Thursday, July 04, 2013

No census, no matador

Boy, this one's going to be rough.  I can feel it in my marrow.  First of all, the title, Don't Throw That Knife, could really be applied to any and every Stooge film.  (1a: no exclamation point!  That's a red flag right there...)  And second, it's been a while since the boys began one of their shorts with a good old fashioned comedy disclaimer.  Is it WWII again or something?  As you can see from the pic, the disclaimer says "Any resemblance between The Three Stooges and regular human beings, whether living or dead, is a dirty shame."  Of course, this could really go at the beginning of any and every Stooge short.  On the other hand, what about all those Stooge fans who got a chance to poke the actual Stooges in their actual eyes?  I saw that Mel Gibson-produced movie with The Commish!  Don't kid yourselves.


For the Stooges, it is the start of another decade, so time for more census-based humour.  Abbott and Costello got the mathemagician crap locked up pretty tight.  And once again, the boys find themselves in yet another hallway.  I must be getting burned out on Stooge hallways.  They've got their giant census books with them, so all that's left now is to start going door to door.  Moe finds that his two partners, Shemp and Larry, unfortunately, are not up to snuff.  They only practice their census skills every ten years, and last time didn't go so well.  Time for more practice.  And so, as Elaine Benes did after them in order to get Chinese food delivered, the Stooges use a janitor closet in the hallway and pretend it's a household.  Moe knocks on the fake door... wait a minute!  I thought he wasn't the one who needed practice!  I can't do this right now.......... okay, I'm back.  Shemp is tasked to play Larry's wife, but he's reluctant to do so.  Larry flicks Shemp's nose in response.  So feisty!  Yup, they're a married couple, all right!  For Moe, they put their game faces on and go into that damn janitor closet.
To kill some time, Moe hits himself in the face with his giant census book.  Good luck poking that in the eyes!  Moe knocks on the door, and Shemp and Larry come out.  Moe apparently gets confused, because Shemp and Larry are in costume... well, Shemp is, anyhow.  Larry seems to have found a bobble-head moustache.  Well, it was enough to genuinely confuse Moe.  Moe needs more practice than he realizes!  After his massive double-take, he begins to question Larry and Shemp.  Despite Shemp's earlier reluctance, he's really digging in to the meat of his role as Larry's wife.  Then the train goes off the PC rails when they say they're from the South.  I'm sure they have to cut Larry's portion of the scene when this one plays on broadcast television... if this one ever gets played on broadcast television.  Soon, however, Moe grows very, very weary of the ad-libbing of Shemp and Larry, and the slaps start flying.  Off comes Larry's precarious moustache, and off comes Shemp's mop wig.
Next scene: the camera's moved from a medium shot of the closet to a long shot of the hallway.  But before they can take two steps towards their first census apartment, Moe wants to know where their credentials are.  This leads to a sequence of gags.  As it turns out, Shemp thinks he's Carrot Top or something.  Their census credentials are never produced, but Shemp gets put through the ringer.  A lot of ad-libbing in this sequence!  Shemp notices some powder got on to his hat just before Moe bops him on the head with... well, it's probably better if you just watch the scene yourself.  It's on YouTube!  Did I mention that I used to be able to link right to it?  Supremacy of HTML5, CSS and JavaScript, MY ASS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Cross-wipe to next scene, where they're still wiping the shmutz off of Shemp's face, lol.  Okay, NOW they're ready to start taking some damn census.  The prime motivation?  "We gotta make some money!" says Moe.  Shemp must be a Communist, for he protests, saying "Aw, money shrinks!"  Moe stops to think about that for a brief second, then retorts with "So do you, every time you get near a bathtub."  ...tell me he didn't just say that.  WTF!?!?!  Somebody call the WTF Police, or some officer of pop culture that jumps on the latest in creepy every five seconds.  They couldn't mean... oh, well.  I'm trying to keep this blog semi-family friendly.  Good luck after this one!  SHEESH!!!  Moe makes a joke about census takers that I'm not even going to further dignify.
And so, on to their first customer.  A pretty lady in a big silk number answers the door.  Boy, does she have the right instincts, saying "I don't want any," and turning to close the door on the Stooges.  Larry tells her that they're census takers.  The woman starts to cry, asking "What have I done to deserve this?"  Oh, it's like Lisa being forced to go on a date with Milhouse, I tells ya.  Shemp hands her a kerchief that says "Cry in this" on it.  The tears dry up right quick, and it's on to business.  My director friend who can spot bad acting a mile away would see through that right away.  So phake, so fony.  She is Jean Willes, who you might know best from such movies as Gypsy, Bite the Bullet and the original Ocean's Eleven.  Not me, though; I'm not that interested.  But she apparently did five Stooge shorts in total, and her most colorful role is probably as Jane in Gypped in the Penthouse.  But we'll have to wait to do that one.  We're stuck with DTTK for now.  She says "Walk this way" and the Stooges take her literally.  Are they going to sleepwalk through this one or what?
Case in point: the next gag.  Moe coughs, then says "Your name, please."  Her character's name is Lucy Wycoff (or Wyckoff, depending).  Is S. J. Perelman suddenly writing for them?  The only time I can think of them using a name-based gag like that is from Pardon My Clutch (1948) and its remake, Wham-Bam-Thank you Van Damme(1955).  It's rattling, unsettling, and not at all the norm!  But Moe brings us back to fundamentals by reprimanding Larry and Shemp for making bad jokes.  He hits Larry with the census book, then goes all Hannibal on Shemp's ear!  Not quite as bad as Walter Sobchak on Uli Kunkel's ear, but still.


Well, we gotta move on to it at some point.  Eventually, they get the woman's name, but they don't write it down.  I guess the Census wasn't as rigorous back then.  Next question: married status.  Mrs. Wyckoff says she's married, but to an insanely jealous man.  Just to drive the point home, she gives a recent example: "He nearly killed a man!  The man just spoke to me!" she says.  Ancient Chinese proverb that I just made up: where there are pretty girls, trouble will surely follow.  Shemp and Larry say goodbye in so many ways and prepare to make their exit.  Larry does a shout out to Pardon my Scotch by saying "Verge harget!" or whatever the hell that phrase is.  ...okay, according to this website, it's Yiddish for "drop dead."  They spell it ver g'harget.  Oh, those crazy Yiddites.  Anyway, as with the play on her married name, they kill some more time with the crazy husband's occupation.  Mrs. Wyckoff tries to get fancy and use big words and doesn't just come out and say that the guy's a knife thrower in their "Vode-ville" act.  Two things: 1) I wonder if it's anything like Vaudeville and 2) I thought Vaudeville died by 1950!  To the Wikipedia-mobile... there.  16 November 1932 is the official death knell of Vaudeville.  I guess this is when the script was written or something.  Moe kicks Shemp in the ass for making a terrible, terrible joke.  Shemp goes running off and Moe and Larry get back to the business of.....CRASH!!!!!!!  Moe and Larry look over at Shemp, his body at rest.  He's not dead, is he?  Maybe not, but he's about to have seven years bad luck.  Moe and Larry go over to investigate.  There's three mirrors.  Shemp has destroyed the middle one.  Larry and Moe look in the other two and... time to kill some time, I'm afraid.  Shemp may have seven years bad luck, but we're about to waste about a minute of Moe and Larry studying the weird mirrors.  I mean... their heads!  Their heads are ten feet tall!  "HMM!!" says Moe as his mouth grows to ginormous vertical proportions.  Larry's having a more silent freakout.  Let it out, Larry!  Shout it to the world!
I bet Mrs. Wykoff's really really sorry she ever answered the door now!  She doesn't say anything, however.  Best to just let the Stooges do their thing.
We see Shemp's passed out, leaning against the wall, with eerie lighting on him.  And then... the conscious Stooges switch mirrors.  "Hey Moe!  Look in there!" says Larry.  Is this the whole rest of the movie?  Where's the thrown knife we were promised?  I want my money back!... oh, right.  It's free.  Just the monthly charge for internet service.
Shemp wakes up.  Now it's HIS turn with the mirror.  Shemp has a much lower tolerance level for fear and he doesn't take as long to get scared out of his wits.  "There was a freak in there," he tells Moe.  Moe gets his boys back in line and it's back over to Mrs. Wykoff.  "You fools!  You ruined my trick mirror.  That's part of my act!" she says, semi-angrily.  No wonder Vaudeville died off!  When suddenly... in a rare bit of role reversal, Larry and Shemp take Mrs. Wykoff over out of the frame, Stage Right, and Moe's left to his own comedic defenses!  It's usually Shemp or Curly.  Moe tries to have a seat, but he runs afoul of a trick chair.  First trick mirrors, now this!  'Tis an especially devious chair.  When you try to sit in it, it buckles and you fall down.  But as soon as you pick yourself up off the ground, the chair has righted itself!  Moe scratches his head in disbelief and tries again, falling on his ass anew.  Moe's not one to tear up easily, but he does throw his census book onto the carpet in anger.  "Oh, that's a trick chair.  It's also part of my act," says Mrs. Wykoff.  A rather interactive act she has!  Hmm...
Okay, back to the census proper.  But before they can get to the next question... yup, there's a knock at the door.  And yup, it's the crazy-ass husband.  "You'd better hide before he kills all of us!" says Mrs. Wykoff.  Obviously, she must not know about the Stooges.  They'll have someone else trying to kill them in a minute.  In fact, he'll be here in the next pic, probably.  It's their stock in trade, am I right?
And so... in comes the crazy husband.  Vernon Dent's done this role to death, so it's time for Dick Curtis to step in.  He had taken a hiatus from Stooge films to develop Pioneertown or something.  Kinda like how Jeremy Renner flipped houses before the second act of his career!  Curtis has got one more Stooge film, The Tooth Will Out, and then he's outta here, unfortunately.  He had a bit part in a Frank Capra pic!  You Can't Take It With You.  Not the big one, alas.
Anyway, Curtis strongarms his way in.  The wife tells him she had to turn off the stove.  Meanwhile, the cowardly Stooges have hidden themselves in the next room.  They head for the window under Moe's direction.  They look out the window and... oh, right.  They're about fifty to sixty floors up.  Shemp vocalizes the anxiety of the trio, and almost falls out the window entire.  His two comrades pull him back in, and he promptly hits his head on the window.  Ouch.  Okay, Plan B.  The closet!  That's the ticket.
Unfortunately, the Stooges went into the closet a little too eagerly, and Curtis heard... I mean, the jumpy Mr. Wyckoff, heard the whole thing.  "It was just the wind," says his wife.  "Well, the wind don't walk, and I heard footsteps!" says he.  He locks the door and pockets the key.  Imagine that!  First of all, there ain't a door strong enough to hold back stampeding Stooges, and second... well, houses were built differently after the Depression.  I guess during the Depression, apartments had to have doors that were more secure to keep tenants from running from their financial obligations.  Mr. Wyckoff goes to investigate.
Next scene: the bedroom with the guilty closets.  Mr. Wykoff looks around, while Mrs. Wyckoff tries to stay one step ahead of him, in a feeble attempt to warn the Stooges.  Hope they picked a good spot!  Exhausted, Mr. Wykoff looks everywhere BUT the closet.  He's finally satisfied that nobody's here.  That was easy!  Time to raise the stakes anyhow.  Mr. Wyckoff says "Say, we better get a little shuteye before we get to the theater.  We got a couple extra shows to do tonight!"  Wait til he finds the broken mirror!  That should be a kick.  Mr. Wykoff starts to disrobe, and the Stooges try to leave the closet.  "YIPE!" says Mrs. Wyckoff.
Curtis does a massive reaction shot.  God bless that man.  Thinking quickly, Mrs. Wyckoff says she's sick and she needs the hot water bottle.  Mr. Wykoff heads for the closet.  "NO!" says Mrs. Wykoff.  "Get me an aspirin from the bathroom," she says.  Great Plan B on her part.  This gives the Stooges a chance to de-closet and a chance to escape d'apartment.  Mrs. Wyckoff gets the Stooges in a huddle and starts to coach them.  "Now, listen, you gotta get outta here QUICKLY..." she says.  "Coming, dear!" says Mr. Wykoff, opening the door.  Mrs. Wykoff puts her hands to her head and collapses on the bed, pretending to faint.  Or maybe she's overwhelmed by the ridiculousness of the whole situation.  I know I kinda am.  Puts me in the mind of that classic Bugs Bunny cartoon Hare Tonic.  And yes,  nakedmanbo, stantheman1998 has heard of a tripod, but I think they've been outlawed in Hollywood within the last few years.  Besides!  stantheman1998 is risking the wrath of TimeWarner on behalf of all you cheapskates out there who don't want to buy the DVD!
And so, back to the action, already in progress.  Moe says "SCRAM!" but quietly.  Shemp hides in the other bed, Moe disguises himself as a chair and... well, I don't know what the hell Larry's up to.  I'm sure wherever he ended up will be a nice surprise for later.  And so, the husband brings his sneaky-ass wife some aspirin and water.  He returns to fixing his damn necktie and she carelessly throws away the aspirin.  She's a regular Stooge!  The husband hears the aspirin ricochet off the wall, and the wife has to pooh-pooh that away as well.  She must be up to something; even I'm starting to think so.  I mean, besides the Stooges.  And so, she goes into the bathroom while Mr. Wyckoff decides to sit down...
...BOOM!  He faw down!  How ironic... I'm sorry, but this is something I can't just leave alone.  How ironic that Moe, who a few minutes ago was tangling with a prop chair that couldn't be sat in, has now himself become the prop chair that cannot be sat in.  Now, screenwriters take note: the knee of Curtis... I mean, Mr. Wyckoff... acts up, and he has to sit there nursing his trick knee while Moe the Chair attempts to return to a chair-like state.  Wyckoff has his back conveniently turned and misses the whole thing.  When he recovers, Curtis... I mean, Mr. Wykoff, gives that stupid chair a good kick.  Curtis and the chair begin hopping around in pain.  Lol.  I think we have a new highlight!  To ratchet up the dramatic tension, Curtis... I mean, Wyckoff... says he's going to get rid of the chair.  However, he just moves it over next to the bed.  Let's stop and reflect on this plot development for a moment... the ad hoc Stooge prop department had to scrounge up a mannequin that they could cover with Moe's comforter.  Someone had to do that!  But that's why the Stooges lasted as long as they did, just like The Simpsons.  A whole army of people putting together a superior entertainment product.  Jobs!  Job creation.  Take the vested interest and let it lose its figure a little bit, delegate and relegate all those mundane tasks that go into non-mundane picture shows.
Anyway, time for Larry.  He's hiding under the bed.  We know this because Mr. Wyckoff is now sitting on the bed nearest the bathroom.  He takes off one shoe and chucks it under the bed as hard as he can.  It hits Larry right in the face.  Repeat for second shoe.  Larry can't yelp in pain, however, and this educational film will explain why... the very first episode, in fact!  (Hint: for the metaphorically impaired, Mr. Wyckoff is the tiger)  Larry moves out of the way, just in case the guy has three legs.  Unfortunately, Larry's gone from the frying pan to the fire.  Mr. Wyckoff jumps onto the bed to lay down and go to sleep.  The Nail of Damocles is hovering over Larry's ass, and it sticks Larry when Wyckoff hits the bed.  I just hope Mr. Whycough didn't hear the loud boing sound it made!
Mrs. Wycoff comes out of the bathroom and covers up Mr. Wyckoff with a sheet.  How sweet.  She starts to lay down herself.  She exposes some leg and Larry crawls out from under the bed just in time to see it.  He can't turn away.  But this is a family-friendly pic, and Larry makes a noise so Mrs. Wyckoff is aware of his presence.  She hustles him out from under the bed and into the closet.  "You fool!" she says.  "If my husband finds you here, he'll kill you!"  Larry retorts with "If he finds me here, I deserve to get killed!"  He must be fed up with his station in life.  I don't see him as standing on some sort of noble principle on this one.  Except comedy; he grabs one of Mrs. Wykoff's hats and says "Tell him I'm your aunt!"  I think we have our #2 highlight!


We're past due!  Shame on me.  Anyway, Mrs. Wykoff looks at what's going on outside from within the closed closet.  Shemp makes his move, but he knocks the lamp off the table.  THAT'S the new #2 highlight.  He covers himself up but leaves his hand exposed.  Mr. Wykoff wakes up, looks over at the pile of sheets that he thinks is his wife, and gets in a romantic mood.  He takes the hand offered him and kisses it... hmm!  That's odd.  My wife didn't have arm hairs before.  He pulls about three of them out; you can tell because of the diligent work of the sound effects men.  "OUCH!!!... I mean, ouch!" says Shemp.  Dayamn, but he's in a tight spot!
Alas, the jig is up.  Wyckoff removes Shemp's blankets.  "Hello!" says Shemp as femininely as possible.  "Hello," says Wyckoff.  Then, it's double-take time.  This buys Shemp enough time to leap out of bed.  Wyckoff leaps onto Shemp's bed and breaks it, falling down with the bed.
Shemp makes his getaway.  "She DID have a man in here!" exclaims Mr. Wyckoff.  Chair Moe makes his getaway.  "TWO men!" Wyckoff says.  Larry exits the closet and kicks Wyckoff in the ass.  "THREE MEN!!!" Wyckoff says... I know, I know, this all seems very familiar.  But unless it's a total remake, the IMDb won't have it under the Connections tab... or will it?  Might as well try, I guess... I stand corrected!  It says What's the Matador features the same bed scene.  Ouch.  Well, can't fight the classics.
Next scene: Moe and Shemp are hiding behind sliding doors.  In their panicked state, they've forgotten about Larry, and they think that just Mr. Wyckoff is coming.  Well, they get ready to bean the first thing that comes through those sliding doors with the Wyckoff's vases... yup, it's Larry.  Larry makes a quick recovery, however, after having his face lightly slapped repeatedly by Moe.  Moe then drags Larry by the hair over to the door so that they may escape... yup, still locked.  Okay, Plan B.  Moe decides that they should hide in the big box in the center of the room.  Gee, great idea, Moe!  Well, Mr. Wyckoff didn't find them in the closet, so maybe they'll go two for two on this one, who knows?  Or maybe... no, I'm jumping too far ahead.  But yeah, that's probably what's going to happen.
Oh, what am I thinking?  As it happens, the box is occupied by a skeleton.  The skeleton hovers in front of the Stooges for a bit, then flies up to the ceiling and beyond.  Larry hides behind the radio, perhaps to re-enact Curly's big number from Dutiful but Dumb.  Why, I've got an MP3 of that!  Maybe I'll listen to it now... okay, focus, Movie Hooligan.  Focus.  Mr. Wykoff emerges from the other room.  He's got a belt with knives on it.  He grabs two of them and says "HAAAH!!!"  See, silly me, I thought the Stooges would get in the box and end up on stage in the Wykoff's act.  But we're down to about two minutes left, and they were on a shoestring, so... why not just do the show right here?  Indeed.
Shemp grabs a pistol out of the box, but Wykoff approaches confidently and slowly.  It's as if this is a 3-D pic or something.  Alas, the Stooges only made two.  The technology had yet to catch up to them.  Oh, right, and the gun's got a piece of cloth in it with the word "BANG!"  Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this is the first such prop gun the Stooges used on camera... nah, that can't be right.  Not after sixteen years of these things.
And so... for those of you waiting for this film to live up to its title... Finally!  Here comes the first two knives.  We dwell on their place in the wall for a while.  Wyckoff's in all-out business mode now.  "There were THREE of ya!  Where's the third homewrecker?" he asks as he reaches for two more knives.  Larry, meanwhile, comes up with a plan of his own.  I owe you all an apology; it's actually a television, not a radio.  It is 1950 after all!  Radio and Vaudeville are but things of the past.  Even the Stooges had to keep up with modernity.  Oh sure, I could've just gone back and changed the radio reference to TV and that'd be it, but then this post wouldn't be as long.  Anyway, Larry removes the circular TV tube and prepares to do a little show of his own.  Meanwhile, Wyckoff throws one knife and slashes Shemp's tie in half.  Well, that was just mean.
Wyckoff prepares another single knife, but Larry begins to speak.  "Ah, ah, ah!  Don't you dare!" extols Larry from his pulpit on the floor.  Larry morphs his monologue into a commercial for safe driving.  It works!  No double take from Wyckoff!  Then again, Wyckoff's getting ready to throw the knife anyway!  Ah, but Larry's got a plan.  He grabs the knife out of Wyckoff's hand just before he throws it.  And then, the latent psycopathic killer he is, Larry takes that knife and stabs Wyckoff in his right glute.  Boioioing, it goes.  That's for the nail earlier, apparently.  I understand this sequence inspired Videodrome nearly a generation later.  Well, Budd Schulberg and Paddy Chayefsky tried to warn us about the corrputive power of television, but Larry does it so much better with one stabbed ass, dontcha think?  ...okay, maybe that's a bit of a stretch.
Of course, being the stone cold Fix-it Man that he is, Larry knows that the knife in the ass just ain't enough.  And besides!  All that noise.  All the moaning and screaming... oh, my ass!  Oh, the pain!  Oh the blood!  What this Wyckoff needs is a little anesthetic.  And bang bang Lawrence Feinberg's Stooge hammer came down on Wyckoff's head... where did he get that, anyhow?
It's probably epilogue time, but we'll see what happens.  And so, their enemy semi-neutralized, Moe decides Wyckoff's going to spend a night in the box.  Also, they're going to call the cops and have this guy arrested for attempted murder.  Nice plan, but how are they going to explain Wyckoff's knife wound in his ass?


It's epilogue time.  The Stooges lock Wyckoff into the box and carry it towards the door.  "Hey wait a minute!  This box is awfully light!" declares Moe.  They look over and... my God.  It's their worst nightmare made flesh and steel and... henfruit?  Wyckoff has come to and seems to have made a hasty recovery from his glute wound.  Before him are two cartons of eggs (3x4!  Niiice...) and a cannon to fire them.  Wyckoff loads the cannon full of eleven eggs (there's one missing.)  "Now I've gotcha!" says Wyckoff.  The cannon's got a crank on it, and a'crankin' he goes.  Moe gets hit with the first volley of eggs, but we can clearly see the wall behind him has been hit.  Larry's next.  Larry now has his back turned, but an egg on the back of his neck turns him around.  Oh, it's the saddest thing I've ever seen.  I can't even bring myself to do my usual play-by-play.  However, I will point out that Shemp doesn't get hit in the midst of all this madness, and he's waving a kerchief at Wyckoff.  But Wyckoff's about to fix that.  "Well, what have you got to say?"  "Make mine fried!" says Shemp.  Smart-ass.  But Wykoff obliges.  He cracks three eggs into the contraption, and by God if Shemp doesn't get three fried eggs on his face: two for eyes, and one for ... a beard?  Boy, this Wykoff really is crazy... but in kind of a nice way.
And so, poetic justice has been served... or has it?  "WHY YOU!!!!!" declares Wykoff.  The Stooges take off and break down the front door in the process.  See?  Did I call it earlier or what?  A little credit, please!  Now, sure, your average Stooge film would just end right there, but no.  We need to see these guys riding off into the sunset... or as close as their budget and time schedule will allow.  The Stooges run out into the hall and into a little alcove at about 18 fps.  Any slower than that, and they'd be running way way too fast.  And as in Men in Black (1934), they get on scooters and ride to the end of the hallway, about as close to the sunset as we'll get here.
And that, my friends, is why the Census every decade is so important.  To let your government know who's out there, and why, and in which parts of the country, and where resources would best be used!  That kinda crap.  And why there needs to be better oversight in regards to who gets those census taker jobs.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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