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The Three Stooges: Hapless Half-Wits
(February 28/07)

I think the world is generally divided into two groups of people: those who like the Three Stooges, and those who do not. There’s really not much of a middle ground to be found here; either you go in for their silly, over-the-top slapstick brand of humor, or you find it dreadful. Falling into the latter category, I quite enjoyed this DVD despite its prominent shortcomings (the lack of content probably being the biggest issue, as four shorts doesn’t really give you all that much bang for your buck).

The first film is Beer Barrel Polecats (1945), which is also the weakest of the bunch. Presumably set during the prohibition (though it’s never made clear), this short finds the boys thrown in jail after a disastrous attempt at making homemade beer. This short is actually a combination of new footage and clips from some earlier films shot in 1941. This explains some of the odder elements in the short, like why the Stooges would be sentenced to death for smuggling beer into jail, which seems a bit strange even in the heightened reality of a Three Stooges film. The whole thing feels a bit disjointed, but it’s still entertaining and does feature some fairly funny gags.

Following up the worst of the bunch is arguably the best: I’ll Never Heil Again (1941), which features Moe as a Hitler-esque dictator of the fictional Moronica, and Larry and Curly as his two closest aides. This is a follow-up to You Nazty Spy (not included on this disc), which was actually the first American film to parody Hitler. The boys are in peak form here; the jokes are fast and furious and the film is very funny throughout (with the sole exception being a joke map of Europe which feels like it was included to pad out the run-time – or I guess they wanted to make sure that everyone in the audience had a chance to read every single gag-country name, because it’s shown on screen without any dialogue or sound for almost a full minute).

Next up is Dopey Dicks (1949), a post-Curly film featuring Larry, Moe and Shemp. In it, the boys fancy themselves as private detectives, and wind up in the type of old mansion found only in wacky comedies such as this one, complete with a secret room behind a rotating wall, and a central hallway that seems to connect all the rooms (ideal for zany chases). The fourth and final film also features Shemp (a “Shemp Classic,” according to the DVD’s cover): Brideless Groom (1947), in which Shemp receives a large inheritance, but only if he can find a girl to marry him by 6:00 that night. Wackiness, of course, ensues. Both of these Shemp films are quite funny, and though Curly’s absence is felt, Shemp makes for a pretty good substitute (and in fact Shemp, a real-life brother of Moe and Curly, was an original member of the Stooges before leaving in 1932).

Aside from the shortcomings I alluded to in the first paragraph, this is a pretty decent DVD. Even with the presence of Beer Barrel Polecats – not exactly a classic – the shorts on this disc are all entertaining and funny, and nicely restored. But there’s only four of them, and absolutely no special features. With a suggested retail of $24.95, that makes this disc a bit pricey considering what you get. The presence of colorized versions of all the shorts makes it all the more offensive (they could have stuck four more shorts on here if it weren’t for them). But since a better release of the Three Stooges’ films doesn’t seem to be forthcoming, Stooges fans will have to settle for this DVD.

-Michael Nusair

About the DVD: Sony presents these films with really nice-looking, well-restored black and white transfers. They are, lamentably, also presented with those (to quote Orson Welles) “damn crayons” of colorization, which is unfortunate – but at least the black and white versions are here. There are no special features on this disc.
© David Nusair