Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Three Stooges Ultimate Collection DVD Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
Fans will enjoy more than 60 hours of fun and laughter for the whole family from the masters of mirth, merriment and mayhem when Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released The Three Stooges Ultimate Collection on DVD June 5th. The entire Three Stooges Columbia shorts catalog spans three decades of slapstick silliness, featuring 190 shorts, plus three discs of rare and unreleased content. Fans will revel in this chance to see several of the Stooges work separately in solo shorts, developing the comic skills that would lead them to their roles as successors to Curly in the comedy trio. The collection includes 28 never-before-released short films starring Stooges actors Shemp Howard, Joe Besser, and Joe DeRita, as well as the feature length films Have Rocket, Will Travel and Rockin’ in the Rockies available for the first time on DVD. From the classic teaming of Moe, Larry and Curly to later cast members Shemp, Joe and Curly Joe, this 20-disc set is a must-own collection for any Stooges fan.

Film (5 out of 5 stars)
Despite being the longest running comedy act in motion picture history, The Three Stooges never received the same respect that other acts and comedians did.  Part of that may be due to their type of humor since they didn't have Chaplin's sentimentality, Keaton's inventiveness, or Lloyd's precision.  The Three Stooges focused mainly on slapstick and their own brand of physical humor that involved hitting each other which seemed to divide audiences into those that thought they were hilarious and those that just didn't get it.  That lack of respect also included the studios that the Stooges worked for, since they reaped the rewards from the various shorts and movies but never let the Stooges know just how valuable they really were and didn't share the wealth like they should've.  Time has been more kind to the Stooges as they've gained fans across the world and now with this complete collection, they've finally gotten the respectful treatment their legacy deserves.

The Three Stooges included Moe Howard (born Harry Horwitz, June 19, 1897 – May 4, 1975), Larry Fine (born Andrew Feinberg, October 22, 1902 – January 24, 1975), Curly Howard (born Jerome Horwitz, October 22, 1903 – January 18, 1952), Shemp Howard (born Samuel Horwitz, March 4, 1895 – November 22, 1955), Joe Besser (August 12, 1907 – March 1, 1988) and Joe “Curly-Joe” DeRita (born Joseph Wardell, July 12, 1909 – July 3, 1993).  Moe and his brother Shemp got their start as Ted Healy's Stooges, a vaudeville act that Larry joined three years later.  The act was successful enough that it led to a movie starring all of them called Soup to Nuts and not long after that the Stooges went off on their own.  Healy begged them to return which Moe and Larry did, but Shemp decided to focus on his solo career. Shemp was replace by the younger Howard brother Jerry, who would later be known as Curly and the core group of the Stooges was born.  

It wouldn't be long before The Three Stooges left Healy and MGM to start making their own shorts at Columbia, starting with Woman Haters, Punch Drunks, and the Oscar nominated Men in Black in 1934.  Their great run came to an impasse in 1946 when Curly had to bow out of the group after having a stroke.  Shemp returned to replace Curly and  made 77 Stooge shorts and a feature film, Gold Raiders before his death in 1955.  Joe Besser was hired by Columbia studio chief Harry Cohn to become the third Stooge since he was already under contract. Besser was a successful comedian in his own right, but he wasn't the best fit for the Stooges since his whiny persona was grating and his contract didn't allow for much punishment to be dished out to him which goes against all of the things the Stooges stand for.  In 1957, Columbia shut down the shorts department and the Stooges were out of work and Besser decided to leave the team to take care of his wife after her heart attack.

In 1958, their fortunes took a surprising turn when their shorts were put into heavy rotation on TV where they found a new level of popularity.  "Curly" Joe DeRita became the sixth Stooge and they went on to more success and five more feature films - Have Rocket, Will Travel (1959); The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (1962); The Three Stooges in Orbit (1962); The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze (1963); and The Outlaws is Coming (1965).  They also continued to try their hand at television shows off and on, but that all came to an end when Larry suffered a paralyzing stroke in 1970 and later died in 1975.  Ever the trooper, Moe tried to reform the Stooges once again but he died six months after Larry and that dream died with him.  Curly Joe DeRita kept a new lineup of Stooges going until he decided to retire in 1979.  Joe Besser died in 1988 and DeRita followed him in 1993, which marked the final passing of the last of the original Stooges.  Since then, there's been movies made about them and even an new theatrical movie with a new lineup from the Farrelly brothers, so interest in the Stooges has never waned which is a good thing since these box sets wouldn't have been released otherwise.

Here are all of the episodes from each of the eight volumes in this set:

The Three Stooges Collection, Vol. 1: 1934-1936
  1. Woman Haters
  2. Punch Drunks
  3. Men In Black
  4. Three Little Pigskins
  5. Horses' Collars
  6. Restless Knights
  7. Pop Goes The Easel
  8. Uncivil Warriors
  9. Pardon My Scotch
  10. Hoi Polloi
  11. Three Little Beers
  12. Ants In The Pantry
  13. Movie Maniacs
  14. Half-Shot Shooters
  15. Disorder In The Court
  16. A Pain In The Pullman
  17. False Alarms
  18. Whoops, I'm an Indian
  19. Slippery Silks 

The Three Stooges Collection, Vol 2: 1937-1939
  1. Back to the Woods
  2. Cash and Carry
  3. Dizzy Doctors
  4. Goofs and Saddles
  5. Healthy, Wealthy and Dumb
  6. Playing the Ponies
  7. The Sitter-Downers
  8. Tassels in the Air
  9. Three Dumb Clucks
  10. Violent is the Word For Curly
  11. Wee Wee Monsieur
  12. Grips, Grunts and Groans
  13. Termites of 1938
  14. A Ducking They Did Go
  15. Calling All Curs
  16. Flat Foot Stooges
  17. Mutts to You
  18. Oily to Bed, Oily to Rise
  19. Saved by the Belle
  20. Three Little Sew and Sews
  21. Three Missing Links
  22. Three Sappy People
  23. We Want Our Mummy
  24. Yes, We Have No Bonanza 

The Three Stooges Collection, Vol. 3: 1940-1942

  1. You Nazty Spy!
  2. Rockin' Thru the Rockies
  3. A Plumbing We Will Go
  4. Nutty But Nice
  5. How High is Up?
  6. From Nurse to Worse
  7. No Census, No Feeling
  8. Cookoo Cavaliers
  9. Boobs in Arms
  10. So Long Mr. Chumps
  11. Dutiful But Dumb
  12. All the World's a Stooge
  13. I'll Never Heil Again
  14. An Ache in Every Stake
  15. In the Sweet Pie and Pie
  16. Some More of Samoa
  17. Loco Boy Makes Good
  18. Cactus Makes Perfect
  19. What's the Matador?
  20. Matri-Phony
  21. Three Smart Saps
  22. Even as IOU
  23. Sock-a-Bye Baby 

The Three Stooges Collection, Vol. 4: 1943-1945

  1. They Stooge to Conga
  2. Dizzy Detectives
  3. Spook Louder
  4. Back From The Front 
  5. Three Little Twerps
  6. Higher Than A Kite 
  7. I Can Hardly Wait 
  8. Dizzy Pilots (wartime)
  9. Phony Express
  10. A Gem Of A Jam
  11. Crash Goes The Hash
  12. Busy Buddies
  13. The Yoke's on Me
  14. Idle Roomers
  15. Gents Without Cents
  16. No Dough Boys 
  17. Three Pests In A Mess 
  18. Booby Dupes 
  19. Idiots Deluxe 
  20. If a Body Meets a Body
  21. Micro-Phonies

The Three Stooges Collection, Vol. 5: 1946-1948

  1. Beer Barrel Polecats
  2. A Bird in the Head
  3. Uncivil Warbirds
  4. The Three Troubledoers
  5. Monkey Buisnessmen
  6. Three Loan Wolves
  7. G.I. Wanna Home
  8. Rhythm and Weep
  9. Three Little Pirates
  10. Half-Wits Holiday
  11. Fright Night
  12. Out West
  13. Hold That Lion
  14. Brideless Groom
  15. Sing a Song of Six Pants
  16. All Gummed Up
  17. Shivering Sherlocks
  18. Pardon My Clutch
  19. Squareheads of the Round Table
  20. Fiddlers Three
  21. Hot Scots
  22. Heavenly Daze
  23. I'm a Monkey's Uncle
  24. Mummy's Dummies
  25. Crime on Their Hands 

The Three Stooges Collection, Vol. 6: 1949-1951

  1. The Ghost Talks
  2. Who Done It?
  3. Hokus Pokus
  4. Fuelin' Around
  5. Malice in the Palace
  6. Vagabond Loafers
  7. Dunked in the Deep
  8. Punchy Cowpunchers
  9. Hugs and Mugs
  10. Do pey Ducks
  11. Love at First Bite
  12. Self-Made Maids
  13. Three Hams on Rye
  14. Studio Stoops
  15. Slaphappy Sleuths
  16. A Snitch in Time
  17. Three Arabian Nuts
  18. Baby Sitters Jitters
  19. Don't Throw That Knife
  20. Scrambled Brains
  21. Merry Mavericks
  22. The Tooth Will Out
  23. Hula La La
  24. Pest Man Wins 

The Three Stooges Collection, Vol. 7: 1952-1954
  1. A Missed Fortune
  2. Listen, Judge
  3. Corny Casanovas
  4. He Cooked His Goose
  5. Gents in a Jam
  6. Three Dark Horses
  7. Cuckoo on a Choo Choo
  8. Up in Daisy's Penthouse
  9. Boo ty and the Beast
  10. Loose Loot
  11. Tricky Dic ks
  12. Spo oks
  13. Pardon My Backfire
  14. Rip, Sew and Stitch
  15. Bubble Trouble
  16. Goof on the Roof
  17. Income Tax Sappy
  18. Musty Musketeers
  19. Pals and Gals
  20. Knutzy Knights
  21. Shot in the Frontier
  22. Scotched in Scotland 

The Three Stooges Collection, Vol. 8: 1955-1959

  1. Fling in the Ring
  2. Of Cash and Hash
  3. Gypped in the Penthouse
  4. Bedlam in Paradise
  5. Stone Age Romeos
  6. Wham Bam Slam
  7. Hot Ice
  8. Blunder Boys
  9. Husbands Beware
  10. Creeps
  11. Flagpole Jitters
  12. For Crimin ' Out Loud
  13. Rumpus in the Harem
  14. Hot Stuff
  15. Scheming Schemers
  16. Commotion on the Ocean
  17. Hoofs and Goofs
  18. Muscle Up a Little Closer
  19. A Merry Mix Up
  20. Space Ship Sappy
  21. Guns a Poppin
  22. Horsing Around
  23. Rusty Romeos
  24. Outer Space Jitters
  25. Quiz Whizz
  26. Fifi Blows Her Top
  27. Pies and Guys
  28. Sweet and Hot
  29. Flying Saucer Daffy
  30. Oil's Well That Ends Well
  31. Triple Crossed
  32. Sappy Bullfighters 
Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
These shorts look amazing as they've been remastered from the original negatives.  Most of the opening titles are windowboxed but look very sharp, while the shorts themselves are shown full frame.  These shorts look pristine with a much sharper image than in previous releases and the contrast has also been vastly improved.  There's some grain present on some of the shorts, but overall these shorts look spotless.  It's absolutely amazing how good these shorts look considering that they were filmed in the 30s.  Fans of the Stooges are going to be ecstatic when they see these shorts especially after all of the crappy previous releases.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
The mono audio tracks for these shorts are surprisingly excellent and free of the usual audio defects that plague older properties like this such as audio hiss, dropouts, etc.  The dialogue is crystal clear as are the many sound effects of the boys slapping, hitting, and poking each other.  This is most likely the best we are every going to get these shorts and I'm ok with that.  There's only a English track with optional closed-captioning and no other options so international fans should be aware of that.  Not that you really need to understand the dialogue to enjoy the Stooges comedy. Their brand of physical comedy is funny no matter where you live as it knows no boundaries.

Extras (4 out of 5 stars)
This complete collection includes the eight volumes that have been previously released which includes all of the 190 Columbia shorts, two feature films, 3 cartoons that have Three Stooges cameos, and 28 shorts starring Shemp Howard, Joe Besser, Joe DeRita in some of their solo outings.  There's 11 hours of extra content included in this amazing set along with every remastered short that looks better than they ever have.  I wish that there were some commentaries on the sets or some historical featurettes like they had on the Buster Keaton sets, but these extras are pretty good anyway. 

Here's what's on the three bonus discs:

The Three Stooges - Rare Treasures from the Columbia Vault

Disc 1: Feature Films and Cartoons

  1. Feature Film: Rockin' In The Rockies (1945) (feature film with Curly)
  2. Feature Film: Have Rocket--Will Travel (1958) (feature film with Curly Joe) 
  3. Columbia Color Rhapsody cartoons:  The Bon Bon Parade (1935), The Merry Mutineers (1936), A Hollywood Detour (1942). 
Disc 2: Shemp Howard Solo Shorts: 
  1. Not Guilty Enough
  2. Home On The Range
  3. The Glove Slingers
  4. Money Squawks
  5. Boobs In The Woods
  6. Pleased To Mitt You
  7. Pick A Peck Of Plumbers
  8. Open Season For Saps
  9. On Again Off Again
  10. Hit With A Miss
  11. Mr Noisy
  12. Jiggers My Wife
  13. Society Mugs
  14. Bride And Gloom
Disc 3: Joe Besser and Joe DeRita Solo Shorts: 

Joe Besser Solo Shorts:
  1. Waiting In The Lurch
  2. Dizzy Yardbird
  3. Fraidy Cat
  4. Aim Fire Scoot
  5. Caught On The Bounce
  6. Spies And Guys
  7. The Fire Chaser
  8. Gi Dood It
  9. Hook A Crook
  10. Army Daze
Joe DeRita  Solo Shorts: 
  1. Slappily Married
  2. Good Egg Bad Egg
  3. Wedlock Deadlock
  4. Jitter Bughouse
Summary (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Three Stooges have been loved and celebrated for decades for a good reason - they're really funny and even with all of their cast changes, they still endured and made history.  These shorts are still hilarious and fun for the whole family (providing that they have a sense of humor).  My four year old son has just discovered the Stooges from this set and he can't get enough of them. Sony/Columbia has done an incredible job restoring these shorts and it's great to be able to watch them in chronological order to see their rise to greatness.  Considering that each individual set costs around $14 each, this set is a steal at $45 for all eight volumes plus the three bonus discs. While I wish this was released on Blu-ray, this DVD set marks the best and more respectful release of The Three Stooges to date and I highly recommend it!

Order your set today!

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