2It’s still 80 degrees in the shade where I live, but that won’t stop today from beginning MovieMovieBlogBlog’s See You in the Fall Blogathon. Our goal? To write a blog entry about a media moment related to physical comedy. With such a prompt, you can tell already the heat won’t be my biggest problem.

As a film noir blogger, there isn’t much to choose from in broad comedy moments, and that’s how we like it. But I love a challenge, and 1955’s cold-war noir Shack Out on 101 answers the slapstick call with surprising excess.Shack-Out-on-101_sm

You wouldn’t expect wacky comic hijinks in a film about selling nuclear plans to the Soviets and starring Frank Lovejoy, Keenan Wynn, Whit Bissell, Lee Marvin, and Terry Moore. With B horror/SF’s Edward Dein (of The Leopard Man and The Leech Woman fame) on board as both writer and director, you might suspect something. But not comedy. Yet comedy you get.

98 lb. weakling impersonations by Wynn and Marvin provide bizarre comedy relief.
98 lb. weakling impersonations by Wynn and Marvin provide bizarre comic relief.

But I’m not just going to spring the joyous moment of slapstickery on you. It’s more fun to build up to it within a movie that turns fabulous dramatic characters into goofballs. For example, we have the scene in which Wynn and Marvin lift weights together in the middle of the empty diner that serves as the primary set (and it looks a lot like a theater box set) for the film.

This is immediately followed by the ridiculous competition for who has the best calves. (Terry Moore claims the victory.)

shacklegs

And there’s even a “delightful” moment in which young Lee Marvin’s character “Slob” pretends to strangle himself to make a point.

shackgag

But wait! You ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Because there’s a subplot in which Whit Bissell’s shell-shocked character needs some serious R&R, so he and Wynn’s diner owner plan a deep-sea fishing trip, with all the accouterments. The relevance is only that the harpoon gun will make an appearance late in the film to help save the day. For the purpose of this post, however, it’s all about the “See You in the Fall” scene. I offer the inane slapstick to you moment-by-moment via screencaps:

First, the fellas try on their flippers.
First, the fellas try on their flippers.
Wynn demonstrates his talent at walking in flippers, a vital skill for the scuba diver.
Wynn demonstrates his talent at walking in flippers, a vital skill for the scuba diver.
Whoops!
Whoops! Perhaps not so easy as he thought!
The guffaws abound as Wynn falls on his ass.
Chortles abound…
Hash-slinger Marvin is not impressed nor amused by these antics.
Except for hash-slinger Slob (Marvin) who is not amused by these antics.
But wait! Now it's time to try on the masks.
But wait! Now it’s time to try on the masks to ramp up the hilarity.
Moore says the fellas look like aliens, and more laughter ensues.
Moore says the fellas look like aliens, and more laughter ensues.
Time to try out the harpoon  gun in the diner. Nothing could possibly go wrong, right?
Time to try out the harpoon gun in the diner. Nothing could possibly go wrong, right?
Oh no! We shot the electronic fish on the wall!
Woo hoo! Wynn harpoons the electronic fish with the light-up eyes on the diner wall!
Reel him in, boys.
Reel him in, boys.
Oh no! Who'd have guessed that would happen!
Oh no! Who’d have guessed that would happen!
Oh the humanity!
Oh the humanity!
Upsy daisy!
A little upsy-daisy help and we can return to the plot.

I have a sincere fondness for this film, both despite and because of its absurd slapstick moments. Cutting the tension like this is the worst idea ever for film noir, but this low-budget, poorly paced and thinly plotted mess needs something to help it stand out — especially for those of us who don’t find Terry Moore the cat’s meow. And frankly, it’s worth the price of admission (free on YouTube) just to see young, gangly Lee Marvin steal every scene.

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