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In "Crash Goes the Hash," Moe, Larry and Curly offend a snooty butler's sensibilities. "Such levity," he sniffs. "You remind me of the Three Stooges." In a huff, Curly replies, "Hey, that's an insult." No, it's the highest compliment. The best of these 21 shorts (and even the worst have at least some redeeming bits of silliness) are essential for every Stooge-phile's library. This chronological collection is book-ended by two key shorts. Violent is the word for "They Stooge to Conga," jaw-dropping slapstick porn that features an excruciating bit wherein Moe's head, ear, and eye are punctured by Curly's spiked shoe. "Micro-Phonies" is arguably the Stooges' very best short, in which Curly is mistaken for an operatic singer. The lip-sync renditions of "Voices of Spring" and the sextet from the opera Lucia di Lammermoor are moments that even Stooge-haters love. Mistaken identity happens a lot to the boys. They are mistaken for doctors in "A Gem of a Jam," reporters in "Crash Goes the Hash," sweepstakes winners in "Three Pets in a Mess," and Japanese soldiers in "No Dough, Boys." In several of these wartime shorts it seems they can't turn around with uncovering a "rat's nest" of Japanese and German spies and saboteurs. Perhaps the stereotypical portrayals of the Axis villains in "They Stooge to Conga," "Back from the Front" and "Higher Than a Kite" can be forgiven today. However, as great a performer as African-American character actor Dudley Dickerson is, his cowardly, put-upon characters in "Conga" and "Gem" are a little more problematic in our more enlightened times. Other notable shorts are "Gents Without Cents," in which the Stooges return to their vaudeville roots with their performance of their signature "Niagara Falls" sketch ("Slowly I turn…."). "Busy Buddies," in which Curly enters a cow-milking contest, is another fan favorite. "Idle Roomers" marks the debut of the versatile Christine McIntyre, one of the great additions to the Stooges stock company. "If a Body Meets a Body" marks the first use of the swing version of the Stooges' "Three Blind Mice" theme. The first short produced following Curly Howard's mild stroke, it also marks the beginning of the end for the Curly era. But this thoughtfully produced collection ensures that the Stooges' legacy is secure. These shorts, to quote Curly in "Crash Goes the Hash," are mostly "colossal, stupendous, terrific…even superlative."

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