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Case Number 10852: Small Claims Court

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The Three Stooges: Hapless Half-Wits

Sony // 1941 // 69 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // February 16th, 2007

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All Rise...

Judge Dennis Prince is looking to head-slap the chiselers responsible for this disc.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of The Three Stooges Collection (published March 20th, 2002), The Three Stooges: Cops And Robbers (published September 26th, 2002), The Three Stooges: G.I. Stooge (published November 14th, 2002), The Three Stooges In Orbit (published December 17th, 2003), The Three Stooges: Stooges On The Run (published October 10th, 2006), and The Three Stooges: Stop! Look! And Laugh! (published April 25th, 2003) are also available.

The Charge

Wise guys, eh?

The Case

The Three Stooges need little introduction and, because of that, their theatrical short subjects and feature-length films are high on Stoogeheads' DVD want lists. Columbia Pictures has been actively issuing shiny discs of the troupe's material for the past five or so years, but with 190 shorts having been made, there's plenty of work to do and no disc can arrive as a wasted effort, in part or in total.

The problem with this particular release, Hapless Half-Wits, is that it consists of a scant four shorts, two of which had been released previously. To that end, this new release cannot be of much joy to fans, who've withstood the unsteady antics of Columbia and their strange habits of head-bonking one of their most popular catalog subjects.

You chowderheads!

But if this is just those nonsensical nitwits and their lowest-brow humor on display, why do folks get so uptight when a disc like this comes along? Plainly speaking, the impact and importance of the Stooges cannot be so simply waved off. They are, to a man, the perpetual best friends, the brash and base head-butting buddies, and are elemental of the primordial goo that caused prehistoric man to first stand erect, raise his hand, and jab a two-finger eye poke at Ogg standing across from him. Although women don't understand their fascination (very few do, anyway) to men, the Stooges collectively comprise the essence of a third testicle (three stooges, indeed), and, therefore, they are quintessential to the male life experience. So when Columbia continues in its uncalculated sputters and spurts of Stooge material on DVD, it's like a kick in the basket to men worldwide.

Why I oughta…

Specifically, here's what's on this disc and some details about why it's about as welcome as a saw blade dragged over a stubbled cranium:

• Dopey Dicks (1949)
Moe, Larry, and Sheep are mistaken for private detectives by a beautiful blonde (Christine McIntyre) who is in desperate need of their help and protection. But right under the boys' noses, the girl is kidnapped and whisked away to a remote eerie mansion. Hot on the trail, the three become potential brain donors to help the evil Professor (Philip Van Zandt) begin fabricating an army of subservient robots. Hi-jinks ensue as the three try to rescue the girl without relinquishing their own numb noggins.

This is a decent short that utilizes the well-tread story thread of the Stooges cowering in the clutches of an evil scientist. The setups work well and the humor is well delivered. The only trouble is this particular short had been previously included in 2001's Merry Mavericks DVD and, therefore, is a no gain for Stoogeheads.

• Beer Barrel Polecats (1945)
Moe, Larry, and Curly are desperate for beer. Since it's apparent their 'burb is still under the restrictions of the "dry law," they decide to brew their own suds. Suds become their problem as the three goofs overdo the yeast component of their concoction and turn their kitchen into an explosive mess of foam and bottles. Later, Curly unwittingly attempts to sell some beer to an undercover cop, and the three wind up in prison. There, they seek out another inmate who has a plan for all of them to escape. That plan, of course, is thwarted amid the usual slip-and-slap fest.

This is a remarkably disjointed and illogical adventure, not by original intent but, rather, because this was produced at the time Curly had fallen ill. While the opening sequences of the beer-making mayhem are new, the remainder of the exploits had been egregiously cobbled from So Long, Mr. Chumps and In the Sweet Pie and Pie. You'll be challenged to follow the flow of this one since you're never sure why they guys are sentenced to death and are seeking out the unexplained prisoner 41144.

• Brideless Groom (1947)
Shemp has just learned that he's to be heir of $500,000 dollars from his recently deceased cousin, but he has to get married within 48 hours of the reading of the will to collect the cash. Moe and Larry, eager to share in the loot, set about to help the slick-haired hairbrain find a bride and get thee wed, but quick.

This is a perennial favorite among fans yet, because it's one of the public domain titles, it has been released to death already. Again, a no gain for enthusiasts.

• I'll Never Heil Again (1941)
A follow up to You Natzy Spy, the daft dimwits have seized control of the country of Moronica. Moe is the narcissistic narrow-mustachioed Dictator with visions of world domination playing through his feeble mind. Curly is the foolish Field Marshall and Larry is the dopey Minister of Propaganda. Together, the three lock heads—that is, they knock heads—in order to thwart a rumored coup by the surreptitious yet simple-minded Axis Partners.

Finally, some fresh meat. This is the first-ever appearance of this Nazi-based caper on DVD and its most welcome. Seemingly, then, the whole point of this disc was for Columbia to release this particular short and pad it with fluff in order to con fans out of some dough. Why those swindlers—I'll murderize 'em.

So, you can see that hapless half-wits are truly at work in the program selection department at old Columbia Studios. This just doesn't make for a compelling collection, and hapless fans who simply must have I'll Never Heil Again in their libraries will sigh heavily as they fork out the skins to buy this overpriced offering. Oh, but what about that Chroma Choice feature, the one that lets you toggle between viewing the shorts in their original black-and-white or now in glorious color? News flash: there's nothing glorious about the Stooges in color; they are of the black-and-white era and belong as such. The colorization process here, while decent, absolutely destroys the mood and era of the Stooges' exploits. For example, the spooky mansion setting where the evil Professor stalks Moe, Larry, and Shemp is absolutely undone by the addition of color, as if someone turned the lights on in the middle of a séance. It's a real deal-breaker and hardly a "feature" to be boasted.

As presented in their original black-and-white format, the detail levels are very much improved over other such releases, and the source prints are reasonably free of distracting elements. Delivered in the standard 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio, this is how the Stooges are to be properly enjoyed. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono and it's quite robust, if not a bit stretched at the high end. Overall, it's a clean presentation.

Despite Columbia's efforts to count each short twice (black-and-white and colorized) to stretch this to a tantalizing 137-minute run time, the fact is you'll only get about 69 minutes of unique material.

Without a doubt, Columbia is guilty of another kick below the belt to Stoogeheads everywhere. The Stooges themselves are not guilty. (I'm a victim of soicumstance!

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 55

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
• English
Running Time: 69 Minutes
Release Year: 1941
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Classic
• Comedy
• Short Films

Distinguishing Marks

• None


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