The Three Stooges: Curly Classics [DVD]

A sextet of Three Stooges shorts bracketing the "Curly era" -- from 1934 and their very first Columbia Pictures short, Woman Haters, to one of the last with the legendary third Stooge, Micro-Phonies. Three of the six use music as a device -- Woman Haters was the group's only film done in rhyme, a kind of versified comedy about marriage and its pitfalls, done with full musical accompaniment to every line; Micro-Phonies has Curly impersonating a female opera singer (while the other Stooges have some merciless fun with fruit projectiles, distant cousins to Monty Python's "edible missiles") after a very funny sequence showing them creating havoc at a recording studio; and Punch Drunks (based on a story by the trio) shows off Larry's ability on the violin in the course of telling a story of a boxer (Curly) who can only fight when he hears "Pop Goes the Weasel." Men in Black, not to be confused with the recent Tommy Lee Jones/Will Smith comedy, was the only Stooges short to be nominated for an Academy award -- at the time, it was also a pungent parody of a much better known movie (and play) called Men in White, telling of the trials and tribulations in the lives of young doctors; the loud-speaker cries of "Calling Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard" was a take-off of the original play's stage ambience, as were the Stooges' periodic pronouncements of their work "for duty and humanity." Three Little Pigskins, which features a young Lucille Ball, has the Stooges mistaken for college football players; a take-off on the University of Notre Dame's "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse," the boys are instead the "Three Horsemen" from Boulder Dam College. All of the transfers are of good quality, though there is a small edit -- evidently in the existing negative -- in Micro-Phonies. The menu is fairly straightforward but a little awkward; perhaps someone can explain why it was necessary to list the six shorts on two separate frames of three each, which have to be reaccessed each time one returns to select another short. Still, the quality of the actual material is very sharp and crisp, including the sound.
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Special Features

  • Interactive menus
  • Languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese


A little over a year after this Three Stooges short was made, Curly Howard would suffer a stroke and go into retirement. But even though he was often ill during this period, he still did some of the best work of his career. He's in top form for this comedy, a favorite among Stooge fanatics. The Stooges are not-very-handy handymen who decide they'd rather play around in a recording studio than fix a radiator. An aspiring singer (Christine McIntyre) has just recorded "The Voices of Spring," and Curly does a fine job of lip synching to the record. He's overheard by a society matron who is looking for a singer for her "Krispy Krunchy" program; after the Stooges dub Curly "Señorita Cucaracha," he gets the job. He goes over to the matron's home that night to perform with his accompanists -- "Señor Mucho" (Larry Fine) and "Señor Gusto" (Moe Howard). When one of the performers from the radio station tries to sing, the boys shoot cherries into his mouth so that he chokes. The performer gets back at them by unplugging the record player during Curly's performance. However, the "Voices of Spring" singer is at the party and she helps them out. The ruse is discovered and the young singer's talent wins the approval of her father. The Stooges, meanwhile, are chased off in a shower of records. This was the second Stooges short to be directed by Edward Bernds, but the first to be released -- Curly was ill and performed poorly in A Bird in the Head, the initial short. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Rockin' Thru the Rockies
A constant in nearly all Three Stooges comedies is at least one pretty girl -- this short has three. One of them, billed as Linda Winters, would become better known as Dorothy Comigone -- by then she would work her way up from supporting the Stooges to supporting Orson Wells in Citizen Kane. The Stooges are three half-baked hoofers, circa the late 1800s, who are helping (if you can call it "help") a trio called Nell's Belles travel across the rugged plains of the Midwest, through the Rockies and up to San Francisco, the location of their next date. None of the girls have much faith in the boys, and Nell, the matron who watches over them, has even less. They stop their wagon to fix up some grub, but are interrupted by a threatening group of Indians who urge them to get off their land as quickly as possible. Leaving is easier said than done, as Curly scares off the horses when he discharges his gun. They are stuck there for the night and it snows while they are asleep. A bear has eaten all their food, so the Stooges go to a nearby lake and cut three holes through the ice so they can fish. This proves to be the funniest scene in the picture, as Curly and Larry pull Moe through one hole and out the other -- "Hey, this fish looks like Moe," Curly remarks. "It is Moe! We're sorry, Moe" says Larry in abject apology, "I thought you was a fish." Moe, of course, responds with the usual Stooges violence. Their adventure is interrupted by Nell, in a panic because the Indians have kidnapped the Belles. The ladies manage to escape on their own, and everyone jumps on the wagon. The Stooges unfurl a sail they have made out of a backdrop and off they go. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Woman Haters
Speaking all their dialogue in rhyme, confirmed misogynists Moe and Curly try to break up Larry's marriage with perky Marjorie White. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Gents Without Cents
Columbia's shorts producer (and sometime Stooges director), Jules White, was especially fired up with the patriotic spirit during World War II. Like many Three Stooges comedies made in the early '40s, this one has quite a number of references to the war. It begins with the boys working on their skit -- the famous "slowly I turned, step by step..." routine. But they can't complete it because of the banging that is going on upstairs. They charge up there to harangue the noisemakers only to find themselves face to face with three lovely acrobatic dancers, Mary, Flo and Shirley (the trio Lindsay, Laverne and Betty). The girls accompany the Stooges while they audition for agent Manny Wells, who sends them over to the Noazark Shipbuilding Company to entertain the defense workers. They do all of the Niagara Falls skit (and it's interesting to note that Larry clearly flubs a line), but then Wells gets word that the headliners, Castor and Earl have canceled. The Stooges and the girls offer to take their place and save the day. Wells is so grateful he offers to send the boys to Broadway -- but the girls won't let them go until they get hitched. The last scene finds them all on their honeymoon, headed for -- Niagara Falls. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Punch Drunks
While this was the second short that The Three Stooges shot for Columbia, this one is the first where they use their own names (and, thankfully, they don't have to talk in couplets, like they did in their first, Woman Haters). Stooge Moe Howard plays a down-on-his-luck fight manager. While eating at a restaurant with some cronies, he finds himself a new fighter -- their waiter (Curly Howard). When a hungry violinist (Larry Fine) offers to play for some soup and begins a lively rendition of "Pop Goes the Weasel," Curly goes into a conniption fit that would soon become classic Stooge fare -- slapping his face, dancing around and "Woop-wooping" wildly. Before anyone can move, he's knocked out all of Moe's pals -- and the restaurant's manager. Moe grabs both Curly and Larry and the trio work their way up in the boxing world -- until one bout in which an accident breaks Larry's violin. Curly takes a brutal beating from Killer Kilduff while Larry runs all over town! looking for something -- anything -- that is playing "Pop Goes the Weasel." He finds a politician's campaign truck blaring the tune from its speakers and races it to the arena in time for Curly to win the fight. In fact, the song -- and Curly's fit -- doesn't stop until Moe and Larry also wind up in a heap in the ring. The Stooges would use this same gag -- Curly stimulated into going nuts -- in at least two other films, 1935's Horses' Collars and 1937's Grips, Grunts and Groans. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Three Little Pigskins
In their fourth two-reeler for Columbia, the Three Stooges are mistaken for college football heroes by a beautiful gangster's moll. The latter was played by a very young Lucille Ball, who would always credit the Stooges with introducing her to "slapstick and physical comedy." According to Jack White, brother of Stooges producer Jules White, Lucille quickly left the studio because "Harry Cohn didn't want to bother with her. He didn't think she had any talent!" ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Cactus Makes Perfect
The first part of this Three Stooges comedy is pretty amusing, but it's even funnier if you realize that the actor playing the Stooges' long-suffering mother is writer Monte Collins in drag (he co-wrote the story to this picture). Ma Stooge lives with her boys in a humble farmhouse, but Curly has a plan to make them wealthy -- he has invented a "gold collar button retriever." The Inventors Association sends him a letter calling the contraption "incomprehensible and utterly impractical." With that bit of encouragement, the boys leave their ma, the cow and the chickens, and go to the big city to make their fortune -- the big city happens to be just across the street. Immediately a conman gets a hundred dollars out of them by selling them the rights to a lost mine -- and the map that tells them how to get there. Out in gold country, Curly puts the collar button retriever to use as a gold locator and sure enough, they come upon the lost mine. They also run into a dangerous pair of desert rats who want the mine's gold. Once inside the mine, getting the gold is easy enough -- the Stooges find a lever they can pull like a slot machine. But they still have to get away from the desert rats and they hide in the safe of a closed-down hotel. The rats drill a hole in the safe and push a stick of dynamite through. The Stooges push it back. The rats push it in again and the Stooges are blown through the hotel's wall. One bit of trivia -- this short is on a compilation reel along with Whoops! I'm an Indian and Rockin' Thru the Rockies, and in all of them Curly is wearing the same skunk (not coon) skin cap! ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Men in Black
Although it was nominated for an Academy Award, the third Three Stooges comedy two-reeler for Columbia has not dated well. A spoof of MGM's Clark Gable vehicle Men in White, Men in Black was a rather shapeless romp in which Moe, Larry, and Curly played dumbbell interns at the Lost Arms Hospital. The team was supported by such veteran comedians as Bud Jamison, Dell Henderson, Hank Mann, and Neal Burns, while Ruth Hiatt, Kay Hughes, and a host of starlets appeared as nurses, but the two-reeler remains one of the team's lesser early efforts. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

Termites of 1938
Almost like a special bonus, the slapstick of this Three Stooges short is sprinkled with a few dashes of subtle humor. When a husband insists on going fishing, leaving his wife mate-less for a big society bash, her friend suggests she call the Acme Escort Service. "I hope they're discriminating," the matron remarks as her African-American maid cocks an eyebrow. The maid, it turns out, calls Acme Exterminators instead of Acme Escort, which introduces the Stooges. They are in the midst of trying out Moe's new mouse catching contraption, which involves a cannon and a lot of string. The mouse proves to be smarter than the Stooges, however, and detonates the cannon, sending Moe's head into the wall. Just then the phone rings and Moe, now hard of hearing, thinks the woman, who wants the "best man for a dance," is requesting a "pest man for ants." The Stooges show up at the mansion appropriately dressed, but that's the only thing about them that winds up being appropriate. The guest of honor is a British chap who is visiting the States for the first time and at dinner, he carefully follows the Stooges' atrocious table manners. In turn, the other guests are forced to follow him, as he tosses olives in the air and spears the squab with corn-on-the-cob holders. Then the Stooges replace the musical entertainment for a little number of their own, played to a recording of a marching band. Mice appear, and the Stooges finally hunker down to work. But they're clearly the ones who are the real pests and finally the matron's husband returns from his trip. He swears never to go fishing again and chases the Stooges away. As they drive off, he tosses a gopher bomb into their auto. An enormous explosion destroys the car and the boys' evening clothes. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Whoops! I'm an Indian
In one of The Three Stooges' lesser comedies, the boys play a trio of Northwest frontier con artists. They are on the run after tricking some men out of their money at a rough saloon -- for violating the gaming laws, they are wanted "dead or in bad shape." On top of that, they're broke -- says Curly, "I threw away the money so I could run faster." They go hunting for some food and prove that, left on their own, their survival skills won't carry them very far. Meanwhile, Lucky Pierre, a brutal trapper, has discovered that his wife just left him for an Indian. He storms out of his cabin to kill any Indian that comes his way. The Stooges break into his home and unfortunately, they choose Indian costumes as disguises. They meet up with Pierre back at the saloon, but before he can do them any major damage, he falls for Curly, who is dressed like a squaw. Moe prods the reluctant Curly into sticking with Pierre, at least temporarily. The trapper weds Curly and gleefully carries him upstairs for the honeymoon. "For you I have the grand surprise!" he promises. "So have I," Curly mutters, "if you only knew it." In their room, Curly loses his wig, and Moe and Larry are discovered hiding under the bed. They run from Pierre and find what they think is a good hiding place. After Moe has shut the gate, a sign reveals it to be the Lobo jail. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

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