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Paramount Studios presents
The Stooge (1953)

"Am I being very extraordinary?"
- Ted Rogers (Jerry Lewis)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: October 11, 2004

Stars: Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin
Other Stars: Polly Bergen, Marion Marshall
Director: Norman Taurog

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:39m:48s
Release Date: October 12, 2004
UPC: 097360521245
Genre: comedy


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

DVD Review

As successful as Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin were for a brief time as a Hollywood tandem, their antics on screen will never be able to live up in memory to their early nightclub appearances—part of that must have to do with the spark of them being partnered up for the first time, and maybe more of that has do to with the fact that few if any recorded information of those shows survive. So those early days are the stuff of legend, and probably will always remain that way; still, The Stooge, one of their early efforts, seems like a deliberate attempt to re-capture some of that magic. It's intermittently successful, and this film could almost serve as a litmus test for tous les films de M. Lewis—if you've got a taste for young Jerry's mugging, you'll find plenty of that here, along with dollops of Dino's inimitable baritone. Martin seems never to have taken his singing very seriously—Nick Tosches's excellent biography of him makes that clear—but even in throwaway, jokey numbers, he had one hell of a set of pipes.

The story is set in the 1930s, with Martin as Bill Miller, a modestly successful entertainer looking to step up in class on the vaudeville circuit. He desperately wants to succeed as a single (i.e., without a partner), but it's not going so hot; his agent hooks him up with Ted Rogers (Lewis), who is to take a seat in the audience, engage in a dialogue with Bill, and more or less allow himself to become the butt of Miller's jokes. Guess what? Unintentionally, Ted brings the house down, his braying idiocy the perfect complement to Bill's casually tossed-off cool. It's hard not to read this movie as a thinly fictionalized version of the real-life Martin/Lewis partnership, and with the benefit of hindsight, we can see both why they were successful as a team, and why they flamed out. If you like them, together they seem like much more than the sum of their parts; it's almost as if there's a geometric expansion of talent and fun when they're there together. (If you don't care for them, the criticism isn't difficult to spot: Dino is drunk, Jerry annoying.)

Even if you don't laugh, you've got to appreciate Lewis's commitment to getting his audience to laugh—there's nothing he won't do for a joke, even if it's selling out his partner. His doofus act was his stock in trade at this point, but his gifts are evident as he goofs on an inspired rendition of Every Little Breeze Seems to Whisper Louise. Martin is so cool that he can even play an accordion with panache, but there are darker tones, too—late in the story, Bill is fighting to keep Ted's name off of the marquee, and his wife rips into him, telling Bill that he's greedy, that he's selfish, that he keeps everybody at a distance, that he's going to end up old and lonely. (This is exactly what happened to Martin.) Of course, it's all tied up in a bow by the end, with Bill extolling the "chemistry that makes two men a successful team"—but some of what's been said is pretty nasty, and even if it's all forgiven, it's certainly not forgotten.Each of the boys has a love interest, of course—for Martin it's Polly Bergen, who joins him on a nice duet; for Lewis, it's Marion Marshall, as a Daisy Mae sort usually referred to here as Frecklehead. The true love, though, is between the boys, but only when they're on stage and the act is going over great—for the characters in the movie as well as for the performers, those seem like the moments that make life worth living.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: There are some evident resolution problems, pointed up by Jerry's garishly checked wardrobe; also, no shortage of scratches and dirt.

Image Transfer Grade: C+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: The mono track frequently has some awful muffling, making some of the dialogue tough to discern; there are also a couple of synchronization problems. Technical values were not a high priority either during production or in the transfer to DVD, and it shows.

Audio Transfer Grade: C

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Just an original trailer.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

Typically uneven early Martin and Lewis fare, and it's impossible to watch this without reading some performers' psychobiography into it. Oh, vaudeville laaaaayyyydeeeeee!

 


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