Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Great (film) Debates vol. 68

From banana peels to falling anvils to pies in the face, nothing satisfies our need for seeing others in pain like a great physical gag.

What is the funniest physical gag on film?


Panelist: ScottDS

This might be the toughest question I've had to answer (which is saying a lot). It would be too easy to mention the Marx Brothers or the Three Stooges (or Laurel & Hardy, Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, Peter Sellers, Leslie Nielsen, etc.). This scene from The Patsy featuring Jerry Lewis is a work of genius. It's easy to break everything in a room but I swear I've never seen someone almost break everything in a room. As an aside, the actress in the scene is the lovely Ina Balin who passed away at the young age of 53. Man, she was a looker!

Panelist: T-Rav

I think it’s pretty hard to argue with the scene in Dr. Strangelove where Slim Pickens is straddling the nuclear bomb. “Ride ‘em, cowboy!”

Panelist: BevfromNYC

Okay, don’t hate me for this, but watching Jim Carrey in Fun With Dick and Jane when he hears that he is going to be indicted just sends me into hysterics! He’s running around yelling “INDICTED?? INDICTED??”
Sorry, it’s a scream.

Panelist: AndrewPrice

I actually don't like physical gags. But one film stands out to me: Scary Movie 3 and the abuse Cody takes in the basement when George tries to save him with the baseball bat.

Panelist: Tennessee Jed

Hard to choose just one, but you know what popped into my head first? The scene from Men At Work where the dork bicycle cops are handcuffed to a teeter totter in a rather compromising position while clad only in their tidy whiteys and knee socks. Of course the entire Peter Sellers film The Party is basically one of the greatest feature length sight gags ever.

Comments? Thoughts?

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tough one here, I'm not generally a fan of physical comedy but I immediately thought of Jerry Lewis and a lot of his screwball comedies that I watched as a kid.

Tennessee Jed bought back fond memories of Men At Work (an underrated movie) and the two cops tied up in a compromising position.

But when I really thought of it Jackie Chan popped into my mind. His use of clothes, furniture, people and the environment itself to to put on a fun, entertaining and physical fight was genius.

This scene from Project A (1993) is my favourite (but he has heaps of these).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SggXYXM0c8

I have read an interview were he said that he was strongly influenced by Buster Keaton and this scene was a type of homage to him.

Scott.

Anonymous said...

Doh!

For my previous post, Project A was made in 1983 not 1993. I remember seeing it while I was in high school and I'm a tad older than that.

It's one of Jackie Chan's best in my opinion and the sequel is pretty cool.

Scott.

K said...

Clouseau interrogates the staff from The Pink Panther Strikes Again

LINK

Floyd R. Turbo said...

The greatest is the Buster Keaton house gagin Steamboat Bill, Jr. where it falls and he stands through the window frame. For sheer danger and execution how can it not be so?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsyRhRR5Iu4

Harold Lloyd and the clock from Safety Last is a close second though gags and stunts are kissing cousins in many cases.

Anonymous said...

Floyd,

As I mentioned in my comment Jackie Chan was a Keaton fan and in Project A Pt 2 he did his own version of the house stunt. As it was the sequel he must have wanted to go all out, you can see it at the end of this short scene.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqLoy8_Xr_Q

Scott.

Anonymous said...

Floyd,

I missed your mention of the clock tower stunt the first time I read your comment. Because as you might have guessed, Jackie also does a homage to it in Project A. While he does copy a lot of scenes he also adds his own spin of putting these scenes into a fight scene.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErQGXlQV6vg

Scott.

Outlaw13 said...

Peter Sellers fighting Kato in any of the PInk Panther movies stands out.

Additionally THIS SCENE breaks me up every time.

Outlaw13 said...

Additionally some of the chase scenes in "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" come to mind as far as staging and creativity.

BevfromNYC said...

And pretty much anything Danny Kaye did...

ScottDS said...

Fun with Dick and Jane? Scary Movie 3? Are you guys kidding me?!

:-D

There's an even funnier Jerry Lewis clip but I couldn't find it. In The Ladies Man, he accidentally sits on another guy's hat, then tries to put it back on the man's head, destroying it in the process. You can even hear Jerry laughing during the scene (his back is to the camera).

Wait, wait.... Here's the clip! This is some funny stuff.

A few others come to mind, especially from the Marx Brothers:

-the bridge game between Harpo, Chico, and Margaret Dumont in Animal Crackers
-the "Maurice Chevalier" scene in Monkey Business
-the mirror scene in Duck Soup
-the stateroom scene AND the scene in which they fool the police inspector by making their hotel room appear to be another room in A Night at the Opera
-the sanitarium scene with Margaret Dumont in A Day at the Races
-Harpo and Chico playing a piano together in The Big Store
-the rooftop chase in Times Square in Love Happy

T-Rav said...

Also anything John Ritter did.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I forgot about Jackie Chan! His stuff was really fun to watch. I never thought that any of his movies were all that good, but his action/comedy was still fun.

AndrewPrice said...

K, Clouseau was probably the first name to come to mind for me. I don't generally like physical comedy, but Sellers was probably one of the few exceptions.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, Those are definitely THE classics when it comes to physical comedy. Even people who don't watch black and white films have seen those moments.

AndrewPrice said...

Outlaw, I watched It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" recently for the umteenth time. That's a film I never get sick of.

The fights with Kato are classics. What a hilarious idea from the get go!

Floyd R. Turbo said...

T-RAV.... John Ritter's bit in Skin Deep (Blake Edwards natch) when his angry mistress loads him up on Novocaine (or some such drug) is hilarious.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I hate Jerry Lewis. The Marx Brothers are great, but I don't laugh at their physical humor actually.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I hate to admit this, but I barely remember Danny Kaye?


T-Rav, The image of Ritter tripping over the step in the intro the Three's Company is burned into my brain for some reason.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

Your feelings about Jerry Lewis are well-known to me. :-)

When I was younger, I loved the Marx Brothers' physical comedy but I finally got much of the wordplay and references as I got older. But the physical gags were enough to capture my interest as a 9-year old.

Oddly enough, there's even a degree of clever wordplay in many Three Stooges shorts for which they don't get enough credit.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, When I was young, I liked their physical comedy as well -- I liked the Stooges too. But over time, I've really lost my interest in physical comedy. It just doesn't strike me as funny anymore except in really rare instances.

At this point, I don't like the Stooges at all.

(As an aside, I saw the new Stooges film... horrid.)

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

I'm not bothering with the new film. I even broke my "No profanity in front of the relatives" rule when an aunt of mine - who obviously didn't know any better - asked me if I was gonna see it.

My reply: "F--- no!!" I consider that film blasphemous (which shows where my priorities are). :-)

If they had simply made an original film with three bumbling characters and called it something else, I'd have no problem with it whatsoever.

BevfromNYC said...

Well, Andrew, you are in luck!! TMC is airing Danny Kaye movies all day today!!

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Sadly, I will be otherwise engaged in praying to the football gods that the Patriots locker room gets hit by a meteor. :D

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, LOL! I'm sure your poor aunt had no idea what had triggered this verbal rampage of yours. :(

If they hadn't called this thing a Stooges reboot, it would have drawn and audience of about four. It's horrid in every way.

BevfromNYC said...

Well, I believe we are ALL praying for that meteor...grrrr, I hate the Patriots. Liars and cheats, that's all they are - liars and cheats!!

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Me too... me too.

You know what's funny? I have never seen a football team bring out such seething hate as the Hatriots bring out. Person after person that I talk to really wishes them ill. It does my heart good. :)

Kenn Christenson said...

Always liked the scene where Indiana Jones shoots the swordsman in "Raiders." Brilliant little twist that wasn't in the script. :)

AndrewPrice said...

Kenn, So true. That's sort of an inverse physical comedy gag. It's very brilliant! :)

Tennessee Jed said...

just got back home after a weekend road trip to Huntsville, Alabama. Always enjoy the drive and scenery around Chattanooga, but this was one tough category. Lucille Ball was the master, but I think of her more from the I Love Lucy t.v. show rather than film.

tryanmax said...

I got nuthin'

K said...

Bev: The Court Jester is the best Danny Kaye IMO and one of my favorites of all time. If you ever get a chance to see it with an audience, do so.

The chalice with the palace has the brew that is true.

shawn said...

Well, Kenn beat me to what first came to my mind, so to bring something else to the table, I will go with when Han Solo kicks Chewie in the backside and screams "Get in there you big furry oaf!" during the detention block shoot-out escape in Star Wars.

rlaWTX said...

Jerry Lewis
Danny Kay
Cary Grant has some good stuff
John Ritter
The guy whose name I never remember as the 2nd banana in Singing in the Rain and Gene Kelly in that movie

Never got the Stooges attraction...

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I thought this one was really hard too. Glad you had a nice trip! :)

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, LOL! Nice. Quitter. :P


K, That's probably the big Danny Kaye role that comes to mind.

AndrewPrice said...

shawn, Nice! I hadn't thought of Star Wars, but it had it's moments, didn't it?

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, I think the Stooges prepare on to deal with the real world. :P

ScottDS said...

rla -

Many don't get the Stooges attraction though, oddly, I once knew a girl who was a Stooges fan (and girls who like the Stooges are a rare find indeed!). Sadly, my feelings were not reciprocated.

I've been a fan since childhood, which would explain a few things. :-)

And man, do I miss John Ritter! He made it look easy - his was always a comforting and appreciated presence.

PikeBishop said...

Don't know if it counts as physical, but I am stating here that the longest sustained laughter I have ever experienced in a movie theater setting (at least two full minutes, no lie) was in Airplane.

"Boy the shit's really going to hit the fan now."

"Splat!"

ScottDS said...

Pike -

Yeah, that gag is pretty funny and almost unexpected. It's like "Are they gonna do it? Are they gonna do it? Are they gonna - THEY DID IT!"

My biggest laugh at the film was actually the late Stephen Stucker's line: "Where did you get that dress?! It's awful!! And those shoes and that coat - JEEEEEZ!!!!"

BevfromNYC said...

rlaWTX - are you thinking of Donald O'Connor in Singing in the Rain?

BevfromNYC said...

I am watching "Me and The Colonel". Kaye plays a Polish Jew trying to escape the Germany army in France with a Polish Colonel in WWII. Great line - "Colonel, you one of the great minds of the 12th Century. Unfortunately, I live in the 20th Century."

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, "a comforting and appreciated presence" is a great way to describe Ritter. It was really sad when he died because he struck me as one of those really decent people who makes the world better.

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, That was a great scene and I actually debated mentioning it! :)

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, LOL! Nice line! :)

Floyd R. Turbo said...

As a kid I always liked "Right turn Clyde" and "Bang!" where Clint would shoot the orangutan (it's not a gorilla!) and he would drop.

Every Which Way But Loose... ah the 1970s.

Puttin' on the Ritz in Young Frankenstein.

Cary Grant was a genius as well... the torn dress in Bringing Up Baby and the push down of Hepburn in Philadelphia Story and a lot of touches throughout his career.

tryanmax said...

Well it's hard to go with anything, because going with the early physical comics just seems cliche, but all the later ones are just paying homage to the earlier ones. Now, my favorite sight gag, which isn't exactly physical comedy, is the long run of well-placed objects during the Austin Powers nude scenes.

AndrewPrice said...

Phil Simms sounds so depressed that the Patriots are losing. The poor guy, he seems so sad... so quiet... so little to fellate Tom Brady over.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, I haven't seen Every Which Way since I was a kid. I'd really like to see it again, but no one ever shows it.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, True. For me, it was hard because I'm just not a fan of that type of comedy generally.

rlaWTX said...

my dad had copies of the Every Which Way movies (the cleaned up TV versions) when I was a kid. "Right turn, Clyde" is part of our family lexicon.

Bev, yes, that's they guy. He was GREAT!

and, Floyd, I despise Bringing Up Baby, but the physical comedy was pretty great (don't know why that one rubs me the wrong way - I adore Cary Grant!!)

Nick Alexander said...

Good call on THE PARTY; and any AIRPLANE/NAKED-GUN link too.

There's one great sequence in TOP SECRET! which takes place in a Swedish bookshop, that nearly takes the winner's cake for me.

But for me, the best full-length feature of non-stop pratfalls, is the R-rated "IL MOSTRO" (The Monster) starring Roberto Benigni, a year or two before he did "LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL." That film is a work of genius, and was wise enough to homage the great mirror sequence done in Duck Soup and the first Pink Panther movie.

tryanmax said...

Actually, this ad might be the funniest physical comedy I've ever seen: LINK

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