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      This is the film where Buster Keaton is officially teamed with Jimmy Durante, as both names share top billing.  So essentially this is a comedy team film, at least in billing.  This would also be not only Buster's final MGM starring film, but the last time Buster Keaton will ever star in a feature film for a major U.S. studio.  From here on out, it was foreign films, comedy shorts, character parts in major and minor films, MGM gag man, television, and commercials, both the TV and lengthy industrial type.  So Keaton kept busy his final 33 years, but his star days were over.

      So what happened?  Keaton's films at MGM continued to be very profitable, including this final film we are discussing, but Keaton himself became unreliable, so Louis B. Mayer terminated his contract.  Keaton himself hated working for MGM and could not make the style of film he did when he had creative control in the silent era, WHAT! NO BEER? being one of them.  Add this to a failing marriage and alcoholism, and you have a picture of Keaton's low point.  On the set of WHAT! NO BEER?, there are stories that Keaton would not show up on the set for an entire week.  Perhaps one can understand Louis B. Mayer's actions.

      The alcoholism issue needs to be brought up because, well, Keaton appears on screen drunk.  Keaton's face looks drawn out, he slurs a few lines....yeah, it's bad.  However, I can deal with it for three reasons.  One is I know Keaton will overcome this, live several more decades, and live out his remaining years in what's reported to be a good marriage and contentment.  Secondly, I have become desensitized by watching Curly's final twelve Stooge shorts.  Keaton may be at his low point here, but man, not anywhere near as bad as Curly was.  Thirdly, Keaton is teamed with a loud comic like Jimmy Durante, who quite frankly chews all his ham and steals a few slices from Keaton in the process.  Durante being himself greatly distracts from Keaton's state.

      There is one scene where Keaton and Durante, along with Roscoe Ates and Henry Armetta, get an old brewing factory and learn to work the equipment and make beer.  This scene goes on for several minutes with lots of beer suds flowing and tons of noise being made by all the comedians....except Keaton.  All the other comedians are hooting and hollering, create all this comic energy, and you barely know Keaton is there.  This scene to me, more than any other, sums up Keaton's position at MGM.  Too many cooks in the kitchen, and Keaton was the cook with the least say.

      So yes, as a Keaton film, this is a dud.  Keaton fans who can't stand Jimmy Durante and are not into loud pre code comedy should completely hate this film.  I enjoy this film, though, because of Jimmy Durante, the loud pre code comedy nature, the gangster motif, and the presence of THREE LITTLE SEW AND SEW'S own Phyllis Barry (I've also seen her in Wheeler and Woolsey's HIPS, HIPS, HOORAY!).  She's fascinating with a unique accent and beauty to her, and yeah, we get the obligatory pretty girl in lingerie scene with her we'd no longer see the likes of once July 1934 hit.  I also like the fact this film is a cultural artifact for the time prohibition was coming to an end in America.  Love the fact the film points out how the gangsters do not want prohibition to end because it destroys their business.  Oh, and we get a really cool array of beer barrels rolling down the street with Keaton running away and havoc taking place.  This also happened a couple of years later in a film called THREE LITTLE BEERS.

      So my rating reflects my thoughts of the overall film, not as a Keaton film...though admittedly a great Keaton role would have upped the score more.

      The MGM era is now completely reviewed and similar to my Marx Brothers reviewing experience, I find I like the MGM's more than I thought.  FREE AND EASY is utter shit and PASSIONATE PLUMBER is barely passable, but the others have their charms.  I think with me, I've seen these films a few times now and know what to expect going in, liking them for what they are and mourning less what they're not.  Add to the fact I've seen the silent Keaton classics a million times and the MGM films take on a new freshness.  I welcome them as a whole in my collection, but to beginners, I still say, start with the silent classics. 


Weekly Episode Discussions / Speak Easily (1932) - Buster Keaton
« on: January 27, 2018, 03:30:12 PM »

      SPEAK EASILY is my favorite of Keaton's MGM talkies.  It is not considered a classic amongst Keaton fans as again Keaton is not a resourceful guy doing great physical stunts and yes, other comedians (though not all) could have played Keaton's role.  However, Keaton does star in the role well with an excellent supporting cast, so I consider this a good pre code comedy versus a classic silent Keaton film, and I happen to like good pre code comedy.

      As for Keaton's character, well...he's a college professor who has a one track mind with a love for ancient Greek literature and culture.  He doesn't get out much, he's well spoken, he takes every phrase literally, has lack of understanding of the motives of those around make a more modern comparison, he reminds me of Sheldon from BIG BANG THEORY.  You come up with your own amateur psychoanalysis if you wish.  Anyway, this kind of character actually works for Keaton as Keaton has a very dry, matter of fact delivery.  The part that got me the most was Keaton plainly stating, as if it's nothing, that Thelma Todd dance in the nude because the ancient Greeks did so.  That made me spit out my coffee, and it was totally Keaton's delivery that sold it.  The basic plot is Keaton's butler feels bad that Keaton never gets out, so he feels best to trick Keaton into thinking he inherited a lot of money so he'll go out and take risks and enjoy life.  Keaton does go out and meets an acting troupe which of course includes the girl of his fancy....and Jimmy Durante.

      For all the criticism Durante gets in these Keaton films, I think he's perfect here.  Durante is a ham fisted vaudevillian, basically playing himself.  Yes, he throws in bad puns, yes, he's loud, but the whole joke is that they're bad puns and loud.  In PASSIONATE PLUMBER, I felt like Durante didn't belong (or maybe it was Keaton who did don't belong, I don't know), but here, Keaton and Durante both fit into their roles from their respective worlds, academia and Vaudeville, and do not step on each other's toes.

      Oh yeah, we also get Thelma Todd trying to gold dig her way to the top with Keaton and Keaton too naive to understand what is going on. I've made it known on this board I'm a big Thelma Todd fan and she's great here for the most part, as usual.  My only complaint is the drunk part was completely unnecessary.  Thelma Todd does not need to be exaggerated when comically seducing any character, as she proves with Groucho, Robert Woolsey, and even Keaton when she's acting sober.  Still, we get a mini variation of Keaton taking a drunk woman to bed that he did in SPITE MARRIAGE, so not all's lost.  Ms. Todd's presence is always welcome, and we get to see her act the spoiled diva in the end. 

      The end when things go haywire on stage is quite entertaining.  Keaton swing on a rope across stage is very similar to what Harpo Marx would do a few years later in NIGHT AT THE OPERA, and Sidney Toler as the helpless stage director does a fantastic job.  He'd later go on to play Charlie Chan.

      Overall, a very good film, and definitely my favorite of the Keaton MGM talkies, unless next week's final film is better than I remember.



      Man oh man, another crazy one.  Remember the way PARLOR, BEDROOM AND BATH had all these crazy, unlikable characters in some garbled romantic jealousy plot that Keaton was caught in the middle of?  Well, it's almost the same thing this week, but with two differences.  One is there are at least less characters THE PASSIONATE PLUMBER, so it's not as confusing.  However, on the negative side, there is less of the Keaton physicality that made PARLOR a bit entertaining.  Tons of loud, screaming, jealous characters, and you know what?  Throw The Marx Brothers reacting to all the craziness in this plot and you would have a good film.  However, Keaton works at a much steadier pace.  Picture a blues musician working in a death metal band, that's what Keaton feels like in THE PASSIONATE PLUMBER.

      A classic Keaton film has Keaton in some chase or actually doing some action in the finale. Here, we have three lovers in a love triangle throwing dishes at each other while Keaton calmly hands out dishes.  In other words, Keaton is not part of the action.

      Jimmy Durante makes his first of three appearances with Keaton, and his role diminishes the second half of the film.  Eventually, he will share top billing with Keaton, but they're easing him in here.  Durante was a good comedian whose style clashed with Keaton, just like the majority of the MGM run.  He was a loud comedian who made corny jokes.  I dig that, just not with Keaton.  I'll take the inventing a banana with a zipper line or calling safe like an umpire as Keaton slides down the chair in a Stooge short versus a Keaton film.  At least in a Stooge film, you know a good slap is coming.

      Two good parts in THE PASSIONATE PLUMBER.  One is the duel, later done by Keaton is SHE'S OIL MINE at Columbia.  Actually, the whole gag of Keaton using the glove to slap people into challenging a duel is a nice little running gag.  The best bit is when he's confronted by his rival, wearing nothing but a towel, and after getting slapped by a glove from his rival, uses said towel to slap his rival.  The camera, of course, moves up so we don't see too much of Buster.  Clever gag.  Keaton finding ways to screw up taking paces before firing in the duel is also nice physical comedy.  I'd venture to guess Keaton had a part in this scene, especially since he used it again at Columbia.

      The other good part is at the casino.  After being told men kill themselves outside the casino after losing money and the casino puts money in the dead man's pocket to avoid scandal, Keaton faking death to get cash is another clever gag.  I also really like Keaton inventing the gun with a laser point for precision that he tries to show to the generals, but the way he takes the gun out in front of them makes it look like an assassination attempt.


Weekly Episode Discussions / Sidewalks of New York (1931) - Buster Keaton
« on: January 15, 2018, 07:31:08 PM »

      I think I'm starting to see the key to appreciating these MGM films.  I don't look at them as Buster Keaton's films, but comedies of the early 30's that happen to have Buster Keaton in them.  SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK has the disctinction of being the highest grossing film Keaton ever made and also the one Keaton personally cared for the least.  If that's not an indication that this film has early 30's styling and little Keaton styling, I don't know what does.  It just happens to be I enjoy early 30's films, and I also happen to enjoy one other aspect on its own merits, an aspect not necessarily in line with making the kind of films Keaton makes.  That aspect would be the directors - Zion Myers and.....wait for it.....Jules White.  Yes, that Jules White, the guy whose films we discussed for several years and will be discussing again briefly within the next year once Keaton goes to Columbia.

      As far as early 30's, the gangster film came into prominence around this time with James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson at Warner Brothers, and there's a gangster in this one trying to run the neighborhood and influence some kids to pull off jobs.  While hardly on the level of THE PUBLIC ENEMY or LITTLE CAESAR (OK, not even close), the gangster element still comes across as a fascinating by product of its time.  The idea of impressionable tough talking kids living in a ghetto is both a reflection of depression America and a precursor to the Dead End Kids/East Side Kids/Bowery Boys.  I'll also state the atmosphere in the neighborhoods is wonderfully dark, dingy, and convincing on par with any classic gangster film, no doubt a testament to MGM's production values, at the time the biggest studio there was.

      Now for the Jules White thing.  The film starts out with a bunch of rough neighborhood kids getting into an argument over a baseball game.  This evolves into a giant neighborhood food fight.  At one point, one kid even tricks another kid to believing they're on the same side, only for the kid doing the tricking to throw food into the other gullible kid's face.  The kid doing the tricking then gets food from off screen smacking him in the kisser.  I can easily picture such a routine in a Stooge film. 

     A routine we all know from a Stooge film is Curly taking an oath to tell the truth and nothing but the truth in DISORDER IN THE COURT.  Well, guess what?  Keaton did it first in SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK.  The whole misunderstanding the fast talking oath, the raising of the right hand with object in the way, not swearing but knowing all the words, falling on your butt when trying to take the's all here, and Curly basically does it better.  This is no knock on Keaton.  His timing is superb, his delivery fine for his style, but this kind of routine works better with a frustrated comedian who slowly boils over, and that Curly's style.  Keaton is a toned down comedian and works best in a steady delivery.  Here's a fine example of humor probably not written by Keaton better suited for someone else, so I can understand Keaton's grievance.  Still, I enjoy seeing Keaton doing the routine nonetheless, and he does do one thing Curly doesn't do....take his own fall when falling on the chair on the witness stand.  Now that's by far Keaton own domain more than Curly.  One other Jules White gag....when Keaton wins the boxing match, he gets carried away on people's shoulders, only to have his head hit a bar above him, knocking him out.  This is similar to Curly and Besser is WHAT'S THE MATADOR and SAPPY BULLFIGHTERS.

      The main flaw of the film is also a Jules White trait, and one that stands out much more in a feature than a short film, and that's comic insensitivity.  Keaton and his girl, (played very well and assertively by Anita Page) throw her little brother a birthday party.  The little brother, who gets caught up in gang and mob activities, walks away from the party, only to have Anita Page crying.  Keaton acts completely oblivious to her sadness at this big dramatic moment, insists it's time to eat, and it is at this moment a gag involving a duck being wrongly sliced is used.  Not a good example of when to use comedy.  Later in the film, the younger brother, through orders of the gangster trying to mold him, is ordered to kill Keaton with a real gun in a play.  The kid is basically holding back tears, can't do it, and it is at this highly dramatic moment little comedy bits are thrown in.  The comedy feels on the side of the drama, not enhancing.  Jules White did not have the sensitivity of a Chaplin, Lloyd, Langdon, or even Keaton when he occasionally wanted to to mix drama and comedy, as these bits feel completely inappropriate and are the weakest parts of the film.

      As far as comedy, I do enjoy the boxing match and enjoyed watching Keaton deliver a dropkick on a few occasions.  During the chase at the end, there is one nice gag which screams Keaton.  Being chased in his house by gangsters, Keaton goes through all this trouble to make this huge pile of furniture blocking the door so the gangsters don't get in the room.  The irony is they are in the same room as he is!

      As an example of Buster Keaton's comedy, hardly a good example, but like I stated before, there are enough elements in this thing outside the realm of Keaton, including Stoogian elements, that fascinate and make me rate this as my favorite MGM talkie we've discussed so far.  One final point...the dim witted Elmer character is not on display much at all outside of the love sickness, and I find this very welcoming.  So a Keaton fan who could care less about Jules White, pre-code film and gangster movies should avoid this thing at all costs.  However, if you enjoy these elements, and want to see Buster Keaton enhance a film with all these things....



Watch PARLOR, BEDROOM AND BATH in the link above

     Man oh man, what a bizarre film!  Plot wise, I'll try my best, but really, this thing loses all sense of character and story by the end.  Buster plays Elmer again and is a self admitted virgin who doesn't know what to do to get a woman.  He gets hit by a car, taken into a rich person's house on the property he's on to be nursed.  The girl he's attracted to won't marry because she can't find the bad boy of her dreams, and this prevents her younger sister from marrying her man because she won't marry before her older sister.  Said man wants older sister to marry and tries his darndest to convince older sister that virginal Elmer is a bad boy.  Are you following me so far?  No?  Neither am I.  Things just get crazier from here, and this is definitely not the normal logical comedy Keaton made when he was in control of his own films.  By the end of this thing, Keaton is in a hotel room doing some acted upon love making ritual to several different women, one jealous man is chasing him with a gun, there's a fake murder....oy vey!  Really fascinating that this kind of film could only be made between 1929 - 1934, as this style of film making completely died with the code, and I do love pre code films.  So as a pre code film, I'm strangely fascinated, but as a Buster Keaton film, not one of his best representations due to character and story, however......

      ....of all the MGM films, this by far has Keaton doing the most physical comedy.  There's him running around the property being chased, diving into pools, dodging men diving after him, being smacked on the head, then towards the end of the film, the way he swings women around and kisses them.  There's also several instances of Keaton being dragged around lifelessly, which does take skill, takes several falls, and the stunts he does with long legged Charlotte Greenwood are quite amazing to watch.  Can't help but wonder if they inspired W.C. Field's acrobatics in the dentist chair a year later with a long legged woman in THE DENTIST.  So yes, of all the MGM films, tons of physical comedy compared to the others.  Nothing that has the classic Keaton wit, but good physical falls nonetheless.

      The ten minutes or so of Keaton driving the girl to the hotel up to the point where he's in the lobby is the part of the film where I feel like Keaton stood up and said, "Enough of this screwball farce stuff, I want to make a Keaton comedy."  Amongst all this chaos and crazy, vapid characters there lies this ten minute pocket of vintage Keaton.  The train gag from ONE WEEK is revisited.  There's a wonderfully muddy hitchhiking scene, a hay ride with a very brief but funny bit of dialogue paying the driver, and a wonderful scene in the lobby of Keaton slipping and sliding all over the place.  Little dialogue, great sight gags...the way Keaton wanted to do talkies.  Too bad he could never do an entire MGM film like this.  Of course, there are some groaner dialogue scenes throughout, like the scene where neither character can spell, (c-h-a-m-p-a....make it wine), and several bits where Keaton is flat out treated and referred to as an imbecile, which his character is.  Again, fine for The Three Stooges, but Keaton's character in his prime was resourceful, and MGM did not understand this.

      Some notes is that the girl Keaton initially falls for that likes the bad boy is played by the very beautiful Dorothy Christie.  She's more famous for playing Mrs. Laurel in SONS OF THE DESERT.  Also, the extravagant house the film takes place was Keaton's real house, the Italian Villa.  Well, Keaton and his wife, Natalie Talmadge's house.  A couple of years after this film, it would be all her's. 

      As somebody fascinated by Keaton and pre code Hollywood, I give this a 10 on personal fascination.  However, on artistic merit, the film doesn't make much sense, but always moves at a quick pace so you don't think about the senseless characters too much and there's tons of physical comedy.  The Keaton characterization is also dim witted Elmer again, so I give this...


Weekly Episode Discussions / Doughboys (1930) - Buster Keaton
« on: December 29, 2017, 10:39:34 AM »

      An OK film, and good for an MGM Keaton talkie.  Like most MGM Keatons the problem with this one is lack of an all-time classic chase we're accustomed to and simply the Elmer character himself.  The former is what it is and will go without saying in future MGM reviews.  MGM wasn't about to risk Keaton with STEAMBOAT BILL, JR. type spectacle for insurance reasons and the risk of losing a star.  As stated before, these MGM films, while not loved today, were big money makers in their day, during the height of the depression, no less, so you can't blame MGM.

      The Elmer character though is just too simple for the crafty Keaton we're used to.  His flat out obsession in this film is Mary, played by Sally Eilers.  Their relationship goes back and forth due to an annoying immature lack of communication in various ways on both ends, and it's hard to take the romance seriously the way we do in THE CAMERAMAN as a result.  The worst part, and possibly the low point in the film, is when Elmer goes through Mary's window.  The dialogue is painfully awkward, just them asking each other how they're doing several times for lack of knowing what to say to each other.  It just serves to make Elmer seem bumbling and incompetent, I really hate that scene.  I do want to add Edward Brophy is good as the drill Sgt., but there are times he's talking so much over Keaton it seems like a precursor of things to come.  Keaton could do dialogue, and again, his few lines in LIMELIGHT show Chaplin knew what to do with Keaton more than MGM.  A sharp Keaton character has a dry wit that could deliver a line fantastically, it's just sad in these MGM films, we're missing that sharp Keaton character.

      But hark, all is not lost, there are some good scenes.  There's the scene where the army has trouble undressing Keaton at the recruiting office, later done with Curly in RHYTHM AND WEEP.  Keaton shows great physical agility here, my only complaint is the scene is not stretched out longer, as the potential is there.  Also for great physical ability is Keaton in drag in the U.S.O. like stage scene being tossed around in that dance number, doing sunset flips, airplane spins, and other various bumps to keep any wrestling fan satisfied.  It should be noted Keaton in real life served in WWI and entertained the troops.  Supposedly DOUGHBOYS is the MGM talkie Keaton had the most input with, and I can imagine him drawing from his real life experience in this scene.  Also has to be said for me, Sally Eilers in that little outfit during the stage scene is enough to make me act like a wolf in a Tex Avery cartoon. Day-um!

      The two really good parts are Keaton fooling Edward Brophy and his interaction with the German soldiers.  The former is a rare case of Elmer being smart and funny like the old Keaton.  He takes sign that says "Mount Pleasant H.S.," cuts out the M and P, puts the letters on his arms to be appear to be an MP.  Instead of his Sgt. chasing Keaton for seeing his girl, he momentarily tricks him into thinking Elmer's an MP to make the Sarge, also out against orders, run away from him. 

      The whole prisoner scene is excellent and the highlight of the film.  First off, with good MGM production values, the look of Europe and the bunkers is top notch.  Secondly, the idea of Keaton going into the German bunker, having one of them be his servant from home, make friendly with them, take food orders for them, and even have them offer ammunition is hysterical.  Keaton in real life said the German people themselves were good people and it was a shame he had to fight them.  But yeah, no hateful propaganda of the enemy, this was 1930, also the same year the anti war masterpiece ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT was released.  War films between the two World Wars fascinate me.  There is also this one bit where a silent, serious looking Keaton rises up from a bunker in a briefly peaceful stillness before Edward Brophy yells something.. that brief moment reminds me of silent Keaton.

      Cliff Edwards, who later voiced Jiminy Cricket is in this film, and the musical bits are fun.  There are some good bits in this film, but it's not enough visual Keaton comedy and too much of the Elmer like romance thatweighs this thing down..,and yeah, Brophy and Keaton together, at times, if not always, do clash.


Weekly Episode Discussions / Free and Easy (1930) - Buster Keaton
« on: December 22, 2017, 09:17:32 PM »

      "What is this shit?" In 1970, Greil Marcus, in one of the more famous Rolling Stone magazine reviews, opened with that line for his review of Bob Dylan's much maligned SELF PORTRAIT album.  I shall do the same here for FREE AND EASY.  While a film that holds interest if you're an old Hollywood film buff like I am, as a Keaton vehicle, this is easily the worst film we've discussed up to this point by a country mile.  There are two main problems with this film - MGM, and the Elmer character.

      Part of the problem is FREE AND EASY is a MGM film, so much so that it seems to be a MGM vanity project more than a Buster Keaton film at times.  The film takes place on the back lot of MGM, so we have cameos from Jackie Coogan, William Haines, Cecil B. DeMile, Lionel Barrymore, Karl Dane....basically just to brag about how many stars they have.  There is one scene where Keaton is being chased through the MGM back lot by a security guard that has a lot of potential.  You'd think there'd be room for plenty of creative gags here, but instead, just as the chase is building steam, we have to stop for a moment to highlight some scene showcasing another MGM personality.  The worst is the DeMile scene.  Basically just an excuse to name check as many MGM starlets as possible on DeMile's part while Keaton meekly tries to pitch in the film's leading lady he's managing instead of the starlets DeMile is name checking.

      Then there is the Elmer character.  Completely incompetent, such as the scene with DeMile when he's trying to get his attention about the actress he manages, his complete innocence with women (see the yarn he spins to the leading man character midway through the film, or his inability to deliver the line, "Oh woe is me, the queen has swoon."  No physical gags are milked, but this line is, constantly.  Now, this gag would work wth a comedian getting frustrated with high string reactions like Curly Howard or Lou Costello and better straight man than real life MGM director Fred Niblo (gotta pitch that studio prestige, after all), but Keaton's style is too dead pan for this verbal patter.  Really, nothing about the Elmer character is crafty like classic Keaton, and the guy just gets humiliated from the onset of the film, starting with the way the leading lady's mother berates him the whole time.

      What does work in FREE AND EASY?  Simple, any part where Keaton is acting in an MGM production (he eventually becomes an actor in the movie), and does not have to play the Elmer character.  Here, Keaton plays some light stage comedy quite well.  The King and Queen banter where they whisper God knows what obscenities to each other (one of those cases where the viewer can use their imagination) is well timed, and the musical bit Keaton does with the young girl in the hula skirt is a good light comic moment.  Keaton's singing voice and delivery has a Johnny Cash feel to it, though not quite as deep as Cash.  Still, Keaton actually does light musical comedy well, and it would be nice to incorporate this kind of thing in a talking film within the confines of a actual Keaton comedy.  Unfortunately, we don't get that.

      A few more notes.  The beginning of the film has a few delay gags before Keaton speaks, no doubt building up audience participation as to what Keaton sounds like.  The romance between the leading lady and leading man is incredibly unbelievable.  The leading man turns into a one night stand kind of guy trying to bed the leading lady into an aw shucks Kansas innocent  who falls madly in love with her at the drop of a hat.  It's completely unbelievable.  (Spoiler alert). Of course, they do get together at the end, due to incompetent Elmer not being able to express himself properly to her, and they aim  for a Chaplinesque sad ending and fail miserably.  With Chaplin, there is a tinge of hope yet sadness at the same real life.  This ending is just cruel, and the shot of Keaton in clown make up sad as he doesn't get the girl is the worst Keaton ending ever and a low point.

      A low rating, and would be even lower if not for the fact I find the film bizarrely fascinating.  The MGM stuff going forward, while not great, is mostly better than this.


General Discussion / Chaplin
« on: December 17, 2017, 08:38:31 PM »
      One of these days I'd love to discuss Chaplin's films.  I can't imagine spending 35 weeks on Keystone films, though.  May have to find a way to cover them all concisely the way I did the pre team Laurel and Hardy's.  That said, I am a fan and am curious about opinions.  I'll give mine in a bit.

Weekly Episode Discussions / Spite Marriage (1929) - Buster Keaton
« on: December 15, 2017, 09:44:58 PM »

      ...and so the downfall begins, kind of.  SPITE MARRIAGE is not a total disaster, in fact in has its good moments of the kind you won't be seeing much of in future Keaton films.  That said, this is the first time we are introduced to the Elmer character, a mainstay in the rest of the films we'll be reviewing.  Previous, Keaton characters, while having the occasionally dumb moments, generally turn out to be resourceful guys who do creative and funny things to get by in this world.  Look at THE GENERAL as an example and the endless train gags Keaton uses to keep the northern soldiers at bay.  The Elmer character is pretty much a straight forward idiot...a character that works well for The Three Stooges.  For Keaton, however, I just feel pity.  Fortunately, bits of the old Keaton show up in the second half of the film.

      The first half of the film, though?  Keaton falls for a woman completely unworthy of his attention and acts like a complete idiot in public.  Last week in THE CAMERAMAN, Keaton falls for a beautifu, understanding, and supportive Marceline Day.  Contrast it to this week to Dorothy Sebastian's Trilby Drew character.  Like the title suggest, Drew only gets together and marries Keaton out of complete spite because her wanted lover falls for someone else.  A lot of drama is dedicated to Keaton falling for such an unworthy character.  Also, through circumstance, Keaton gets into a stage play, (Drew is an actress Keaton stalks by watching her play every night for weeks on end), where he has to kiss Drew.  What follows is a series of gags that simply show what an idiot Elmer is.  Knocking down scenery, entering through the curtain in the middle of the action, awkwardly holding Drew while kissing her as if he's never touched a woman before...absolutely no resourcefulness we know and love Keaton for.

      Character wise, about halfway through the film, things get better for Keaton.  As he's told by Drew's wanted lover that she just married Keaton out of spite by being rejected, Keaton punched the man in the face, the first time Elmer mans up.  From here, through circumstance, Elmer and Drew are on a yacht together.  Elmer's last act of idiocy is accidentally setting a fire below deck, but as everybody on board leaves and Drew's lover escapes instead of saves her (similar to plot device in THE CAMERAMAN with the speedboat scene), Keaton takes out the fire and becomes a resourceful guy.  Eventually a gang of criminals get on board and the leader tries to rape Drew.  Elmer knocks him out with a wine bottle and is excellent in getting the other criminal gang members knocked out.  Some great parts include a very cute Drew strutting her figure and smile to the bad guys to go after her as Elmer knocks them out.  The best gag, though, is when a criminal crew guy needs to fix gauges below deck and tells Elmer.  Elmer keeps asking if everything is fixed, and when it finally is, delivers the knockout blow.  That's a prime Keaton gag.

      As far as physical comedy, no breathtaking classics, which you'll never see in an MGM film, but some good stuff.  Great overhead shots of Keaton painting the top of the ship, as well as Keaton being thrown overboard, only to grab onto a rope tied the the sail of the ship to prevent falling below.  Great stuff.  The well regarded scene of Keaton putting a drunk Dorothy Sebastian to bed needs a mention.  In this scene, she is completely out cold and motionless, so Keaton picks her up and finds several different ways to fail getting her limp body in bed.  A wonderful bit of physical comedy Keaton would do with his real life wife, Eleanor, on stage later in life.  Actually, Dorothy Sebastian, who does a fine job here but was saddled with an unsympathetic role, was friends with Keaton for years and they even had an affair.  She will appear in the later Educational short, ALLEZ-OOP. 

      On its own, not a bad film.  Just disappointing based on what came before, but worth seeing for any Keaton fan.  Next week though, the first half Elmer shows up much more often, and is even given dialogue to match.  Hang on tight.


Weekly Episode Discussions / The Cameraman (1928) - Buster Keaton
« on: December 09, 2017, 10:03:46 AM »

      So starts the MGM years, and some parallels to the Marx Brothers joining MGM can be found.  Like A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, THE CAMERAMAN, Keaton's first MGM, is definitely the strongest of the MGM bunch and a classic film.  Their respective debut MGM films are also both their best films from a standard filmmaking point of view in that both contain the most satisfying story of all their films.  However, independent Keaton and Paramount Marx Brothers were not standard filmmaking, so the essence of The Marx Brothers and Keaton are found in earlier productions.  Still, for one film a piece, each comic remains basically true to themselves in a standard Hollywood framework, and MGM is to be commended on this.  Too bad it didn't last, though in my opinion, Keaton was hurt more overall than the Marx Brothers at MGM...which we'll discuss in other reviews.  This week, we have a classic on our hand.

      One other point I would like to make before discussing the film proper is that I feel the silent era died when it was reaching its artistic peak, tragically.  Make no mistake, late silents are much better than early talkies.  More fluid camera movement not limited by boom mics, and late era silent acting became much more understated than early talkies, where dialogue was very stage bound.  MGM arguably made the best late silents, and I throw THE CAMERAMAN in a group with films like THE WIND, THE CROWD, WEST OF ZANZIBAR, and SHOW PEOPLE.  MGM had it going on in 1928!

       As for THE CAMERAMAN itself, no big long chases and breathtaking stunt laden scenes we all know and love Keaton for.. .and none are needed.  The storytelling is strong enough, but there are lots of great comic bits thrown in.  The only one that really doesn't advance the story is the bit at Yankee Stadium (yes, the real Yankee Stadium), where Keaton brilliantly pantomimes a baseball game all by himself.  You can tell Keaton loved baseball, the attention to detail is aeesome.  The way he pantomimes holding runners on, calling outfielders in, ducking a high and inside pitch and almost charging the mound...absolutely brilliant work.  So what if it doesn't advance the plot, it's character building as it shows Keaton's love of filming things, central to the character in the film. 

      Gotta love the dressing room scene with Edward Brophy, one of those great claustrophobic comic scenes up there with SCRAMBLED BRAINS.  Vernon Dent is sort of involved in this one too, as yes, that's Vernon Buster gets the overstuffed swimwear mixed up with, which leads us to the classic high diving scene.  I was familiar as a kid with this gag where the swimwear is lost in the water and the comic is trying to hide his nakedness because Rowan Atkinson did this same gag in one of his Mr. Bean skits.  Now I know where he got it from.  Classic gag, and hysterical with all the girls swimming by him as he's naked.  The Tong War bit is also excellent, especially love the way Keaton gets the third leg of his tripod camera blown off on purpose by gunfire to match the other two blown off legs!  Also props for the camerawork of Buster running high speed up and down those stairs, only to run quickly enough to his girl before she realizes he's no longer on the phone with her.

      Oh, and there's the girl herself, Marceline Day.  Easily my favorite Keaton leading lady, and really, Jobyna Ralston is the only competition for my silent comic leading lady ultimate crush.  Beautiful girl, but beyond that, it's the character she plays, who is always supportive and patient with Keaton.  Unbelievably likeable, how could Keaton not fall for her?  That's one of the reasons why THE CAMERAMAN works so well.  Harold Lloyd usually had the best romances, while Chaplin had the best heartbreaks, but Keaton does Lloyd territory very well here, and he had the lady to pull it off.  Love that shot of Keaton where it's the close up of his eyes over the camera looking at Marceline Day, used by TCM in their Silent Sunday Night intro.

      A great film overall, and one of my all-time favorite Keaton films and films in general.  We have one more silent to go, then the talkies.  Umbrella Sam, you're going to have to tell me that a Disney connection in this film, I'm clueless.


General Discussion / Bobby "The Brain" Heenan 1944 - 2017
« on: September 18, 2017, 09:19:19 AM »
To anybody who grew up a wrestling fan in the 70's - 90's, Bobby Heenan was one of the greats.  Hilarious announcer and manager, he even wrestled too.  Probably within the top 10 of people who have entertained me in my life, the man has gone through a ton of health issues and I hope he's at peace.  So many great Heenan moments, but my favorites would be his today un P.C. Commentary on Tito Santana and his announcing during the 1992 Royal Rumble.  When with Gorilla Monsoon in a Prime Time Wrestling skit or in the announcing booth, they were as good as any comedy team. Couldn't let his passing go by without saying anything.  R.I.P. Weasel

This may sound like a bizarre request, but I'm looking online and not having too much luck.  Does anybody know if original scores for any Three Stooges/Columbia related music exists?  Hal Roach music, Marx Brothers songs - I'd also be interested in these things as well.  I run across the occasional piano arrangement, or the chord changes for "Swingin' the Alphabet," but actual scores from the vaults would be awesome.  Does this stuff exist?  Any help would be appreciated.

As you guys know, I do bass covers on YouTube, and I'd love to pay homage to my favorite comedians.  It's a shame Richard Finegan doesn't still post here.  He was a valuable member and quite the music expert.

General Discussion / Favorite non comedy films of the golden age
« on: August 26, 2017, 06:05:42 PM »
      We've had plenty of comedy discussion, but since it's been years since there's a thread like this and there was a different crew then, I'd be curious what favorite movies you guys enjoy from the silent era and the golden era of Hollywood that aren't slapstick/burlesque like comedies (meaning light screwball Cary Grant like comedies are allowed).  Let's stop at 1960, shortly after The Stooges made shorts.  So yeah, favorite non comedies from the era The Stooges were making shorts and before, I'd be fascinated to know.  It's my favorite era of film making in general.  I'll throw in my favorites, but I'd like to hear some of yours first.

General Discussion / R.I.P. Jerry Lewis
« on: August 20, 2017, 04:04:05 PM »

      Jerry Lewis has just passed away at age 91.  He was the last living major comedian I can think of that started in that pre television film comedy era that The Three Stooges belonged to, though chronologically Lewis was on the tail end of it and certainly had a successful career far beyond.  I think a thread is called for and I know there are fans on this board.  My favorite film of Jerry's based on what I've seen is THE BELLBOY.  I always thought physical comedy was his strong point, and as a silent character in this film, he got to do plenty of it.


General Discussion / A recent pic of me (Stooge related)
« on: April 07, 2017, 06:29:09 PM »
With my nephew, and in desperate need of a haircut.  Taken last weekend, first time I went.

General Discussion / 2017 MLB Thread
« on: March 23, 2017, 10:23:46 PM »
Let's start this bad boy.  I'll be away all weekend in some town called Cooperstown. Yippy skippy!

Weekly Episode Discussions / The Outlaws IS Coming! (1965)
« on: January 27, 2017, 12:46:21 AM »

      .....and we have come to the end.  THE OUTLAWS IS COMING! will go down as the last film ever made by The Three Stooges at Columbia, and the last one I'll review.  A thirty one year run at a studio with a few small interruptions, quite an amazing and fascinating body of work, even the bad stuff, in its own weird way.  After this, there'd be a cartoon series and KOOK'S TOUR, the latter being a bunch of footage edited together haphazardly and after Larry's stroke - really an incomplete project.  THE OUTLAWS IS COMING!, to my mind, is the last Stooge film proper.

      So, how is their Columbia swan song?  Pretty mediocre overall, sad to say, but mediocre Stooges is better than no Stooges to this Stooge fan.  I will say, there was never a point in the film where I was bored it never really blown away either, though entertained.  The opening Stooge scene where they put too much powder on top to take the picture is one entertaining scene, kind of a play on they all put the yeast in from BEER BARREL POLECATS.  Kind of got a kick that the skunk is named Elvis.  Throw in the two Beatles references, namely the Japanese Beatle and the fact girls swoon over Johnny RINGO, and this is as deep in the rock 'n roll era the Stooges would get.  I wonder what they would have thought of G.G. Allin?  [pie]. The scene where Moe gets glued to the chair had great potential, I just thought it was a shame they cut, right in the middle of it, to a scene involving Annie saving Ken Cabot.  It really destroyed the rhythm, to me.  Speaking of Ken Cabot, he's played by Adam "Batman" West.  Without this history, West would seem bland.  Knowing this guy would be Batman a year later, West's trademark stilted delivery seems appropriately camp.

      One big draw of this film back in the day was the fact so many of the people who introduced Stooge films to kids on local channels showed up as outlaws who bizarrely reformed into "law and order" lovers.  It may have come across as cute at the time, and while I respect the history, being born almost 15 years after this was released, these people don't have the same appeal to me as baby boomers.  I mean that as no disrespect, just an observation this film was very clearly made for a certain audience of a certain age at a certain time.  Lots of Stooge films, even classics, have references of their time, so this would be fine if the roles of the local TV hosts were actually funny, but the whole gun fight comes across as very cartoonish to me, and the whole reform angle is extremely unbelievable and hokey. 

      Derita actually comes across OK in this one when he's wearing more than a bra (I won't mention that scene again), mainly because he is not recycling old Curly gags this time, basically just being himself.  I will admit I've warmed up to Derita a little, even though as a comic, he's still not in the same league as his predecessors, Besser included.  Moe and Larry, well, they're just going through the motions at this point; but it's nice to see the give it one final run.  The story itself is nothing special, a typical western yarn.  I'll give props to Emil Sitka for playing three roles here!  The Stooges Columbia story itself basically ends with recycyed gags from the past (meat grinder machine gun, the Calvary never being late in motion picture history, and another unnecessary gratuitous pie throw at the bad guys), and with that, I'm signing off.

      I want to thank every one of you who have participated in these reviews for the past almost four years, especially you regulars.  It has been one Hell of a journey.  I admit some weeks I was more inspired than others, no doubt feeling most inspired when the Stooges were, during the late thirties and early forties run of classics.  You guys who have been doing this every week with me rock, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.



      THE THREE STOOGES GO AROUND THE WORLD IN A DAZE is another good, if not great, feature.  I've never really had a bulk watching of these Derita films until now, so it's been an interesting experience, but one conclusion I've come to this week is this - THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES is the best Derita film because it has the combination best story and gags that are unique, for the most part, to the Derita era.  THE THREE STOOGES IN ORBIT is fascinating in the sense the boys stretch out into more adult humor, lacking this in this week's film, but the story, with the miltaristic and nuclear themes, are a bit of a drag.  This week, we get a wonderful story, a play on AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, but some of the gags are remakes of Curly era routines.  I can't help but compare Derita, a serviceable comedian, to Curly Howard, a genius comedian, at this point.  The maharaja scene is done better in THREE LITTLE PIRATES and not only is Curly better than Derita, but Moe, who even more so carries the scene Curly or Derita, is noticeably more energetic in THREE LITTLE PIRATES as well. When doing original material, the aging and softening on the team is less apparent.

      The weasel scene is kind of similar, but there's one big exception here.  Derita, again, is good, but no Curly when going crazy to the weasel tune, however, Curtis Iaukea is a much better and intimidating opponent than say, Al Hill, and extra humor is added to the scene watching Derita tackle an opponent so much bigger than him.  Curly never really had that luxury, or the luxury of the budget and time either.  The actual fight itself is better here than in any Columbia short where this thing was attempted.  Humor wise, though, my biggest laugh came in the scene where the Stooges, and fowl (!) had utter milk sprayed all over them. 

      Story wise, this film is fine and moves along at a nice pace, but I will say it takes about fifteen minutes before the boys feel like more than supporting players.  Once those fifteen minutes pass, this feels like a Stooge film.  Overall an enjoyable film, just not all-time classic stuff.  However, for a fan who has seen the shorts 1,000 times over, I'm glad these features exist.  I may have watched this only two or three times before, and it's been years.


Weekly Episode Discussions / The Three Stooges in Orbit (1962)
« on: January 13, 2017, 08:17:29 PM »

      Another Derita era feature, and at the very least, another interesting film.  Not as good as Hercules, mind you, but good.  Comparing this to Hercules, it strikes me how in Hercules, I find every character enjoyable, even the romantic couple, who actually play an integral part of that film.  With THE THREE STOOGES IN ORBIT, the young couple is completely disposable, but at least they don't take up too much of the film.  The aliens are nowhere near as cool as Hercules.  Really, they were a one joke thing with the funny talk and subtitles, and it got old after a while.  The Stooges reading subtitles at the end was at least a nice twist, so I'll give this film points on that.

      The most interesting this about THE THREE STOOGES IN ORBIT is that this is the most risqué, relatively speaking, the boys ever got.  1962 was the waning days of the production code, so they got away with things you wouldn't see or hear in a 1940's film. Examples - Emil Sitka accidentally throwing out a "What the Hell" when describing his machine.  The boys, now older men, hesitantly watching an attractive young naked woman, covered in soap, taking a bubble bath.  The machine knocking down a wall, revealing young girls in a shower.  Larry's immortal line, "Look out, you'll knock him on his brass."  Finally, there is a bra landing from the sky on a general.  The general then commands one of his men to put the bra back where it belongs. 

     The boys themselves are fine if you go in with the expectation that they're older and Derita is the third Stooge.  Taken on their own terms, perfectly pleasant.  Perfectly pleasant Stooges is better than no Stooges at all.  Compared to old Stooges though, no dice.  Compare the gag where Derita is hammering a nail into the wall, the nail pointing the wrong way.  Done in the Curly era, Curly is a ball of energy when doing the task, and Moe is angry and quick to tell Curly what's wrong.  It's that sudden burst of energy by both brothers that make the gag so funny.  Here, the gag goes on longer and is patiently explained.  Again, fine on its own terms, as is most of the film, but pales compared to the old days.

      A few more notes in that yes, Emil Sitka gets a nice role and is in fine form in this one.  The nuclear weapon theme is perhaps a bit too unnerving a theme for a comedy, especially with the shit going on today, so perhaps I long for the innocence of a Hercules and time travel.  The pie gag, again, forced as Hell.  I think they thought of the pies at this point as a signature that had to be pigeonholed in.  So overall impressions, not as good as last week's film, but interesting for the somewhat risqué bits and just the pleasure of seeing the boys go out on top commercially.  They're pleasant to watch for an hour and a half, can't ask for much more.


Weekly Episode Discussions / The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (1962)
« on: January 06, 2017, 07:58:26 PM »

      Full disclosure - THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES is the only Derita era feature I saw as a child, so nostalgia may paint my opinion on this one.  It was on television and my parents taped it for me on a blank VHS tape.  If that doesn't scream child of the 80's, nothing does.  I believe my Dad also saw this on its initial release and the other Derita features I never saw until my twenties.  Ironically, with this film and the other features going forward, I never bought them on DVD, so yes, appropriately enough, I'm watching the commercially available VHS versions!  I think to this point, LOVE HAPPY would be the only other film I reviewed on VHS, everything else DVD.

      As for the film itself, much better than the previous two features.  Rocket recycled a lot of old routines and was brought down a bit by the talking unicorn while Snow White was a film that didn't have an audience, trying to be too many things to too many people.  HERCULES feels like a fresh Stooge film that understands its audience, young males, and perhaps middle aged and older males who never grew up.  I plead guilty.

      While Snow White has the strange combination of musical numbers, fairy tales, sword fights, and slapstick; Hercules is time travel, slapstick, monsters, adventure, and action.  In other words, all things I find enjoyable.  In the early 60's, Steve Reeves and others were making Hercules films while THE TIME MACHINE from 1960 had the time travel element seen here and 1959's BEN-HUR had a chariot race/battle like one seen here.  Good sources were drawn from to make an enjoyable film.

      HERCULES is a good, if not classic comedy.  That said, HERCULES doesn't need to be a classic comedy because of all the other enjoyable elements listed above.  The Three Stooges at this point have a third Stooge in Derita who simply gets the job done, nothing more, nothing less.  The only part he is slightly annoying is when he woo woos like Curly when seeing the two headed cyclops, but Moe thankfully stops him.  Other than that, Derita is serviceable and a welcome presence.  I just for the life of me can't tell you anything unique he did here.  Then again, maybe I'm being unfair, because at this point, serviceable, and not unique, may have been what he was hired for.  After all, his name is "Curly" Joe, a blatant nod to the past.

      The scene where the boys are in the ladies powder room, shall we say, show them to be older and a bit ashamed.  A 1939 Curly would not be able to contain himself, but here they are older gentlemen.  Still a fun scene, though.  The already mentioned two headed cyclops is cheesy fun, and Hal Smith and Emil Sitka are both to be praised for their comic turns.  I also enjoy the messy opening scene and the galley stuff is fantastic.  Derita' calm down pills do make a fun motif throughout the film.  I will also add, the pies at the end of this film, just like in SNOW WHITE, seem completely forced here.

      Overall, a simple, fun film with a lot of elements I find to be enjoyable.  The Three Stooges being in it, even at this later stage, is icing on the cake.


Weekly Episode Discussions / Snow White and the Three Stooges (1961)
« on: December 30, 2016, 05:15:38 PM »

Watch SNOW WHITE AND THE THREE STOOGES in the link above

      The Three Stooges have some legal troubles with Columbia, go to Fox for one film, and SNOW WHITE AND THE THREE STOOGES is the result.  Filmed in technicolor, there are really two ways to review this film - as a Three Stooges film, and as a Snow White/Robin Hood film.  I will attempt to do both.

      As a Stooge film, in the traditional sense, a complete failure.  When it comes to Stooge comedy, we have an OK opening scene where their faces appear in book form, interrupting a serious prologue at opportune times.  We have the best comic scene, which is enjoyable but hardly classic, of the boys selling hair tonic.  Then we have a pie scene where the bad guy gets pies in the face to disorient him, really a lame excuse to have some pies in a Stooge comedy.  This takes about maybe 10 minutes of a 107 minute film.  The Stooges do appear a lot in the film, mainly as likable characters trying to help Snow White and Quattro.  They do fine in this role as actors and are perfectly acceptable in this capacity.  The problem is several people could have done their roles in this film, while only they are capable of being The Three Stooges, something they do very little of here.  Bear in mind Laurel and Hardy and Abbott and Costello worked in the fairy tale genre as well in BABES IN TOYLAND and JACK IN THE BEANSTALK, respectively.  Each team's trademark humor is on display much better in their films than it is here for The Three Stooges.

      As a film itself, there are some good points.  The production values are great, I love the sets and scenery.  The outdoor forest type stuff where the queen's men are chasing the Stooges and Snow White is great as is the castle and dungeon sword fight stuff, which reminds me very much of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, a film I love.  The Snow White stuff?  Not really my wheelhouse, but I admit it's a timeless story.  Carol Heiss gets some skating scenes in, and she's obviously good, but again, not my wheelhouse.  The musical numbers...again, not my wheelhouse, but very well produced.  Herein lies this film's main problem, it tries to appeal to too many people yet in doing so, appeals to very few.  I like the action Robin Hood type stuff when it's there and like the idea of The Three Stooges being in this film, it's just that their comedy is diluted.  The Snow White, ice skating, and musical stuff appeals to another audience.  I get the feeling the producers were trying to appeal to both boy and girl children when this probably would have been a better film had they focused on making certain areas stronger and eliminating others.  You know, less music and Snow White, more Stooge comedy and Robin Hood, or vice versa.

      A fascinating movie, a great chance to see the boys with good production values and color, but a waste of good Stooge comedy.

5/10 as a film
1/10 as a Stooge comedy

Weekly Episode Discussions / Have Rocket -- Will Travel (1959)
« on: December 23, 2016, 06:41:47 PM »

      .....and we have finally come to the feature film era with third Stooge Curly Joe Derita.  HAVE ROCKET -- WILL TRAVEL is certainly an interesting film, if not an all time classic.  The boys do feel regenerated, and with their new success on television, I think they figured out what made them successful.   No need to reinvent the wheel with a Besser, or even Shemp character.  Curly is their commercial fortune, and since the real Curly has passed away, they get a guy to impersonate him, in this case, Joe Derita.  Derita was a reliable comedian who can deliver a line, take a fall, do a double take, yet lacked any real character.  Since the boys at this point were no longer trying to reinvent the wheel, he was a seasoned pro who filled a void, nothing more, nothing less.  Any KISS fans here?  Same situation with Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer being Ace Frehley and Peter Criss.

      As a feature film, this is to be praised in the sense that the whole time, you are aware you are watching a Three Stooges film.  You can say the same for all five Columbia features.  I say this because a lot of Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, and to a lesser extent, Laurel and Hardy features have the romantic couple and musical numbers that take away from the comedians.  Yes, there is a romantic couple here, but their screen time is very minimal.  It also must be said the dialogue during the twenty five minute mark is so unbelievably bad it is comically entertaining.  Just watch it, I'm not one for quoting dialogue in reviews.  Pure cheese, and the male is creepishly forceful.

      The first half of the film is the boys rehashing old routines competently.  Again, no reinventing the wheel, just comfort food.  The scene where Moe thinks Larry is caught in the pipe under the sink from FALSE ALARMS is there.  The classic pipe scene from A PLUMBING WE WILL GO is done by Curly Joe.  Of course, not even a patch on the original.  If one never saw Curly Howard do this routine, you'd think Curly Joe was OK, but knowing what Curly can do, there's no comparison.  Still, OK on its own, I guess.  The best stuff is the boys in the Rocket ship, which is actually original material.  Their weight knocking the ship over and Larry's adventures with gravity are quite entertaining.  I'll also state Moe call Derita a "baby hippopotamus" got a laugh out of me, one of my favorite Moe insults.

      Once on Venus, we're at the weakest part of the film.  The spider is entertainingly hokey, but once we get to the unicorn and the song, it's pure kiddie fare.  Rehashing plumbing gags is understandable, but the talking horse stuff, though this time a unicorn, is not.  Then once away from the unicorn, it turns into some strange sci-fi thing where the boys are shrunken and have body doubles made of them by some really cheesy boxed robot with arms.  I do like the shrunken boys gesturing approving gestures when their larger doubled counterparts perform slapstick on each other, especially Moe's nod.  That got me a laugh.  Derita's gag with the mirror is funny and his best part of the film.

      Once back on Earth, ten minutes of recycled HOI POLLOI party stuff, including the immortal spring on the ass dancing gag done by Derita.  Again, competently done, but no reinventing the wheel here.  The guests even fight each other, just like the original. 

      Overall, an interesting film, and cool to see the boys in a feature length film with some sci-fi stuff.  Like I said years ago about WOMAN HATERS, this kind of film is not the reason why I'm a fan, but since I am a fan, I'm glad something like this exists.  Definitely interesting, and I do remember the other Columbia features being a little better, but let's see what a fresh viewing will bring.  With next week's film, I'm proud to say I spent less than $5.


Weekly Episode Discussions / Caught On the Bounce (1952) - Joe Besser
« on: December 21, 2016, 08:22:20 AM »

Watch CAUGHT ON THE BOUNCE in the link above, I think either footage is cut or it's sped up, hence the 12 plus minute running time.

      Definitely the worst solo Besser short so far.  Basically, Joe has a heavy wife in Maxine Gates and a son.  They go packing on a trip to visit his aunt to borrow money, land on a train where the aunt happens to be, and accidentally stumble upon stolen money that gets them a reward.

      Your enjoyment of this film depends on how much you like fat jokes, because there are a lot of them.  Joe and Maxine trying to hug, Maxine falling through a chair and needing to be plyed out, a porter trying to get Maxine on the upper berth of abunk and being flattened when she falls on him, a robber being bounced around pinball style between the bellies of Joe and get the point.  The occasional belly bounce is OK, but here, they milk the fat stuff ad nauseum. 

      There is also a scene where the son gets caught in a trunk and Joe and Maxine are trying to get him out.  More uncomfortable than comic, the kid is complaining of how hot he is and that he is suffocating.  Really destroys any potential comic vibe. 

      I will say Joe takes a few good items to the face, the tobacco/fudge scene is OK, and the pacing of the film works OK.  It's really just the comedy doesn't fall into my level of personal taste.  If the things I mention above don't bother you, up my score a few points.


Weekly Episode Discussions / Sappy Bull Fighters (1959)
« on: December 15, 2016, 07:12:59 PM »

Watch SAPPY BULL FIGHTERS in the link above

      We've come to end of the shorts with SAPPY BULL FIGHTERS, a remake of WHAT'S THE MATADOR.  Like most of these remakes, I have very little to say.  The bottom line is this is mostly the same film as MATADOR, but with a lesser third Stooge and lesser supporting cast.  Strange how Besser can pull off Curly routines just fine in FRAIDY CAT but here seems so forced.  The haunting a house routine, for example, it's almost as if he's trying to be funny, with that smirk on his face and all, while Curly delivers the line in like he's being serious.  Perhaps Jules White directed Besser that way, who knows?  Either way, the results are not effective. There's also a part in the beginning where the beginnings of a Stooge slapstick brouhaha is happening, and as soonas Moe is about to go postal on Besser, Besser simply tells Moe to stop and they focus on the briefcase.  This wussifying of Moe is the absolute worst thing about the Besser era, the old Moe would have let Besser have it.  Hey, at least Greta is pretty, but really, the original short is better and there's no reason to watch this outside of historical interest.  Absolutely nothing new, a sad way to end the 190.

      Man, I'm kind of bummed, I'm going to miss this.  We do have six Derita features and some Besser solos left, and whatever Paul Pain does, I hope you guys stick around (I will), as I know he'll do something good. Still, these 190 shorts are the meat of why we're Stooge fans, and it's been a crazy ride.  The Derita features should be better to review than most of these remakes lately.  I noticed when doing The Marx Brothers and PARDON US from Laurel and Hardy, features have more to review and are easier to talk about for the most part.  Should be a fun six weeks, but still, can't believe we're done with the 190.  Can't fucking believe it.  Man!


Weekly Episode Discussions / Triple Crossed (1959)
« on: December 09, 2016, 03:32:43 PM »

Watch TRIPLE CROSSED in the link above

      When watching TRIPLE CROSSED, one question comes to mind - Why?  What is the point of this film?  OK, at the time, to move product on a cheap budget, we all know this and this has been discussed elsewhere ad nauseum.  But as fans today, this hasn't much to offer.  A straight remake of HE COOKED HIS GOOSE, this is an ideal money saver for the Columbia shorts department since the Stooges had so many separate scenes, it was very easy to replace Shemp with Joe and mostly leave Larry and Moe's old scenes in tact.  In the latter's case, in this 15:50 short, new footage of Moe does not appear until roughly the 12:50 mark!  Connie Cezan does a Joe Palma for Mary Ainslee as well, though Ms. Ainslee was still very much with us in 1957 when this was filmed.

      The original HE COOKED HIS GOOSE is an interesting experimental film I'm glad they made once but really don't need to see made again, except here, it's made again.  Minor new scenes are Joe and the turkey, Joe and the frog sandwich, and Joe winking about being a playboy in the end.  OK stuff, but nothing major, and not enough to justify why I would watch this again.  Sorry guys, don't have more to add this week about this product, and product is 100% the correct word, no art whatsoever.

      Next week, our 190 short journey ends.  I still can't believe it.


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