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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents
The Three Stooges Collection Volume Two 1937-1939 (1937-1939)

"If I wasn't so weak from hunger, I'd beat out your brains, if you had any brains."
- Moe Howard in Oily to Bed, Oily to Rise

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: May 28, 2008

Stars: Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Curly Howard
Other Stars: Bud Jamison, Vernon Dent, Monte Collins, Jane Hamilton, Bess Flowers, Dick Curtis, Chester Conklin, Lulu Jensen, Phyllis Barry, Harry Semels, Lynton Brent, LeRoy Mason, Carmen LeRoux, Lorna Gray, Don Beddoe
Director: Preston Black, Del Lord, Charles Lamont, Charley Chase, Jules White

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (slapstick violence, unsafe gun handling)
Run Time: 06h:57m:59s
Release Date: May 27, 2008
UPC: 043396257993
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B+A-B- D-

DVD Review

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment quietly released the first volume of what will hopefully be the entire collection of The Three Stooges' short films. That release was so quiet that we received no review copies and few people were even aware of its existence, which was criminal considering that these shorts are now restored and in very good condition. Best of all, the sets of 20+ shorts are cheaper than Sony's prior hit-and-miss discs of four to six shorts each were. This second volume covers the years 1937-1939, which offer some prime Curly comedy. The threesome is at the height of their comic ingenuity, having worked out the kinks of the early years, but before they started repeating themselves. While many of these shorts were previously released, several (Cash & Carry, Tassels in the Air, Mutts to You, Three Little Sew and Sews and the classic We Want Our Mummy are all new to DVD, as are Saved by the Belle, Oily to Bed, Oily to Rise and Three Sappy People. This set takes the boys from a selection of directors, from silent comic Charley Chase to Jules White, who would get some of the best work out of the Stooges.

The set begins with one of the most violent, Grips, Grunts and Groans (1937). Something of a remake of Punch Drunks (1934), it features the boys being assigned to keep wrestler Bustoff from getting drunk, under threat of murder from gamblers. When they inevitably fail in their assignment, Curly must don a beard and face Bustoff's opponent in the ring. Instead of "Pop Goes the Weasel," the scent of wild hyacinth sets Culy off. Nine slaps, two eye pokes and a whopping 28 conks to the head, and that's not even counting the boxing and wrestling moves.

Dizzy Doctors features the trio as salesmen for the tonic Brighto. Oblivious of the fact it's medicine, they attempt to hawk it on the streets as a cleaner with predictably disastrous results. Once set straight on the nature of their product, they invade a hospital and work on dispensing their wares there, infuriating the staff. The short climaxes with an extended (and undercranked) chase scene that features plenty of knockabout. One of the better Stooge shorts, it features a full 11 conks on the head, three eye pokes and even a pie in the face, as well as a multitude of face slaps.

Three Dumb Clucks utilizes a script by Buster Keaton writer Clyde Bruckman, and it's somewhat unusual in concept. Starting off in jail, the Stooges learn that their father, now wealthy from oil, is about to marry a young blonde. Determined to break out and stop the wedding, they find out that not only is the blonde a golddigger, but that she intends to murder the old man—who is played by none other than Curly in mutton chops, in full Ted Healy mode. It's quite enjoyable, with a classic routine in a hat shop featuring Curly being determined to wear a cloth cap to the wedding. Five slaps and eight blows to the head make it a middling outing.

The 17th century is the setting of Back to the Woods, as the boys are sentenced to the New World to fight the natives. The highlight is an incredibly bizarre dance number set to a musicbox minuet that begins to swing. A WPA joke may have prevented this from getting major syndication play. The sad production values of the Columbia studios are displayed by the fact that much of this picture is shot with painted backdrops. It has a somewhat weak ending, and is a bit repetitive once the boys get into the woods, but it not only features five slaps, two eye pokes and four head thumps, but a solid ear twist to boot.

History takes another beating in Goofs and Saddles as the Stooges are cavalry scouts (Wild Bill Hiccup, Buffalo Bilious, and Just Plain Bill) who are assigned to locate some rustlers. There's an amusing poker game at the centerpiece, and monkey business with a monkey. The finale features a meat grinder as a machine gun, which can hardly make up for the single slap and the two conks on the bean that make this a lightly violent offering.

Bruckman also wrote Cash & Carry, a slightly sentimental tale that features the boys as prospectors who live in the city dump. When a brother and sister pair of orphans come to live with them, the boys can't say no and try to raise the money for the boy's needed operation. Unfortunately, their method of doing so involves looking for buried treasure in the walls of a house and a trip to the penitentiary. Oddly enough, FDR makes an appearance and helps save the day for the boys. A pair each of slaps and eye pokes and a healthy 17 bonks on the bean.

Playing the Ponies opens with the boys operating a hash house. That's not going so well, so they trade the business for the race horse Thunderbolt. Unfortunately, Thunderbolt's a broken-down nag that can only be motivated to run with handfuls of chili pepperinos. Four face slaps and 16 thumps to the temple make it a reasonably violent outing, with Moe surprisingly taking about half of the damage for a change.

The Sitter Downers is one of a long string of construction site disasters for the Stooges. The boys want to marry Flora Belle, Cora Belle and Dora Belle (June Gittelson, Marcia Healy, Betty Mack, respectively), and when their father refuses to give his permission, they stage a sitdown strike. Becoming national heroes with fan mail, they are awarded a lot and a house. This gets dad to relent, but the problem with the house is it's do-it-yourself. Predictably, catastrophe results with some of the wildest house-building gags since Keaton's One Week. A surprisingly mild Stooges outing, with only one face slap and six blows to the noggin.

Moving on to the year 1938, we find them as the Acme Exterminators in Termites of 1938. When they are accidentally called instead of the Acme Escort Service, the boys manage to gain entry to a high society party. In their usual deflation of stuffed shirts, the Stooges end up as models of etiquette at the dinner table, which makes for a lot of laughs. Winding things up, they take on the extermination project and completely wreck the house. Although containing quite a few good bits, there is a fair amount of padding in the dinner sequence. The "pull the wiring through the wall" gag is trotted out again here. A decent effort, although Curly isn't displayed to his best here. Less violent than most, with only one conk to the head, and no eye pokes.

We find the boys as artists in Paris, "somewhere in France" in Wee Wee Monsieur . They accidentally enlist in the French Foreign Legion, and are given an espionage assignment. When sent in disguise to an Arab stronghold, they are variously dressed in Santa suits and harem outfits, giving the short a weird surrealism that's pretty entertaining. The standard two face slaps, one eye poke and six thumps to the bean.

Curly is set off by tassels of all things in Tassels in the Air. It's a fairly disjointed piece, starting off with the boys as sign painters in a building, then getting mistaken for interior decorators. Charley Chase directs in one of the more elaborate wordplay shorts the Stoogers ever did, including a lesson in pig latin. The violence quotient is fairly low, with three each of slaps and conks to the noggin.

Healthy, Wealthy and Dumb, is the first of two pieces here that feature Curly coming into money. In this case, a contest from the Coffin Nail Cigarette Co. brings him $50,000, as well as three golddigging women after the money. One of the staples of the Stooges' routine was food, and this short features one of the best, with glue being substituted for maple syrup with predictable mayhem resulting. Three pokes to the eye, five face slaps and five conks to the noggin.

Disc One concludes with Violent is the Word for Curly, a classic of hilarity as the boys start off as gas station attendants and then wind up at Mildew College, mistaken for European professors Finestein, Frankfurter and Von Stupor. The boys perform their novelty song, Swingin' the Alphabet. The name is borrowed from a popular tearjerker book and film of the era, Valiant is the Word for Carrie. But that picture didn't feature twelve conks to the head and a pair of face slaps.

A Stooge disc would hardly be complete without a gorilla suit, and there are two in Three Missing Links (1938), the first short on disc 2. Although they again start off as actors, the boys are recognized by the Super Terrific movie studio as being dead ringers for the Missing Link and two Neanderthals, and accordingly are cast in a jungle action picture in Africa. There's some moderately racist business here with a cannibalistic medicine man who dispenses some love candies. Of course, before long, Curly in an ape suit uses them and manages to get romantically involved with a genuine gorilla (of course another suit, though not quite as poor as Curly's). A dozen knocks to the nut and one face slap is as violent as this one gets.

Mutts to You features a rare credited appearance by "Queen of the Extras" Bess Flowers in a major role. The boys serve as dog washers who end up stealing baby, though the mean well. It's particularly notable for the bizarre Rube Goldberg dog washing equipment the Stooges use, and its use on an extraordinarily patient dalmation. Two slaps and six whacks to the crown.

Despite the title, Flat Foot Stooges doesn't refer to the police force. The boys are instead members of the fire department, which predictably catches fire. The low budgets are really showing here; Moe muffs a line but the scene stays in the picture nonetheless. One of the weaker entries on the disc, but it's still worthwhile because of Curly. This and the previous short were a few of the handful of Stooge shorts directed by silent comic legend Charley Chase. Five face slaps but only one poke to the eye and one clock to the head. For some reason this is presented out of production order; it should fall after Tassels in the Air. Not a huge issue, though.

1939 brings us Three Little Sew and Sews, one of the first of the military themed shorts that would be par for the course during the war. As navy tailors, the Stooges impersonate an admiral and foil a spy who means to steal a submarine. It's fairly pedestrian stuff, with three slaps, an eye poke and eight knocks to the dome.

The classic We Want Our Mummy features the boys as detectives who are first sent to find the missing egyptologist, Professor Tuttle, and then are given the task of finding the lost tomb of King Rootentooten. The laughs are a plenty even though there's merely a conk the the head.

A Ducking They Did Go is one of the funniest on the set, as the Stooges sell memberships in the Canvasback Duck Club to the police only to find out that the club is a fake. Somehow they have to come up with ducks for the hunters, and it's hilarious how the boys work to get themselves out of this pickle. One slap and four doinks to the bean.

The Stooges are keeping a saloon in Yes, We Have No Bonanza but decide to become gold prospectors. When their boss robs the local bank, he makes the mistake of burying the loot where the gold-diggers are about to dig. Ten blows to the head, seven slaps and two pokes to the eye make this one of the more violent on the set.

Saved by the Belle is set in the tropical kingdom of Valeska, where the boys are arrested under suspicion of being spies. Rita (Carmen LeRoux) secures their escape from prison, only to get them mixed up with genuine revolutionaries. There's a dismal running gag involving Curly's pet parrot, and the ending is more an abrupt stop than a conclusion, but there are at least two slaps and four thumps to the head.

In Calling All Curs (1939), the boys are animal surgeons. When dognappers steal the prize poodle Garçon out from under their noses, they're forced to turn detective. A fairly mild outing for a Curly short, with three face slaps, two eye pokes and only three conks to the head.

There are plenty of laughs in Oily to Bed, Oily to Rise, as the boys are eager to help the Widow Jenkins get back the deed to her land from some oil swindlers. There are some classic gags including several saw jokes and a great routine involving Curly and a wagon with a trap door in the bottom. There's a theme of wish fulfillment as Curly repeatedly gets his wish. Some exciting stunt work is featured as they nearly run off the road numerous times, with a slap to the face and an even dozen conks on the noggin to see you through.

Three Sappy People, also written by Bruckman, is a fitting culmination to the set. The boys pose as psychiatrists to cure Bud Jamison's wife and instead end up ruining one of a multitude of dinner parties. This one features a variant on the pie fight with well over 30 cream puffs being hurled in the grand finale, to go along with nine bonks to the dome and a solid eye poke.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The original full frame presentations have been remastered in high definition, and they look sparkling for the most part. A few segments, apparently later-generation replacements due to damage, are a shade dupey, but they're rare and brief. For the most part, there's excellent greyscale, with tons of detail and texture. There's scarcely a speckle present and no major damage of any kind. It's most welcome after the often mediocre transfers that appeared on the earlier discs. Grain structure is still present but not annoying or particularly noticeable. I didn't observe any significant artifacting or edge enhancement.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: The mono English track has a faint amount of hiss but it otherwise is perfectly serviceable. Dialogue is quite clear at all times. The Stooges' main theme doesn't have much depth but it probably never did in theatrical release either.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Packaging: Thinpak
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: There aren't any extras at all (not even subtitles), but the presentation of the shorts themselves is so nice that it feels churlish to complain. There is a handy "Play All" button, which wasn't always present on Columbia's earlier DVDs, and only one chapter stop per short.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

This set is a superb value, with excellent transfers and two dozen classics of the Stooge brand of slapstick. Stooges fans will be overjoyed at this second installment of what will (we hope) eventually be the complete set of their short films.

 


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