Forget modern films - give me the classics any day. (Exception: anything involving Johnny
Strolling through the local bookstore's DVD section the other day, I came across a new release of
some short films by the Three Stooges, one of
the great American comedy acts.
What was different about the films in the new DVD is that they were 'colorized'. Seems
Columbia-Tri Star has released two DVDs of the Stooges' work that allow viewers to watch either the
original black-and-white or the colorized versions. The DVDs, titled Goofs on the Loose and
Stooged and Confoosed, each contain four short films featuring brothers Moe and Curly (the
bald one) Howard and Larry (the curly one) Fine.
Purists may howl about the sacrilege of colorizing old black-and-white films. Critics include Sam
Raimi, director of the Spiderman films, who is a serious Stooges fan. Alert viewers may have
noticed that credits on some of Raimi's movies refer to extras as 'fake Shemps', a reference to the
doubles used to complete Stooges shorts after the death of Shemp Howard, who replaced brother
Curly after his stroke in the 1940s.
The whole idea of 'improving' black-and-white films got a bad name back in the 1980s when media
mogul Ted Turner added colour to Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon and other classics
from the MGM library he had acquired. The technology wasn't so good back in those days, and the
actors ended up with skin tones never before seen in nature. Colorizing technique has improved
considerably since then, so the Stooges appear reasonably normal. Bear in mind, though, that these
guys specialised in odd noises and bruising physical gags, so the notion of 'normal' is relative.
The Three Stooges comedy short An Ache in Every Stake contained a classic comic routine
during which the boys attempt to deliver ice to a lady at the top of a flight of stairs, only to find that
by the time they reach the top, the block of ice has melted to the size of an ice cube. This routine
may have been inspired by the well-known piano-moving gag perfected by the comic duo Laurel and Hardy. In their short film The
Music Box, our heroes need to deliver a piano to a house which sits atop an enormous flight of
stairs. They try repeatedly to carry the piano up the stairs, only to see it roll and crash into the
street below, often with Ollie Hardy in tow. Eventually they manoeuvre the piano into the house,
which they proceed to wreck. The owner of the house returns and is outraged at what he finds. He
attacks the piano with an axe, whereupon he discovers that it was a present from his wife.
I hate movin' them grand pianos, but these spinsters ain't too bad.'
anonymous mover who was carrying my parents' piano into their new house
A piano was featured in another Laurel and Hardy film called Swiss Miss, at one point in
which the two are moving a piano across a narrow suspension bridge in the Alps and halfway across
they meet a gorilla. Stan Laurel took their predicament in his usual clueless stride, merely warning his
partner to 'mind the monkey'. Don't ask 'why a piano?' or 'why a gorilla?' - they're just part
of the inspired silliness of a typical Laurel and Hardy film.
And a piano movie that was never made but sounded promising: Eric Idle's spoof of the Merchant
Ivory period dramas called Remains of the
Piano, which would have reunited Pirates of the Caribbean stars Geoffrey Rush and
Orlando Bloom. (But not Johnny Depp - what on earth were they thinking?!) I wonder if the
plot would have featured a trebuchet.
Q: Why is an 11-foot concert grand better than a studio upright?
A: Because it makes a much bigger kaboom when hurled by a catapult.
There's something about a piano that attracts violence. Ask any child who was forced to take piano
lessons. These children eventually grow up, and some of them acquire a trebuchet, which is a medieval
siege engine suitable for hurling large, heavy objects - pianos, in fact - large distances.
And some of the trebuchet owners are thoughtful enough to post the results of their experiments on the Web for the rest of us to enjoy.
Q: Why was the piano invented?
A: So the musician would have a place to put his beer.
Apropos of not much, September is here and that means one thing: International Talk like a Pirate
Day! This year we'll be swashing our buckles (or possibly buckling our swashes) on 19 September. So
get ready to make yur piano walk th' plank, me hearties, an' celebrate National Piano Month and Talk
like a Pirate Day in one swell foop (or possibly one fell swoop). Aaarrr!
Or possibly 'Woo-woo-woo-woo-woo!'
- Talk Like a Pirate Day (US)
- International Talk Like a Pirate Day
(Official British Headquarters)
- Official Aussie Site for Talk Like a Pirate