The Three Stooges

film 9 of 26

Pardon My Scotch

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 29, 2015

“When will that shipment of liquor be over?” From small acorns great oak trees grow, as another couple of distinguished philosophers once said. From that thin wisp comes one of film’s great comedies. (The prohibition background lends extra historical interest.) The whisky situation provides a through line, but really what we’ve got here is three discrete, delightful comedies. First, the builders. Look at Curly use that circular saw! There are some terrifically calculated and composed shots during this section. We worry about the characters, given their oafishness, but look closely. You can see through the contrivance to admire the actors’ adeptness. Moe takes a tumble! Apparently there were injuries, but like Keaton in Sherlock Jr., he finished his comic business before going to attend to his broken ribs. There’s also some terrific stuff with the door, with more terrifying buzz saw jeopardy, and an exquisite overhead shot after Moe has fallen through to the floor below.

The next film features the Stooges as soda jerks, or maybe as alchemists. The concocting of that liquor is L&H sloppy/profligate, and it’s also a triumph of special effects. Someone knew exactly what they were doing, and again, we admire our doughty actors at the same time we feel a bit nervous for their characters. The ex-bootlegger’s first drink is a familiar thing, but it is very nicely staged.

Finally, the society party, or the utter destruction of the bourgeoisie. The banquet sequence in Vera Chytilova’s Daisies (q.v., 1966) is pretty amazing, and it has nothing on this. First, those kilts! That dance that they do is extremely unchoreographed. And it’s no triumph of terpsichorean improvisation, either. It’s just really sloppy! Our old friend Billy Gilbert does a terrific number, interrupted by grapes. What is Larry doing with that salad? Look: Curly does Chaplin’s dinner rolls! The entropic conclusion to this meal is nothing compared to what happens when they drive that spigot into that keg. More great special effects, and a heedless, gleeful deluge. Revolution? Not on purpose, probably. But not intending doesn’t necessarily mean not succeeding.