Attention fans of vintage comedy, slapstick and the most famous funny trio of all (no offense to the Rifftrax Crew, all ex-Mystery-Science-Theater-3000aires), The Three Stooges: You may rejoice … if, of course, the whole rejoicing thing is something toward which you’re inclined. At any rate, the source of your rejoicing – or pleasant state of mind if you’re not a rejoicer – is a number of DVDs available through Legend Films and Rifftrax showcasing The Three Stooges in a variety of formats. Fittingly enough, I’m going to tackle THREE of the DVDs available from Legend and the Rifftraxers. There are more; I leave it to you to discover these for yourself after you’re done here. Or whenever you feel like it. Don’t let me tell you what to do. THE THREE STOOGES GREATEST ROUTINES is slightly mistitled, as it should be “The Three Stooges Greatest Routines: The Curly Joe Years.” The clutch of Stooge shorts here are of the CJ era, for Stooge completists and aficionados of the non-original-Curly line-ups. Besides the shorts themselves, available in both colorized and black-and-white versions, there are introductions to each film by two of the Rifftrax crew, Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy. It’s fun to see them ham it up before the Stooges REALLY go to porktown with their over-the-top brand of comedy. Shemp-haters beware AND take comfort in THE THREE STOOGES: CLASSIC SHORTS & SWING PARADE 2-DVD double feature, also in color AND black-and-white. The first disc is a collection of four Three Stooges films, the first of which boasts the original Curly (that’s part of the comfort) and some terrific antics on his part. There’s a great routine involving Curly swearing in as a witness. It’s on a par with Abbott & Costello! The other three shorts are from later in the stooge career and feature Shemp. (That’s the beware part. The rest of the comfort is forthcoming.) Nelson, Murphy and Bill Corbett appear in an introduction, intermissions and an outro, and their bits – including a great intermission in which Bill’s Shemp Alert brings chuckle-inducing reactions from his buddies – are as much fun as the Stooges films themselves. The second disc of this set includes SWING PARADE … … which is also available in a RIFFTRAX edition, with Nelson, Murphy and Corbett unleashing the brand of humor they helped make famous on MST3K. I can’t help but appreciate the irony of a modern trio of comedians poking fun at a vintage trio of comedians. SWING PARADE is my favorite out of all these – with the short ORDER IN THE COURT from the two-disker running a close second, if you care. It’s a rare feature film featuring the Stooges, giving the guys more room to move – and to include other characters that are more than just fodder for the Stooges’ antics. The three wise guys (I hope you realize I don’t mean gangsters …) don’t even show up until ten or so minutes in. Really, the central character is a poor young lady with eviction on the horizon but a finely trained voice in her favor. (This is also a musical; did I forget to mention that?) Her encounters trying to get a gig at a night club, getting brushed off, going to get back at the club by being a process server (putting official shut-down-now! papers in the club manager’s hands, in this case), then getting the singing gig after all – which we all knew would happen – are quite entertaining in and of themselves, and they just constitute the first third of the film. The Stooges are involved and help her out and since she’s a cutie, we even get to see Moe in a good mood. My point is, the feature-length film format gives the Stooges a bigger stage upon which to perform and it helps them greatly. It’s even funnier with Mike, Kevin and Bill along for the ride. And, as I’ve said, there are more Three Stooges DVDs on tap at www.legendfilms.com and www.rifftrax.com.
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