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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Shorts > Feature Films > Animated Shorts > Slapstick > The Three Stooges: The Ultimate Collection (1934 - 1959/Sony DVD Box Set)

The Three Stooges: The Ultimate Collection (1934 - 1959/Sony DVD Box Set)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B     Films: B+



For a very long time, Sony has issued various sets and singles of shorts and other films from The Three Stooges, but the new Three Stooges: The Ultimate Collection DVD box set is the best collection they will ever issue of the material on DVD, including all eight sets of shorts on DVD (minus the lame colorized versions) and including a bonus 3-DVD package that pretty much is everything they could possibly have of the trio (with its variant member changes) from the Columbia Pictures vaults.


We’ll start with those eight The Three Stooges Collection sets, four of which we covered as stand-alone sets, accompanied by their links below:


1934 – 1936

After showing up as a team at MGM backing Ted Healy, the original trio of Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard moved to Columbia and began one of the most successful and prolific series of comedy shorts in cinema history logging 19 releases in this time period from Woman Haters to Slippery Silks and setting their routine (and formula to some extent) including political incorrectness galore with the likes of Whoops, I’m An Indian!


The combination of energy, talent and chemistry landed them instantly as legends up there in cinema history with Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy, The Marx Brothers, Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis and Bud Abbott & Lou Costello.  They also become one of the most important acts in Columbia Pictures history.


1937 - 1939



1940 - 1942



1943 – 1945



1946 – 1948



By this time WWII was over and the original team was still in tact, but Shemp Howard filled in for Curly, who eventually passed away, making Shemp his successor. 


1949 – 1951

Shemp worked well in the team and fans continued to enjoy the antics of the new trio, so the series continued.  This 22 shorts set includes 3D versions of Spooks! and Pardon My Backfire from 1953 when the very first 3D craze all-too-briefly swept Hollywood for the first time.  They are very amusing and forced the makers to vary the change around the approach to the shorts, making for two of the best in the series, which work very well in 2D also included while two red/green viewers are included for the 3D in the case.  I will add that the 3D seems much less pretentious than many of the big budget features we have suffered through in recent years since the new 3D era arrived.


This set begins with A Missed Fortune and concludes with Scotched In Scotland, also offering the likes of Cookoo On A Choo Choo, Goof On The Roof, Income Tax Sappy, Knutzy Knights and Shot In The Frontier.


1952 – 1954

The second version of the trio continues with 24 more shorts from The Ghost Talks to Pest Man Wins, with Fuelin’ Around, Three Hams On Rye, A Snitch In Time, Three Arabian Nuts and Don’t Throw That Knife among the highlight of lunacy this time around.


1955 – 1959

The phenomenon of television was finally starting to take hold, but the Stooges continued to be very popular and it took Columbia folding their shorts unit (they were one of the first studious to embrace TV) to end this series.  Shemp died of a heart attack in late 1955, so the everyone had to scramble to find a successor (using stand-ins and the like for his unfinished shorts), so by 1956 they signed Joe Besser who became Joe for the rest of the shorts beginning with Hoofs & Goofs in 1957 and concluded what is (only matched by The Little Rascals/Our Gang, Laurel & Hardy only made shorts from 1927 to 1936, though it seems much longer) the most successful comedy shorts series in cinema history.


This set is the largest of the eight, starts with Fling In The Ring and concludes with Sappy Bullfighters.  In between and among the final 32 shorts, we get the likes of Gypped In The Penthouse, For Crimin’ Out Loud, Rumpus In The Harem, Space Ship Sappy, Outer Space Jitters, Quiz Whizz and Pies & Guys.  Remarkably, Besser was a solid fit and the spirit of the trio endured once more.  Too bad it had to end, but they were not done yet and though these sets have no extras, the bonus DVDs are a huge plus and we’ll get to them in a moment.

The 1.33 X 1 black and white image on all the live action comedy shorts, which includes those on the bonus discs, often look really good for their age, often from new prints Sony apparently struck a while ago, but you will get variances from short to short like a TV series collection with its various episodes as you never know what condition one will be in from another.  However, many prints look HD-ready and in most cases, will never look better ion this format.  The two feature films are also black and white and can show their age a little more than many of the shorts, but look good enough to enjoy here.  The two 1.33 X 1 monochrome 3D shorts are in the older anaglyphic red/blue format and though you can see some fun depth, the effects sometimes do not work because of the transfer or some shots that need readjusted, plus there are aliasing errors and some soft spots on both prints.


Sony should consider putting these as bonuses on some upcoming high profiles comedies on Blu-ray 3D (Men In Black III, or something like that) so people can enjoy these to their best extent.  That leaves the three 1.33 X 1 animated cartoons from Columbia’s Color Rhapsodies series as the only color content in this whole set, which look really good, even if the three-strip Technicolor is not always as vibrant and wide ranging as I would have liked, color is still pretty accurate and this is DVD, so the low definition might be holding the color back.


We get lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono sound on every program here and though the sound can have distortion and show its age in all cases, Sony has cleaned these tracks up as much as they could in all cases.



Extras are across three bonus discs. DVD 1 has two feature films the trio made at Columbia: Rockin’ In The Rockies (1945) and Have Rocket, Will Travel (1959, one of the feature films where Joe DeRita replaced Besser, who moved on to his own comedy career, playing Curly-Joe but was never in any of the shorts) which are amusing and were attempts to see if they could make their act work in feature films, but the results are mixed in both cases.  Getting back to those Columbia Color Rhapsodies animated shorts, a series we need to see much more of from Sony, we get three terrific cartoons in which the Stooges show up in cameos in broader storylines.  Bon Bon Parade (1935) has them as young versions of themselves fighting each other and out of a Valentine’s Day candy box in a story about young male child finding a living world or candy and deserts.  This was an occasional theme of several shorts (the Fleischer Studios did one tied to Christmas) various studios would make.  Merry Mutineers (1936, set on a ship, as you may have figured) and A Hollywood Detour (1942) are part of a larger cycle of animated shorts with satiric appearances of the biggest star names in Hollywood at the time and are very entertaining.


DVD 2 has 14 shorts with Shemp Howard doping solo comedy work with studio player supporting casts, while DVD 3 has Joe Besser in ten such live action shorts (it seems there are remakes here) and Joe DeRita, who became a Stooge in their later post-shorts feature films as noted above is featured here in four such live action shorts.



Of course, Sony has released this box due to the new Three Stooges feature film with an all-new cast that did some business at the box office, but they apparently do not handle the underrated 1965 animated The New 3 Stooges series.  However, so you don’t miss them and as a companion to this set, we also recommend the on-line exclusive Classic Comedy Teams Collection that Warner Archive (who also carries some limited edition on-line Columbia/Sony product) has issued that includes two Stooges films from the period of this box set: Meet The Baron (1933, aka The Big Liar) which they made before landing up at Columbia with MGM and Gold Raiders (1951, aka The Stooges Go West) in which they were loaned out for what was apparently a United Artists release.  You can read more about it at this link:





In the meantime, The Three Stooges: The Ultimate Collection DVD box set is one of the best and most memorable big ticket home video releases of the year and a must for all fans!



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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