Either you get the Three Stooges or you don't. There is no
middle ground. It seems that everyone from Jay Leno to
University of Arizona Professor John Solomon have chimed in on
the subject. Essays, numerous books and college lectures have
addressed the topic. There are two distinct classes of people.
Those that love the classic comedy team and others who scratch
their head and wonder why.
During their impressive career, The Three Stooges made
190 short subjects for Columbia Pictures. Add to that their 6 full
length features; film cameos; television appearances and 156 cartoons
with live wraparounds and their output is staggering.
With last year's Three Stooges Collection Volume One 1934-1936,
Sony/Columbia Pictures finally began releasing the Stooges' crown
jeweled two-reelers fully restored and in chronological order.
Fans rejoiced! Naysayers found something else to get excited about.
There is good news in Stoogeville as Sony's second volume of restored
shorts hits the street on May 27. The Three Stooges Collection Volume Two:
1937-1939 contains 24 titles presented in their original release order.
Each short in this compilation has been digitally remastered and the
soundtrack has been fully restored. Never before have these 70+ year
old films looked or sounded so good. Gone is each pop, scratch, hiss,
splice and wobbly frame. The contrast has been lovingly corrected.
Granted, there are times when the picture fluctuates in contrast (when
the camera is sped up to make images move faster), but that was limited
to the technology for the time.
Most importantly, it shows the team at their peak. Moe, Larry and Curly
were never more vigorous than during this period. While there are a few
shorts that miss their mark here, many are high energy romps. The
fact that numerous directors were in and out of the mix during this
era didn't hurt the series.
Here's a blow by blow (no pun intended) analysis for the shorts included
on Volume 2:
"Grips, Grunts and Groans" (****) opens the set and previous VHS and DVD
releases were grainy and terribly dark in contrast. The soundtrack
was flat and there was no bass on it, giving it the sound of an AM
transistor radio. It's one of the best shorts on the set and shows
just how far the pacing had come along since many of the shorts
that it preceded. If you ever wondered where they got the idea for the
world of WWF wrestling, look no further. After Larry and Curly brain
prize fighter Ivan Bustoff (played to perfection by Harrison Greene), with a
set of dumbells and a falling locker, the boys substitute Curly to wrestle
in his place. With the aid of Wild Hyacinth perfume, Curly becomes
a force to be reckoned with. CLASSIC LINE: "Wait a minute. If I'm
gonna get beat up, I want to get paid for it."
"Dizzy Doctors" (***) This fan favorite has the Boys selling Brighto.
Naturally, they don't know it's medicine and peddle the stuff from
car polish to spot remover. When they discover Brighto's proper
use, they invade Los Arms Hospital and run amuck trying to cure
assorted patients. CLASSIC LINE: "You boys really want to know
what it's for? It's for sale, now get busy selling it."
"Three Dumb Clucks" (***) is a great idea that could have been executed
better. The premise is promising: the Boys have to break out of jail to
stop their father (played by Curly in a dual role) from marrying some
golddigger and return him to 'Ma'. The short suffers from pacing problems
that keep it from becoming a true classic. CLASSIC SCENES: The
hat fitting and elevator/hallway chase.
"Back To The Woods" (**1/2) suffers from slow pacing and too many
scenes that weigh it down. It does have it's highlights, but they are too
few and thus is one of the weaker titles in the cannon. The Stooges are
sent to help the colonies against Indian attacks. CLASSIC LINE:
"All my life I've been looking for a maid like thee, toots!"
"Goofs and Saddles" (***1/2) The Stooges are Wild Bill Hiccup, Buffalo Billious
and Just Plain Bill in hot pusuit of Longhorn Pete in this western parody.
The Boys made several western themed shorts, with this entry being one
of the standouts. CLASSIC LINES: "You got your special deck of cards?"
"Soitinly". "We won't need 'em." CLASSIC SCENE: Passing cards under
the table with their feet.
"Cash and Carry" (***) While pathos worked better for Chaplin, there's plenty
of gags and snappy dialog to make up for the corny Jimmy and his illness
subplot. The Stooges invest Jimmy's leg operation money in a map that
leads to finding "buried teasure" in a house (conveniently located next to
the US Treasury Building). CLASSIC LINE: "$500, hmm, that's almost a million."
"Playing the Ponies" (***1/2) Down and out restauranteurs Moe, Larry and Curly
trade their business for Thunderbolt and enter him in a race. Curly discovers
that the nag runs fast after eating the hot peppers he swiped from the eatery.
CLASSIC LINE: "Adam and Eve on a raft." "Hey, scramble those eggs." "Wreck 'em."
"The Sitter Downers" (****) This classic has it all. Great gags, fine pacing and a
solid storyline. The Stooges go on strike and camp out in their fiancees' home,
much to the dismay of their father. The nation sympathizes and gifts come
pouring in. When their ready made house has to be assembled, the wives lay
down the law: no honeymoon until the house is built. CLASSIC SCENE: Moe
and Larry's chase sequence.
"Termites Of 1938" (****) In a mix up, Mrs. Vantwitchet hires the ACME Exterminators
instead of ACME Escorts. Thinking they are hired to rid pests at an upscale party,
the Stooges wreak havoc on the guests and the posh home. CLASSIC LINE: "I wish
to hire your best men." "We're all pest men."
'Wee Wee Monsieur" (***1/2) Behind on their rent, Curly hopes to sell his painting,
but when he clobbers the landlord over the head with it during an argument, the Boys
are on the run and sign up for the Foreign Legion (thinking it's the American version).
Recruited to guard General Gorganzola, he is kidnapped under their watch. They need
to bring him back alive or it's cutains for the Stooges. CLASSIC SCENE: The Stooges
dressed as dancing harum girls.
"Tassels In The Air" (****) One of my favorites! Hired as janitors, the Stooges get in a jam by stenciling the wrong office door titles. Moe is mistaken for Omay, a famous interior decorator. The Curly goes bananas theme (pop goes the weasel; seeing mice; Wild Hyacinth perfume) is reworked when he sees tassels (he was tickled with a pussy willow as a child). The pig Latin bit is priceless! CLASSIC LINE: "You mean I'm umday in pig language?" "You're umday in any language."
"Flat Foot Stooges" (**) One of the flatter (no pun intended) shorts. The Stooges
are inept firemen.This short misses its mark with a silly story line that involves
a gun powder eating duck (silly, even by Stooge standards), who lays an exploding egg and a weak ending that had no effort put into it. Significant for the first use of 'Three Blind Mice' as the opening theme music.
"Healthy, Wealthy and Dumb" (****) A great Three Stooges vehicle. After winning
the Coffin Nail Cigarette radio contest, the Stooges check into the snazzy Hotel
Costa Plenty, get plastered; ruin the suite; get terrorized by a monkey; duck
the hotel manager, and get railroaded by three comely female golddiggers.
All this in 17 minutes! CLASSIC LINE: "Gentlemen, this bed goes back to Henry
The Eighth." "That's nothing. We had a bed that went back to Sears Roebuck The Third."
"Violent Is The Word For Curly" (***1/2) This fan favorite is best known for the 'Alphabet Song'. The Boys are gas station attendants mistaken for three college professors. They wind up at Mildew College to teach the all girls school a thing or three. CLASSIC LINE: "You'll just love our student body." "Your's wouldn't be so bad either if you took off 20 pounds."
"Three Missing Links" (**) One of the weaker films in this set (not to mention the Curly
era). After being fired as studio janitors, the Stooges are hired as actors and are
shipped to the jungle for the shoot. Uninspired gags, weak pacing and a silly sub plot
involving 'love candy' drag this one down. CLASSIC LINE: "There's great grammer for ya. I'm not me."
"Mutts To You" (***1/2) Moe, Larry and Curly run the K9 Dog Laundry Service, a great
place with Rube Goldberg type contraptions. When the Stooges find a baby on a doorstep, they take the tyke home fearing he's been abandoned. Lots of great gags, one liners and wild pacing allow the Boys to shine while relying less on their signature slaps and pokes with winning results. CLASSIC LINE: "Is he on the bottle yet?" "I should say not. He don't smoke, drink nor chew."
"Three Little Sew and Sews" (*1/2) A disappointing and uneven short that even a manic Curly can't save. The Stooges pass themselves off as Admiral Tailor and his two assistants in hopes to catch a German spy. There is one good gag that rehashes the spring in the butt and one CLASSIC LINE: "I'm gonna change my socks--what an experience."
"We Want Our Mummy" (****) Everything that makes a great Three Stooges short is
packed in this classic. Hired by a museum to find the remains of King Rootentooten,
the Stooges hire a taxi to Cairo and hook up with crooks who are trying to beat them
to the punch. Lots of great gags (Curly's mirage sequence is a standout) and
CLASSIC LINES: "And if the curse does strike them, it will be a blessing to humanity."
"I can't be a mummy, I'm a Daddy."
"A Ducking They Did Go" (***1/2) The Stooges are on the run for swiping watermelons
and elude the cops by stumbling into the office of the Canvas Back Duck Club. Run by
two swindlers, the Stooges rope the police force (and the mayor) to join. When the resort is void of ducks, it's up to the Boys to round some up, pronto. CLASSIC LINE: "Have you ever sold anything?" "Why, soitinly. Anything we could get our hands on." "The gentleman said sold, not stole." NOTE: Sadly, there is a period when the sound is out of sync.
"Yes, We Have No Bonanza" (****) One of the best of 1939, which was a stellar
year for the Stooges. The boys work in a saloon and find the buried treasure that
their boss stole from the First National Bank. CLASSIC LINE: "Me, coming home
from a hard day's work. I whistle for the dog and my wife comes out." NOTE: There
is a period when the soundtrack loses its low end that results in a flat/tin sound.
It should be noted that it is still an improvement over previous releases of this short.
"Saved By The Belle" (***) This is one of the forgotten nuggets in the Stooges' arsonal. Stranded at their hotel in Valeska, the Stooges are aparral salesmen who get mixed up as spies. With the aid of the lovely Rita, they try to save their hides by delivering the map needed to win the cause. CLASSIC LINE: "Oh, no you don't. What kind of fool do you take me for?" "Why? Is there more than one kind?"
"Calling All Curs" (***1/2) The Stooges are the owners of a dog hospital. When their
VIP patient is kidnapped, it's a madcap chase to track down the dognappers.
CLASSIC LINE: "Success." "Success." "Mazel Tov."
"Oily To Bed, Oily to Rise" (****) When Jules White (as Director) wanted to, he could helm gems like this without relying soley on the cartoony, slapstick violence he was so fond of. To help Mrs. Jenkins get her deed back from three crooks who gyped her (they discovered oil on her propery), the Stooges are burning the trail to retrieve the deed. CLASSIC LINE: "Don't look now, but I think we're about to be killed."
"Three Sappy People" (****) Once again, Jules White directs a classic that ends the
era of the '30's. Posing as Dr's. Ziller, Zeller and Zoller, the Stooges are hired to cure
a rich, spoiled heiress (played with finess by Lorna Grey) of her eccentric ways. This
is one of the best of their 190 short films and is loaded with great gags: the statue
reflex scene; the powder puff/biscuit bit; the tamale scene; the cream puff fight.
CLASSIC LINE: "Why don't you get a toupe with some brains in it."
The shorts: A-
The restoration: A