in a secret government lab from bionic insects and Douglas Fairbanks’
toenail clippings, the Three Wise Guys sprang to life in 1933. Their wacky
exploits helped ease America’s Depression-era doldrums with pratfalls
and poop jokes until 1939, when filmed entertainment was resurrected by
the action-packed thrill ride of World War II.
Wise Guys made their debut in the one-reel short, The Domino Effect,
in which they stumble into a mystery over a prized cubic zirconium that
has gone missing. Though modern audiences may yawn at the premise, during
the 1930s CZs were rationed by the government. Valued as much for their
sparkle as for their use in tasty soups, a black market for CZs sprang
up. Those lucky enough to own a CZ kept it in the bank or in constricting
‘girdle vaults’, popular at the time. The garments were so
tight that they frequently deprived the wearer of air, inducing a flailing,
dance-like seizure. The Dowager character falls victim to such a fit in
the film, and the sequence was so admired that it caught on as the ‘Suffocatin’
Lady’, a dance craze that rivaled the ‘Polio Rag’.
Wise Guys’ debut influenced many other aspects of American culture,
including binge drinking (the boytoy, Raoul, was an early archetype for
such modern bohunks as George Hamilton and Burt Reynolds), exaggerated
sneaking, and the wearing of pants, a trend still popular today. The Wise
Guys were early pioneers in the depiction of violence on film, and their
innocent antics inspired a wave of copycat crimes and carnage, the likes
of which America had never seen.
runaway success of The Domino Effect, Doofosi Studios cast the
trio in a series of feature-length films, beginning with the smash Insert
Name of New Wise Guy Piece. It catapulted the Wise Guys into the upper
echelons of the Hollywood glitterati... but lasting fame was not in the
cards. Hastily edited together and written by a WPA-funded team of unemployed
wetnurses, the rest of the film series never attained the popularity of
the first feature. The Wise Guys did their best to inject comedy into
such lame situations as Wise All the Lights Off? and The Three
Wise Guys Iron Some Pants, but even their genius could not extend
what was fated to be a quick jig around Fame Mountain.
1950s, there was a modest resurgence of interest in the Wise Guys, but
their most notorious moment came in 1963, when, during a bad acid trip,
the three broke into the Doofosi Studios archives and burned it to the
ground. Miraculously, the only films that survived are their best... (well,
those and the regrettable 16-hour foray into experimental film, ‘Dish
Of Milk Rotting’ from 1959—that one we burned ourselves).