Archive for September 20, 2009

3D Stooges

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on September 20, 2009 by dcairns

3D Week continues to plumb the depths of the third dimension, bringing you fully-rounded characterisations from the Stooges Three. Who thought it was a good idea to thrust these appalling figures into the public’s laps? Jules White, it turns out, is the answer — one of the “brains” behind the DOGVILLE SHORTS series. Man, he had a brilliant kind of anti-talent.

I once described the Three Stooges style as comedy made by pornographers — something about the low-grade stag film production values, the money-shot leering closeups of fingers penetrating faces, and the crudely biological brutalism. I can watch their films, in awed fascination and repugnance, and even laugh in a despairing kind of way, but I not only don’t really respect the stooges, but I’d be suspicious of anybody who counted them as favourites. Nonetheless, I’ve accrued a certain amount of obscure knowledge of stoogery through the ages, which I will reluctantly pass on to you.

The “Three” Stooges is actually a misnomer, since there were in fact twenty-seven separate actors portraying Moe, Larry and Curly  at various times in their “career.” It was necessary to maintain a backlog of replacement Stooges since the boys were continually being concussed, crippled and blinded by their carefree knockabout activities. Sometimes they were injured while acting, too. One Stooge movie, 1948’s OUCH! MY NECK! featured no less than sixteen stooges in one scene.

Plastic surgeon to the stars Burl Haggard was employed round the clock to transform struggling bit players into standby stooges. After a promising start to his career, refashioning various extruded polymers to create the Gabor sisters, Haggard had developed an alcoholic tremor that limited his range, so that he could only do stooges. Fortunately, the demand never let up.

Some of these cloned clowns actually broke away from the main body of stoogedom and attempted independant careers, but with little success. One trio actually drifted into “smokers,” one-reel pornographic movies, with titles like SCREWED STOOGE and POKE ME, CURLY (future productions simply recycled existing Stooge titles, since those already sounded filthy enough: FIDDLER’S THREE, PARDON MY CLUTCH, TRICKY DICKS and ALL GUMMED UP).

Intertitle of 3D Week: The Ninth Day

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on September 20, 2009 by dcairns

Welcome to the Third Dimension!

2_frenchlineThank you, Miss Russell, for that technical demonstration.

(I’ve never seen THE FRENCH LINE, and so I mainly know of it because I’ve heard Jane Russell complain that the studio wanted her to wear a bikini, and she refused such a scandalous wardrobe, opting instead for a showgirl costume that revealed exactly as much skin and looked far kinkier, but was technically a one-piece.)

I haven’t done any themed weeks this year on Shadowplay (Shadowplay Year One Featured Losey Week, Preminger Week, Borzage Week — look ’em up!) because they tend to collide with Hitchcock Year and sometimes with The Forgotten, but since DIAL M FOR MURDER lands on this Wednesday, and 3D is a broad (and deep) enough church to contain many different items of interest, a week spent perambulating in three-dimensional space seemed like a good way to stretch the legs, and enables me to call Shadowplay The World’s First Three-Dimensional Blog with only a moderate degree of dishonesty.

But where will I find a 3D intertitle?


This is from DIAL M FOR MURDER, but alas I don’t have it in 3D. It exists due to a technical quirk of the process. Normally movies in the 50s could be projected on two gigantic reels, each on its own projector, with the projectionist effecting an almost-seamless changeover midway, if you were lucky. But 3D required the use of two projectors at once, so even though DIAL M was film of absolutely average length, a short intermission was required for the real change.

So far, so uninteresting. I guess the difficulties of projection, coupled with the cumbersome equipment (although Andre De Toth found it no bother, and much easier to deal with than Technicolor) played a role in the medium’s near-extinction. As Hitchcock said, “3D was a nine days’ wonder, and I arrived on the ninth day.”

Now 3D appears to be back, with a backlog of movies waiting to get into the few screens that can handle the gimmick — this is much bigger than the occasional flurries of 3D action that have broken out since the 50s. It’s been pointed out that the third dimension is unlikely to become ubiquitous, since why would audiences want to see a regular rom-com in 3D (well, maybe if the people were attractive enough?) — but I would observe that colour, for years, was reserved for certain genres where it was felt to add something, and plenty of big pictures would be made in black and white. There was a belief, perfectly reasonable, that thrillers and horror movies often worked better in b&w. I think that if it weren’t for the extra ticket cost and the inconvenience of the 3D glasses, 3D might take off the way colour eventually did, and become an aesthetic tyranny. So maybe we should be grateful to those specs — they stand between us and the realist dystopia Erich Von Stroheim espoused: “The cinema of the future will be in colour and three dimensions, since life is in colour and three dimensions.”

frenchlinemWhat life is like.