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DVD review: 'The Three Stooges Ultimate Collection'

DVD review: ‘The Three Stooges Ultimate Collection'
Published: July 27, 2012

‘The Three Stooges Ultimate Collection'

If 60 hours of pokes in the eye, severe blows to the head and acts of abject stupidity sounds like a marathon of mirth to you, then you must be a Three Stooges fan.

Therefore, you must own “The Three Stooges Ultimate Collection,” which contains all 190 of the two-reeler shorts these sultans of slapstick made for Columbia Pictures from 1934 through 1957, plus three discs of rare and unreleased content, including 28 short films starring Stooges Shemp Howard, Joe Besser and Joe DeRita honing their comic chops in solo roles before becoming successors to Curly Howard.

This hefty box of hilarity also includes two of the Stooges' feature-length films, “Rockin' in the Rockies” (1945) and “Have Rocket, Will Travel” (1959). Of course, this 20-disc set's big draw is the shorts that star the classic lineup of Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Moe's little brother, Curly.

Moe and older brother Shemp were the original Stooges, becoming vaudeville comedian Ted Healy's noisy assistants in an act called “Ted Healy and His Stooges” in 1922, with Larry joining the team in 1925. The act made its screen debut in 1930's “Soup to Nuts,” but contractual wrangling caused the Stooges to split with Healy for a time, until Healy begged them to return, this time with young Curly replacing Shemp, who refused to work with the abrasive comedian anymore.

After a handful of features and shorts with Healy, this version of the Stooges finally struck out on its own for good in '34, and that's where this box set picks up with “Woman Haters,” their first short for Columbia, performed entirely in rhyming dialogue and song. (Watch for an uncredited Walter Brennan as a beleaguered train conductor.) It was (and is) hilarious, as was the second two-reeler, “Punch Drunk,” which was also a hit, and after Healy relinquished legal claim to the “Stooge” name, the newly christened “Three Stooges” were on their way to stardom.

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