Saturday, June 01, 2013

Ruthless Stooges


Setting: B.O. Pictures, or what Hollywood thinks of Columbia, especially because Adam Sandler calls it home.  We hear Larry's voice first.  Oh, he's dealt with his share of Hollywood phonies.  Larry says "It's colossal!  It's stupendious!"... stupendious?  Gee, what are the odds he's not playing the head of a studio?  ...GENIUS!!!  Time for Moe to knock some heads again.
Moe lays out the scene for us: they have to spray the entire building for termites before... check this out... before the Publicity Department gets back from location.  Two things: 1) I've never known a Publicity Department to go on location... okay, maybe that's all they do.  I dunno.  I'm so not a showbiz insider, and 2) ... does the average Stooge watcher even know what the hell Moe's talking about?  Have the Stooges finally given up trying to show the plight of the little guy?  Non-Hollywood, that is?  Could be!  And to help drive that point home that they've finally stopped trying... it's time for the three watches bit again... I'm sorry, here's the right link.  Well, three watches for three Stooges, I always say!  They at least tweak the dialogue a bit, like a middle school student plagiarizing a book by switching the sentences, and adding "...and others as well" at the end.  Moe lightly taps Shemp on the head with the industrial-strength sprayer.  That's not exactly made of foam, now, is it?  Can a foam sprayer spray like that?
Fade to the factory whistle.  The factory whistle blows.  This was in the old days of 9 to 5, even in Hollywood!  Go figure.  Stronger unions back then.  Next scene after that: the Stooges are all dressed up and finishing up their work.  Damn, but they look dapper.  Shemp's in a suit but still hard at work with the sprayer.  They must really have respect for the exterminator's trade, or they think the work is really really boring, and unworthy of more of their attention.  Besides, there's plot to get to!  Enter Peter Bart and some floozy... I mean, a bigwig with the luscious Christine McIntyre.  Now, this marks a departure for McIntyre and the Stooges.  See, normally they immediately fall head over heels in love with McIntyre, and it's all they can do to keep from slobbering all over her.  This time, however, Larry looks over at her, stares briefly, then turns away.  He knows his place in the food chain this time.  And then... ah, the ambiguity of language.  Why, I just re-watched Fox Pop recently.  Same "comedy" foundation!  Okay, I'll stop referring to that now... BTW, wrong DVD box, IMDb!
But back to the mucky-muck guy that comes in with McIntyre.  He's apparently J.B. Fletcher, head of B.O. Pictures this week.  Why, the IMDb doesn't even give the guy a credit!  I swear I'm looking at him right now!!  No respect.  Worse than Jacob Cohen.  And so, the ambiguity is set into motion: even though Fletcher runs B.O. Pictures, he doesn't realize that the Stooges are actually exterminators, and not working for the B.O. Publicity Department.  But Moe at least is never one to pass up an opportunity to better his sorry-ass station in life.  And so, time for crisis, as the Chinese say about opportunity.  True to their extermination roots, the Stooges whip up an idea for a publicity campaign that's sure to make Christine McIntyre... I mean, Dolly Devore an overnight sensation.  Oh no, it's real sound!  It's all worked out!  ...They want their own movie star kidnapped... yah, you heard me right.  Studio Head Fletcher and Devore balk at the idea at first.  I guess it's too late to discover Devore on a stool at Schwab's.
But Larry's a born pitch man and he helps close the deal.  Shemp and Moe pitch in as well.  McIntyre's sold on the idea when she hears she'll get to stay at the Clinton Arms Hotel.  DAMN YOU BILL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  ...oh, right.  That was about 15 years ago.  Anyway, the plot thickens, like a cup of Kozy Shack tapioca pudding... sorry, I must be hungry.  Next scene: right outside the door of B.O. Pictures' Publicity Department is Kenneth MacDonald avec cigarette with a flunkie.  A couple bad dudes who overhear the Stooges' scheme, and apparently think they can make a fast buck off it.  "Where we goin?" asks the flunkie.  That's why he's a flunkie and MacDonald's the brain of the organization.  "Clinton Arms Hotel, ya dummy!" says MacDonald, and rightfully so.
Next scene: the Special Publicity Department, where the Stooges are hard at work at their three desks with their three typewriters.  Ah, the symmetry of it all.  Hooray for Hollywood!  Where any exterminator or car mechanic can start a panic.  The Stooges even have new clothes for their part: tweed jackets and kerchiefs!  Lol.  They must be French!  Moe orders Shemp to take a letter, and Shemp delightfully misunderstands, completely comfortable in his gender identity.  Moe isn't, and orders Shemp back to his typewriter post haste.  Moe starts dictating, and Shemp starts typing after Moe finishes, but only about seven letters' worth.  Moe says "And..." and Shemp starts typing a whole bunch.
"Read that back!" says Moe with a certain fierce determination.  Shemp tries to, but it sounds like something else.  Hmm.  Now where have I heard that before?............. BUSTED!!!!!  Oh well.  At least Shemp got the "June 22nd" part right!  Meanwhile, Larry's diligently typing away... ah, I remember this part.  Apparently they never reused this footage, as it was far too specific.  I don't seem to remember much else about Studio Stoops, but we had to rewind the VCR tape a couple times on this part... and it's as good as I remember it.  Good sound.  Take heed, Ben Burtt!... oh, I guess he probably doesn't need to.  Larry eventually notices that his typewriter's missing a few vital parts, then makes the mistake of asking Moe for help in locating the missing typewriter pieces.
Next scene: enter the wet blankets.  This is probably a good time to start Act Two, but we've still got a minute to go.  Otherwise, I would.  It's Vernon Dent as Police Captain Casey, and Brown from the Sun.  Neither one of these characters is taking any of the Stooges' crap.  Especially this Brown guy!  Who does he think he is?  Dent puts his groceries on the table.  Apparently, Dent and Brown are a tad skeptical about the "disappearance" of Miss Devore, to say the least.  They're skeptical at best and ready to throw the Stooges in jail at worst.  Dent finds middle ground with Shemp, so to speak, and shows Shemp what he'll do if they bother him any more with this Devore stuff.  From what I've heard, Shemp and Dent were actually good friends in real life.  And, indeed, 'tis a rare honor to slap a Stooge around, held by a select few like Dent.
Dent and Brown leave, and Shemp gets a phone call.  It's Devore on the phone.  "Sorry, kid, they won't believe it," says Shemp.  Then Shemp says "...WHAT?!!!"  Oscar, please!


The kidnapping in proper begins in earnest.  MacDonald and his assistant are so into it, they're putting McIntyre into a sack.  Lol.  Sorry, I can't help it.  A woman that fine you don't put into a bag all at once, am I right?... something like that.  Shemp hangs up the phone and lays out the scenario quickly for the other two.  Moe tells Shemp to call a cab, leaving Shemp all by himself temporarily.  Dent comes back in, and he actually says "I forgot my groceries!"  And so, we come to that dramatic structure as old as time itself.  Shemp tries to ask Dent for help in this new time of crisis, and Dent shows Shemp his fist... so Shemp demurs.  Besides, it's still only Act Two!  We got a long way to go, folks.  Shemp lightly runs into the door for good measure.
Next scene: the Clinton Arms proper.  They got the fancy sign and everything.  Classy joint.  Five stars, maybe six!  The Stooges appear around the corner in that trademark way that they do... you know, if I was better at this, I'd know when they started doing that.  Sorry to let you down, folks.  They also do it in Loose Loot!  That much I know.  ...damn, I'm fast.  It's also in O Brother, Where Art Thou?  However, it's the four guys.  Anyway, time for a little exposition.  The quick thinker he is, Larry got some prop guns and prop money, so they're ready to take a stab at an exchange.  I thought for sure Moe was going to slap Shemp, but Moe just says "Well, finders keepers!"  Shemp then asks "If you ain't got a gun for me, what'd you bring me along for?"  Let's just stop here for a second.  Now, if you're at all like me... scary thought, I know... you'd probably be thinking to yourself, "But, Movie Hooligan!  Didn't Shemp just violate the unspoken Stooge Code?"  Were I a younger man, I would of course wholeheartedly agree.  But I'm not, and I don't.  Besides, the Stooges are a lot like art.  They have no rules, but they break them at their own peril.  And this may be the only time you'll ever hear a Stooge ask another Stooge "What did you bring me along for?"  Of course, we haven't gotten to the Joe Besser shorts yet.  Those must be loaded with moments where Larry points his thumb at Joe and says to Moe, "What'd we hire him for?  Sheesh!!!"  Of course, Moe doesn't miss a beat, saying to Shemp "For BAIT!" and slapping him.  And off they go... but wait!  Why are we still dwelling on this hallway corner here?  ...oh.  Right.
Next scene: room 1717 proper.  Moe's using his deep voice now.  He's channeling the spirit of Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade.  Moe and Larry are going in.  "If we're not out in five minutes, come in and get us!" Moe tells Shemp.  "Better make it thirty seconds," Larry adds.  Wotta wuss.  Moe and Larry establish contact by knocking on the door.  Shemp hides, but about a foot and a half away from the door.  Good choice!  Next scene: the bad guys put McIntyre in the closet and open the door to let Moe and Lawrence in.  The bad guys grab Moe and Larry.  Things are getting tense now.
Moe's got the money in a very small cylindrical bag.  MacDonald examines the money, but isn't buying it.  He probes around in the bag some more and... finds the rat trap within.  Ironic.  At this point, Moe and Larry pull their guns.  MacDonald's fury causes Larry to shoot.  Moe's got a water gun and unloads it on MacDonald and assistant.  Larry has to tell Moe to start running, and off they all go.  Meanwhile, the guy waiting around the corner very quickly closes in on Shemp.  Lol.  Dude, what's your hurry?  Shemp doesn't appreciate the intrusion, and quickly fills the guy's face with ashtray sand.  How degrading.  The guy hits the wall, slumps down, and gets hit on the head with the anesthetic that is a vase.  Ah, vases.  Has there been any more loyal Stooge companion over the years?  Shemp gasps and runs back into the accursed room... you know, I hate to guess ahead, but is it going to turn out that the guy who just got hit with the vase is actually a cop?  Either way, he deserved it for scaring Shemp like that.  This is a STOOGE film, not a film about that guy!
And so, Shemp's in the kidnapping room.  There's two doors on the far wall... gee, what is it with rooms in Stooge films?  They always seem to have multiple doors!  It's like the Stooges are trapped in a Kafka-esque maze or something.  Anyway, Shemp runs to the door on the right, but he hears a fight going on on the other side of it, so rather than help out his best friends in the whole world, he decides to take the other door.  Why, it's the closet with a bagged McIntyre in it!  Next scene: inside the closet proper.  Shemp's guarding the door, and McIntyre gently runs into him.  Now, if it were Moe or Larry inside the bag, then sure, the bag would start getting pummeled all to hell.  But there's a classy lady in there, damn it!  Just a light touch of the physical comedy, then the cry for help.  "Get me out of here!  I'm suffocating!" she says.  Shemp obliges.  Ah, women: so frail, so helpless.  McIntyre's not so hoidy-toidy now, is she?  Also, if Jules White were directing this, he'd force McIntyre to jump through hoop after degrading hoop, but this is an Edward Bernds pic.  None of that crap.
And so, once again, McIntyre and Shemp share a nice scene together.  I think she took a shine to him somehow!  Meanwhile, next scene... dayamn.  It's Pulp Fiction all over again.  I've seen Stooges tied up before, but this is ridicu... re-donk-u-lous!  I believe that's how the kids misspell it these days.  "Wise guys, huh?" sneers MacDonald, as he tightens Larry's ropes just a little bit more.  We hear the sound of cracking walnuts as this happens.  For once, MacDonald's goon is using a bit of brain.  "Aw, let me plug 'em, boss!" he says.  "No, it'll make too much noise.  Wait til we get 'em outside," says MacDonald.  Get 'em outside?  You go to all that trouble to tie somebody up, THEN you're going to take them outside?  What a doof.  What a twerb.  Wait a second... okay, apparently it's slang for 'weed.'  Better just stick with dweeb.  Meanwhile, McIntyre's out and running around.  She goes to the front door, but the vase-to-the-head guy's just coming in.  It's really some fancy footwork!  I hate to spoil it like this.  She ends up sneaking out of the room... arguably, amid circumstances that are dubious at best, and downright criminal at worst... and we find out that vase-to-the-head guy is indeed one of the trio of bad guys that always seems to be pitted against the Stooges in these things.  Simpler that way.  Vase-to-the-head guy... sheesh.  Better just stick with Louie.  Louie informs MacDonald and goon that the third one got away.  This sends MacDonald into a panic, and he starts talking about crack whores and getting raped in prison... oops, sorry.  Wrong MacDonald.  Being the "brains" of this nefarious corporation, MacDonald runs over to the closet.  Relief.  Yup, there's still a living body in a bag in there.  Future film editors and directors, take note: there's a brief glimpse inside the closet after MacDonald shuts the door, in case you didn't see it on the wide angle shot.  Nice work!  I know it was a bit of a rush job, as were all these Stooge shorts.
Next scene: McIntyre gets to work untying Moe and Larry.  I don't envy her her work one bit.  They do the old "What'd he say?" gag, but it's unsettling!  Someone's supposed to get slapped for that, but Moe's hands are tied!  LITERALLY!!!!
YouTube should really do a better job of linking these things... sheesh.  What a waste of valuable time.  Okay, here we go.  Next scene: Shemp emerges into the world in his new threads.  So frail, so helpless.  Like a newborn babe with sunglasses, Shemp's going to explore the world anew in plastic darkness... and it's going to be hilarious!!!  Oh, that's so not him..., if you recall, they're on the seventeenth floor.  Shemp can barely find his way around the room, but he does manage to find the door that leads to outside the building.  There's no balcony in this hotel; you can just walk right out on the building's ledge.  This would be very convenient for anyone contemplating suicide, of course.  Why, you could sprint to your death!  Not Shemp, though.  Fate's got uglier plans for him.  "My troubles are over!" says Shemp, as he heads out onto the building's ledge in his body bag... should we tell him?  The coroner should probably get a fresh body bag just on G.P. if he really does fall.
The gallows puns keep on coming.  "Where's the elevator?  I gotta get down fast!" says Shemp.  Shemp's voice seems to be dubbed in here.  Next scene: we turn away from this train wreck for a brief second to see Moe, Larry and McIntyre come back into the room for Shemp.  Boy, the bad guys must be really really far away by now.  Anyway, no one can find Shemp.  Where the hell is he?  A new mystery to solve.  And then... McIntyre finds him!  Still on the ledge.  Reminds me of that middle sequence in Stephen King's Cat's Eye... am I the only one?  Probably.  After running afoul of the giant Venetian blinds, Moe opens the window and calls to Shemp.  We get brief glimpses of cars far below.  You know, just to keep the tension levels high.
Still unable to sense that he's not in the hallway, Shemp's about to step off the ledge and plunge downward.  Moe intervenes at the last possible minute, safely inside the building, of course.  He's no dummy!  Moe tells Shemp to not move, then to take his knife and cut the damn bag off of him.  Good thing he didn't think of that right away!  This would've been a really short Stooge short!
And so, street-wise Shemp cuts his way out of the body bag with his knife... sheesh.  What next?  Comb his greasy hair and drive hot rods?  He sees the other three and tells them that everything's all right now... boy!  That turned ironic in record time!  Epic fail, as the kids all say.


Wowee-wow.  What a way to begin the Third Act.  Moe, Larry and McIntyre immediately believe the worst.  "And he had his good suit on, too!" laments Larry.  It's too sad.  They turn away from the window slowly, but for the last time.  Next scene: Shemp was about 55 years old when this was made, and he's hanging by his hands from a window ledge.  I guess they've done flagpoles to death already.  Maybe the wind pushed him back against the building or something.  Anyway, Shemp's hanging in there, and making some noise about it.  As much as he's able.  Reminds me of that old Shelley Berman bit.  Dang, YouTube's got everything except a bag of chips.  Despite Shemp's age and lack of muscles, he's able to hoist himself up a little bit higher.  Must be the sudden surge of adrenaline.  He's not to safety yet, and he manages to grab onto a phone connected to an extender.  He soon goes from bad to worse as he's now hanging outside the building by the extended phone.  Not even the ledge to cling to anymore!  Desperate, Shemp calls the operator on the phone.  Oh, the similarities to the Shelley Berman bit deepen!  Shemp tries to get the phone number of the hotel he's hanging outside of.  Boy, first Shemp has trouble explaining his urgent circumstances to Vernon Dent, now this!  This is not Shemp's day at all.
Back to the other three, currently still safer than Shemp from gravity's eternal, gaping maw, still grieving the loss of their dear old friend.  What is it with comedians and wanting to do the drama?  Making people laugh isn't reward enough?  Moe says "I'll never forgive myself for pushing him around."  Larry blows his nose, and it makes two noises, for all you audiophiles out there.  Lol.  Suddenly... the phone rings.  Moe answers, and doesn't realize at first that he's talking to Shemp.  Moe quickly puts two and two together, and says to Shemp, "You chowder head!"  ...well, that was quick, wasn't it?  I guess Moe forgave himself, and is now ready to push Shemp around some more.  But first, how to save him?  Shemp offers a suggestion, saying "I think I'm on the tenth floor.  Would it be too much trouble to send down some rope?"  A true gentleman.  The non-Shemp Stooges and McIntyre spring into action.  To the Idiot-mobile!
However, Larry proves himself to be not as much of an idiot as people think.  He uses the word "adversaries."  Moe can hardly believe it.  Time to kill some time!  ...okay, not that much.  But Larry doubles down and tells Moe he'll give him the password when he gets back.  "Brilliant.  What'll it be?" asks Moe.  "Swordfish!" says Larry... no, wait, that was Horse Feathers.  No, Larry actually says that the password is "...Open the door!"  Priceless.  For everything else, there's MasterCard.  And you can't get out of Costco with anything but American Express.
And so, Larry ventures out into the world anew, starting with the hallway of the Clinton Arms Hotel... what was his mission again?  Oh right.  Larry's supposed to find a long-ass rope so they can pull Shemp up from the 10th floor to the 17th.  I guess they couldn't afford to maybe... oh, I don't know... go to the tenth floor themselves and try to drag Shemp in from there.  They'd have to rent another room, for God's sake!  What do you think they are?  Movie stars?
Sorry.  I just get so mad sometimes.  Anyway, Larry goes to the elevator to get in.  Coming out of the elevator at the same time is Kenneth MacDonald.  MacDonald springs into action, grabbing Larry and pulling him into the elevator.  How nice of him!  Wait a second... a fist fight seems to be breaking out!  You can tell, because the camera's moving around.  Time to suspend our disbelief once again.  Boy, the Stooges demand that of their fans an awful lot.  Let's just assume that Larry, the shorter, weaker man, wins the scuffle against Kenneth MacDonald.  Let's just assume that, because that's what happens.  And we can see the shadow of a boom microphone against the elevator wall, ha ha.  Busted!  Larry runs out of the elevator and finds Policeman Vernon Dent, of all people!  How convenient!  Dent's not in a good mood, however.  Few are that lay eyes on Larry, arguably.  Dent tells Larry to back off, as he's still steaming about stopping by their office earlier.  Dent's going into room 1709, as it says on the door, and Larry follows him inside.  Oh, this is going to be good.  Dent's about to sit down and play poker with some of his buddies.  Dent starts taking his coat off, and Larry helps him out with that.  Genius.  Well, Dent's not mad enough at Larry to tell him to leave the room.  Not yet, anyway.  Dent's not as mad as those guys in the park were at Tom Green... on second thought, I'm not even going to look for that one.  Tom Green can't be on YouTube enough, probably.  Why, the director's cut of Freddy Got Fingered is probably on there!  For little children to watch, for God's sake!
Back to Shemp, who calls the operator a wiseguy.  He hasn't lost his sense of humor, at least, despite dangling right there in front of Death and all.  Meanwhile, back to gravity.  The phone's starting to break from its moorings, and Moe runs afoul of those damn Venetian blinds again.  Damn Italians!!  Meanwhile, the phone rings.  Moe runs over to the door and looks out.  No one.  The phone rings again.  Moe realizes it's the phone.  What a doof!!!  He's just stalling for time now.  It's Shemp on the phone again.  The phone creaks a little bit more, breaking from the wall a little bit more.  "Could you hurry it up a little?" asks Shemp.  It's one of the saddest things I've ever seen.  Meanwhile, an angel!  Even in Hell an angel sometimes appears.  In this case, it's McIntyre with a big handful of makeshift rope.  Boy, she really does cotton to that Shemp fella!  They toss the rope out, and Shemp's phone breaks off just as he's grabbing on to the rope.  Maybe this rope was a good idea after all!  Makes what Larry about to do seem a bit pointless...
And so, Moe and McIntyre start pulling in Shemp, and Shemp hangs on to the rope now instead of the phone.  So, recall what McIntyre said about the rope.  She said "If only the knots would hold!"  Kinda makes me glad I'm at ground level right now.  And now... a snag.  Literally!  Shemp keeps hitting his head against the narrowest of ledges.  Figures.  He couldn't be more helpless at this moment.  It gets worse, because now the bad guys have regrouped, and are back on the 17th floor... right in front of 1717, no less!  Too bad the Stooges didn't try a little harder to get right to the 10th floor.  Oh well.
The bad guys start to open the door, but find it locked.  Once again, it's up to McIntyre.  She hurls her weight against the door while MacDonald's wrist is in it... dayamn!  Hope she was miming it!  Then, she rubs a little more salt into the wound by hitting his hand with an ashtray.  Cold-blooded, girlfriend!  Too much excitement.  Time to cut back to Larry.  Dent shoves him a second time, but towards the crafts services table instead of towards the door.  Lol.  A veritable Stooge arsenal of food!  Larry gets that look of sweet, sweet inspiration upon his face.  Now he's thinking like a god damn publicist!  And so, it's a raw egg for Vernon Dent's head, and pastries and fruit for the other cops.  Not only do they have food, they've got the raw ingredients for making food!  Very interesting.  And so, with Larry having upped his game, or changed it if you please, the chase is officially on.  Boy, between this and using the word "adversary," Larry's practically Machiavelli himself!  And we haven't even gotten to He Cooked His Goose yet!
And so, as the cops all try to leave their hotel room at the same time, the bad guys break in the door of Room 1717.  "Drop that rope!" MacDonald tells Moe and McIntyre.  Wow!  He doesn't even have a gun on them!  That's obedience for ya.  And then, we get a shot of MacDonald's feet.  Could it be?  It is!  The rope happens to be tied in a loop at its other end, and MacDonald's foot happens to be standing in said loop.  Over to the window he goes, hopping away, as Shemp plummets to Earth outside.  Ah, physics.  I look forward to studying you as all good computer scientists do these days.
MacDonald's two goons rush over to his side and try to console him.  Oh, you didn't look foolish at all, boss!  You gave that wall a pounding it'll never forget!  Ah, bad guys.  Your loyalty to each other will be your end... Ah, vases.  Is there nothing you can't do?
Back to Larry, who is still a person of interest to the food-faced policemen.  However, Larry's too fast for 'em, and he has to whistle to them.  The chase's almost over, boys!  Boy, a cop couldn't find his butt if he had a bell on it.  And so, the cops eventually get to Room 1717 where all the action is.  Moe tells the cops, "Bake 'em away, toys!"  Seriously, though, Dent's finally happy, as he's just caught "Dandy" Dawson.  "Nice work, boys!" says Dent.  That's about all the gratitude they'll get out of him for now, probably.  But wait!  Dawson's got this rope around his foot.  Larry takes it upon himself to get that rope off.  He's old and has trouble with it, but he's eager.  Should we tell him what's on the other end of that rope?


And so, having rescued Larry from plummeting out the window his own damn self, the hard work of pulling Shemp up to safety continues.  Fortune smiles down on Shemp, however, and he decides to let himself off at the balcony of a comely lass instead.  Love is stronger than justice after all!  McIntyre's makeshift ropes were sturdy enough in the final analysis... after all!  Damn.  Didn't mean to repeat that phrase.
Time for another physics lesson.  With Shemp's weight off of the rope, Moe and Larry fly backwards, and right into a full bathtub.  They spend the last thirty seconds of the flick taking a bath.  You know, so it's not a total loss.  Why, I can't think of a better ending to this one, can you?... don't answer that!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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