When the Three Stooges first signed with Columbia Pictures, their deal was for one short. 1934's Woman Hater, done entirely in rhyme, wasn't a huge success, but the Stooges hit their stride with their second short, Punch Drunks, and began to settle into their definitive roles - Moe as boss, Larry the middleman and Curly as their foil. Witness the rise of these comedy icons in this high-spirited collection containing the first 10 Columbia shorts, all of which have been remastered for the best quality picture and sound. You'll experience the eye-pokes, face slaps, hollow head knocks and knuckle cracks like you've never heard or seen them before. So go ahead, nyuck yourself out!
Finally, the studio knuckleheads got it right! The way that the Three Stooges have been presented on home video has been a real slap in the face and a poke in the eye to fans. The Stooges have been anthologized, colorized, and public domained. Their shorts have been released and re-released in varying degrees of quality. In the immortal words of Curly, they have truly been victims of circumstance. This two-DVD set, then, is for what Stooge-philes have long been waiting. Spanning the years 1934-36, it presents the first 19 Stooges short subjects chronologically. These shorts hail from the Curly era, which makes them essential. The first, "Women Haters," comes billed as a "musical novelty" and is performed entirely in rhyme. More interesting is that Moe, Larry, and Curly appear as Tom, Jim, and Jack. In the second short, "Punch Drunks," they are again not quite a team, but teaming up to make a boxer out of put-upon waiter Curly. This is the one in which Curly "pops" when he hears "that 'Weasel' tune." And the hits just keep on coming.
Remember the prologue of The Twilight Zone: The Movie, in which traveling companions Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks trade favorite "Zones"? Many of the shorts gathered here are the ones most quoted or referenced by Stooges fans, such as "Men in Black," the only Stooges short to be nominated for an Academy Award, and the one with the immortal page "Calling Dr. Howard, Dr Fine, Dr. Howard." "Hoi Polloi" is the first Stooges short to tackle the "environment" vs. "heredity" conundrum by introducing the Stooges to high society, reducing the well-heeled stuff shirts into a slap-happy mob. "Pop Goes the Easel" introduces another recurring theme in the Stooges oeuvre as the boys pose as artists in the art school in which they take refuge from a pursuing cop. This short contains a signature Curlyism, "Look at the grouse," as does "Horses' Collars," in which the mere sight of a mouse completely unnerves Curly ("Moe! Larry! The Cheese!) "Three Little Pigskins" is another mistaken identity gem, as the boys pose as three football players (look for a very young and very blonde Lucille Ball). Like the Little Rascals, the Stooges in these shorts were very much of their Depression-era times, but "Uncivil Warriors," "Restless Knights," and the decidedly un-PC "Whoops, I'm an Indian" get their anachronistic kicks by placing the boys behind enemy lines during the Civil War, in the medieval castle of a kidnapped Queen, and in the Old West. Collectors who have suffered through, say, "Disorder in the Court" on one of those $1 bin Stooges collections will be heartened to know that this set at last does these comedy classics justice. More than 70 years old, and they look better than ever! So spread out and get your n'yucks on! --Donald Liebenson