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Dopey Dicks

Entry updated 18 May 2021. Tagged: Film.

Short US film (1950). Columbia Pictures. Directed by Edward Bernds. Written by Elwood Ullman. Cast includes Larry Fine, Moe Howard, Shemp Howard, Christine McGuire, Stanley Price, and Philip Van Zandt. Sixteen minutes. Black and white.

Working as private detectives (see Crime and Punishment), the Three Stooges – at the time, Fine, Moe Howard, and Shemp Howard – travel to a large house to rescue a beautiful woman (McGuire) who sought their assistance. Its occupants are a Mad Scientist (Van Zandt) and his assistant (Price), seeking to construct an army of Robots; unfortunately, the heads of the robots keep falling off. The scientist decides that the solution is to cut off human heads and place them on the robots (see Cyborgs), and the fortuitous arrival of the Stooges provides him with three suitable candidates. The bulk of the film is devoted to the comical efforts of the scientist and his assistant to slice off the heads of the Stooges with various sorts of blades. They finally escape from the house with the woman and are saved by a passing car, but they are disconcerted to discover that its driver is one of the scientist's headless robots.

This is an obvious precursor to the later Stooges short Spooks! (1953), which had a very similar plot and even employed the same actor as its sinister scientist. Its theme of combining human brains with robot bodies is of course commonplace in sf, although the absurd plan in this case is apparently to simply attach severed heads to robot bodies and hope somehow that they will function well together. The film never explains why the scientist wishes to construct robots (oddly dressed in suits) or why he is tormenting the woman, who seems unrelated to his scheme. But the threadbare plot did generate ample opportunities for the Stooges to comically escape disasters and physically abuse each other, which is presumably all that their fans were craving. As was the case in Spooks!, the film also employs standard features of haunted houses (see Horror in SF), such as secret panels and a revolving bookcase leading to another room. [GW]

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