Slapstick comedy has largely gone out of style in entertainment, and while it used to at least have cartoons to keep it alive, in recent years even that vein has dried up. Gone are the days when a good ol’ fashioned, well-timed frying pan to the face was the height of comedy and in that age The Three Stooges were kings. Their act spanned multiple decades and took on many forms as the years went on, as circumstances saw the third stooge switching between various comedians. Whether you’re a fan of the Shemp, Curly, or Curly Joe years, The Ultimate Collection DVD set has you covered, as it includes all of Columbia’s shorts and feature films, and even some of the more obscure properties that saw their names attached. Even if this set does have the Stooges in their prime, the sad truth is that the vaudevillian slapstick styling of the Stooges won’t be winning new fans of modern audiences, though its writing can still be quite clever and will prove the answer to the prayers of anyone who’s ever wanted all the shorts in one place.
Even though Shemp was one of the original three, I was always a fan of the Larry, Moe, and Curly arrangement, mostly because Shemp was too similar to Moe for the group to explore the full spectrum of its comedy routine. For the most part, that’s an easy perspective to hold considering The Ultimate Collection is made up mostly of that main trio with Shemp only kicking in from about 1948 onwards. Under the expert comedic guidance of Del Lord, Jack White, and Charley Chase, the Stooges starred in dozens of short films, and though it’s scattered across their first decade of Columbia work, there are some brilliant bits that stand the test of time. Considering the shorts here span about 25 years, you get to watch as the Stooges age in the best and worst years of their careers, and it makes you appreciate just how much they gave of their lives in the name of comedy.
The shorts may not be pristine to the point of resembling an HD restoration, but it’s remarkable how well these shorts have survived and they look rather good here all the same. Columbia has made this set from great prints, and that makes this Ultimate Collection all the more worthwhile.
And now here’s the full listing of short films from 1934 to 1959.
The 1934-1936 set:
Woman Haters, Punch Drunks, Men in Black, Three Little Pigskins, Horses’ Collars, Restless Knights, Pop Goes the Easel, Uncivil Warriors, Pardon My Scotch, Hoi Polloi, Three Little Beers, Ants in the Pantry, Movie Maniacs, Half-Shot Shooters, Disorder in the Court, A Pain in the Pullman, False Alarms, Whoops I’m an Indian, and Slippery Silks.
The 1937-1939 set:
Grips Grunts and Groans, Dizzy Doctors, Three Dumb Clucks, Back to the Woods, Goofs and Saddles, Cash and Carry, Playing the Ponies, The Sitter-Downers, Termites of 1938, Wee Wee Monsieur, Tassels in the Air, Healthy Wealthy and Dumb, Violent is the Word for Curly, Three Missing Links, Mutts to You, Flat Foot Stooges, Three Little Sew and Sews, We Want Our Mummy, A Ducking They Did Go, Yes We Have No Bonanza, Saved by the Belle, Calling All Curs, Oily to Bed Oily to Rise, and Three Sappy People.
The 1940-1942 set:
You Nazty Spy!, Rockin’ Thru the Rockies, A Plumbing We Will Go, Nutty But Nice, How High Is Up?, From Nurse to Worse, No Census No Feeling, Cookoo Cavaliers, Boobs in Arms, So Long Mr. Chumps, Dutiful But Dumb, All the World’s a Stooge, I’ll Never Heil Again, An Ache in Every Stake, In the Sweet Pie and Pie, Some More of Samoa, Loco Boy Makes Good, Cactus Makes Perfect, What’s the Matador?, Matri-Phony, Three Smart Saps, Even as I.O.U., and Sock-A-Bye Baby.
The 1943-1945 set:
They Stooge to Conga, Dizzy Detectives, Spook Louder, Back from the Front, Three Little Twirps, Higher Than a Kite, I Can Hardly Wait, Dizzy Pilots, Phony Express, A Gem of a Jam, Crash Goes the Hash, Busy Buddies, The Yoke’s On Me, Idle Roomers, Gents Without Cents, No Dough Boys, Three Pests in a Mess, Booby Dupes, Idiots Deluxe, If a Body Meets a Body, and Micro-Phonies.
The 1946-1948 set:
Beer Barrel Polecats, A Bird in the Head, Uncivil Warbirds, Three Troubledoers, Monkey Businessmen, Three Loan Wolves, G.I. Wanna Home, Rhythm and Weep, Three Little Pirates, Half-Wits Holiday, Fright Night, Out West, Hold That Lion, Brideless Groom, Sing a Song of Six Pants, All Gummed Up, Shivering Sherlocks, Pardon My Clutch, Squareheads of the Round Table, Fiddlers Three, The Hot Scots, Heavenly Daze, I’m a Monkey’s Uncle, Mummy’s Dummies, and Crime on Their Hands.
The 1949-1951 set:
The Ghost Talks, Who Done it?, Hokus Pokus, Fuelin’ Around, Malice at the Palace, Vagabond Loafers, Dunked in the Deep, Punchy Cowpunchers, Hugs and Mugs, Dopey Dicks, Love at First Bite, Self Made Maids, Three Hams on Rye, Studio Stoops, Slaphappy Sleuths, A Snitch in Time, Three Arabian Nuts, Baby Sitters Jitters, Don’t Throw That Knife, Scrambled Brains, Merry Mavericks, The Tooth Will Out, Hula-la-la, and Pest Man Wins.
The 1952-1954 set:
A Missed Fortune, Listen Judge, Corny Casanovas, He Cooked His Goose, Gents in a Jam, Three Dark Horses, Cuckoo on a Choo Choo, Up in Daisy’s Penthouse, Booty and the Beast, Loose Loot, Tricky Dicks, Spooks!, Pardon My Backfire, Rip Sew and Stitch, Bubble Trouble, Goof on the Roof, Income Tax Sappy, Musty Musketeers, Pals and Gals, Knutzy Knights, Shot in the Frontier, and Scotched in Scotland.
The 1955-1959 set:
Fling in the Ring, Of Cash and Hash, Gypped in the Penthouse, Bedlam in Paradise, Stone Age Romeos, Wham Bam Slam, Hot Ice, Blunder Boys, Husbands Beware, Creeps, Flagpole Jitters, For Crimin’ Out Loud, Rumpus in the Harem, Hot Stuff, Scheming Schemers, Commotion in the Ocean, Hoofs and Goofs, Muscle Up a Little Closer, A Merry Mix-Up, Space Ship Sappy, Guns A Poppin, Horsing Around, Rusty Romeos, Outer Space Jitters, Quiz Whizz, Fifi Blows Her Top, Pies and Guys, Sweet and Hot, Flying Saucer Daffy, Oil’s Well That Ends Well, Triple Crossed, and Sappy Bullfighters.
DVD Bonus Features
For all intents and purposes the “extras” are spread across three discs. On the first disc you have two full-length Columbia films (1945’s Rockin’ in the Rockies and 1959’s Have Rocket, Will Travel) and three cartoons (1935’s “Bon Bon Parade”, 1936’s “Merry Mutineers”, and 1942’s “A Hollywood Detour”).
On the second disc you have additional shorts which, for whatever reason, weren’t included in the main box sets but are separated according to whether they feature Shemp or have him starring in the main cast. In the “featuring Shemp” group you have Home on the Range (1938), Glove Slingers (1939), Money Squawks (1939), Boobs in the Woods (1940), and Pleased to Mitt You (1940); and in the “starring Shemp” group you have Pick a Peck of Plumbers (1944), Open Season for Saps (1944), Off Again, On Again (1945), Where the Pest Begins (1945), A Hit With a Miss (1945), Mr. Noisy (1946), Jiggers, My Wife (1946), Society Mugs (1946), Bride and Gloom (1947).
The third disc has comedy shorts when Joe Besser stepped in before giving way to Joe DeRita: Waiting in the Lurch (1949), Dizzy Yardbird (1950), Fraidy Cat (1951), Aim, Fire, Scoot (1952), Caught on the Bounce (1952), Spies and Guys (1953), The Fire Chaser (1954), G.I. Dood It (1955), Hook a Crook (1955), Army Daze (1956). Finally, the shorts where DeRita stepped in as Curly Joe round out the extras: Slappily Married (1946), The Good Bad Egg (1947), Wedlock Deadlock (1947), and Jitter Bughouse (1948).
Overall the set comes out to about 65 hours of Three Stooges entertainment. If you’re a fan, this set is incredible. If not, it’s probably too late if you’ve become accustomed to modern standards of comedy.
"The Three Stooges: The Ultimate Collection" is on sale June 5, 2012 and is not rated. Comedy. Directed by Del Lord, Jack White, Charley Chase. Starring Joe Besser, Moe Howard, Curly Howard, Larry Fine, Shemp Howard, Joe Derita.