A mere five weeks since Sony's third chronological compilation
of Three Stooges shorts dropped, along comes Volume 4. This
set showcases all 21 two reelers from the years 1943-1945.
Although it's not essential to view these shorts in chronological
order, it does help to see how the Stooges' pacing advanced. Their
earlier shorts had a slower pace to them. By this volume,
their manic style of slapstick was at its most feverish pace. And
by viewing them in release order on this set, it is very easy to see the
decline in Curly Howard's health. When viewing the shorts released in
1945, it is clear that Curly's performance has been altered noticeably by
the time "Booby Dupes" is screened.
The shorts on this set have one distinctive theme: they are more
cartoonish than ever before. The plots, such as they are, become
more transparent than the bald spot on Larry's head. With the lone
exception of the true classic "Micro Phonies", story and plot really take
a back seat during these years. Many feel that director Del Lord, who
is all over this set, lost his way during this period.
Overall, the restoration is on par with the previous three volumes. With the exception
of "Crash Goes The Hash" (with inferior audio) and "Idiots Deluxe" (which is riddled
with blemishes), the prints look and sound amazing. There are the usual soft spots
in some shorts (most noticeably in "No Dough Boys"), but other than that, they look
Volume 4 finishes up the war years and has some of the most violent
and un PC Stoogery to be found in their stellar career.
"They Stooge To Conga" (***) contains the wince inducing "spike" scene.
Moe really gets it in this one. In fact, he gets it in the eye, head and ear.
The Stooges are repairmen and stumble upon Nazi spies when attempting
to fix a doorbell, destroying the house instead.
CLASSIC LINE: Nazi Spy: "FBI, huh?" Curly: "No, I B Curly."
FUN FACT: Watch for a very young Lloyd Bridges (who speaks five words).
"Dizzy Detectives" (***) finds the Boys as cops tracking down an ape trained
to rob from stores. Yes, you read that correctly. As silly as it may sound, the
gags are aplenty with the great guillotine scene. I love Moe's reaction when he
thinks Curly has been axed!
CLASSIC LINE: Curly: "I didn't see her, but I could swear--" Moe: "That's a
Watch for a small recycling job from an earlier short "Pardon My Scotch."
"Spook Louder" (***) is as close to a live action Looney Tunes as you're
likely to find. The Stooges are "master salesmen" who wind up guarding
an inventor's house so enemy spies won't steal his secrets. Weird noises,
goofy clocks, a menacing balloon and mysterious flying pies make this
nonsensical short a hoot to watch.
CLASSIC LINE: Moe: "You dance like you got your legs on backwards."
'Back From The Front" (***) finds the Boys on a disguised Nazi raider and
capture the lot. Dressed up as the Axis partners, Moe delivers one of the
best lines in all of Stoogedom.
CLASSIC LINE: Moe: "Ah, my personality, thanks Buddy!"
"Three Little Twirps" (**1/2) The Boys find their way into a circus after ruining the
posters they were to be hanging.
CLASSIC LINE: Larry: "Beat it, grandpa. We've got no time for kibbitzes."
"Higher Than A Kite" (**1/2) Once again, Moe gets it good when his head gets
stuck in a pipe. After ruining the General's car, they hide in a bomb (they think
its a sewer pipe) and get dropped in Naziville.
CLASSIC LINE: Nazi General: "Sit on my lap." Larry (in drag): "What lap?"
"I Can Hardly Wait" (**) revolves around Curly having a bad tooth, while Moe
and Larry come up with new ways to revolutionize dentistry.
CLASSIC LINE: Curly: "You've got me bald headed in the mouth."
"Dizzy Pilots" (****) The Stooges are the Wrong Brothers who invent a plane
called "The Buzzard." During their test flight, things go terribly wrong and they
wind up getting drafted (a recycled scene from an earlier short "Boobs In Arms").
CLASSIC LINE: Curly; "I see the garage. I don't saw the garage. You are
moidering the King's English."
"Phoney Express" (***1/2) has the Stooges out west selling everything from
Abdul's Cactus Remedy to being deputized.
CLASSIC LINE: Curly: "Hmm, pepperminties."
"A Gem Of A Jam" (***) Mistaken for doctors, the Boys are on the run from
crooks and cops. The second half of this short is utter nonsense and in any other
hands, it wouldn't hold up. A testament to how great the Stooges were that they're
so convincing at selling the silliest of ideas. The bits with Dudley Dickerson
are priceless. The x-ray scene is a keeper, as well.
"Crash Goes The Hash" (****) A great short with the Stooges who work for
Star Press Cleaners. A newspaper editor thinks they work for the media
and hire them to expose Prince Sham. The print looks great, but the audio is
surprisingly poor. The previous DVD release had better audio.
CLASSIC LINE: Butler: "Such levity. You remind me of the Three Stooges."
Curly: "Hey, that's an insult."
"Busy Buddies" (***) Another bit of utter (or is that udder) nonsense as the Stooges enter a milking contest to win some fast cash. Damn if they don't pull it off, though.
"The Yolk's On Me" (*) A real mess. Forget about the PC issue, this short
just doesn't work. I smile at the fan dance Curly does with the ostrich
feathers, but other than that, it's just a sloppy short that isn't funny.
"Idle Roomers (***1/2) All hail Lupe the Wolf man! The Stooges discover
the wolfman (in ridiculous make up) running amuck in the Hotel Snazzy Plaza.
As janitors, it's up to the Boys to catch him.
CLASSIC LINE: Moe: "Did you lock the door?" Curly: "Yeah, twice. Once this
way and once that way."
HISTORIC CASTING: Stooge regular, the lovely Christine McIntyre makes her
"Gents Without Cents" (**1/2) Another misfire, it would be unwatchable if not
for the Niagra Falls and "Ratt-tat-toodily- day-day" numbers. The casting of
Flo, Mary and Shirley (as a poorman's Andrews Sisters) weigh this short
down like a ton of bricks. Their cartwheel shtick seems to go on forever!
"No Dough Boys" (***1/2) has the Stooges dressed as Japanese soldiers
for an ad shoot. On a lunch break, the owner thinks they are real "Jap" spies.
Running away, they stumble (yet again) into a Nazi hideout. UN PC humor
at its best. Mel Brooks would be proud!
CLASSIC LINE: Moe: "Naki, Waki, come backi."
"Three Pests In A Mess" (**1/2) A pretty flimsy script that gets saved by
Christine McIntrye's performance and, of course, the Stooges. This short
has such a cheap production to it, that during a supposed masquerade party,
nobody bothered to add a crowd noise on the soundtrack, let alone having a
few extras walk past the camera. It looks exactly what it is: two actors trying
to sell the idea that there is a party going on in an empty sound stage. Jeez, not even music in the background.
CLASSIC LINE: Larry: " What's the idea, porter?"
"Booby Dupes" (**) The first real evidence that Curly's health is starting to get
the best of him. A weak effort doesn't help things, either. Watch Curly struggle
to hide under the boat. The Stooges, as fish salesmen (again), try to catch their
own for better profits. Again, this short has a particularly cheap feel to it. The
scene with the fish flying all over the place would be right at home in a bad
grade school production. And where did they get the second boat!?
"Idiots Deluxe" (**1/2) isn't much better. There's a few good bits in the cabin,
but overall, a weak short with a much more haggard Curly. So far, the shorts
have been restored to a like new brilliance. This title however, looks terrible. The
print is riddled with spots, debris, lines, scratches as if no restoration was done.
CLASSIC LINE: Moe: "Sunny side down. And don't turn 'em over."
"If A Body Meets A Body" (***) A decent scare comedy, but no classic, by any
means. The Stooges stand to inherit some dough when Curly's uncle bites it.
A remake of "The Laurel and Hardy Murder Case".
CLASSIC LINE: Butler: "I hope you have a nice looong sleep." Moe: "Thanks,
"Micro Phonies" (****) is the Citizen Kane of Three Stooges films. Thankfully,
Curly's ill health did not interfere with his performance, as this short has everything
the last handful didn't. The story is solid, the directing is sharp, the pacing is spot
on, and the supporting cast is fantastic. It's the last great Curly performance (although
"Three Little Pirates" comes close). The Stooges are Senorita Cucaracha, Senior
Mucho and Senior Gusto. They swipe a record and do a great aping of "Voices
Of Spring" at a swanky party. That is, until their deception is discovered. The print
is beautiful and all of Christine McIntyre's dialogue has been fully restored. All
previous video releases had the annoying jump/splice cut during her explanation
as to why she had to pursue her singing career under an assumed name. This is the
last great Stooges short until Shemp re-joins the team. Always compared unfairly,
the Shemp era had some of the best storylines and plots (before budget cuts caused
a slew of remakes), but that's another review.......
The shorts: B+
The Restoration: A-
Panasonic 50" widescreen plasma