals the movie out from under the Stooges in this one!
Next scene: the Macs try to make their getaway, but they run afoul of Dudley Dickerson brandishing a meat cleaver! "You folks goin' somewheres?" he asks. White man's nightmare right there. "Just looking for a drink of water," purrs McIntyre. "Turn on anything! You'll get it," says Dickerson. This may be his most dignified performance in a Stooge film yet, old footage aside.
The Macs wander back up the hall and... at last! Closure. Remember the pipe that Shemp dropped earlier? It's come in handy once again. Phooey. And I was hoping someone would trip over it. Guess I'll have to wait for that to happen. MacDonald starts stuffing the painting into the pipe. Meanwhile, Shemp opens the door behind them, and instantly gets caught up to speed on the plot. McIntyre decides to rejoin the others to avoid some of the suspicion. As for MacDonald, it's too late, because Shemp's a good guy now and grabs the pipe from MacDonald. Unbeknownst to Shemp, Moe positions himself behind Shemp. Shemp hoists the pipe over his head and accidentally smites Moe upon his head, but he hits MacDonald upon the head tried and true. Shemp didn't hit MacDonald on the head hard enough, however, and Shemp starts running away, with MacDonald in tow. Moe's simply in a daze.
Back to McIntyre who's hard at work shoring up her alibi. "Why, the only strangers in the house are those plumbers! They must've taken your painting!" she says. Boniface heartily agrees, and half of the group becomes an upper-class posse, hell bent on revenge. Three of the group stays behind and talks amongst themselves. How strange! Next scene: the hall, where Moe's still recovering from his head injury. They all chase Moe into the basement... except McIntyre, who's apparently going to lock everybody in! Tee hee hee. I love it.
Next scene: the basement proper, where Moe does everything he can to keep Sitka away from him. All he's got so far is one trash can, so it's going to be tough. And... damn. They caught Moe. Well, you gotta hand it to Moe: he did it with a lot of class. He could've run to the far corner of the basement, but that would've made the cameraman's job that much tougher. Moe always had respect for the crew; he wasn't one of these hoidy-toidy comedy stars who didn't mingle with the commoners.
Next scene: Shemp's back in the bathroom he destroyed and, like Curly before him, he's covering the now smoothly shaped hole in the bathroom floor with a damp rug. Much safer than, say, a well-marked barricade, dontcha think? God bless the private sector! In a twist on APWWG, MacDonald enters the bathroom, eager to get his stolen painting back. Shemp says "Come and get it!" and... MacDonald's stunt double crash lands in the basement. Moe tries in vain to accuse MacDonald, but merely rips off his cummerbund instead. Shemp now has to deal with a gun-wielding McIntyre, who says "Drop that painting." Well, as the 2008 Joker told Batman... very poor choice of words! MacDonald below lays the groundwork for some irony, then gets hit on the head with the pipe with the painting inside of it. Next scene: a close-up of the pipe with a little bit of the painting sticking out one end of it. "There it is!" screams Sitka.
Now, you'd think that this would merely make Moe and his Plumbers look more guilty, and that MacDonald will have an easy time painting that picture, so to speak, no pun intended. Okay, maybe it was, but never mind. As with the big climactic ending of Toy Story 2, Kelsey Grammer pulls a gun in a fit of desperation to keep his ad hoc family together. And MacDonald, having quickly recovered from his second traumatic head injury (arguably, it was just a glancing blow from the pipe), he pulls a gun, takes the painting pipe and starts walking out of the basement like a common thief. He must be new money too!
Now, you might be asking yourself, where's Larry in the midst of all of this? Well, whoomp! (Here he is) Apparently, he got tired of digging around in the front yard, especially since nobody noticed it. Larry accosts Dickerson, who's upstairs and watching the excitement unfold in the basement. Dickerson gets scared (dignity re-lost) and throws a bag of flour into the air. Apparently, he was going to hit MacDonald with it, but that just wouldn't have been as funny. Larry with flour all over him? Priceless. Larry has nothing better to do, so he heads for the basement, unattuned to the bad vibes emanating from down there.
Next scene: MacDonald gives his hostages instructions, while Larry just walks right down the steps, oblivious to the gun-toting madman. Apparently, being covered in flour has given him the confidence of a ghost! In a moment of either bad writing or semi-divine intervention, Larry pokes MacDonald in the back, but he leaves his finger there as though it were a gun. Semi-divine intervention. MacDonald turns around, gets scared, screams, and falls over backwards. Bad writing.
And so, MacDonald's in a heap on the floor, having tripped over a garbage can. To make matters worse, he's got a bucket on his head. Moe doesn't get as scared by flour-covered Larry as MacDonald did. Soon after, Shemp comes down the stairs with McIntyre. The Macs have been defeated and the painting is returned. Moe pulls the painting out of the pipe and hands it to Symona Boniface. "Name your reward and you shall have it," she says, caught up in the joy of the moment. Sitka might not have been as generous, being the cost-minded one. Shemp says "We don't want no reward, lady." Moe takes a swing at him with the pipe, but hits what's left of the ruined plumbing instead, and the water starts flowing anew. And thus ended the small business once known as "Day and Nite Plumbers." The Norfleets didn't sue them for damages, but they nevertheless had to declare bankruptcy. Maybe they can go into the private detective business instead!
Bad double bill with: A Plumbing We Will Go
Wikipedia entry for Vagabond Loafers: very educational!
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan