Wednesday, December 3, 2008


No one has ever numbered them among the likes of Keaton, Chaplin or Lloyd. Nor will we ever call them "Kings of Comedy", study them in film school or consider them to have made a serious contribution to our culture. And yet, the Three Stooges dared to go where few others in Hollywood did at the time and two examples (among 21 other early war time shorts) are now made available in the newly released DVD set, "The Three Stooges Collection, Volume 3", from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Although Hollywood has always spun itself as morally enlightened and proud to have done their patriotic duty in support of the war effort during World War II, the fact is, most studios initially cowered at denouncing the atrocities of the Third Reich or providing the morale boosting product this country desperately needed, due to their fear of alienating a very lucrative European market. Like their counterparts today, they claimed that ridiculing a cruel and fascist enemy was "propaganda", divisive and morally beneath them.

Fortunately for us, the lowest rungs on the Holly wood ladder, ("Termite Terrace" at Warner Brothers - the creators of Looney Tunes - and the low budget unit that churned out the Three Stooges shorts at Columbia), defiantly chose their own subjects. The recent Stooges collection displays two of the brightest gems of the Stooge's lampoons, "You Nazty Spy" and "I'll Never Heil Again".

Here is Moe, with his tired angry face, revealing Hitler better than - and almost a year before - Charlie Chaplin’s attempt at the same in "The Great Dictator". And even next to Chaplin, the Stooges were far better at ridiculing and humiliating the enemy in a way no one else was doing. There is something much more satisfying in “Heil Again” when the boys fight over the globe in the war room than anything in Chaplin’s arty floating-world ballet.. Matching Moe's fuehrer is Curly's Field Marshall Herring , again better than Jack Oakie’s Napaloni in “Great Dictator”.

Stan Laurel loved writing visually shocking endings for his Laurel and Hardy features and shorts and his Hal Roach rejected one from "Blockheads" was pressed into service for the final fade out in "I'll Never Heil Again", which even today has not entirely lost its gruesome and funny edge.

Although usually pulled from television in recent years, these shorts were among the Stooges personal favorites - and understandably. Larry, Moe and Curly (nee Larry Feinberg, and Moses and Jerome Horwitz) perfectly understood what their humor was doing.

They're again with us thanks to this ongoing collection from Sony Home Entertainment, but one can't help wondering what it would be like to have them around today. Still no Hollywood party invitations or Oscar nominations for them, but somewhere they would be gleefully donning fake beards and wrapping their heads in towels for their latest madcap featurette, "Muzzle 'Em Extremists" (with Larry Fine as Pajamah Bomb-laden) and we would be laughing harder than ever.

- SG

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love the stooges, sounds like a great idea for a christmas gift! I watched a blurry clip from "You Nazty spy" not to long ago!

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