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Cactus Makes Perfect

Entry updated 1 December 2022. Tagged: Film.

Short US film (1942). Columbia Pictures. Directed by Del Lord. Written by Elwood Ullman and Monte Collins (story and screenplay). Cast includes Ernie Adams (uncredited), Collins (uncredited), Vernon Dent (uncredited), Larry Fine, Curly Howard, Moe Howard and Eddie Laughton (uncredited). 17 minutes. Black and white.

The mother (Collins) of the Three Stooges (at the time Fine, Curly Howard, and Moe Howard) throws her slothful sons out of her house to seek their fortunes. Employing Curly's Invention of minimal sf interest – a machine to propel arrows that allegedly detect gold – they purchase a map of a lost gold mine and proceed out west to find it; after some mishaps with Curly's evidently imperfect invention, it actually finds the mine's location, suggesting some minimal efficacy. Within the mine, they discover a lever resembling the handle of a slot machine that dispenses a number of gold coins, while fending off some rival gold miners (Adams and Dent), but a stick of dynamite deposited by their opponents explodes in their midst. They apparently survive, but their fate is otherwise uncertain.

One might credit the Stooges as examples of sf's Mad Scientists, in that they sometimes devise inventions with ludicrous consequences (in Hot Stuff and Have Rocket, Will Travel, a miraculous rocket fuel; here, a machine that detects gold); however, their persistent ineptitude conveys a lack of the intelligence usually associated with such figures. Why a lost gold mine would contain coins (see Money) instead of unprocessed ores is one of several things left unexplained, including the science behind the invention's operation. Two painful encounters with a cactus plant – which on the second occasion actually embraces Fine with its arms in another departure from realism – provide the film with its title. [GW]

see also: Three Stooges Films.


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