Spooks!

Tagged: Film

Short US film (1953). Columbia Pictures. Directed by Jules White. Written by Felix Adler. Cast includes Steve Calvert, Larry Fine, Moe Howard, Shemp Howard, Tom Kennedy, Norma Randall and Philip Van Zandt. 16 minutes. Black and white.

The Three Stooges (at the time, Fine, Moe Howard, and Shemp Howard) are private detectives (see Crime and Punishment) hired to find a missing woman. They disguise themselves as pie salesmen and go from door to door in hopes of finding her. Approaching what appears to be a haunted house, they hear a woman scream and decide to break in and investigate. Within the house, a Mad Scientist (Van Zandt) has kidnapped the woman (Randall) and, for reasons unknown, is preparing to transplant her brain into a caged gorilla (Calvert) (see Identity Exchange). There ensue various shenanigans involving the efforts of the scientist and his henchman (Kennedy) to kill the Stooges with various sorts of knives, and the threat posed by the released and constantly growling gorilla, though the chief Weapons employed become pies thrown into people's faces. In the end, the Stooges appear to have triumphed over the scientist and his henchman, imprisoned in the gorilla's cage, and the gorilla, which now seems less menacing because it too has shifted to throwing pies.

This is generally a routine blending of standard elements in the cinematic haunted house (see Horror in SF), including a creepy skeleton and secret panels, and the trope of the crazed scientist working with an assistant in his laboratory, stripped bare to its basic elements. No attempt is made to explore what is motivating the one-dimensional Villain to undertake this senseless brain transplant; he is simply a mechanism to keep the slender story in motion. Oddly, there are a few striking scenes of dangerous objects being thrust directly toward the camera, such as a huge hypodermic needle, suggesting a genuine desire to frighten viewers which is necessarily ineffectual in the context of slapstick comedy. One of the film's lame jokes involves the fact that the scientist is named Dr Jeckyl [sic], and his henchman is Mr Hyde, referencing Robert Louis Stevenson's classic Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886). [GW]

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