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|21 reviews in total|
They played hard and fast with the facts, but I've got no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is all the schmaltz. I'm talking here about corny lines and ham acting, the epitome of the latter being the Carnera character's "Do you know what it's like to be hungry?" soliloquy. Laughable. The musical score was annoying. Why do so many movies these days use tepid strings arrangements? The movie was interesting enough, but still, it was formulaic and uninspired. The characters were shallow, especially Max Baer's, which was really a caricature. I had the feeling they shot this thing in a week and a half, just to get it over with. I had to cringe when Primo proposes to his sweetheart after beating Jack Sharkey for the championship. Ludicrous. They should have stuck a tad bit more to the facts regarding Primo's handlers, and forgone all that schmaltz! To this day, questions linger over Carnera's career, especially as to which of his fights were fixed (if indeed they were) and which weren't (if indeed they weren't). The man in real life was abused by his handlers and his life as a boxer was a lonely one, but you wouldn't know it from this schmaltzy film. They could have explored this aspect of Carnera's life a bit more. Furthermore, Carnera had a full and interesting life after his boxing career ended, and they could have explored this more as well. Instead, Carnera gets short shrift here by his depiction as a one-dimensional character. Okay, one-and-a-half, he gets to throw a couple of tantrums here and there. Yeesh!
Classic. Our opening shot of the Stooges has them snoring in harmony. Soon, Moe attempts Morse Code on Shemp's head, which differs from a steam pipe only in that a steam pipe hasn't got ears! Shemp, performing the Australian crawl on the living room floor, gets grappled by fisherman Moe. All this, and the Stooges haven't even gotten warmed up yet. Things really get going when they start shaving each other. Moe shouts football signals and they execute some tricky plays here (Shemp: "Your face is too sharp!"). Larry takes the opportunity to disengage himself from a huge tuft of chest hair while we learn that Shemp's tongue makes a natural razor strop. The refrigerator keeps the hot towels piping hot while Moe sneezes Schlemiel #8 talcum powder all over the place (and we know where Woody Allen in "Annie Hall" got that bit from, don't we?). We see Moe apply his sixteen-parts-lard-to-one-part-egg formula for cooking breakfast while Shemp loses a battle with a folding table, thus keeping Mary (the "hopeless cripple") waiting for her nice cold pancakes smothered in vinegar. Yes, so far so good, but then . . . enter Vernon Dent! Here, Shemp "gets tough" with Vernon, and this bit is the highlight of the film. The scene then shifts to the Great Svengarlic, who stealthily observes Shemp hypnotize Moe into thinking he is in New York, Los Angeles, and then Sing Sing (whereupon Moe grabs the rungs of a chair back, thus simulating jail cell bars). Another great highlight of the film ensues after Larry observes that Shemp's attempts to extricate Moe from Sing Sing have been met with utter futility. The film's climax is breathtaking. I wonder how Svengarlic's agent was able to get a permit to allow three guys to dance on a flagpole several stories above a city sidewalk, and so quickly, too? Of course, such trivial details matter for naught in a Stooges short. We see that justice prevails in the end, but the scheming Mary, although defeated, has the last say, namely, the famous three-tone NBC gong as played out on the Stooges' heads, courtesy of the large ball that was attached to the end of the flagpole. All in all, a must-see for all you saps!
This is not the most memorable of the Stooges' shorts, but it's still a Stooges' short, and therefore worthy of consideration (and certainly worth watching too). There are some lags, such as when the Stooges set up camp in their living room as a "dry run" for their impending camping trip. Of course, once again Shemp is ailing, so good old Cousin Claud is called onto the scene (the guy's a certified quack, but what the hell?, he works cheap). I have to wonder at the inordinate number of times Shemp had to play an ailing character in these shorts; could it be all the negative karma so generated that caused Shemp's early death in real life? If you believe in stuff like that, you most certainly would have to wonder. By the way, there is one good bit during the "living room camping" scene; it involves Larry shouting to Moe, "Foither! Foither!," and getting a crossbeam shoved into his face for his effort. Claud is annoying as hell, so when he gets stuck at the end of the film (with the Columbus), good feelings ensue. There's also the tiresome "You idiot, I meant skip taking the pills, not skip rope!" gag thrown in, but the service station scene (with the confusion over the ownership of a certain tire) more than makes up for it. The very best of the film occurs at the very end: first you have Shemp saying, "Wait, I'm hungry too!", and then you have Larry saying, "Well, what's wrong with that?". I'm telling you, those precious seconds at the very end are more than worth sitting through the first twenty minutes! And, all seriousness aside, those twenty minutes aren't really all that bad, really they're not! Watch this flick!
This is another brilliant Shemp short, topped off by Emil Sitka's delightful performance. The boys are in a fix: broke again and facing eviction. Worse yet, Shemp and Larry are petrified of the landlady, Mrs. MacGruder. Moe has a great scene when he soliloquizes on his mastery over women. He shows his true colors when Mrs. Battleaxe, oops, I mean Mrs. MacGruder, comes on the scene (and you must check out Shemp and Larry when this happens). Sitka portrays Shemp's wealthy Uncle Phineas, and an air of mystery is imparted when the landlady repeats out loud, "Phineas Bowman" in an obvious tone of recognition. Then, of course, we have the jealous-husband-beautiful-wife subplot (thankfully, plots never matter where the Stooges are concerned). Rocky Duggan, the strongest man in the world, performs his service to humanity by asking people if they have any phone books they would like torn in half. He would have little to do here in the Virgin Islands; our phone books aren't that thick, and that's even with the British Virgin Islands thrown in. Nonetheless, I wouldn't want to get on his bad side, which is exactly what the Sttoges do through no fault of their own. Except for the scene when Rocky throttles Shemp's double, it is Emil Sitka who inadvertently takes the brunt of Rocky's wrath. Emil truly shines here. But if I were Uncle Phineas, I'd think twice about marrying a woman with the most devastating right cross in history. Rocky's still spitting out his teeth.
I had no idea the afterlife was so highly organized. Why, they've got trains that actually stick to schedule and tons of clerical workers. Luckily for Shemp, his Uncle Mortimer (who looks an awfully lot like Moe) occupies an important bureaucratic position, so he's able to cut Shemp a deal. Here we also learn that male angels, when sexually excited by shapely female angels, react by bringing their wings up over their shoulders. Apparently, however, this act is strictly a faux pas, judging from Uncle Mortimer's reaction to Shemp's excitability. We also learn that in the afterlife, we are bound to have run-ins with very small, yet very spiteful, rain clouds. These clouds are pretty hard, are suspended by strings, and dispense their rain through two small holes near their center. Shemp must catch the train to Earth, where he is given the daunting task of reforming Moe and Larry, whom we first meet in the office of lawyer I. Fleecum (apparently after he split from his erstwhile partners Cheatham and Howe), portrayed by the great Vernon Dent. Here, Vernon does what no self-respecting shyster would do---he tells the truth, by admitting to Larry and Moe that he has ripped them off blind. I like Larry's line here, "Mind if we breathe?" Shemp, being unseen and unheard, begins reforming Larry and Moe by slapping Moe as a payback for the years of abuse he suffered at Moe's hands (sounds effective to me). Then Larry and Moe go through the trouble of renting a posh apartment, even with a sporty butler, just to run a scam on a wealthy couple. And, yes, it's the old fountain-pen-that-writes-under-whipped-cream scam. Here's what I don't understand: when Moe sets up the pen, paper, and cream in the automatic mixer, why is the paper blank? Moe even admits to Larry that the pen is not likely to write! Wouldn't an experienced scam artist place a sheet of paper that already has fountain pen squiggles all over it, to fool the DePuysters into thinking that the pen really wrote under whipped cream? Thankfully, this is a Stooges short, so things like technical details and plot aren't really important. The best scene is the opening of the second reel. Here we see Moe and Larry in their opulent digs, where Larry gives Moe a greeting popular with society's upper crust, "I say, old fishmonger, old skunkbait!," whereupon Moe shows his bourgeois leanings by clobbering Larry for putting on airs. Then Spiffington the butler says "Thank yawww," which precipitates Moe and Larry engaging in brilliant ripostes of "Thank yawws," until Moe tires of the game and slaps Larry silly. It's worth seeing this short just for this scene alone, so don't be a schmoe: see this short!
Even back in the 1950's, socialized medicine was an issue, especially psychiatric medicine. Here we have poor Shemp, institutionalized in a sanitarium, and Moe and Larry are forced to withdraw him because they can no longer afford the hospitalization. Ah, the pathos! Apparently though, they can still afford Shemp's medication, as we see him popping pills like crazy in the opening reel. Whether this medicine has side effects, or is just plain ineffective, we don't know, but we do know Shemp hallucinates like mad. He imagines Babe London, his nurse, as a shapely blonde. Of course Babe, blacked-out teeth and all, is no dummy. She's not about to let a great catch like Shemp get away, hallucinations or not. Just the same, it's best she's not in the scene when Shemp imagines he's grown two extra hands whilst pounding away a lively jazz tune on a piano. By the way, the look on Shemp's face, just before realizing he has four hands, is priceless. It doesn't last, though. He goes into utter hysterics, pounding Larry's and Moe's heads while ranting like a lunatic. Yeesh! The best part of the short is when Vernon Dent, bedecked in a ten gallon hat, interacts with the Stooges in the usual way, in a phone booth, no less. He's Babe's father who has arrived in town for the impending nuptials. The final scene gives us round two of the Vernon Dent-Stooges fracas, where we see that Babe inherited her strong and independent will from her great uncle Jack when she grabs Shemp out of the fracas, hoists him over her shoulder, and hums the wedding march. She may not be much for looks, but she knows what she wants and she takes it! I know there's an allegory here in all this, but I haven't figured it out yet. Do you want a deep, complicated, thought-provoking Stooges short? Brother, this is it.
Oh, brother, what a great short. The Stooges are turned loose in the United Kingdom, where they talk themselves into positions as gardeners in Scotland Yard, of all places---all they had to do was to prove they weren't gentlemen! Moe delivers a great double whack to Larry's and Shemp's skulls with the handle of a garden rake. The Stooges end up in a Scottish castle, regaled in kilts. If I ever make it up to Scotland, I would like to try out Ted Lorch's great line, "The E-r-r-r-r-r-el will see ye noo!" Now tell me Shemp wasn't one of the greatest comedians of all time. Christine McIntyre delivers such an obvious set-up line (when asked her name she says "Perhaps ye've heard it, 'tis Lorna Doone!"), so that Shemp's response is utterly predictable, and yet, he absolutely slayed me with it. In fact, all three Stooges are at their best in this short. See it, and I don't care which side of the MacMason MacDixon line you have to come from to do it!
The tone is set early on. Cy Schindell, as a cop: "Who's in that can?" Voice from within (unmistakably Shemp's): "Just garbage!" Can't three guys enjoy their Saturday night out stuffed in a garbage can without being hassled by The Man? Thus the poor Stooges become the prime suspects for an armed robbery. Actually, that's a good thing, otherwise we wouldn't see the Stooges trip up police captain Vernon Dent on his own polygraph! Lodge meeting, huh? Yeah, sure, Vernon! Makes you wonder what debauchery he was really up to. The best delivery of a line in this short has to be Shemp's "Boy, you got a lotta crust!" when Larry is discovered to have run up a huge tab at the Elite Cafe. Thankfully, Christine McIntyre is in this short, too, as Gladys, the proprietor of the café. It's also good to see Kenneth MacDonald. The scene where he says, "Angel . . . Strangers in the house" is priceless. I may have said too much already, so get out there and see this short!
Larry prepares a foot long hot dog for Moe. He slathers it with a liter of mustard and says to himself, "and I knoooooooow he's gonna like that!". As he takes the hot dog to serve to Moe, he grabs the jar of mustard as he reminds himself, "He might want a little mustard!" Welcome to "Income Tax Sappy," where cheating on their income tax has made the Stooges into millionaires (the national economy must have been very strong in the early 1950's). The IRS, of course, gets wise. They send over Benny Rubin in a phony beard and a phonier German accent, and the sting operation is on. Shemp displays his ardent love for mashed potatoes and gravy ("I looooooooves gravy!") by shoveling copious quantities of each onto his dickey, which amuses the maid. The jig is up for the Stooges right after Herr Rubin gets the predictable face full of those very same mashed potatoes and gravy. It's good to see Vernon Dent as one of the T-men who come after the Stooges. All in all, there's food fighting, mayhem, and a good dose of Moe handing out the physical abuse to Shemp and Larry. Alas, if only Shemp had not claimed those 14 bartenders as dependents on his W-1040.
So asks Ben Weldon, in the days before he met Superman. Ben's the guy with carpet dirt smeared all over his face and with his toupee, saturated with glue, stuck on top of his head. And the Stooges are stupid? The great Kenneth MacDonald, as "Slick" Bill Wick, lets out a chuckle: he's found his pigeons. But not so fast! The Stooges get wise to Hammond Egger's crooked ways and switch allegiance to Able Lamb Stewer, a byproduct of early cloning experiments carried out with Dolly the Sheep's ancestors (and Stewer's likeness on his campaign posters will bear me out on this). Anyway, Slick Bill is not amused, and extreme violence and mayhem ensues. That's the plot, but as in all Stooges shorts, it's tertiary, not even secondary. The first reel is classic Stooges: they're janitors, and therefore allegoric to the proletariat masses, who, as irony would have it, get screwed by the very politicians they vote into office. But Slick Bill, the campaign manager, needs mindless yes-men to vote as they are told at the upcoming convention. Now, I've already described what happens to Ben Weldon, Slick's assistant. This alone should serve as a warning: do not underestimate the Stooges. Anyway, the second reel of the short starts out in sheer surrealism. The Stooges wreak havoc unto themselves in what can only be described as a political convention of three. I'll just say here that Shemp forever won my heart with his very short "two-hour week" speech, superlative even to Moe's brilliant paean to political bombast. I'll also say that the treatment endured by Slick Bill and Ben Weldon in the Stooges' bathtub is not for the faint of heart. Remember the effect "Psycho" had on shower-takers? Well, I've never again taken a bath since first seeing "Three Dark Horses"! But if you're smart, or politically inclined (mutually exclusive events), this short film is a must-see.
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