In this fourth chronological collection of The Three Stooges, we come to the final years of what has become regardedas the high point in their career - their Golden Age. These 21 digitally remastered shorts from the 1943-1945 era contain some of their best work, including the classic MICRO-PHONIES (1943) which Curly turns in a brilliant performance as opera diva Senorita Cucaracha. Also included in this collection are two favorites that are so outrageous that television programmers are always hesitant about airing them: THEY STOOGE TO CONGA (1943) features what is considered one of the most violent scenes ever filmed by the Three Stooges and THE YOKE'S ON ME (1944) is what we today refer to as "politically incorrect" in its portrayal of Japanese soldiers. The Three Stooges Collection Volume 4 is groundbreaking, hilarious and outrageous -- classic entertainment from Larry, Moe and Curly at the height of their creativity. Don't miss out on the fun!
In "Crash Goes the Hash," Moe, Larry and Curly offend a snooty butler's sensibilities. "Such levity," he sniffs. "You remind me of the Three Stooges." In a huff, Curly replies, "Hey, that's an insult." No, it's the highest compliment. The best of these 21 shorts (and even the worst have at least some redeeming bits of silliness) are essential for every Stooge-phile's library. This chronological collection is book-ended by two key shorts. Violent is the word for "They Stooge to Conga," jaw-dropping slapstick porn that features an excruciating bit wherein Moe's head, ear, and eye are punctured by Curly's spiked shoe. "Micro-Phonies" is arguably the Stooges' very best short, in which Curly is mistaken for an operatic singer. The lip-sync renditions of "Voices of Spring" and the sextet from the opera Lucia di Lammermoor
are moments that even Stooge-haters love. Mistaken identity happens a lot to the boys. They are mistaken for doctors in "A Gem of a Jam," reporters in "Crash Goes the Hash," sweepstakes winners in "Three Pets in a Mess," and Japanese soldiers in "No Dough, Boys." In several of these wartime shorts it seems they can't turn around with uncovering a "rat's nest" of Japanese and German spies and saboteurs. Perhaps the stereotypical portrayals of the Axis villains in "They Stooge to Conga," "Back from the Front" and "Higher Than a Kite" can be forgiven today. However, as great a performer as African-American character actor Dudley Dickerson is, his cowardly, put-upon characters in "Conga" and "Gem" are a little more problematic in our more enlightened times. Other notable shorts are "Gents Without Cents," in which the Stooges return to their vaudeville roots with their performance of their signature "Niagara Falls" sketch ("Slowly I turn…."). "Busy Buddies," in which Curly enters a cow-milking contest, is another fan favorite. "Idle Roomers" marks the debut of the versatile Christine McIntyre, one of the great additions to the Stooges stock company. "If a Body Meets a Body" marks the first use of the swing version of the Stooges' "Three Blind Mice" theme. The first short produced following Curly Howard's mild stroke, it also marks the beginning of the end for the Curly era. But this thoughtfully produced collection ensures that the Stooges' legacy is secure. These shorts, to quote Curly in "Crash Goes the Hash," are mostly "colossal, stupendous, terrific…even superlative." --Donald Liebenson
Stooges fans may experience a sense of the bittersweet mixed with their elation over the arrival of Volume 4 in the digitally remastered Three Stooges Collection; although the new set continues to present the knucklehead's legendary comedy shorts in pristine condition and chronological order, it's also the beginning of the end in regards to the participation of Jerome "Curly" Howard, who arguably remains the most popular member of the trio. By 1943-44, a variety of debilitating health issues robbed Howard of his manic energy, which is more than evident in shorts like "If a Body Meets a Body" and "Micro-Phonies," both from 1945. Unfortunately, brother Moe Howard's requests to halt production was nixed by Columbia, which resulted in a further decline in Curly's health that would eventually lead to the stroke in 1946 that forced his retirement from the team. And while the knowledge of Howard's health issues casts something of a pall over the set, there are still plenty of laughs to be had over the course of the two-disc set. Chief among the highlights is "Dizzy Detectives," which pits the boys against a rampaging ape man; "Spook Louder," (Stooges vs. mad scientist with death ray machine; viewers should note that the short features some World War II-era anti-Japanese sentiment); "Gents Without Cents," which features their version of the "Niagara Falls" routine; and "Dizzy Pilots," which chronicles the Stooges' contributions to the aviation industry (all disastrous, of course). As with the previous Collection releases, seven of the 21 shorts included in the set are making their DVD debuts; the flawless quality of the DVD presentation, as well as the sheer amount of nyuks on hand, make Volume 4 a must-have for every self-respecting Stooge-phile. --Paul Gaita