The golden age of the Three Stooges continues with this exceptional third
release in Sony’s chronologically ordered collection. These 23 shorts, spanning from 1940-1942, are all
digitally remastered for the highest quality in sight and sound, and
this collection is even more special than its predecessors, as it features an historical
first: Moe Howard playing Hitler, in
1940’s You Nazty Spy! The film marked Howard as the first American to portray the German dictator, and it was for this reason, among others, that the short remained one of his personal favorites from the entire Stooges canon.
I’ve written before about the sort of direct-line connection between base-level slapstick and the the things that first tickle our funny bones,
and few acts embody that synergistic relationship with more commitment,
fervor and longevity than the Three Stooges. To that end, The Three Stooges Collection: Volume Three gathers more slap-happy
hijinks from the lovable Larry, Curly and Moe, in the form of 23 chronologically
arranged, digitally re-mastered short films. This
latest volume follows the success of the first two sets of Stooges film shorts, released over the last 11 months by Sony, and comes in advance of more like-minded releases.
The debut releases covered 1934-36 and 1937-39, respectively, and this set picks up in 1940, with the aforementioned Spy! and Rocking Thru the Rockies kicking things off. Moe is also cast as a vicious dictator in the 1941 “sequel” I’ll Never Heil Again, powered by crackerjack visual gags. A Plumbing We Will Go is touted as being Curly’s favorite, and it’s easy to understand the “wow” factor of something like the brilliant sight gag of a burst of water popping forth from a new
television set just as it’s broadcasting a live report from Niagara
Falls when filtered through the rubric of the still-nascent medium.
A couple of the shorts here — Cuckoo Cavaliers, Dutiful But Dumb — are, comparatively speaking, big-time misfires, dashed-off japes that seem like they were conceived in one morning and shot later the same afternoon, but most are surprisingly smart and satisfying marriages of concept and set piece tomfoolery. While some of the more historically-flavored entries stumble a bit overall (speaking generally, not with respect to only this set), the wildly disparate settings and the license the Stooges take with them often help breathe invigorating life into their routines. Examples of these include the slapstick-perfect “All the World’s a Stooge,” with its well-timed visual gags; “Cactus Makes Perfect,” a desert-set prospecting spoof; and “Boobs in Arms,” in which the Stooges join the Army and run into a fellow they’ve crossed. With merciless wit, a strong sense of satire and of course impeccable timing, the Three Stooges made folks of different generations laugh together and, as this set shows, gave the world
a brave new perspective on the absurdity of evil and the world powers
of the time.
As with the other releases, this third volume comes presented on two discs in slimline cases that are in turn stored in a cardboard slipcover; the unifying color scheme this time is green. The shorts themselves are shot in black-and-white and presented in 1.33:1 full screen, with Dolby digital 1.0 mono audio track. Apart from a small handful of unrelated preview trailers for other Sony releases, there is unfortunately no supplemental material, a fact established by the first two releases in the series.
This cuts two ways; the six-hour-plus running time of the celebrated material — certainly anyone’s chief measuring stick for value — makes for plenty of entertainment, and
its straightforward cataloging is invaluable. Still, and to register the same complaint again, just a brief
talking-head retrospective or two would help contextually root the
material for a lot of younger viewers for whom the term “classic
comedy” perhaps only means Eddie Murphy, circa Raw. To purchase the set via Amazon, click here. A- (Movies) B- (Disc)