>> Sunday, December 2, 2007
USA/B&W-15m./Dir: Jules White/Wr: Felix Adler/Cast: Larry Fine (Larry), Shemp Howard (Shemp), Moe Howard (Moe), Patricia Wright (Roberta), Victoria Horne (Lenore), Reggie Dvorack (Carey, the canary)
During the Three Stooges years at Columbia, they produced 190 short subjects. Some were comic gems (Three Little Pirates, Punchy Cowpunchers), while others were groaners (most of the Joe Besser shorts), but the very bottom of the barrel was Cuckoo On A Choo Choo. Unfortunately, since Shemp Howard spends almost the entirety of this so-called comedy schnokkered from the contents of his little brown jug, Cuckoo On A Choo Choo is one of the few Stooge shorts that I am obligated to review.
In a parody of A Streetcar Named Desire, Larry plays a Marlon Brando-type (ripped t-shirt, bad attitude, and all) who has stolen a railroad car named “Schmow.” He shares the boxcar with his girlfriend Roberta and her overly emotional sister Lenore. Larry wants to marry Roberta, but she refuses to go through with the ceremony until Larry can convince Shemp to marry her sister. Unluckily for Larry, Shemp is a dedicated drunkard who wants nothing to do with the union. Instead, he prefers getting stinko on joy juice and dancing with a giant canary that only he can see (a parody of the invisible rabbit in Harvey). Railroad agent Moe wedges himself into the party in order to bring the boxcar thieves to justice, but his plans change when he realizes that the love of his life, Lenore, is amongst the miscreants.
Although it was understandable for the Columbia shorts team to look towards popular culture for ideas for new Stooge vehicles, it is hard to imagine anyone thinking that a send-up of A Streetcar Named Desire would be a good vehicle for the boys. Few laughs are to be had in this comic misfire. Larry Fine is over his head in trying to burlesque Brando, and Moe (who was usually the engine that propelled the story and comic business) is given little to do. Only Shemp manages to garner a few giggles with his drunk shtick, and the fact that he was able to milk a little mirth from this weak material is proof of his considerable comic talents.
While not recommended, those brave enough to endure Cuckoo On A Choo Choo may find some enjoyment for the shear weirdness of the short--especially the scenes with Carey, the invisible canary. It is an odd film indeed in which Larry Fine’s Brando imitation is not the strangest sight on display.
Drinks Consumed--Unnamed booze (likely whiskey) and beer
Intoxicating Effects--Slurred speech, hiccups, harmonizing, physical violence, and seeing things
Potent Quotables--SHEMP: (after being hit) I’m shot!... or half shot, or I ought to be shot. Oh, I guess, I’ll have a shot. (He takes a long drink from his bottle) Horrible, but I like it.
Video Availability--Not yet available on DVD, but Columbia has plans to release all 190 Stooge shorts in chronological box sets over the next couple of years.
Similarly Sauced Cinema--Moe, Larry, and Shemp are at their most stewed in Love At First Bite (1950).
The Three Stooges: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the Most Popular Comedy Team of All Time