The end is in sight with The Three Stooges Collection - Volume Seven - 1952-1954, a set of 22 two-reel comedies - all but three of which are new to DVD! - starring Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Shemp Howard. This is great news for Stooge fans as short subjects from this era, though widely syndicated on television through the early-1980s, have rarely turned up on video or at Three Stooges retrospectives. Partly this is because many of these shorts are remakes incorporating stock footage from earlier glories, but even these are utterly fascinating in their occasional ingenuity, while the fully original shorts in this set are atypical when not downright bizarre.
Sony Pictures (and project supervisor James Owsley) deserve a big hand for trying to present all the shorts in their original release versions. This set includes both the flat 2-D and original 3-D versions of Spooks! and Pardon My Backfire, which are also presented in their original 1.85:1 cropped widescreen theatrical aspect ratios (with 16:9 enhancement), as are all the later 2-reelers. Sony's adaptation of the original polarized 3-D to anaglyphic red-green isn't very successful, but they get an "A" for effort in any case.
Volume Six offers six-plus hours worth of Stooge comedy spread over two single-sided, dual-layered discs. The excellent transfers are up to the same high standards of Volumes One and Two, Three, Four, Five, and Six.
Break out your 3-D glasses! Yippee!
Note: As many of the shorts in this set include a preponderance of stock footage from earlier films, the star ratings are based entirely on the new scenes and not the recycled footage.
A Missed Fortune (1952) [new to DVD]
The team's 137th short subject ("Sweet Jesus!" to quote from 1776) was actually filmed in 1951, and is a remake of a 1938 Curly short called Healthy, Wealthy, and Dumb. Unlike many of the later remakes there's very little in the way of stock footage. However, except for the opening scene the scripts are virtually identical. Shemp wins $50,000 in a radio contest, correctly identifying the sound of a car engine, a "Bunion 8." Unaware taxes will whittle their winnings down to $4.85, the Stooges live it up at the Hotel Costa Plente, with Vernon Dent and Stanley Blystone replacing the roles of the hotel manager and house dick played in the original by James C. Morton and Bud Jamison. Watch the opening scene closely - does Larry actually say "It's those damn hotcakes of yours!" with the word "damn" bleeped out? He must have been in a bad mood that day; later, Larry pours boiling water on Moe's face. (*** out of *****)
Listen, Judge (1952)
The Stooges are door-to-door repairmen ("Jiffy Fixers - We Repare Enything" [sic]) charged with stealing chickens, but released by judge Vernon Dent for a lack of evidence. More déjà vu as this 2-reeler is a hodgepodge of story elements (but no stock footage) from three Curly classics, A Plumbing We Will Go, They Stooge to Conga, and especially, An Ache in Every Stake. (I suspect stock footage of Larry's "I'll find this thing or else!" front yard tunneling from Plumbing was originally planned; he wears the same costume and crumpled hat as in that film.) Emil Sitka turns up in a variation of Dudley Dickerson's cook role, while Shemp can't quite muster the same sense of abandon while stuffing a turkey. Great Cesar's Ghost! Also appearing is Perry White from the Superman TV show, veteran character actor John Hamilton. Meanwhile, Dent's wife is played by Kitty McHugh, the real-life spouse of Moe's neighbor Ned Glass (who appeared in numerous earlier shorts), and the sister of Matt McHugh, character actor Frank McHugh's untalented brother, who starred with the Stooges in Pardon My Clutch. Kitty, alas, was not a happy woman and committed suicide in 1954. (***)
Corny Casanovas (1952) [new to DVD]
Saucer-eyed Connie Cezon, perennial gold digger of a half-dozen or so '50s-era Stooge shorts, makes her series debut in this typically violent Jules White-directed entry, with Moe, Larry, and Shemp unaware that they're all "engaged" to the same girl. Watch Shemp's proto-Hip Hopping, "Gee Moe I'm sorry Moe, What mo' can a fella say? That's all there is there ain't no mo'!" The Stooges do the NRA proud with a handy pistol in the drawer that Shemp uses as a hammer (a wayward bullet grazes Moe's scalp) and a semi-automatic they use to shoot tacks while reupholstering a sofa. Of course, the tacks are fired at Moe's butt by mistake and, in a painful-to-watch gag, Moe swallows a mouthful and squirms in agony. This is later surpassed when Moe rams a bellows down Larry's throat, sadistically pumping black soot into his lungs! Classic line: "I knew you were coming so I baked a cake!" (***)
He Cooked His Goose (1952) [new to DVD]
Strange, violent short is sort of a reworking of Woman Haters (1934); the team is broken up with Larry cast as a two-timing womanizer carrying on with Moe's wife (Mary Ainslee) and Shemp's fiancée (Angela Stevens), with Larry making a great, wild-eyed entrance. Larry engineers a plot to get rid of Moe and Shemp in this plot-heavy two-reeler with a Christmastime setting (a Christmas tree falls on Moe). Watch Shemp wring out a wet pooch like a washcloth, Larry's trained clam, Cedric, and more bellows madness. The best gag has Moe's chest lighting up like an X-Ray after he accidentally swallows some Christmas lights. Moe and Shemp were real troupers during production; their long-suffering brother Curly was literally on his deathbed while this was made; he passed away just days after shooting wrapped. (****)
Gents in a Jam (1952) [new to DVD]
The last Columbia short subject produced by Hugh McCollum and written and directed by Edward Bernds is a good one. After a series of bitter disputes with department head/director Jules White, the pair left Columbia for greener (?) pastures at Allied Artists, where they took over the equally aging Bowery Boys' feature film series. From here on out, the Stooges' shorts became increasingly mechanical, incorporated more-and-more stock footage, and frequently substituted violent sight gags for story and characterization. That said, for the next year or so, the team appeared in some of their most unusual shorts (e.g., Cuckoo on a Choo Choo). This one's a reworking of an old comedy standby: the insanely jealous husband who lives across the hall. It's more in the realm of Laurel & Hardy (Unaccustomed as We Are, Block-Heads, etc.) than the Stooges, but overall it's quite funny. Shemp tries to impress a visiting rich uncle, played here by Emil Sitka. Amusingly, it's Sitka rather than the Stooges who take most of the pratfalls, as the hilariously confused old man is continuously pummeled by angry spouse "Rocky" Duggan (Mickey Sampson), a professional wrestler. His cute wife is played by Dani Sue Nolan, then the wife of I Love Lucy director William Asher. Memorable line: "There goes my teeth!" (****)
Three Dark Horses (1952)
Released barely three weeks prior to the 1952 presidential election, this atypically topical Stooge short offers some generic satire of political corruption but little else. The Stooges are janitors crooked campaign manager Bill Wick (oily Kenneth MacDonald) buys off as delegates to support his candidate, Hammond Egger (played in campaign poster photographs by character comedian Bud Jamison, who died in 1944). Wick's intelligent henchman, Digger, is played by Ben Welden, well known to Adventures of Superman fans as a perennially stupid henchman. It's a bit disconcerting watching Welden speaking here in a normal, non-dopey voice. After Shemp accidentally dislodges Digger's hairpiece, and Larry suggests nailing it back on, Moe's counters, "Are you out of your mind?! Do you want to punch a hole in this guy's toupee?" The grim fade-out has the Stooges drowning Wick and Digger in a bathtub, and then bathing en masse atop their lifeless corpses! The James Nicholson listed on the credits as assistant director is not the same Nicholson who co-founded American International Pictures. (** 1/2)
Cuckoo on a Choo Choo (1952) [new to DVD]
Unquestionably the strangest of all the Stooges 190 two-reel Columbia shorts, this one has some fans attracted to its idiot savant surrealism, but as someone says toward the end, "They ought to bury this skunk." Vaguely parodying two recent hits, A Streetcar Named Desire and Harvey, the basically plotless short has hopeless alcoholic Shemp and sensual brute Larry (!) somehow having stolen a railroad car named "Schmow" from a moving train. Investigator Moe shows up, but nothing happens. "Rumpot" Shemp, in a drunken haze (and accompanied by a music box rendition of "How Dry I Am" whenever he drinks) falls in love with a human-sized female canary. When an electric razor slides down Shemp's back, his electrified kisses arouse Larry's girlfriend, Lenore (Patricia Wright) and her Blanche DuBois-esque sister Roberta (Victoria Horne, the real-life wife of Jack Oakie). Though certainly bizarre, this short's only redeeming feature is Larry's hilarious imitation of Brando's Stanley Kowalski, torn shirt and all. The result ain't nuthin' like Brando, but once seen you'll never forget it. (* 1/2)
Up in Daisy's Penthouse (1953) [new to DVD]
A straightforward remake of 3 Dumb Clucks (1937), with gold-digging blonde Daisy (Connie Cezon again) trying to marry the Stooges' father, played by a muttonchops-wearing Shemp, looking much as Curly had in the original. There's almost no stock footage, but the script is virtually the same: Pop-Shemp even calls Cezon "Daisy-waisy," while she calls him "Popsy-wopsy," as in the original. One line seems upscripted: Moe is hit hard in one scene and Larry, looking genuinely concerned, asks, "Did you hurt yourself?" An old gag dating back to the silent era (and used in earlier Stooge shorts) has Shemp trying to clean a spot on his trousers that's actually light pouring through a hole in a torn window shade. Shemp ad-libs a bit of Fields-esque contempt for the sequence; eyeing some cleaning fluid within arm's reach he notes, "How convenient!" (***)
Booty and the Beast (1953) [new to DVD]
This largely forgotten short is something of a milestone: it essentially inaugurates the era of stock footage plaguing the Stooges' later short subjects. While wholly original shorts continued being made, shorts like this - designed to save Columbia time and money - ultimately confused and disappointed Stooge fans. While the Stooges often reworked gags, remade their earlier shorts or shorts made by others, and while earlier two-reelers would sometimes incorporate a few clips or a short sequence from something else - a practice dating back at least to In the Sweet Pie and Pie (1941), which lifted a short scene from 1935's Hoi Poloi - Booty and the Beast goes one step further. The first half is a reworking of Hold That Lion with the same actor playing the villain, Kenneth MacDonald (here a safecracker; in Hold That Lion he was a crooked investment broker), while the entire second reel, the last eight minutes or so, consists entirely of stock footage from Hold That Lion (including Curly Howard's post-stroke cameo appearance) with but a few lines re-looped to cover the changes in reel one. If you think that's pretty lame, read on... Meanwhile, in new footage, watch Larry spit for real on poor Vernon Dent, cast here as a neighborhood security guard. (**)
Loose Loot (1953) [new to DVD]
Never one to let good footage go to waste, in this short director Jules White recycles the first-half of Hold That Lion, with that film's extended scene of the Stooges unsuccessfully trying to confront the slippery Ichabod Slipp (Kenneth MacDonald again) in his office. A newspaper clipping seen at the beginning identifies MacDonald as "Elmer Slip," and thanks to DVD you can note the sloppy newspaper paste-up with the estate news about Shemp's uncle mixed in with a real story about "nine men known dead and 200 wounded." New footage includes a very funny hallway chase sequence but then things pretty much grind to a halt as Slipp and his henchman (Tom Kennedy) confront the Stooges in a backstage dressing room. A too-close close-up catches MacDonald pulling a Mike Tyson on Moe's ear while, in the best gag, Tom Kennedy smashes his hand and it grows to ten times its normal size. (***)
Tricky Dicks (1953) [new to DVD]
One of the best and most unusual shorts of the Shemp era, this apparent spoof of Detective Story is a bottle short - everything takes place in a squad room where the Stooges, as detectives, atypically act out what plays like a old Vaudeville sketch. The jokes, fired off at a machine gun pace, are ancient but still very funny. Moe on the phone: "What's that, Chauncey? You say you found a dead horse on Ticonderoga Street? How do you spell 'Ticonderoga?' Oh, you don't know either. Well, drag 'em over to First Street!" Shemp on a bootlegging bust, ""Yeah, but the D.A. says we can't make a case out of 11 bottles." Larry: "My sister was engaged to a guy with a wooden leg, but she broke it off." "The engagement?" Moe asks. "No, the leg." Connie Cezan turns up long enough to sock Larry ("How dare you look like someone I hate!" POW!) Comedian Benny Rubin makes his first of six Stooge short appearances, here playing an organ grinder named Antonio Zucchini Salami Gorgonzola dePizza (Ah, political incorrectness - where hast thou gone?). Watch this short's homicidal maniac fire about 80 rounds from his modest revolver. And for the third time in a row, director Jules White recycles yet more stock footage from Hold That Lion, raiding that film's filing cabinet bit. If the next short hadn't been made in 3-D, White probably would have found a way to recycle Hold That Lion's film leader. (****)
Spooks! (1953) [new to DVD]
With weekly movie attendance plummeting from 90 million in 1946 to about half that in 1953, a desperate Hollywood searched for new ways to pry audiences away from their new TV sets and back into theaters. In late 1952 the widescreen and stereophonic This Is Cinerama and the 3-D release of Bwana Devil, both independent productions, had mainstream Hollywood scrambling toward new technologies. Movies in 3-D (often in stereophonic sound and cropped widescreen as well) were big business during the spring and summer of 1953, until The Robe and other factors killed the 3-D boom. This Stooge short was one of the first 3-D shorts out of the gate, supposedly premiering just six days after shooting was completed, and it plays like a depthy demo film. In just 16 minutes, everything imaginable is shoved, thrust, or tossed at the camera: pies (of course), syringes, Moe's two-finger eye poke. Even the title card aims for some 3-D madness; the trio's disembodied heads float toward the camera(s), only the black cloth they wear below the neck is highly visible, somewhat spoiling the effect. There's virtually no story in this haunted house spoof with Super Sleuth Detective Agency P.I.s Moe, Larry, and Shemp ("Divorce Evidence Manufactured to Your Order") up against mad scientist Dr. Jekyll (Phil Van Zandt), his hulking assistant Mr. Hyde (Tom Kennedy), and the usual snarling gorilla (Steve Calvert). Highlights include an eep-eep-eeping bat played in close-up by Shemp, whose human counterpart exclaims "What a hideous, monstrous face!" In its original dual-projector, polarized lenses theatrical release (absolutely not red/green anaglyphic) this and the Stooges' next short really delighted audiences. A rough approximation of the 3-D experience is included on this DVD. Please refer to the Video & Audio section below for more about the technical specs. (*** 1/2)
Pardon My Backfire (1953) [new to DVD]
The team's second and last 3-D short is even better than Spooks, with better-motivated depthy gags. This time introduced below the title card and brandishing canes at the audience (a wonderful effect in polarized 3-D) this short casts the 50-something "boys" as suitors trying to impress intended father-in-law Fred Kelsey (in his last Stooge appearance) while working as car mechanics. Later a gang led by scar-faced Benny Rubin brings their hot car to the Stooges' garage. As with Spooks, this is positively crammed with 3-D gags: Larry throws a screwdriver at the camera, a big birthday cake is tossed, etc. A lot of this stuff was obviously rigged on wires, as many of the thrown objects can be seen floating up as they sail toward the lenses. Also, director Jules White's increasing use of violent Stooge gags is on display; in one scene, Moe takes a metal file to Larry's forehead, generating powdery "skindust," and in another a long wire painfully enters Larry's nostrils only to reemerge out of Larry's right ear (How'd they do that?). At the dinner table, Moe asks Larry, "Do you like asparagus? Well, here's a couple of tips for you!" [two-finger poke - boink!] Perhaps the funniest line though has Rubin's gangster telling moll Barbara Bartay, "Go flirt with those men to make them hurry!" Say what? (****)
Rip, Sew, and Stitch (1953) [new to DVD]
Released after Spooks! and Pardon My Backfire but filmed several months before, this and the next several shorts are outrageous quickie remakes. About 90% of this short consists of stock footage from Sing a Song of Six Pants (1947) and what little new footage there is - odd, fleeting inserts and a scene where the Stooges search a back room - was shot in a single day. Worried that their tailoring equipment is about to be repossessed by the Skin and Flint Finance Corporation, Moe, Larry, and Shemp are inspired by a radio announcement (delivered off-camera by director Jules White) to capture fugitive bank robber "Slippery Fingers" Hargan (Harold "Tiny" Brauer, a double in the new footage). A testament to Shemp's talent is a brief but hilarious scene (stock) with him sitting quietly reading the funny papers (Sunday comics), unable to contain his unabashed amusement. Like the short, 90% of this capsule review consists of recycled material. (* 1/2)
Bubble Trouble (1953)
Back in high school I had a friend who went to enormous lengths to cheat on exams and term papers, exerting far more energy than if he had simply done the work on his own. That's what it's like watching shorts like this, where the process of matching the sets and costumes in the stock footage with the new material must have been nearly as arduous and expensive as if they had made something entirely new. I remember WKBD, Channel 50 in Detroit, once running All Gummed Up (1947) and this remake back-to-back, and for a while there I thought I was going insane ("Help! Help! I'm losin' ma mind!"). The first 11 1/2 minutes are identical to the original, though the awkwardly structured original footage has been reshuffled more sensibly here. Both follow drugstore owners Moe, Larry, and Shemp as they develop a youth serum they test with great success on old lady Christine McIntyre (in effective makeup) who is transformed into, well, beautiful Christine McIntyre. Both films have the same bubblegum blowing sequence, but where All Gummed Up climaxes with crotchety Emil Sitka tasting the Stooges' brew only to be transformed into a five-year-old version of himself, in Bubble Trouble he becomes a gorilla, which makes even less sense. Only the business with the gorilla is new, and that was shot in a single day; McIntyre is badly doubled for this scene, with someone who looks nothing like McIntyre cowering briefly behind the Stooges until disappearing altogether. (Sitka seems to appear in the new footage, but that's probably not him in the gorilla mask, nor does it sound like his voice once he's transformed.) (**)
Goof on the Roof (1953) [new to DVD]
Though definitely released in Vitascope, Columbia's 1.85:1 cropped widescreen process, this short's super-tight compositions suggest it may have been shot for 1.37:1 and filmed in late-1952 or early-'53, long before its December 1953 release. In any case, despite the complete absence of stock footage and tried-and-true home destruction gags, this dreary short is a long way from the Stooges' classic shorts. Ironically, the story concerns the trio's disastrous efforts to install a friend's television set and antenna. This wasn't the first Stooge short to feature a television, but it was the first to do so in the wake of the new medium's impact on the film industry. The sight gags are badly executed in this one; when Larry's stunt double is funnier than Larry, something ain't right. It was also the last original short penned by Clyde Bruckman, one of screen comedy's brightest gag men, who in 1955 borrowed a pistol from his pal Buster Keaton, drove to a Santa Monica restaurant, and shot himself in the restroom. (* 1/2)
Income Tax Sappy (1954) [new to DVD]
Though hardly the Stooges' finest hour (or 16 1/2 minutes, as the case may be), this short has better widescreen framing than Goof on the Roof, tries harder, and has a better supporting cast. Moe, Larry, and Shemp are so good at cheating on their taxes they decide to go into business advising others to do likewise. The film gets my vote for the most sadistic gag in Three Stooges History: Larry shows off a long operation scar on his stomach that's zippered instead of stitched. An annoyed Moe grabs the pull tab and perversely zips it back-and-forth as Larry winces in agony! Better than the Stooges is Benny Rubin's bearded client, actually an IRS agent working undercover. Vernon Dent - older, frailer, and possibly even blind by this point (he suffered from diabetes and was completely sightless by 1955), turns up at the end. (** 1/2)
Musty Musketeers (1954) [new to DVD]
"Thou art a lame-brain!" More stock footage, this time scenes from Fiddlers Three (1948), completely overwhelm the pittance of new stuff, with the Stooges trying to prevent evil magician Murgittroyd (Phil Van Zandt) from marrying Princess Alisha (Virginia Hunter), daughter of Old King Cole (Vernon Dent). It's pretty much all six-year-old footage until near the end - comic horseshoeing scene, the Stooges unwisely hiding out in Murgittroyd's "magic" box and getting poked by his cardboard swords. At the climax note that the set decoration changes ever so slightly; a big candle in the background changes from black to white, for instance, and watch Van Zandt's hair suddenly get thinner. (**)
Pals and Gals (1954) [new to DVD]
Talk about chutzpah - I guess Jules White's idea of revenge was shorts like this, which is about 70% stock footage from bitter rivals Edward Bernds and Hugh McCollum's much superior Out West - but with White's name slapped on the new title card. How'd stuff like this get past the Directors Guild? In stock scenes, Dr. Vernon Dent sends Shemp and his enlarged vein Out West, where he and his pals run afoul of "brain heavy" Doc Barker (Norman Willes). In the original, showgirl Nell's (Christine McIntyre) boyfriend The Arizona Kid was being held prisoner in Barker's basement. In this remake, Nell's sisters are held captive - so whenever McIntyre is upstairs, it's stock footage; downstairs she appears in new scenes. Amusingly, in the remake, bartender Moe's concoction actually kills Doc Barker: "He's dead and I'm taking over," announces George Chesboro, who's in both Out West and this; he only had to wait seven years! I also wondered why old character player Stanley Blystone hovered in the background amongst Barker's gang - well, it turns out they needed him, too, because the monkey-manning-the-bullet-firing-meat-grinder climax is lifted from 1937's Goofs and Saddles, which had Blystone as the main villain. (However, he's so much older in this it hardly matters.) This gets an "A" for ingenuity but the originals are far superior: (**)
Knutzy Knights (1954) [new to DVD]
White's at it again, pointlessly reworking another one of the best Edward Bernds/Hugh McCollum efforts, Squareheads of the Round Table. In new footage, the Stooges try to cheer up a distraught Princess Elaine (Christine McIntyre), warning her to "Weep not or thee will get bags" as the Stooges show off their impressively baggy eyes in an alarming close-up. Then it's stock footage time with the entire middle eaten up with (at least quite enjoyable) scenes from the older film: the Stooges try to prevent the marriage of Princess Elaine, daughter of The King (Vernon Dent) to the Black Prince (Phil Van Zandt), so that she might marry her True Love, Cedric the Blacksmith (Jock Mahoney). Amazingly, besides McIntyre, Van Zandt, Dent (looking notably thinner), and Mahoney all came back to shoot new scenes, which are confined to the opening and closing minutes. Sadly, it was Dent's last appearance in a Stooge comedy, at least in new footage. (**)
Shot in the Frontier (1954) [new to DVD]
Or at the Columbia Ranch. At least this two-reeler boasts zero - repeat zero - stock footage. Emmett Lynn, the B-Western genre's favorite bearded barfly, is the pappy of Ella (Vivian Mason), Bella (Ruth White, Jules' sister-in-law), and Stella (Diana Darrin), the Stooges' fiancées. After riding into town "head-bent for leather" (ah, the Production Code) a wedding is presided over by Justice of the Peace Emil Sitka (who, alas, does not prompt them to "Hold hands, you lovebirds"). Later, the girls are angry Moe, Larry, and Shemp won't stand up to the evil Noonan brothers, one of whom is Kenneth MacDonald in his worst Stooge role. After they muster up some courage in a bottle of Old Panther (distilled yesterday), it's the Stooges vs. the Noonans - Tommy isn't among them - with Moe, Larry, and Shemp holed up behind some allegedly funny tombstones in front of M. Balmer's undertaking establishment. Not much here, but it is a bit unusual; it even has underscoring, rare for a Stooge short. (** 1/2)
Scotched in Scotland (1954) [new to DVD]
Oy McVey! White slaps his moniker on another Bernds/McCollum short, 1948's The Hot Scots. Near as I can tell, it's pretty much the same film except for a new opening with detective school graduates Moe, Larry, and Shemp with their long-suffering dean, played by Phil Van Zandt, and some inserted new bits at the "haunted castle." A recognizably older Christine McIntyre appears in the new footage, but it's minimal. Alas, Ted Lorch wasn't available to film new scenes featuring him; he'd been dead for more than six years. (* 1/2)
Video & Audio
Once again, Sony has done a great job bringing the Stooges to DVD with remastered shorts presented in their original release order. The six-odd hours worth of Stooge comedy are crammed onto two single-sided dual-layered discs (22 two-reelers, 11 on each disc) and generally look great. The mono audio (English only, unlike some of the earlier DVD releases, which had multiple language options) is otherwise fine. There are no subtitle options, though the discs are closed-captioned.
Columbia was one of the earliest adaptors of 1.85:1 cropped widescreen (which, early on, they referred to as Vistascope), and which they pretty much used on all their non 'scope productions from about the spring of 1953 forward. Spooks! was the first short shot with 1.85:1 framing in mind, though a few two-reelers filmed before it were released later in 1953. Rip, Sew, and Stitch comes after the 1.85:1 Spooks! and Pardon My Backfire but was released 1.37:1 full-frame. From Bubble Trouble onward, everything is 1.85:1 (and 16:9 enhanced), including Goof on the Roof, which was obviously shot before the switch but released in widescreen anyway. It's a real pleasure to see these films in their proper aspect ratios. The new footage looks infinitely better, while even the stock scenes generally look okay, framing-wise.
The two 3-D shorts are available in both flat 2-D and in a red-green anaglyphic process (two sets of cardboard glasses are included). The 3-D versions are, frankly, pretty lousy, only about 25% as effective as their original polarized 3-D presentations, which when properly projected looked like a regular black and white movie but with superb three-dimensional depth. For some reason, whatever was done here results in an enormous amount of video noise. Why this is I have no idea. Anaglyphic can look much better than this - I have a 3-D trailer for The Maze that looks outstanding - but at least a general sense of the effect can be enjoyed, and kudos to Sony for offering these at all. Both shorts were also originally sepia-toned (audaciously billed as Mono-Color by Columbia's ad men), but are in standard black and white on this DVD. (Correction: Three-D expert Bob Furmanek says only Spooks! and the feature it supported, Fort Ti, was sepia-toned, due to light loss issues during projection. "(And) That's why they mention Fort Ticonderoga in the opening scene of Spooks!" adds Bob. Thanks!) There are no additional Extra Features.
The overuse of stock footage in these later Shemp Howard shorts is disappointing, though director Jules White's manipulation of these stock scenes is sometimes fascinating. And while the entirely new shorts are generally odd and uninspired, the 3-D versions of Spooks! and Pardon My Backfire, and the big plus of more new-to-DVD shorts than in the first three volumes combined make this Highly Recommended for Stooge fans.
Stuart Galbraith IV's latest audio commentary, for AnimEigo's Tora-san DVD boxed set, is on sale now.