I have always been the first to admit in any conversation that I’m a devout fan of The Three Stooges (the real Three Stooges, that is – and not that recent feature-length garbage the Farrelly Brothers are currently up on charges for under the heading of “Crimes Against Humanity”) – something that is often to the disdain of the poor individuals I am succeeding at failing to impress. Now, while I’m most certainly pro-Shemp through and through, I am just as comfortable sitting back and chuckling away into the wee hours with the classic antics of any union of the iconic comedy trio. Why, I’ve even been known to watch the animated shorts the latter day amalgamation of the boys produced for television every now and again.
Sadly, there has never been a definitive gathering of the aforementioned TV shorts, The New Three Stooges, released to home video. Until now, that is. Originally broadcast for families between 1965 and 1966, the short-lived color series brought viewers 156 brief animated tales featuring new live-action wraparound segments starring Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Curly Joe DeRita, which were produced by Moe’s supportive son-in-law, Norman Maurer. While Howard and Fine were most assuredly in their autumn years at this point in time (and they both showed it, believe me), the younger DeRita (who had taken over the reigns from Joe Besser after Shemp Howard – who replaced Curly Howard after dropping out from the troupe for a period himself – was put out of commission back in the ’40s) wound up taking most of the Stooges’ patented live-action flack in these shorts.
Of course, there was most assuredly nothing to stop anyone from escaping the most excruciatingly painful of heinous acts ever committed to animation cells within the bulk of The New Three Stooges – wherein the boys could survive falling off cliffs, helicopter crashes, or having buildings dropped upon them from high above. And, while most Stooge aficionados out there consider The New Three Stooges to have been some of the most excruciatingly painful of heinous acts ever committed to animation cells unto themselves (these ‘toons are pretty bad – to say nothing of dated – when viewed today, but there’s no accounting for a Stooge fan’s tastes, right?), there is no denying the medium of ’60s TV was able to bring new life into an old (literally) act.
The New Three Stooges: Complete Cartoon Collection brings us all 156 animated shorts (and their live-action wraparound segments – which were always the best part of the items in my opinion) on four DVDs, with a fifth disc – a CD – included in the set that contains two standalone albums originally released to vinyl when that audio format was still available. The first, the twelve-track Sing-a-Long with the Three Stooges, is a re-titled version of MCA’s The Nonsense Songbook from 1984; the second – Christmas Time with the Three Stooges (11 cuts) – contains all six of the 1983 Rhino Records album of the same name, as well as five selections culled from Madcap Musical Nonsense (originally released by Golden Records in ’62, and re-released by Rhino in ’83).
Even if you don’t like The New Three Stooges itself, the inclusion of these albums on CD is a nice touch (and they’re much funnier than most of the shorts could have ever hoped to be). What’s more, the manufacturers of this release, Image Madacy Entertainment and RLJ Entertainment, have given viewers the option to just view the cartoons on their own – though I must admit a Play Host Segments Only option would have been nice, too. The shorts themselves aren’t in the best of shape, showing no signs of remastering whatsoever. That said, these are the best I’ve seen the series thus far – and this is the only complete collection to date (Lord knows there were many an incomplete DVD and VHS volume released throughout the years).
Recommended for completists, folks with little ones, or anyone who hasn’t been able to land their hands on those classic Stooges albums on vinyl.