This piece was originally published June 7th, 2010.
There was a time in the mid nineties when I was attempting to collect every short made by The Three Stooges.
I sat patiently every evening with my snappy VHS recorder while tuned to WSBK Channel 36, the local independent UHF station out of Boston, which not only ran a nightly serving ofStooge laughs, but also held their annual Three Stooges New Years Eve “Countdown” all night marathon, and most of the time a healthy dose of afternoon Stooges shorts as well.
For as long as I could recall, from my childhood, on into my teens and beyond, The Three Stooges were a part of my family’s television viewing.
I grew up knowing that this was the creme de la creme of timeless laughs who easily beat out any other comedy team that came up against them. Gratefully, there must have been some heavily devoted knuckleheadaficionados at Channel 38 as well, since they had always been a part of the station’s programming for as long as I could remember, all the while helping to feed my Stooges obsession.
Dutifully screening my episode checklist daily, I sadly never managed to obtain the full run of the Stooges shorts for my video collection.
While of course every Curly short had been easy enough to obtain fairly quickly, they were constantly being aired, it was some of the later Shemp and most of the Joe Besser shorts that seemed to be rare or impossible to ever catch airing.
I did manage to build up quite a box of tapes however, not too mention along with all the rusty scissor edits, commercial interruptions and generally inferior quality of picture that came along with this endeavor.
Ironically, it was also around this time there came a trickle of Three Stooges shorts released on DVD which gave way to more Stooge comps and a couple of box sets featuring these comps. These compilations, for the most part, were not remastered and were only linked by loose themes or by giving fans more Curly with fewer Shemp titles in a fairly random way—and absolutely, no Joe Besser titles would make it to DVD at all. So while not exactly complete waste of time hackjobs, these compilations were still mediocre and sadly lacking what just about every fanatical Three Stooges devotee desired…
To have all of the short features that The Three Stooges made for Columbia Pictures put out on DVD.
Hopefully, in their uncut, unedited—and one could only dream—chronological order as they were originally released to theaters at the time. Remastering would be nice as well.
Well, this past week it finally happened!
With Volume #8 being the final installment of The Three Stooges Collection. Sony Pictures, now the license holder for all things Stooges, listened to all of us fans on the fan boards and decided to actually give us just what we wanted. Beginning with volume 1 in October of 2007, Sony has released these 8 fine sets.
All 190 films have been released chronologically from the very first Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard short subject, Women Haters (1934) which was the only short that experimented with all rhyming sing-song dialogue, through the absolutely classic Curly years of 1934-1945 featured on Volumes 1-4.
Then after the final Curly shorts, came the 1st appearance of Shemp Howard in Fright Night (1946) in Volume 5. Just released is the final set in the series, Volume 8 which features the remaining Shemp episodes and all of the Joe Besser (who replaced Shemp) shorts. This disc, the largest of the sets, covers the years 1955-1959 with most of these making their DVD debut.
There are no bonus features, but that’s just fine, as all shorts are in their pristine remastered and unedited glory. There is one surprise addition: Volume 7 features the two 3D shorts that the boys made, with two pairs of accompanying glasses, a nice treat that I had never expected Sony to release.
So with these 8 volumes, anyone who is an obsessive fan can now rest and enjoy. Even someone wishing to dip into just what is up with these strange cats can now find out what everyone else has been laughing about.
Those who may have thought that they always disliked Joe Besser can perhaps reconsider and realize that he was actually pretty great after all, especially in Space Ship Sappy (1957) and Flying Saucer Daffy (1958).
Seeing how these collections have been so successful and best sellers, I also have a feeling that more volumes could be on the way. These could include the pre-Stooges Ted Healy years, the many solo appearances, documentaries and the later Curly Joe DeRita ( Joe Besser’s replacement) feature films and animated series. If Sony keeps them coming I will be there with an open wallet and a very happy heart.
A huge thanks to Sony Pictures for releasing these volumes in the superb manner that most does justice to what truly is one THE greatest, and I feel most timeless, of all comedy teams in the history of film and television.
Don’t believe me? Then feast your eyes…