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By 1937, where Volume Two of this long overdue chronological collection picks up, Moe, Larry, and Curly had been performing together for over a decade, and appeared in several feature films and 19 short subjects for Columbia. They were just getting warmed up; there is nary a clunker among the 24 shorts on this two-disc set. Several rank in the Stooges pantheon, including "Grips, Grunts and Groans" (with Bustoff the wrestler), "Violent is the Word for Curly" (with "Swinging the Alphabet"), and "Healthy, Wealthy and Dumb" (the Stooges live the hotel high life after Curly wins a radio contest). These comedies must have been a great escape for Depression-era moviegoers, particularly the ones in which the rich are reduced to food-throwing goofs ("Three Sappy People"). For the Stooges, it’s not prosperity that’s around the corner, but more often, con men on the lookout for "suckers" to swindle ("A Ducking They Will Go," "Playing the Ponies"). Reflecting America’s can-do spirit, the Stooges are nothing if not resilient. These shorts may find them down, but they are never out. The boys are ungainfully employed as Calvary spies ("Goofs and Saddles"), janitors ("Three Missing Links"), dog washers ("Mutts to You"), firemen ("Flat Foot Stooges"), traveling salesmen ("Saved by the Belle"), and vets ("Calling all Curs"). Some of the best shorts turn on mistaken identity: They are confused for college professors in "Violent is the Word for Curly," high society escorts in "Termites of 1938," and famous decorators in "Tassels in the Air." For all the hair-tearing, eye-poking, and shovel-clobbering, the Stooges surprise with the odd musical grace note, such as their rendition of the silly "The Lollipop Song" in "Wee Wee Monsieur," and their music box-accompanied pas-de-trio with pilgrim lasses Faith, Hope, and Charity in "Back to the Woods." One also does not ordinarily look to the Stooges for pathos, or, for that matter, heartwarming happy endings, but "Cash and Carry" delivers both as the boys set out to raise $500 for a crippled boy's operation. "Flat Foot Stooges" is something of a milestone. It marks the debut of "Three Blind Mice" as the Stooges new theme song, which would replace the twittering "Listen to the Mockingbird." The shorts are presented complete and uncut, which means the PC police are standing by to issue citations for such egregious stereotypes as the grunting, shrieking "savages" in the colonial comedy, "Back to the Woods," and the Stooges’ turn as Yiddish-speaking Chinese launderers in "Mutts to You."

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CO25799 Three Stooges 1937-39 DVD (24 shorts) $19.99 $17.99