The Three Stooges

film 19 of 26

A Pain in the Pullman

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 29, 2015

This one is a classic, a real comic milestone. I’ll tell you: these films can plain make a person happy. I love that dancing. “Goldstein, Goldberg,  Goldblatt and O’Brien,” says the Semitic looking guy with the heavy Yiddish accent. “O’Brien speaking.” The two carrying-the-trunk shots are superb—not only violent, but joyfully kinetic. As title half suggests, A Pain in the Pullman is divided between a boarding house, train. Here’s a structural characteristic of all the two reelers ever. Some are one location. Some are picaresque/all over the place. Then there are the slightly schizophrenic two location jobs. It’s not a very stable number. Take that as an observation , and not the reporting of a problem, of course.

I’ll say this again. I admire how matter-of-factly the Stooges interact with the women in their films. There’s a healthy frankness, an appropriate self-confidence to it all. That is to say that, though in the films they’re supposed to be utter buffoons, in real life they’re really very attractive. (Cf. Mel Brooks in History…)  And if they are, so is everyone.

The crab scene is Stan & Ollie leisurely, even distended. It’s typical of the very material nature of these films—objects everywhere, sleeves rolled up, not afraid to get coated and covered. The tines. Curley’s noggin. I like the way each character gets these repeated, parallel close ups. The comic business is all linked, all just a little bit different for each individual. And speaking about distended, how about how long it takes them to get up into their berths? They really make good use of that monkey. When it cuddles up to that sleeping girl, and she says “mother dear,” it’s funny to the point of being kind of touching. There’s confident Curley again, wading right in. The young lady’s objections have to do with decorum, not with whether or not he qualifies. Of course he does! This is really important, it seems to me.

How did Larry get his legs in the other guys’ vests? Now he becomes the human mop. We get lots of fun tossing. The part where he gets inadvertently thrown into the wrong berth is a nice surprise/variation. Even more and better is when they enlist the aid of the strong woman. The film doesn’t deny her size, nor do they deride it. And boy, does she ever throw Curly up there! This film has a very high bonked head count. Now the boys are attempting to take their clothes off. The intent here is comic, but there’s an objective correlative as well. Trying to coexist in close (family) quarters is hard! Raiment and shelter are not only blessed, but they are maddening in the particulars. The tail joke, compounded. The last gag is superb.  After the monkey pulls the wire to stop the train, they all get tossed off. Over a bank of bushes, right on to the backs of some conveniently placed bucking broncos.