Sony Pictures Home Entertainment previously released volume after volume of the Three Stooges Collection, each one taking a couple of years and picking the fan favorites. This Ultimate Collection includes all eight of the previously released volumes in one set, as well as 28 newly released short films, two feature films and three
cartoons. This is 11 hours of previously unreleased material along with 190 fan-favorite shorts from previously released volumes. There is no more definitive collection for fans of The Three Stooges catalogue from 1934-1959. Columbia
Moe Howard and his brother Shemp began the family tradition of slapstick when they started in 1922 as assistants to Ted Healy’s vaudevillian act. Three years later they were joined by Larry Fine, and five years later the trio debuted in “Soup to Nuts” (1930). They would make films with Healy until 1934, with Jerry Howard (Curly) replacing Shemp at a certain point. Eventually they left Healy and became The Three Stooges.
The third volume is a special one, because of the inclusion of “A Plumbing We Will Go,” which is one of the most beloved of the slapstick shorts. The Three Stooges are known for getting themselves into situations where they don’t belong, either by marrying wealthy women who want to turn them into sophisticated members of society or somehow getting employed in positions they know nothing about. Their attempt at cooking is a good example, but “A Plumbing We Will Go” is the best one. They are enlisted to fix a leak in a fancy home but when they mix the pipes with the electrical wiring there are all sorts of gags.
Since this volume contains the films from 1940-1942, there are also more than a couple Hitler and Nazi jokes. In 1940’s “You Nazty Spy!” Moe Howard was the first American to portray Hitler on film, and the same idea was reprised again with “I’ll Never Heil Again”. Mostly, however, the Three Stooges are good old fashioned escapism. They find countless ways to clumsily hit each other, the gags are non-stop, and there is even an old-fashioned pie fight in “In the Sweet Pie and Pie”.
The same Hitler impression was reprised again with “I’ll Never Heil Again,” which is included in volume four of the collection. Volume four of the collection begins with yet another ‘Stooges vs. Nazis’ bout in “They Stooge to Conga,” which also seems to contain a little bit of Volume Three’s famous “A Plumbing We Will Go.” In “They Stooge to Conga” the three are working as repair men, brought in to fix a doorbell. Instead of the pipes, they get mixed up in the wires, in every way imaginable. In the end, however, the save the day by stopping the Nazis, whose house they have also destroyed trying to fix a simple problem, as only the Stooges can do.
“They Stooge to Conga” is the first of the World War II shorts in the collection, but it isn’t the last, nor is it the last time they foul things up as repair men.
There are also some great non-war related shorts, although references still come in every once and again. One classic in volume four is “Spook Louder,” which has the boys as door-to-door salesmen who accidentally find themselves as part-time caretakers for a spooky house. The house is haunted and it has pie-throwing ghosts. Often times in shorts like this one the references to the war are brief, and some lack them completely, but there are more war related shorts in this set than any other. They are dropped into
Europe by way of bomb, accidentally enter an enemy ship after being lost at sea, and even buy property that ends up getting attacked by Japanese men in “The Yoke’s On Me”.
Sadly, this collection looks to be the last with Jerome “Curly” Howard performing at his best. He joined the Three Stooges in 1932, replacing his brother Shemp, and was a favorite of fans for more than 100 films before he suffered a stroke that forced him to quit working. Although he didn’t have the major stroke until 1947 during the filming of “Half-Wits Holiday,” his health already started to affect his work as early as 1945. As the most energetic of the bunch, when his energy goes down at all it becomes noticeable and the films suffer slightly. In a few of the episodes towards the end of the set his voice is no longer as high as it normally was.
The decline of Curly’s energy and health over the years finally reached the point of inevitable retirement from the trio of kind-hearted, though violent, goofballs. When The Three Stooges had originally formed in 1925, it was with brothers Moe and Shemp Howard, along with Larry Fine. When Shemp became a larger star, making feature films with W.C. Fields, his younger brother Curly replaced him in The Three Stooges, so upon his departure from the gang, Shemp returned to fill in the shoes once again.
There is a brief cameo by Curly in ‘Hold That Lion,’ and it is a wonderful moment, though bittersweet in the realization it brings about the gang. Volume five is a sad collection if only because of the change, not to say that Shemp is not funny, but Curly’s high voice is sadly missed among the remaining three.
Towards the end of the collection there are many more period shorts, taking place in distant times and lands, and always allowing the Stooges their fill of opportunities to play out the same gags in a new arena. 1948 in particular seems to be predominantly filled with these shorts, though there is a fantastic modern short, ‘Heavenly Daze,’ in which Shemp is a ghost haunting Larry and Moe. This might be the best Shemp short, creative and original while also allowing the actor to implement his abilities.
The new material includes a collection of 28 newly released short films, as well as two of their feature films and three animated shorts with the trio. The feature films included are Have Rocket, Will Travel (1959) and Rockin’ in the Rockies (1945). All in all there is 11 hours of unreleased material, not to mention the beloved classics which make up the previously released eight volumes.