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What chills, what thrills! While the Three Stooges' best days were behind them, these 22 slaphappy shorts produced between 1952 and 1954 demonstrate that the enduring comedy team still had a lot of hair-pulling, eye-gouging, and head-banging life in them yet. You can be forgiven a certain amount of déjà vu when watching some of the shorts. Studio budget cuts necessitated the use of recycled footage. "Booty and the Beast," for one, contains Curly's now-poignant cameo in "Hold That Lion." Still other shorts recycled plots from the team's Curly days ("A Missed Fortune" is a remake of "Healthy, Wealthy and Dumb"). While none of these shorts rank in the Stooges pantheon or are likely to change anyone's anti-Shemp bias (can't we all just get along?), they are knockabout fun for die-hard fans. The highlights of this set are "Spooks!" and "Pardon My Backfire," the team's pioneering forays into 3-D. An engagement anniversary cake, water, fire, and hypodermic needle comin' at ya are crude but effective. Other shorts offer sublimely surreal silliness. In "Cuckoo on a Choo Choo," a T-shirted Larry storms around like a Marlon Brando wannabe, while a soused Shemp hallucinates a giant canary. The vaudeville tradition lives on in "Tricky Dicks," with god-awful gags (the old "wooden leg named Smith" bit) and bizarre dialogue ("How dare you look like someone I hate," a woman greets Larry). The political satire "Three Dark Horses" is a fine example of the classic Stooges formula, in which villains seek three patsies "who are too dumb to think and will do what we tell them. Now where do we find such guys?" Enter the Stooges. But others, like "He Cooked His Goose," break convention by presenting Moe, Larry, and Shemp as individuals rather than a team. While the Stooges themselves may be showing their ages, the slapstick, expertly timed and exquisitely choreographed, never gets old.

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CO32919 Three Stooges 1952-54 DVD (22 shorts) $19.99 $17.99