DVD Review: The Best of the Three Stooges

Cable television really has screwed up The Three Stooges lately. The shorts run about 16 minutes. Back in the 20th Century, your local UHF channel would run three separate mayhems in an hour slot. The commercial breaks were kept to the shorts and halfway through the film where the A reel and B reel were sliced in their original 35mm release. These were natural points to be pitched K-Tel Records and sugar laced treats. It was perfect. But now cable channel (which shall remain unnamed) have a knack for taking numerous ad breaks at random points and extend one short into a thirty minute slot. Viewers are getting poked in the eyes with ads for reverse mortgages more than Curly (sometimes called Curley) receives Moe’s fingers. Luckily there are DVDs so you can enjoy the antics of Moe, Larry and Curly without any interruptions. The Best of The Three Stooges contains 13 DVDs with all their Columbia shorts from 1934 to 1945 along with bonus discs featuring shorts with future Stooges Shemp Howard, Joe Besser and Curly Joe DeRita.

For those without any exposure to The Three Stooges, the basic premise of their shorts is that Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard play kinda dimwitted cohorts that get very violent to each other during their big adventures. Moe has a bowl cut and does his best to the the leader. Larry has long hair that sticks up and plays the violin now and then. Curly has a shaved head and takes the brunt of the damage. Their first four shorts in 1934 are perfect. “Woman Haters” has the boys swear off ever getting married, but Larry gets tangled up with a woman. The short has plenty of musical moments. “Punch Drunks” has Curly as a waiter who goes into a violent rage when Larry plays “Pop Goes the Weasel” on the violin. Moe sets up Curly for big fights. During the championship bout, things go bad and Larry has to get creative to produce the winning tune. “Men in Black” has them as doctors that are out of control. It was their only short to get an Oscar nomination. “Three Little Pigskins” has the boys mistaken for football stars and lured into a fixing scandal by Lucille Ball (I Love Lucy). There’s a reason their shorts were produced until 1959.

In the movie Reel Paradise, John and Janet Pierson move their family from New York to Fiji to run the world’s most remote movie house. One of the things John discovers is that the locals love The Three Stooges when they screen “Some More of Samoa.” They can’t get enough of the brutal action on the Pacific island location. And the moviegoers are in awe of Curly. The power of the Three Stooges is universal and rather painful. The boxset has the first 87 shorts that are pure Moe, Larry and Curly at their face slapping prime.

Besides this boxset, Time Life also offers The Best of Three Stooges: Deluxe Edition that also includes the remaining shorts with more Curly, the Shemp years and the Joe Besser era. Three extra feature films include Three Stooges Go Around The World In A Daze, The Three Stooges Meet Hercules and Time Out for Rhythm. They wrap the boxset up with 156 of The New 3 Stooges Cartoons that had live action sketches with Moe, Larry and Curly Joe with the animated fun.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers of the old black and white films are sharp. You can see their flesh move on a few of the slaps. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono. The effects come through loud and sharp.

The Three Stooges (2000 – 83 minutes) is a biopic that aired on ABC. Paul Ben-Victor (The Wire), Evan Handler (Californication) and Michael Chiklis (The Shield) are Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard. The action charts their rise, the problems with being so physical in the films and their return to greatness in the late ’50s. The film was directed by James Frawley who did many of The Monkees episodes and The Muppet Movie.

Have Rocket – – Will Travel (1959 – 76 minutes) was the Stooges first feature film after they stopped making shorts. Curly-Joe DeRita’s the third stooge here. The boys are janitors who get launched into space. The film was a success at the time because kids had started seeing their original shorts on TV at this point.

The Outlaws Is Coming (1965 – 88 minutes) was the final feature film by the Stooges. Moe, Larry and Curly-Joe have to help Adam West (Batman) prevent an evil plot in the Wild West. It’s slapstick on the range for the trio.

Rockin’ In the Rockies (1945 – 67 minutes) is the only feature film the Stooges made with Curly. The Reno, Nevada drama has Moe, Larry and Curly as hustlers who end up trying to get a singer a gig with a Broadway producer.

Hey Moe! Hey Dad! is a nine part documentary series that covers the Stooges career with interviews, clips, home movies, photographs and parts of the biopic. This really gets deep into the lives of the men who took so much punishment for laughs.

The Three Stooges Columbia Cartoons include three animated films that only cameo them. Bon Bon Parade (1935), Merry Mutineers (1936) and A Hollywood Detour (1942) are fun to watch from the vault.

Columbia Comedy Shorts Featuring Shemp Howard has him in various roles as supporting characters, part of a duo with El Brendel and finally lead right before he’d join brother Moe and Larry. The shorts include “Home on the Rage” (1938), “Glove Slingers” (1939), “Money Squawks” (1940), “Boobs in the Woods” (1940), “Pleased to Mitt You” (1940), “Pick a Peck of Plumbers” (1944), “Open Season for Saps” (1944), “Off Again, On Again” (1944), “Where the Pest Begins” (1945), “A Hit with a Miss” (1945), “Mr. Noisy: (1946), “Jiggers, My Wife” (1946), “Society Mugs” (1946) and “Bride and Gloom” (1947).

Columbia Comedy Shorts Starring Joe Besser features “Waiting in the Lurch” (1949), Dizzy Yardbird (1950), “Fraidy Cat” (1951) “Aim, Fire, Scoot” (1952), “Caught on the Bounce” (1952), “Spies and Guys” (1953), “The Fire Chaser” (1954), “G.I. Dood It” (1955) and “Hook a Crook” (1955) “Army Daze” (1956). Besser proves he had the strangeness that allowed him to be able to mix it up in various roles. He could be annoying or enjoyable.

Columbia Comedy Shorts Starring Joe DeRita include Slappily Married (1946), The Good Bad Egg (1947), Wedlock Deadlock (1947) and Jitter Bughouse (1948). DeRita joining the Stooges was the best thing for his career.

Time Life presents The Best of the Three Stooges. Directed by: Del Lord and Jules White. Starring: Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard. Rated: Unrated. Boxset Contents: 87 Episodes on 13 DVDs. Released: October 16, 2018.

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