Blu-ray Review: Stooge O-Rama

Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story

Growing up in the ’70s, the Three Stooges were Gods of mayhem. The trio seemed to have their black and white shorts running on the TV dial at all hours. I have fond memories of visiting my great uncles at their apartment and we all enjoyed the slapstick of Moe, Larry and Curly. Mike and Ted also appreciated Shemp. The Stooges were intergenerational talents. During the late ’80s and ’90s, the Stooges began to disappear from the TV dial. It’s hard to say if they were victims of TV stations avoiding black and white shows or parent groups who were angry about the level of physical violence. It became rare to spot them when flipping around the cable box. When they came back on cable in the Aughties a certain cable network butchered them up and kept busting up the action with commercials so an 18-minute short would fill a 30-minute short. It wasn’t fun to watch. Out of this frustration came salvation when Columbia released the uncut shorts with all the insanity intact on a series of DVD boxsets. There was a bit of frustration with each installment lacking of bonus features. Stooge O-Rama cures this issue by giving us three Blu-ray discs of rare unseen rarities and the documentary The Men Behind the Mayhem documentary with even more footage than before.

There’s an introduction from Brad Server, the grandson of Curly. He lets us know this is an extended version of the 1994 A&E Biography series. The documentary is 63 minutes long and covers how the act came together with Ted Healy in vaudeville when he hired Moe Howard, Shemp Howard and Larry Fine. After years together and a little movie experience, Shemp left the act. Moe’s brother Curly, shaved his head and replaced him in the act. This change made them more successful and the Stooges found themselves splitting for Ted to go to Columbia to make two-reel short films that lasted less than 20 minutes. The documentary points out that Ted went out and found three new Stooges. Although his new Stooges didn’t turn into a sensation. The original Stooges became an instant hit in theaters across the globe. People couldn’t get enough of Moe’s unorthodox leadership style, Curly’s peculiarities and Larry’s complete frustration at acting like things might be normal. Billy West of Ren and Stimpy fame gives a great understanding of what Larry Fine brought to the comic trio. There is talk about how Curly’s bad health led to Shemp returning to perform with Moe and Larry. Eventually Shemp would also die after nine years. They’d go outside the family to recruit Joe Besser to be the third stooge in their final years making shorts. Things came to an end when the studio shut down its short subject department. The Stooges didn’t make major bucks off their work since Columbia didn’t have to say how successful their shorts were since they weren’t the feature films that sold the tickets. The Stooges made 200 shorts from 1934 to 1958. The studio packaged the films to TV stations that found major audiences for the mayhem. Moe and Larry realized they were bigger than ever. They brought in Curly Joe DeRita to make a series of successful movies. Adam West talks about his time making a Stooges feature film. The Stooges were even bigger at the end of their careers. They go into the passing of Moe and Larry and how their legacy continues to entertain. The documentary is full of behind-the-scenes photos and personal off the set pictures.

For the last few years MeTV has been running two hours of the Three Stooges on Saturday evenings right before Svengoolie. There is a whole new generation threatening to poke each other in the eyes. Stooge O-Rama is perfect for a new fan in giving us an hour-long insight into the history of the men that bonked each other. For the older fan, the deep dive into bonus features is dazzling. It’s thrilling to see the Stooges and their families at a picnic ground or the complete guest appearance on a TV show. Stooge O-Rama is a treasure trove of vault items that give a fuller picture of what the Three Stooges weren’t slapping each other around.

The Video is mostly 1.33:1 full frame. The quality does vary depending on the age and condition of the bonus feature. The documentary looks fine upgraded to 1080p. The audio is LPCM 2.0 mono. Things sound fine in the documentary and vary a bit in the various bonus features. There appear to be no subtitles.

Extended interviews with Lyla Fine Budnick (Larry Fine’s sister) (12:06) talks of how Larry raised her since their father died when she was five, Nate Budnick (Stooges stage show sound man) (16:55) talks going to see Pittsburgh Pirates with Larry, Billy West (2:56) talks about his WBCN days doing Larry Fine impersonations and Lola Jensen (1:43) talks about auditioning for the Stooges.

Unaired Commercial Bumps (1:05) were supposed to be used during the original 1992 running of the special. It’s quick clips with the name of the special.

Photo Galleries: Lyla Fine Personal Scrapbook (2:37) & Stooge Memorabilia (5:38) are dozens of images from their career from off stage shots to posters.

Fox Movietone News (6:33) is sound newsreel outtakes featuring the earliest known film footage of Moe & Shemp Howard (Aug 6, 1929). This has a crowded swimming pool. Moe & Shemp are splashing around. They hit each other with watermelons while on a diving board with ladies. Shemp has really long hair. His hair was longer than the Beatles.

Stooge Home Movies (5:47) are rare B&W / color clips of the Stooges at work and play (1920s – 1960s). It’s great to see Moe and Shemp kidding around with the children as if they’re part of one of their upcoming films. There’s footage of them on the Queen Mary with Curly. Curly and Moe also ape it up with a monkey. There are color clips of them shooting scenes.

Everybody Likes Music (19:25) is a long unavailable Van Beuren short featuring Shemp Howard. While Shemp isn’t the star, he dominates the short as he mixes up Mickey Finns. This was originally released on March 9, 1934.

Surprise, Surprise (2:09) is a Lost theatrical featurette, with Moe, Larry & Curly They promote a Pillsbury Projector toy giveaway. You could like inside and see a clip of the Stooges popping each other. This was released on October 31, 1937. I want one.

Ed Wynn Camel Comedy Caravan (29:44) is his variety show that’s sponsored by cigarettes. Moe, Larry and Shemp cut it up with Wynn. This is a complete TV Kinescope from when it broadcast on March 11, 1950. Don’t smoke.

Andy Wade’s California Home Movies (7:40) opens with Laurel and Hardy joking around. This is their last known filmed footage. There’s color footage of Moe, Larry & Joe Besser mugging it up. Moe even gives Joe Besser an eye poke. Andy Wade had a great time shooting these iconic figures. This was shot in July, 1956.

On The Go (19:17) interviews with Moe, Larry & Curly Joe DeRita for the show. The three meet up at park with their kids to talk about their lives. Moe’s wife talks about what he’s like around the house. This aired on April 15, 1960.

Strictly For Laffs (21:32) us a pilot for TV show starring Dave Barry and fellow comics. Along with Moe is Alan Reed (voice of Fred Flintstone), Rose Marie (Dick Van Dyke Show) and other comics. They sit around a table, smoke cigarettes, drink coffee and swap jokes while women hang around the dining room set. This is from July 1, 1962.

Star Spangled Salesman (18:07) has Carl Reiner, Milton Berle, Carol Burnett, Howard Morris, Tim Conway, Jack Webb and the Stooges doing little sketches to promote Government PSA for Savings Bonds. There is an angle to train people how to sell the Bonds. Carol Burnett smooches Ernest T. Bass. The Stooges (with Curly Joe) attempt to eat a giant submarine sandwich at once.

Kook’s Tour Outtakes (11:15) are from their final film project. We see the Stooges visit Old Faithful. Larry and Moe have their civilian hair. This is from Dec 7, 1969.

Joe DeRita Interview (6:20) has him talking with historian Randy Skretvedt at a convention in 1976. He talks about his retired life while posing with people.

The Funniest Guys in The World – Documentary Outtake Reel (27:37) talks about the revival of the Three Stooges career. Director Mark Gilman’s features Ted Healy’s replacement stooges Paul “Mousie” Garner, Jack Wolf & Dick Hakins. Two of the guys have outrageous hair. Dick Hakins remember getting pulled into the Stooges. He praises Shemp. This was from 1983.

Mousie Garner – Live at the 3 Stooges Convention (15:31) has him cracking jokes with the crowd. He even plays the piano. This was recorded on July 9, 1994. The camera has focus issues as Mousie moves around the stage.

Commercial and promotional spots from their Curly Joe era: Instant Simonize (1:06 – March 15, 1960) puts them in a lab, Don Lamond – KTTV TV-11 Los Angeles is a promo for their show (1:05 – 1961), Mr. Poplolly – Cartoonerville Trolley promo – WJZ TV-13 Baltimore (0:23 – circa 1961) is the voice of Larry, 2 Dickie’s Work Clothes spots (0:59 & 0:28 – March 31, 1969) has them destroy a new building, Stroke of Luck Book spot feat Larry Fine (1:04 – Nov 1, 1973) has him promote his autobiography, Three Stooges Tee-Shirt spot featuring Larry Fine (0:49 – June 1, 1974) has him selling the shirt off his chest.

Movie Trailers and Coming Attractions has 18 trailers from the Curly Joe DeRita features to a few films they showed up in including 4 For Texas with the Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

Archival Audio Recordings features Moe, Larry & Shemp rehearsing “Fiddler’s Three” and a dozen interviews from radio shows featuring Moe, Larry, Shemp Joe Besser and even Emil Sitka.

“No Census, No Feeling” (7:01) is a modern short subject featuring Shwartzy and Pagana, and Curly G doing existing in a Stooges universe.

Curly G Meets Shemp’s great granddaughter Chandler Isaac (7:49) has this happening at a convention. She knows how to deliver the eye pokes. She talks with Will Sasso.

MVDvisual & Kit Parker Films present Stooge O-Rama. Starring Moe Howard, Curly Howard, Shemp Howard, Larry Fine, Joe Besser and Curly Joe DeRita. Boxset Contents 3 Blu-ray discs. Rating: Unrated. Release Date: July 11, 2023.

Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.