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The 32 shorts featured in volume 8 of the Three Stooges Collection mark the final days of the comedy act's tenure at Columbia prior to their revival in the late 1950s, as well as the last appearances of original Stooge Shemp Howard and his short-lived replacement, comic Joe Besser. By 1952, Columbia had drastically reduced its short-subject division, which forced the Stooges' best director, Edward Bernds, to depart from the studio. Jules White was left in charge of the final shorts, which were further compromised by a reliance on recycling footage from older shorts as a cost-cutting measure. The death of Shemp Howard in 1955 brought the curtain down on the original Stooge lineup; the final short to feature new Shemp footage, 1956's "For Crimin' Out Loud," is included on the set's second disc, as are the infamous quartet featuring actor Joe Palma as a stand-in Shemp in linking footage ("Rumpus in the Harem," "Hot Stuff," "Scheming Schemers," and "Commotion on the Ocean"). The latter are the source of much debate among Stoogephiles, as is the tenure of Joe Besser as Shemp's replacement. Besser brought his established screen persona--the same tantrum-prone man-child he played on The Abbott and Costello Show--to the shorts, as well as a requirement that he not receive any physical abuse from Moe Howard, which changed the tone of the act; Stooge fans appear to be split on his participation as either a brief shot in the arm for the venerable comedy team, or an aggravating presence that signaled the end of the act prior to Columbia opting to cancel their contract in 1957. Thankfully, television provided a second act for the Stooges, who re-formed in 1959 with Curly Joe DeRita as the third member. As for the shorts collected here, there are some amusing moments, especially 1956's "Creeps" (a remake of 1949's "The Ghost Talks," with the boys as moving men at a haunted house) and 1958's "Quiz Whizz," which requires the Stooges to dress as children in garish Little Lord Fauntleroy outfits, but the set is essential for only the most ardent of Stoogephiles and completists.

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CO34965 Three Stooges 1955-59 DVD (32 shorts) $19.99 $17.99