Judge Christopher Kulik is a stooge at heart.
Our reviews of The Three Stooges Collection: Volume One (1934-36) (published November 26th, 2007), The Three Stooges Collection: Volume Five (1946-48) (published March 17th, 2009), The Three Stooges Collection: Volume Four (1943-45) (published October 7th, 2008), The Three Stooges Collection: Volume Six (1949-51) (published June 26th, 2009), and The Three Stooges Collection: Volume Two (1937-39) (published July 2nd, 2008) are also available.
Any resemblance between the characters in these pictures and any persons, living or dead, is a miracle!
Curly: My father died dancing…on the end of a rope! Nyuk, nyuk!!!
Facts of the Case
Sony continues to release all the original Stooge shorts in order to the satisfaction of many fans. Volume Three contains 23 films released from 1940-1942 on two discs:
The Stooges joined Columbia in 1934; six years later, they're at their paramount. Since their comedy became an enjoyable antidote to the rising reality of war and Nazism, someone got the ingenious idea of turning our favorite bully Moe into Adolf Hitler. Released several months before Charles Chaplin's masterpiece The Great Dictator, "You Nazty Spy!" is credited as the very first time Hitler was played/parodied on the screen. Curly got to spoof Hermann Goering (as Field Marshal Herring) and Larry did a limping impersonation of Joseph Goebbels (as the Minister of Propaganda).
Both Moe and Larry considered "You Nazty Spy!" as their all-time favorite short. It's not surprising then that a follow-up (of sorts) would come along in 1941 as "I'll Never Heil Again." Even though Moe Hailstone and his two cohorts were eaten by lions at the end of the first film, their antics continue as they intend on taking over all lands outside of Moronica, including the island nation of Great Mitten. This short also contains one of Moe's best lines; after Curly rips off his mustache, Moe demands, "Give me back my personality." While both of these Nazi spoofs are worthy, the second one gets my vote as the superior one, largely because of the visual gags, which I won't dare reveal here.
Much of the rest of the shorts in this compilation feature one common element: the Stooges running from the law. Because of their vagrant hijinks, they usually would end up being chased by a police officer…and, more often than not, the cop was played by Bud Jamison, one of the regular co-stars. "A Plumbing We Will Go" is a perfect example, as they wind up in a house pretending to be plumbers in order to avoid prison; naturally, they know nothing about the profession. This is one of my absolute favorite shorts simply because it has one of the greatest visual jokes ever conceived and executed; if anything, it will make you think twice about going to see Niagara Falls.
Like Volume Two, this set has very few missteps. "How High is Up?" is another fondly remembered short, with Larry cooking rivets and wieners on a BBQ grill. "No Census, No Feeling" has an amazing three-act structure which pays off in spades, and "Boobs in Arms" was the first army comedy to be made in Hollywood after WW2 had started. This short has the justly famous basic training sequence, in which Moe, Larry, and Curly play "hippity hop at the barber shop," much to the dismay of their drill sergeant, who really wants to kill them. In a sad bit of irony, Richard Fiske (who plays the D.I.) was drafted soon after and was killed in action in 1944.
Also noted as a Stooge favorite is "All the World's a Stooge," in which the boys pretend to be refugees (orphaned kids). Richard Fiske (who did 12 shorts with the boys), appears here again as a pissed-off dentist, and Curly's "mammy" intro is a riot. "An Ache in Every Stake" has a memorable cooking scene, and "In The Sweet Pie and Pie" has one of the longest-running pie fights ever devoted to a Stooge short. Just one question: what was Larry doing in the suit of armor?
Sony's treatment of these priceless shorts is triumphant…for the most part. After delivering superb full frame transfers for Volumes 1 & 2, there are several films here which have their own isolated problems. "You Nazty Spy!" is the worst offender, with the black-and-white picture tinting itself to green once in awhile; some of the stock footage of later shorts is crudely inserted, though that's not entirely Sony's fault. I'm getting worried that the studio maybe rushing themselves on later collections, as the next one is due out in early October! The mono tracks are splendid again, retaining the "three blind mice" overtures and occasional musical numbers marvelously. No extras, once again.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Be prepared for footage recycled from older shorts. Thankfully, there are only two shorts here which are found guilty of this: "From Nurse to Worse" features the exact same hospital escape from "Dizzy Doctors," and "In the Sweet Pie and Pie" shamefully reuses the dance scene from "Hoi Polloi" with Geneva Mitchell (who by now was retired due to ill health). The Curly era would largely avoid this practice until he himself had his first stroke several years later, in which his energy had obviously been minimized.
The missteps on this set include "Cookoo Cavaliers," "Dutiful but Dumb," "Matri-Phony" and "Even as IOU." Of the two "south-of-the-border" comedies, "What's the Matador?" is way better than "Cookoo," which has few laughs and even fewer physical gags. Still, none are as bad as "Dutiful but Dumb" which reminded me of the equally painful (and strikingly similar) short "Saved by the Belle" (from Volume 2). "Matri-Phony" has its moments; still, like most of the period pieces, this one just feels too forced and protracted.
While I'm getting a little nervous over Sony's handling of the shorts—considering the look of "You Nazty Spy!"—they are still delivering the goods. Aside from "Spy," all of the shorts look as if they were fully restored; to fans, that's all that really matters.
Sony and the Stooges are found not guilty. Soitenly!
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Scales of Justice
• IMDb: "You Nazty Spy!"
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