The Three Stooges (Larry Fine, Moe Howard, Curly Howard, Shemp Howard, Joe Besser, Curly Joe DeRita) are without a doubt, one of the greatest teams in the extensive history of great comics. This trio of comedians has earned more fame over the decades than even The Marx Brothers, Abbott & Costello and Laurel & Hardy. Countless DVD’s have been released with Stooges materials throughout the decades, too. Many of those DVD’s were obviously released with little thought. However, the newest Stooges release, “A Three Stooges Celebration” isn’t one of those, despite what some would want to believe.
“A Three Stooges Celebration” isn’t just another of the countless DVD releases put out in recent years that randomly culls bits and pieces for what it calls a tribute. What this new double disc release does is it takes the material that has been collected on those various releases in one double disc set for what is the most definitive set yet. The first disc in the set follows the early days of the Stooges in the 1930’s and 40’s. Included is rarer footage from the Stooges performance on the Ed Wynn Camel Hour, as well as the shorts, “Hollywood on Parade”, “Sing a Song of Six Pants”, “Knife of The Party” and “Henry The Ache.” Again, these shorts have been included on previous sets. But few, if any, of those sets has actually compiled all of the shorts in one set. One of the more interesting features in that list is the short, “Henry The Ache.” Fans will note here how short Shemp’s role was. Bert Lahr was the star of this short. It wouldn’t be until five years later that Lahr would really be a star, when he donned the costume of the Cowardly Lion in the legendary picture, “The wizard of Oz.” It’s actually rather ironic that Lahr would play King Henry in “Henry The Ache.” Those who remember “The Wizard of Oz” will recall Lahr singing, “If I were King of the forest.” Who would ever have imaged how prophetic playing a king would be in 1934?
The tidbit about Lahr is a great bonus. It is, however, just a tiny part of what makes this newest set so enjoyable. Getting back to the Stooges’ history, the first disc also boasts a near hour long documentary that tells the history of the Stooges. It starts in the group’s early Vaudeville days, telling of how the Stooges teamed with Ted Healey to form Ted Healey & His Stooges. It follows the trio throughout is lineup changes to its ultimate ending after the death of the two original stooges, Larry Fine and Moe Howard. Though the real end, according to the documentary came before either one had died. The group’s end really came after Larry suffered his first stroke. It left him unable to perform. So Moe had made the decision for the Stooges’ career to come to a close.
The history lesson and rare footage included on the set’s first disc are a joy for any Stooge’s fans, having finally been collected on one single set, rather than being spread out over countless others. The addition of the Stooges’ 1960’s “New Three Stooges” cartoons on the second disc is an extra jewel for the collection. Some people would like to whine and moan at how bad the Stooges cartoons are. Given, they may not be as great as other cartoons from that era. But the mere fact that the footage still exists and looks as good as it does here shows that it has stood the test of time. And for any Stooges or television historian, this is very important. In an era when so many cartoons are based in either CGI or anime, these hand drawn cartoons have their very own stylistic identity, and even comic identity. Love them or hate them, they are an important part of the Stooges’ history. And they are an important part of television history. That being noted, it’s nice to see them included on what fans will hopefully see as one of the better Stooges collections to come along in a long time. The two-disc set is available in stores beginning today.
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