If a Body Meets a Body [1945]

"Spook Louder" (1943, short number 70 in the Columbia series) has little more than the sinister presence of Charles "Ming the Merciless" Middleton to recommend it. The short is told as a flashback by a nutty-professor type, and the flimsy plot has the boys in a "haunted" house being terrified by three men in costume (but mostly by each other). There is a running gag of pies being thrown by some invisible hand, but it does not work and nor does the explanation at the end. "If a Body Meets a Body" (1945, short number 86), however, is a great improvement. In fact, it bears more than a casual resemblance to a 1930 short, "The Laurel and Hardy Murder Case," in which Stan comes to a spooky mansion to claim an inheritance (a role played by Curly here). Even the detective, Fred Kelsey, is the same in both shorts. It is to be noted that Curly seems to be slowing down a bit here, not so intense in his reactions to fright or Moe's violence, not quite so surreal as usual. The reason, sadly, is that he had suffered his first stroke before filming and the effects are evident. "Men in Black" (1934, short number 70) is notable for three reasons, at least. First, it is the only Three Stooges effort to be nominated for an Academy Award®! Second, it is their first "in character" effort for Columbia after "Woman Haters," which some consider an experiment in rhyme that is something of a false start to the series. Finally, "Men in Black" incorporates several vaudeville routines: the Gracie Allen kind of nurse, the surgery with pneumatic drills, the appearance on a different mode of locomotion each time they are called to service. And of course, there is the glass door that is broken so many times that the glazier finally breaks it himself to save them the trouble. --Frank Behrens

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