STUDIO: Sony Pictures
MSRP: $24.96
RATED: Unrated
RUNNING TIME: 356 minutes
  •  3D Glasses

The Pitch

Three Stooges in 3D! Wait? Who’s that guy? Shemp? Who’s Shemp? Where’s Curly?

The Humans

Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Shemp Howard, Jules White (Director)

The Nutshell

Sony presents the shorts released by Columbia between 1952-1954, including the High Noon spoof Shot in the Frontier and the Stooges’ first 3D shorts Spooks and Pardon my Backfire.

The Lowdown

Yankees vs. Red Sox. PC vs. Mac. VHS vs. Betamax. Kramer vs. Kramer. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. These are legendary conflicts and rivalries throughout the history of man and modern media. Joining these has been a diverging opinion that is quite telling of one’s humor: The Three Stooges vs. The Marx Brothers. There are Yankee fans and Red Sox fans, (I’ve been searching everywhere for Orioles fans . . . no luck . . .) Beatles men and Elvis men, and those who prefer The Stooges and those who prefer the Marx Brothers.

Stuart Cornfeld presents David Cronenberg’s Batman.

As a child I was a Stooge-aholic: I ate it up religiously. As I grew older I experienced a shift in my personal aesthetic and I began to prefer the anarchic humor of the Marx brothers. The strict physical brutality of the Stooges’ humor was still amusing, but I found myself preferring the combination of wit, wackiness and physical humor of the Brothers Marx. It’s been quite a while since I’ve revisited this thing I adored so much in childhood. I was pleased to find that even without the sheen of personal nostalgia the Stooges comedy holds up as well as it always did, and also pleased to discover a bit more wit and verbal humor within the short films.

A brief bit of Stooge history bringing us up to 1952: Moe and Larry were the consistent Stooges. All of the other Stooges kept on having strokes and heart attacks throughout their careers, but Moe and Larry were effing Zen. Shemp Howard (Moe’s brother) was actually the first third Stooge, but left shortly after the Stooges began appearing in films with their then straight-man Ted Healey. He was then replaced by Moe and Shemp’s little brother: everybody’s favorite Stooge Curly. After Curly’s debilitating stroke, Shemp returned to the group. From 1946-1952 the Stooges worked in Columbia’s short subjects division with producer Hugh McCollum and director Jules White. In 1952 the shorts division at Columbia was heavily downsized leaving only Jules White to produce and direct the shorts with the Stooges.

“Ha ha ha! Oh my! That Peter North is a riot!”

This brings us to where The Three Stooges Collection Volume 7: 1952-1954 begins. Jules White was always one of the most prolific directors for the Stooges. His understanding of the Stooges’ routines, bits and their work ethic allowed him to create a production schedule that is interesting to see within this collection. White repeatedly recycled storylines and footage of shorts in order to produce more films at less cost. This process was nothing new to the Stooges, but the downsizing of the shorts division took this process up to eleven. It also makes for a very repetitive set of films.

The Three Stooges have always been prone to repetition. One film to another contains the same bits and routines, just rearranged and changed ever so slightly. These routines were recycled from their old vaudeville routines, and the shorts profited from the same type of film distribution as they had with vaudeville appearances: Brief showings in a theater before disappearing and being replaced by the next act. The repetition would be virtually unnoticeable, and halfway expected. Placed against each other back-to-back simply highlights the repetitive nature of their routines. What is interesting is seeing how each new film will build to the same routines. Putting the pieces together with absurd macguffins becomes more and more entertaining.

No words can do this justice.

The shorts are entertaining on their own, some better than others. Each Stooge has impeccable comedic timing, as well as their cast of supporting players. It’s impressive to see their precision and timing stay so crisp after so many years performing the same routines. The writers do well with films such as He Cooked His Goose where they eschew the traditional Stooge formula (three friends/workers/dogsbodies mucking up their business/chores) and instead create three rivals with Larry as a crooked philanderer. The two 3D shorts Spooks and Pardon my Backfire feature poor 3D and awful 3D gags, but it’s entertaining enough nonetheless, if only for how absurd it is. Any comedic short where flamethrowers, pitchforks and gorillas are thrust toward the audience can’t be that bad now can it?

Speaking of Spooks, it’s interesting to watch this short where the Stooges find themselves in a creepy house. It feels like a predecessor to Evil Dead II, and you see the Stooges’ influence on Sam Raimi tenfold. There is even a moment where a mounted head on the wall comes alive and begins laughing at and taunting Shemp.

Comedy in a nutshell.

The physical comedy here is brutal and violent, and if you found it funny, you’ll find it funny now. What surprised me is the level of wordplay and wit that often sneaks into the scripts. While it’s often just Catskill level puns or jokes, it revealed an entire level of comedy within the Stooges’ shorts that I completely missed as a child. “When you think it weakens the nation,” is a classic put-down that could be delivered by Moe Howard, Groucho Marx or John Stewart, and things like this made me pleased to find that the Stooges’ aren’t just barbaric physical performers. Also, some mention must be made of the lengths to which the performers were willing to go. The dedication these comedians had is astounding. To see Moe, well in his fifties, sitting there allowing himself to be lit on fire . . . it’s impressive:

This really is a DVD collection for collectors. If you are a major Stooge fan or collector or a completist this could be a necessary purchase. Other than that I can’t understand why you’d need this. Do you want it? If you like their humor it couldn’t hurt. And if you’re familiar with the Stooges as Larry, Moe and Curly, and unfamiliar with Shemp, this could be a great purchase to familiarize yourself with a very talented comedic actor.

Moe was into some weird stuff, man.

The Package

The artwork is serviceable and ties it together with the rest of the Stooge Collection sets. There are no special features besides the two pairs of 3D glasses that come with the set. I don’t know why it comes with two pairs because – let’s be honest – if you’re buying this set for 3D Stooge antics only you’ve got no reason to have an extra pair. You’re alone. The video transfer is quite nice. The shorts look great, and apparently this is the first time several of these shorts have been presented in their original widescreen format. Just another reason why this is a set for a collector.

7.0 out of 10

Discuss how (Larry) fine this woman is on our message board!

Ho. Lee. Crap. Mad Men is accurate.