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: Hapless Half-Wits (published February 16th, 2007), The Three Stooges In Orbit (published December 17th, 2003), and The Three Stooges: Stooges On The Run (published October 10th, 2006) are also available.
Reliving the greatest moments of the 3 Stooges.
In seven days, some believe that God created the Heavens and the Earth. On the eighth day He (for only a guy would create the Three Stooges) created three knuckleheads, and they were Stooges. And the Lord did grin and He laughed His divine ass off at their antics. Or so I would think.
Since our family church was a hefty drive away, we didn't necessarily attend every week. On those Sunday mornings we didn't make the northerly trek, we were treated to the programming coming out of a Boston cable station, which would devoutly show two hours of The Three Stooges shorts and then (typically) an Abbott & Costello feature. When you mix this with their weekday cartoon lineup and The Creature Double Feature every Saturday afternoon, there was nothing else needed for a healthy childhood.
For those of you not in the know, The Three Stooges are the longest running comedy team. Ever. Their stylized parody of the life of the everyman, their flaunting of authority, and their thumbing their noses at the uppercrust of society made for absolutely perfect comedy. Well, that and the ability for Moe to bonk Curly over the head with a tire iron like it was going out of style. When you're eight (or eight at heart), this is a perfect blend of entertainment. Yep, count me as a Knucklehead.
By the time 1960 rolled around The Three Stooges (Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Curly Howard) had pretty well finished their oeuvre of comedy shorts. If you want to be technical about it, Curly had passed away eight years previous and been replaced by Shemp Howard, who passed away soon afterwards. The studio, wanting to milk every imaginable dollar out of this massive catalog of shorts, was running The Three Stooges shorts packaged into "The Winchell/Mahoney Show," which featured a guy (Paul Winchell) who put his hands up a wooden boy's ass. (Mahoney was dummy, though apparently smarter than Winchell.) It made sense then to create a "greatest hits" clip movie and bookend it with various Winchell/Mahoney skits that, in theory, were entertaining.
To be honest, I've never really liked ventriloquists. Sure, there's a talent to "throwing" your voice, but the dummies always freaked me out with those dead, dead eyes. And I could never bring myself to trust an entertainment form predicated by lies (the dummy ain't actually talking) paired with sticking a hand up anything's ass. Needless to say, I was rather less than amused by the adventures of Paul Winchell, Jerry Mahoney, and Knucklehead Smiff (another dummy). In fact, I was genuinely frightened by the scenes in which the dummies would apparently move across the room on their own and Paul Winchell would react like it was just another day at the office. Frankly, if a wooden boy moves across the room on its own, I'm not going to nonchalantly scold it for doing so, I'm going to fetch an axe, a Bible, and some holy water and do away with the hellspawned beast by pitching it, kicking and screaming, into a roaring bonfire. I guess what I'm saying is, these so-called skits were pretty lame, even when compared with the generally poor quality of puppet-oriented entertainment.
If that wasn't enough for this movie, someone thought it would be a good idea for the Marquis Chimps (a troupe of performing monkeys that frequented The Ed Sullivan Show) to perform a rendition of "Cinderella." Please keep in mind that I've always lived life by one simple truth, which is:
Everything's funnier with monkeys.
Sadly, this great, immutable law of Life, the Universe, and Everything has now been shattered.
Chances are though you aren't paying your hard-earned dollars for monkeys wearing dresses and possessed wooden boys, and I'm happy to report that there's plenty of Stoogish goodness packed into Stop! Look! And Laugh!. Unfortunately, there are no complete shorts, and what is presented has been horribly edited down. It's kind of like removing the eyes and nose of the Mona Lisa and leaving the rest of the painting intact. The pieces of shorts shown in this film are:
• A Plumbing We Will Go
It's an impressive list and each of these shorts are some of the very funniest of our favorite three diminutive dimwits. It's simply criminal that these shorts were cut up in the way they were for this presentation. And for those of you who didn't appreciate the antics of Shemp Howard (for the record, I liked Shemp), he's not seen in any of these clips.
As a bonus feature, Columbia TriStar has included a full-length short from The Three Stooges, and it's one of their best. "A Bird In the Head" is here in its entirety, and it reinforces that things really are funnier with monkeys (or, at least with guys dressed in go-rilla suits). The plot centers around The Stooges taking a job at wallpapering a mansion, but what they don't know is that the mansion has a secret laboratory where a mad (aren't they all?) scientist wants to place a human brain into a gorilla. A noble effort, but there's still no cure for the common cold. Unfortunately for Curly, his head is the same size as the gorilla's and hilarity ensues.
As one might imagine, the footage is rather old so there are problems in the video presentation. Columbia has done an okay job in remastering everything and this is probably as good as a movie featuring The Three Stooges is going to look. The audio is a remastered 2.0 channel stereo presentation that really doesn't feel like a stereo presentation.
I'm not necessarily sure I can recommend this DVD simply because most of the shorts are butchered. On the other hand, I'm not entirely certain that "A Bird in the Head" is available elsewhere, so Knucklehead completists are going to want this title. Nyuk! Nyuk! Nyuk!
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Scales of Justice
• "A Bird in the Head" Three Stooges Short Film
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