Friday, June 21, 2013
The Genie Mile
Well, this is a little disorienting! Usually the Stooges end up in a warehouse in either the second or third acts, running away from bad guys like idiots. Not this time! This time, they are humble warehouse employees at the Superior Warehouse and Storage Co. Well, with the Stooges working there, there's nothing superior about it. A missed opportunity in the Comedy Name Dept. as far as I'm concerned.
Anyway, Moe gives us a moment for the P.C. Police to jump all over. When suddenly... up shuffles Shemp carrying a box on his shoulder. "Well, this is the last one," he says. Oh... somethin's goin' down! I can feel it... BOOM! Sorry, SPOILER ALERT.
And now, for another rare Stooge moment. Shemp covered his head with his arms in anticipation of all the falling junk. And perhaps in anticipation of getting hit on the head by Moe... in fact, more than just perhaps... he leaves his arms in place. "I'm sorry, Moe," says Shemp. Moe's a little late in reacting, incidentally, so Shemp said his line too fast. The main point is, Moe wasn't born yesterday, and he comes up with a foolproof plan to move Shemp's arms: he tickles Shemp in his sides! Similar to Alien Nation, if only slightly. Moe then has clearance to bonk Shemp on top of the head with his handy clipboard. Shemp picks up all the lamps that broke out of the box, but he's in a bit of a daze, lol.
When suddenly... see, kids, this is why it's so important to always check and double-check your manifests. Moe double-checks his and discovers that there's two crates of china missing! China as in dishware, not the country. Moe has trouble stepping past Shemp to get to Larry, but he eventually makes it, and makes the job of the sound effects men that much harder. No overtime at Cannery Row or working for Glenn Gould, you know! Next scene: boy, some people know how to live. Larry's making himself some coffee, and helping himself to some fresh china to drink it out of. Things are different now in the days of Pier 1, Trader Joe's and Cost-Plus World Market, but back then, FDR's watchful eye was closing... mostly because he died in 1945, but still. Standards were slipping. You know, I never thought of the Stooges as muckrakers, but Upton Sinclair, eat your heart out! For once, however, Moe is the conscience of the Stooges, and he quickly prepares to pounce on Larry and his mischievous misappropriations of someone's valuable imports. Moe tries the ol' trick from 1984 where the fuzz has finally caught Winston and Julia, and they say everything that the naughty two say. Larry, however, is holding a steaming hot pot of dry ice... I mean, scaldingly hot coffee, and he ends up pouring about all of it on Moe when he suddenly turns around... sigh. I miss my ability to link with greater precision! Moe dumps some coffee on Larry's right hand, and he smites Lawrence upon the head twice with the still smoldering coffee pot. Dayamn, but it looks like Larry got hurt on that one!
When suddenly... the Stooges' antics have apparently grown tiresome to the screenwriters. Time to bring a new character in to the fold. In walks John Bradley into the offices of Superior Warehouse and Storage Co., played by the diminutive star of the silent era Vernon Dent. He wants to know about his shipment from the Orient. Moe tries to reassure him that everything's in order, but Dent... I mean Bradley... is probably going to grow impatient anyway. The Stooges tend to get that response from people, and rather easily at that!
Case in point: Moe has Bradley sit down on a still-hot hot plate. Dent gets grill marks on his ass. Dent's mood changes about as fast as the temperature of his ass. Moe tells him "All your junk is here!" Dent waits a beat and says "Don't call it junk!" So weird! I was just thinking that that was an odd choice of word! There's a loud crashing noise from the main warehouse, and Dent gets concerned. Dent's holding one of his "priceless" plates. Moe has him sit back down in the chair with the red-hot hot plate, and it's rinse and repeat, and Dent ends up throwing his "priceless" plate high up into the air. We'll just leave it at that for now.
And so, the Stooges' marching orders are to get all of Bradley's imported crap over to his house tout de suite. Moe takes us into the next scene by dropping vases on the heads of Larry and Shemp. It takes a couple seconds, but the two eventually pass out. Boy! The callouses that must've been on their heads from all the years of physical abuse!
Next scene: there's a good crate-related gag that I hate to spoil. Needles to say, only Shemp notices it, and there's a delay before the giant crash that comes as kind of a shock, especially to Shemp. Anyway, that's the establishing episode. We stay on Shemp amid all the chaos, and we get the next plot development. It reminds me of the concurrence in Death Becomes Her, when Ernest and Helen plot to kill Madeline just as Madeline drinks the potion of eternal life... no good? Okay, another Zemeckis example. How about Back to the Future? The FIRST one, and I'll just say that you'll probably know if you make a time machine that works, because your future self will probably visit you just before you finish it. Okay, back to the Stooge film, where Shemp is about to discover the magic lamp... and we discover he's got some competition hiding behind a stack of crates. At 4:17, however, Shemp breaks the Fourth Wall.. and he says FUNNY, not what it sounds like if the volume's down a bit lower!
And so... as the story goes, handed down from generation to generation, for each subsequent generation to re-interpret anew, Shemp becomes smitten with the "pretty little syrup pitcher." The two "baddies" looking on are long-time Stooge foil Dick Curtis (almost dead) and Philip Van Zandt, yet to be reincarnated as George Costanza's father. Shemp rubs the dirty, eye-catching lamp and... POOF! A large black man appears. Shemp eeps and starts to run off... but he is a professional, and he knows he shouldn't run far. They'd have to re-block the shot or something! "I am your slave," says the large black man... hoh boy, here we go. And yet, the Klan doesn't like this one for some reason. I think they sense a trap a mile off. Anyway, as the YouTube's Nagneto says, "OMG, you can tell the guy playing the genie hated his lines. =P." Interesting theory, but I tend to be an optimist. I'm just assuming the guy's a bad actor. Apparently, he's still alive and able to defend himself, so I won't badmouth him any further. Anyway, the Genie's delivery aside, the plot marches on. Shemp mishears the genie and says "The genius of the lamp?" C'mon, you jaded hipsters! Laugh a little! As we come to find out, Shemp is one to squander a wish very easily, as he wishes for a brand new suit. Safe to assume it's low on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, somewhere between Physiology and Safety. Obviously they need something in there about being a flashy douchebag... which Shemp takes to like a duck. "Look at that chain!" he exclaims! He runs to show the others. One of the bad guys tries to grab him, but fails thankfully. Or unthankfully depending on your perspective.
Shemp runs into Larry. After his double take, Larry wonders what crate Shemp got that suit out of. Shemp explains about the lamp and goes off to find Moe. Larry snatches the lamp from Shemp's grasp at the last possible second. Larry's incredulous at first and starts to casually throw the lamp away. This is why he'll always be firmly in second place behind Moe. As with most of us, it's not terribly often that one finds out there's a magic lamp in their midst. Time for another 80s movie parallel: Ferris Bueller's Day Off when he first gets his alpha-male hands on the Ferrari, asking the audience "Would you take it home right away? Neither would I." Same thing with the lamp. And so, Larry rubs one out... I mean, rubs the lamp. Same flash of white, same muted explosion sound. Larry's reaction to seeing the genie is a little different than Shemp. Larry throws the lamp far away behind himself and it lands with a great clang sound on Moe's head. Slightly better than the sound of Larry getting hit on the head with a typewriter carriage... WHICH I CAN'T LINK TO ANYMORE!! DAMN YOU, ANTI-FLASH FORCES!!!!! Moe yells at Larry, makes a complain noise like Curly, picks up the lamp and... no, he just puts it in the box rather than rubbing it. Interesting metaphysical dilemma. Also, something that's encountered in the study of computer operating systems: what does happen when the genie's out of the lamp, and someone else rubs the lamp at that moment? Does the genie disappear and re-appear for the new rub-ee? I think he'd have to. The original story certainly didn't plan for this. Someone didn't rub the lamp only to have the message appear that says "PLEASE WAIT, WISH IN PROGRESS..." Sorry to shout.
Back to Larry, who's on the ground in a virtual heap. The genie picks him up and says the same boilerplate stuff. Obviously this is a magnanimous genie, and picking Larry up off the floor doesn't count as the wish. Larry calls the genie "genie" rather than "genius." We'll set aside the confidentiality agreements of Larry's wish; obviously, the genie's not a lawyer. Larry says "Did you give that other guy a new suit?" "Yes, master," says the genie. "Well, PUT 'EM BACK THE WAY HE WAS!" says Larry, real sarcastic-like. There's a joke there someplace, I just don't know where. Cut to Shemp who's running down a hall of crates alone and... poof! Easy come, easy go, literally. Back to his normal clothes. And so, just like the warehouse that was once a temporary stopping place for supermodels on Seinfeld, the party moves on. The party always stays ahead of the curve that way, never content to stand still, lest it grow some moss or grey hairs.
And so, Shemp tries to show Moe the new suit, but it's gone! Moe starts pulling Shemp across the room by his... I can't remember, I have to see it again. Okay, apparently by his lower lip. Suddenly, Larry opens the door, hitting Moe in the back with it. Larry sees Shemp sans suit and exclaims "IT WOIKED!" Shemp claims privileges on the lamp. Moe still has no idea what's going on and, well, he goes Moe on the other Stooge's asses. Larry and Shemp hit each other's heads, as gently guided by Moe... but Larry doesn't seem too happy about it. Shemp almost ends up kissing Moe at 6:50, but Moe's not in the mood.
Next scene: the two bad guys are unsuccessfully looking for the lamp. Van Zandt's in a crate, pawing through the stuffing. Curtis hears the Stooges coming, so he slams the crate shut on Van Zandt's head. There's some of Van Zandt's clothing sticking out of the crate, which Moe promptly rips. They move the Van Zandt crate... but it's not shut! Moe orders it nailed shut. Oh, this is going to be good. Curtis almost takes Moe's head off with a giant, giant curved sword... almost.
Next scene: ah, domestic tranquility... but the angry, turbulent waters of Capitalism are constantly lapping at the security gates, and probably finding their way under the suburbs, threatening to suck the whole house and backyard into a proverbial sinkhole of debt and distraction. International shipper John Bradley tells Moe that he'll "make it worth their while" if they stick around and help him unpack. Far too generous of the rotund job creator, considering the damage the Stooges have already done to his shipment. Moe's carrying one small crate, while Shemp and Larry are carrying around the crate with Van Zandt inside, of course. Moe gets hit in the head with it, and he drops his small crate on the foot of Vernon Dent.. I mean, Bradley. Abort! Abort! Unfortunately for poor Dent, the Stooges carry on. Shemp and Lawrence set down their crate, and Van Zandt gasps, now completely upside down, and standing on his neck. Larry helps Shemp straighten out his back; even though it's make believe, I still can't help but cringe at my age. Meanwhile, Moe successfully placates Dent and goes out into the hall, thereby smashing into the Van Zandt crate and knocking it over. We get a shot of Van Zandt inside the crate, much worse for the wear. Bet he's sorry he ever started doing these damn shorts! Moe grabs a hook off of a table in the hall and jams it into the giant crate. Van Zandt gets poked right in the middle of his daily duties, and has to cry quietly to himself.
Now, screenwriters take note: time for another plot device. Because Shemp dares question Moe's authority, Shemp is relegated to helping Dent... I mean, Mr. Bradley, while Larry has to get more crap off of the truck. Shemp goes into the room to help Bradley, and we see Moe dragging the big crate away with the help of the hook, lol. Bradley's looking at the genie's lamp. Shemp gets excited, but Dent is incredulous and says "I bought it for 50 cents at a bazaar!" He then gives Shemp the lamp and walks out of the room. Time for the genie to appear again? Oh, I think so. "Hot ziggety!" says Shemp as he rubs the lamp and... POOF!
The genie has been upgraded... actually, downgraded from "The Genius" to "Amos." Hoh boy... Shemp takes a little time to think about his next wish. Still thinking in rather narrow terms, at least spatially, Shemp wishes for a million dollars to be placed on Bradley's desk... see what I mean? Well, it's a low budget picture, and it's not like Jumper, where it's a vacation around the world. Now, here's something that could be fodder for debate: Shemp placed the lamp on top of the fireplace, and unknowingly knocked it into the burning fire as the terms of his wish are being hammered out. "A million? How do you want it?" says the genie. Shemp says "I wish you wouldn't bother me with details." POOF! So here's the question: does the genie disappear because the lamp is in danger of being destroyed? Or does he disappear because he takes Shemp's sentence too literally? ...okay, maybe that's not worth debating. Anyway, after the poof, Shemp looks around for the money. This was back when a million dollars was actually worth something, and might have been in larger denominations, like a thousand dollar bill. Why, the stack of bills might fit in one of the desk drawers! The one place Shemp doesn't think to look.
Meanwhile, back to Moe, who's now trying to open the Van Zandt crate. Concurrently, Dick Curtis is about to crawl through the window to get at Moe. Moe asks Shemp for a crowbar. Shemp says he's busy... did you catch that? Insurrection. Insurrection in our midst. Moe does a rare double take in the room by himself... he doesn't know Dick Curtis is behind him, anywho. Moe calls it "mutiny" instead of insurrection and heads to the other room to kick some ass. Literally! He kicks Shemp in the ass while Shemp is under the desk. Then he drags Shemp out from under the desk. Shemp explains again about the "genius of the lamp." Moe slaps Shemp and sends him out to help Lawrence. He's been absent for a while!
Anyway, all this talk of geniuses and magic lamps is starting to get to Moe. Moe says, "Magic lamps. Geniuses. Everyone's going bats around..."
Close enough. Moe's eye catches a fancy-looking thing on Bradley's desk. Could it be the magic lamp? Moe rubs it, but there's no tell-tale explosion. However, Moe is at a unique disadvantage, since he doesn't know the ritual of the actual magic lamp. Concurrently, Van Zandt has been freed from the crate and is now creeping up on Moe as we speak. Moe looks around, and Van Zandt decides to confront Moe directly, and he comes into the room from behind the curtain. Van Zandt's arms are folded, much like Moe's arms often are when he's about to confront one of his errant Stooges. Moe gets an eyeful of Van Zandt, does a rather nasal double take, then asks him "Are you the genius of the lamp?" Time for some cosplay! Van Zandt says "Make a wish, and I will grant it!"
Note the difference in Van Zandt's approach as the genie. Van Zandt tells Moe to take his time to think about what he wants. Van Zandt invites Moe to sit at the desk and lay his head down on it... see where he's going? Out comes the giant curved sword. "Hurry up! I'm getting a crink in my neck!" says Moe. Priceless, priceless. Van Zandt does hurry up, but once again Moe ducks out of danger's way at the last microsecond. "Nyaah!" he cries as he leaps up out of the chair and lets Van Zandt have it with the crowbar. Wow! Where did that come from? It's as though it magically appeared or something! Moe heads for the curtain, but Dick Curtis is there. Moe lets Curtis have it with the crowbar as well. No wonder he died a few years later! "Ah, ah, ah" says Moe, then runs away some more. Moe runs down the hall, calling for help. He yells out "Shemp! Moe!" Lol. Meanwhile, Van Zandt is having trouble running around the house with that giant sabre. He gets it caught on the doorway.
Next scene: the next hallway, where Moe picks a door close to the camera. One door down, Shemp comes out into the hall, only to find Van Zandt with his giant sword bearing down on him. Shemp screams and goes back inside, slamming the door on Van Zandt. Van Zandt nurses his hurt nose, and opens the door and goes in after Shemp. Back to the long shot. Van Zandt closes the door behind him, there's a massive edit, giving the crew time to tweak the lights, and Bradley comes out of one of the rooms holding an expensive-looking vase... oh, this is going to be good. He goes into the room that Moe is in. Moe doesn't know what's happening or who's coming into the room, but he does have his crowbar and is more than willing to use it. And... WHAM! Right on the head. Bradley, having been struck on the head, knows exactly what to do: he throws the vase in his hands as far away from him as he can, and then he passes out from the concussion. Moe tries to nurse the extremely forgiving Bradley back to full consciousness. Good luck with that! With the Stooges around, Bradley might never want to wake up!
Back to Shemp and Van Zandt, doing the "running around a table" bit with the smallest possible table there could be. Lol. Van Zandt decides to use a bit of his brain and he takes a swipe at Shemp with the scimitar. The flowers don't stand a chance, and they lose their heads instead of Shemp. Next scene: Shemp and his beating heart, positively trying as hard as it can to leap out of his chest. I wonder if Jim Henson helped out with that effect! They play with the Fourth Wall some more: Van Zandt sets the sword down on the table, and Shemp affectionately hands it back to him. The fighting promptly continues.
Back to Curtis, still in the curtain room where Moe flogged him on the noggin. He comes to and tries to shake it all off. Next scene: Larry brings in another crate. Lol. Oh, he always misses all the fun. The crate has "USE NO HOOKS" written on it. You'll never guess if the Stooges pay attention to it. Larry walks into the room with Curtis in it and walks up to Curtis, standing in the doorway with the curtains. Larry slowly looks up, sees Curtis' face, and promptly freaks out. You'll never guess what happens to the crate he's carrying... yup! That's the first to go. Crash goes another crate. At this point, there isn't a crate they haven't damaged. Larry runs out of the room, and Curtis runs afoul of the chair on his way out of the room. You know, this culture shock thing can be taken too far. I think even the most isolated peoples on this earth in the 1950s might've heard of a god damn chair!!!
Back to Shemp and Van Zandt, still running around the small table. They haven't gone so far as to move it yet; oh, I hope that's coming, lol. When suddenly... the phone rings. Oldest trick in the book. And you thought cell phones were bad! That gives me an idea... ah, it's probably already been done. Shemp answers the phone, and says "It's for you!" Van Zandt takes the phone, saying "Oh, thank you!" Sounds like his voice was sped up there. Shemp picks up Van Zandt's sword a second time, but he's not so eager to hand it back over now. Now he's mad. Now it's time to fight. Shemp raises the sword on high... but he raises it too high too fast, and the blade part goes flying out of the handle. Van Zandt probably bought it at a bazaar for fifty cents. Unaware of what just happened, and all juiced up with adrenalin, Shemp prepares to sword fight with Van Zandt with an empty sword handle. "Come out fighting!" he taunts Van Zandt. He looks at the empty sword handle and says "NEVER MIND!" Gotta love Shemp.
Next scene: Larry's in the hallway, running his bald ass off. He goes to the nearest door he can. At the same time, Shemp's heading for the door. He pushes a big leather chair out of the way and opens the door and...... yup, Larry and Shemp get scared and close the door. Larry's now back in the hall, pulling on the door and Shemp's trying to get out into the hall. He verbally appeals to Larry, and then Van Zandt grabs a sword off the wall and tries to stab Shemp. Shemp runs away a little before the last second. Larry opens the door and whispers to Shemp... even though Larry can clearly see a Shemp-shaped object running away from him. Sure, Shemp just exited Stage Right out of the camera's range... but this isn't a cartoon, is it? Shemp can't just appear anywhere he wants when he disappears out of the camera's range, can he? Of course not! Don't be foolish. Don't be foolish like Larry's about to be. Larry whispers to Shemp and takes Shemp's hand... at least, he thinks it's Shemp's hand. But Larry better turn around quick, or he's going to be turned into a pillar of salted Larry chops by the sword of Van Zandt! (quick aside: I thought there was another story about a dude that's not Lot escorting his wife out from Hell, but he turns around to look and she turns into salt... DAMN YOU, WORTHLESS INTERNET! Plus, they don't have the number of hits anymore. DAMN YOU, WORTHLESS YAHOO!!!)
Next scene: Larry runs down the hall holding Van Zandt's hand. Van Zandt is holding his sword aloft. Next scene: Larry runs down another hall towards the camera. He finally realizes it's not Shemp following him. Van Zandt pretends he's starting a game of pinball: he pulls back his sword and lunges at Larry. Larry manages to get out of the way at the last minute, and Van Zandt plunges the sword into the wall. On the other side of the wall? Dick Curtis, who gets stabbed with the usual boi-oi-oing noise. Van Zandt is now struggling to liberate his sword. Acting quickly, Larry reaches for an extra-large mace held by an empty knight's suit of armour. And bang, bang, Larry Fine's giant Styrofoam mace comes down on Van Zandt's head. Shemp approaches. Larry almost bang bangs Shemp's head with the giant mace, but for once two Stooges don't hurt each other. Must've been in Shemp's contract.
"Nice work, kid," Shemp tells Larry. Well, Shemp was seven years older than Larry, so it fits. Indeed, Larry acted like a true movie hero, hurting the enemy just enough so that they're still alive to fight another day, hoping that the enemy will step on his own land mine. White gloved heroes! However, Shemp is thirsty to spill some blood. Larry goes along with that as well, saying "There may be more of these buzzards around here!" So much for being true movie heroes. Shemp then takes a page out of the Bush Administration's playbook, saying "I'll get a club too. Smack everybody that's wearin' a turban!" They then split up. They can cause more damage that way. As he passes by the camera, Shemp says "Pardon me" to... someone. I don't know who. Gotta love Shemp.
Next scene: ...yup, you guessed it. Genius. Jack Brown Genius. Real Genius. Young Einstein. What I'm referring to is Moe nursing Vernon Dent back to health, and Dent's got a towel over his head. "You're doing swell! I'll call the cops," says Moe. This may be a first. Dent, however, has his pride, and wants to call the cops himself. You know, so he can quietly ask for the Stooges to be arrested as well. As far as I can recall, Dent is unaware of the presence of Curtis and Van Zandt. Next scene:... boy, that was quick! Larry approacheth with his giant mace. Vernon sticks his head out into the hall avec towel and... Bang Bang, Lawrence Fine's Styrofoam mace came down upon Vernon Dent's head. Beaming with pride, Larry tells Moe "I got another one!" Fuming, Moe asks Larry "What did ya hit him with?" Overflowing with pride and stupidity, Larry hands Moe the mace, and Bang Bang, Lawrence Fine's Styrofoam mace came down upon his own head. "That was Mr. Bradley!" barks Moe.
Gotta wrap this up quickly now... I know, far too late for that. Next scene: Shemp runs back into Bradley's home office. He goes to the fireplace and gets the poker for shifting burning logs around. He looks and sees the lamp smoldering in the fireplace. He picks it up with the poker and places it on the desk. "I'll take that!" yells Curtis, and runs over to grab the lamp. Curtis throws the lamp high into the air, and Van Zandt comes into the room at that precise moment and grabs the hot, hot lamp. What follows is an old-fashioned game of hot potato. The lamp eventually ends up back in Shemp's hands, but don't worry, because suddenly, almost magically, if you like, Shemp is now standing next to a table with a big bowl of water on it! The opposite of The Wizard of Oz, apparently. I mean, c'mon. There just happens to be a bucket of water there for Dorothy to throw on the Wicked Witch of the West? Puh-leeze. Shemp quickly dunks the lamp into the bowl of water and starts rubbing it, saying "Genius! Get us out of this!!" Which raises another interesting philosophical...
Never mind all that junk. As it happens, the genie doesn't in fact have to be present to grant wishes. There's another giant explosion, and Vernon Dent... I mean, up-and-up businessman, international importer John Bradley looks around. The genie has tied up the bad guys, lavished gifts upon the good guys (by that, I mean the Stooges), and apparently cured Bradley's numerous massive head injuries. I wonder if he thinks that lamp's valuable now!
Oh, there's a little more. Each of the Stooges is being paid attention to by a beautiful woman... well, semi-beautiful, anyway. They're just needed for one scene, anyhow. Larry says "You're just my type... a woman!" And so, the first computer nerd is born. Shemp says "Hey, Amos! You got that stuff I ordered?" "Coming, Master!" says the genie. I'll leave others to debate the genie's line delivery on that one. Sheesh... The genie comes in with a wheelbarrow full of glittering goodies. Reminds me of that game show on The Simpsons called "Me Wantee." I know I'm not the only one who remembers.
And so, the Stooges exit Stage Right with the girls and their wheelbarrow full of goodies. Do they share the wealth with Mr. Bradley?... of course not! That would require a more involved ending. No time for that! Frustrated, Mr. Bradley grabs the nearest blunt object he can find and proceeds to hit himself in the head repeatedly until he passes out. In this case, a hammer. Disclaimer: do not hit yourself in the head with a hammer. Unless, of course, you let a magic lamp slip through your fingers in such a cinematic fashion as this.
Good double bill with: Rabbit's Kin, of course! ... oh, YouTube, you let me down again.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan