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Mackinac Media presents
Stooges: The Men Behind the Mayhem (2004)

"I wanted to go home with the Stooges every night, but they wouldn't let me."
- Adam West

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: April 28, 2005

Stars: Paul E. Gierucki, Lyla Fine Budnick, Nate Budnick
Other Stars: Adam West, Ed Bernds, Mousie Garner, Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Curly Howard, Shemp Howard, Joe Besser, Joe De Rita
Director: Paul E. Gierucki

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (comic violence)
Run Time: 01h:03m:03
Release Date: April 26, 2005
UPC: 825452500843
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Even though they're known to posterity as the Three Stooges, there were actually six official Stooges, as well as several other unofficial or almost-Stooges. This documentary, a slightly-expanded version of the A&E Biography episode of the same name, takes a look at the lives of those six men and their contributions to comedy.

Each of the six chapters is devoted to one of the Stooges (Moe, Larry, Curly, Shemp, Joe Besser and Joe "Curley Joe" De Rita) and concurrently traces the history of the group from its vaudeville beginnings as sidekicks to the notorious Ted Healy, into their long-running contract with Columbia Pictures, through Curly's stroke and replacement by Shemp and various other permutations of the group. After Shemp's death, the Stooges appeared ready to vanish into obscurity, only to be launched back into stardom by the advent of televison.

It's a fairly inoffensive look at the group, and doesn't really break much new ground. Healy's shortcomings are generally papered over though everyone agrees he was a veritable Mr. Hyde when (all too frequently) drunk. Harry Cohn's mistreatment of the Stooges while profiting mightily from their shorts is legendary but it's not even mentioned here. One might excuse that if this were authorized by Columbia Pictures, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

Trying to do a documentary on the Three Stooges without the cooperation of Columbia would have been problematic in the first place, and the most obvious way that shows up is in the film clips. The filmmakers are forced to rely on a handful of talking heads interspersed with altogether-too-long clips from the four public domain Stooge shorts and trailers. Trying to cram six biographies and the biography of an ensemble into a single hour doesn't help, either. The result makes for an okay introduction to the Stooges but devotees of the group will be pretty disappointed. The highlights are a grouping of ancient photographs and promotional materials from the Stooges' vaudeville days, taken from the scrapbook of Larry Fine's sister, Lyla Fine Budnick, one of the most prominent of the talking heads.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: The original full-frame picture looks reasonably good for the most part, though video line structure and aliasing are frequently apparent. The modern interviews look pretty good, and the film clips are from decent enough source material (see extras for more remarks on these).

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono audio is acceptable, without major noise and hiss (except in the older film clips). The frequent interview materials sound fine though not spectacular.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 6 cues
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Three Stooges in Orbit, Have Rocket, Will Travel, The Three Stooges Meet Hercules, Dancing Lady, Snow White and the Three Stooges
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Radio interviews
  2. Still gallery
  3. Television appearance
  4. Extended interviews
  5. Four shorts
Extras Review: The disc producers have made an effort to fill the set out, with varying degrees of success. Disc 1 also contains three interesting radio interviews totallying nearly an hour with Moe and Larry from the 1970s, just before Larry's death, although they tend to cover a fair amount of the same territory. More shots from Lyla Fine's scrapbook show up in a still gallery, with memorabilia, posters and lobby cards in evidence. There are about 120 images in this gallery, many of which are extremely rare. There's a link to the My Pal Moe interactive website with more photos and memorabilia too.

The box's declaration that the second disc contains four Stooge shorts should send off warning shots. It's the same four public domain shorts (Disorder in the Court, Sing a Song of Six Pants, Brideless Groom and Malice in the Palace) that have already appeared on myriad DVDs from reputable and disreputable companies alike. The versions here are rather noisy TV prints, but other than the frequent damage they seem to be transferred well (though Brideless Groom is a bit overly contrasted). Less common but by no means unique is the appearance of the Stooges with Ed Wynn on The Camel Comedy Cavalcade. This includes the classic running gag of the Stooges being CBS executives, as well as all the in-show ads for Camel cigarettes. Five trailers from feature films with the Stooges (including the very early MGM picture Dancing Lady) are presented, as well as a homemade promo for a theater running a Stooges marathon. A set of extended interview segments with Lyla Fine Budnick, Nate Budnick and Ren and Stimpy voice artist Billy West fill the rest of the disc. Surprisingly, there's little duplication with the main program here, so these are well worth watching and help flesh out the feature a bit.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

A somewhat basic and disappointing look at the six Three Stooges, with a lot of extra material that's available elsewhere on DVD.


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