Reviews, Vintage Vault — March 16, 2015 at 3:00 am



When it comes to making even the simplest of home repairs, I’m kind of a lost cause. The worst is anything having to do with plumbing. Even with just a small drip or a simple clogged drain, I get water everywhere. At least I can take comfort in knowing that I’m not quite as bad as Moe, Larry, and Curly are in this short subject. Often considered one of the quintessential Three Stooges shorts, it’s 1940’s A Plumbing We Will Go.

As the film opens, the boys are in trouble with law. They’re on trial for having stolen some chickens from a woman’s coup. But without any real evidence, the judge lets them go. The boys then grab a pole to do some fishing out of a pet store aquarium. This gets them in trouble with the cops again and they end up making their escape by stealing a plumbers truck.

Of course, the boys are mistaken for real plumbers. So, to hide from the cops they play along and go to fix a leaky pipe inside a mansion. From here, the film consists of the stooges fumbling their way through the repairs. What began as a small leak soon becomes huge. Moe works in the basement where more leaks keep springing up, Larry digs in the back yard trying to stop the water from outside, while Curly gets stuck in a leaky shower and ends up trapping himself in a cage of pipes as he tries to redirect the flow of water. Eventually the plumbing gets crossed with the electrical system and water begins pouring from light fixtures, the stove, and even the rich housewives’ new television set. Now with water flowing all over the mansion, the boys learn that this is the home of the judge they faced earlier in the day.

There is nothing deep or complicated about A Plumbing We Will Go. It’s premise is very simple: the boys pretend to be plumbers and end up destroying the house with water. The go-to joke in this short is having someone get sprayed in the face with some H2O…and it’s used over and over again. Amazingly, it’s hilarious every time. The Stooges, along with director Del Lord, do a masterful job of building the gags on each other. Moe, Larry, and Curly are split up for a good portion of the film, so there is not as much opportunity for the slapping and eye gouging they are known for. However, the filmmakers do a skillful job of having the various stories intersect at the right moments. For example, the actions of Curly fumbling with pipes in the bathroom end up causing troubles for Moe in the basement, which sets up more gags as the film progresses. Larry does have a bit smaller role this time around, which is a bit disappointing. However Curly’s sequence involving building a cage of pipes all around himself is possibly one of his finest moments. It was such a standout sequence that Curly would recreate it a few years later in Swing Parade of 1946. In later years, two of Curly’s replacements, Shemp and Curly Joe DeRita, would each do their own version of the sequence in other Stooges films.

One interesting aspect of this particular short is that the Stooges are not necessarily presented to us as a trio of lovable idiots. We are introduced to them as criminals. Sure they beat the rap on having stolen chickens (even though the feathers that fly out of Curly’s hat make it clear to us they are guilty), but then they outright steal some innocent plumbers truck! However, despite their criminal tendencies in this one, we’re still on their side. That is especially true as the film reaches it’s climax where, in true Stooges form, their actions cause misery for some stuffy, society types. They haven’t done anything to the boys…but they’re a bunch of hoity toity rich folks, and that’s enough to warrant having their party drenched.

I’ve said before that I grew up watching Three Stooges films, so I admit that I probably champion them more than some viewers might. They appeared in over 200 films, and that’s a lot to take in. But if you were to only check out a few of their film efforts, A Plumbing We Will Go should definitely make the list.


Tags A Plumbing We Will GoCurly HowardLarry FineMoe Howard

1 Comment

  • I love the Stooges. There’s one thing about this film that you need some context to understand. Normally, you would n’t expect electrical wiring in a house to be run in conduit. That puzzled me, until I remembered when these films were made (20s and 30s). Many older houses had been lit with gas. When they were converted to the new electric lighting, the wiring was run inside the old gas piping.

    So, it’s not only a very funny film, it’s also a bit of a tech history lesson -)