The Three Stooges Collection, Vol. 6

The Three Stooges Collection, Vol. 6
I've been a die-hard fan of the Three Stooges since I was a kid, but as I get older I find myself deriving just as much enjoyment from the Stooges' scripts as from their comedy. Consider "Self Made Maids," one of 24 shorts gathered on The Three Stooges Collection, Vol. 6. In the opening scene, we learn that Moe, Larry and Shemp are artists. Why artists? So they can indulge in about four minutes of violent slapstick with paintbrushes, modelling clay and one really big mallet. Or consider "Don't Throw That Knife," in which our heroes are census takers who visit the home of a professional magician. Why a magician? So they can fumble with distorting mirrors, breakaway chairs and throwing knives, of course. Brief plot exposition punctuates the comedy every few minutes but only as a transition to the next comic set piece. Stooge shorts don't even "end," in the conventional sense of the word — they stop, usually with most of the plot threads still waiting to be resolved. As models of narrative complexity, these films are like porn, but with violent slapstick instead of sex and haughty rich people instead of pizza deliverymen. Surprisingly, the flimsy scripts and ramshackle production values give the films charm — they enhance the freewheeling, anything-for-a-laugh vaudeville spirit of the Stooges. Produced from 1949 to 1951, these Shemp-era shorts aren't quite golden age material — their sitcom-esque tone mutes the spontaneity and anarchic spirit of the team's best work from the '30s and early '40s, and we start to see penny-pinching producers shamelessly pilfering stock footage from earlier shorts. Still, I continue to be impressed by how committed the Stooges were to their characters. Even in films where they're running around a haunted house ("The Ghost Talks") or being chased by a robot ("Dopey Dicks") you won't find them winking at the camera — by golly, these guys are scared for their lives. More importantly, I'm delighted to report that even in my old age the sight of a perfectly timed eye-poke from Moe to Larry can still make me laugh out loud. Part of Sony's ambitious plan to release all 190 Stooge shorts on DVD, this two-disc set is beautifully remastered but contains no extras. (Sony)