Every night on the cable news channels various pundits debate what constitutes torture. They never come close to a definition. Heres my rule: Its definitely torture if you can imagine the action being done to a member of the Three Stooges. The Howard brothers and Larry Fine knew how to turn everyday objects into instruments of pain on each other. These guys were the original Extreme Wrestling experience before Mick Foley and Terry Funk. When Shemp took over from Curly, the budgets shrunk as the importance of live action shorts in the 50s dropped. The use of exterior locations were reduced to a minimum. They spent more time on the same set. Whenever possible, they went with B-roll. They recycled scripts. But theres no cutting back on the violence and insanity. Shemp takes all the punishment Moe can dish out. The Three Stooges Collection: Volume Six, 1949-1951 collects 24 more installments of pain and laughter.
“The Ghost Talks” puts the boys in mover coveralls. Theyre packing up the treasures of Smorgasbord Castle. They encounter a suit of armor haunted by the ghost of Peeping Tom. We learn the real story of Lady Godivas famous ride. “Who Done It?” enlists them as detectives hired to protect a rich man against the Phantom Gang. They end up getting chased around by a super goon. “Hokus Pokus” lets them be tools for Mary Ainslee. Shes faking to be crippled for an insurance settlement. The Stooges are her witnesses and lapdogs. What she doesnt count on are the guys getting hypnotized and blowing her swindle. Theres great wildness featuring them on a flagpole. “Fuelin Around” lets Larry get mistaken for a rocket fuel scientist. He gets kidnapped by an evil country bent on getting the formula. Theres a painful display of using a carpet stretcher that shouldnt be done at home.
“Malice in the Palace” opens with the Stooges running a restaurant in the middle east. Theres a hilarious gag that makes the patrons think Larrys slaughtering cats and dogs in the kitchen. Peta will not approve. The ending has the guys dress up as Santa Claus to sneak inside a palace. “Vagabond Loafer” once more has a foolish person hire the Stooges to perform as professional plumbers. They completely destroy a mansion with their ability to run pipes without a care. The film is a remake of the Curly-era “A Plumbling We Will Go.” The script is altered to involve an art robbery. They bring back Dudley Dickerson as the cook whose kitchen is completely turned haywire by the Stooges fixes. The look he gives as the kitchen sink goes crazy is priceless. “Dunked in the Deep” is a disturbing tale of the Stooges being duped by their evil neighbor (Gene Roth). They havent a clue that Roth has hidden microfilm of state secrets inside watermelons when they stowaway on a steamer heading to a faux-USSR. The boys get hungry and expose this espionage plot.
“Three Hams on Rye” revives the “southern comforter” gag. This time theyre actors in what appears to be another Broadway flop. However their destroying of a scene saves the production. “Studio Stoops” mistakes the boys for studio publicists. They get assigned to create a publicity stunt for Christine McIntyre. The result is a fake kidnapping to drum up headlines. However crooks overhear the plot and decide to really kidnap the starlet. The cops wont believe the Stooges so its up to Shemp to save the day. This girl is doomed when Shemp dangles off the building with only a phone keeping him from plummeting to his death. “A Snitch In Time” unleashes mayhem in a furniture workshop. This is everything you feared would be done to you in junior high shop class. “Three Arabian Nuts” puts them in possession of a magic lantern. What will these numbskulls do with their wishes? “Merry Mavericks” brings them out West. They have to battle with the ghost of a headless Indian. But hes really not a ghost. This is a remake of “Phony Express.” “Hula-La-La” drops the boys on the island of Rarabonga. Their mission is to teach the natives how to dance for an upcoming movie. Theres vicious fun involving hand grenades. “Pest Man Wins” covers the material of “Ants in the Pantry.” The Stooges get hired to exterminate pests at a mansion during a fancy party. Guess who gave them the pests? At the end a pie fight breaks out.
The Three Stooges Collection: Volume Six, 1949-1951 finally gives Shemp a chance to shine without Curly lurking around. His ability to be a thinking moron is divine. He might be an acquired taste like moonshine. Once you adjust to Shemp between Larry and Moe, hes a proper fit. He keeps up the extreme cruelty that made the Stooges icons. You wont want anyone trying Shemps moves on you without declaring it torture.
“The Ghost Talks,” “Who Done It?,” “Hokus Pokus,” “Fuelin’ Around,” “Malice in the Palace,” “Vagabond Loafers,” “Dunked in the Deep,” “Punchy Cowpunchers,” “Hugs and Mugs,” “Dopey Ducks,” “Love at First Bite,” “Self-Made Maids,” “Three Hams on Rye,” “Studio Stoops,” “Slaphappy Sleuths,” “A Snitch in Time,” “Three Arabian Nuts,” “Baby Sitters Jitters,” “Don’t Throw That Knife,” “Scrambled Brains,” “Merry Mavericks,” “The Tooth Will Out,” “Hula La La” and “Pest Man Wins.”
The video is 1.33:1 Full Frame. The transfers are stellar. Youll see every painful stunt in exceptional detail. Only bad part is seeing Moes eyes get baggier. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono. Youll hear every body blow and head bash. Small children will wince at the violence.
The Three Stooges Collection: Volume Six, 1949-1951 is pure Shemp-riffic. Many of the shorts here dont get much airplay on TV with programmers always leaning heavy on Curly action. Shemp deserves respect for his era. He matches the cruel natural of Moe and can dish out the pain on Larry. The 24 shorts on this boxset show how the Stooges were dealing with budget cuts without cheapening their action. This is another fine installment bringing together the ultra-slapstick perfected by the Three Stooges.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents The Three Stooges Collection: Volume Six, 1949-1951. Starring: Moe Howard, Shemp Howard and Larry Fine. Running time: 390 minutes. Released on DVD: June 16, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: Larry, Moe, Shemp, The Three Stooges