BluRay/DVD Reviews

VITAPHONE COMEDY COLLECTION – VOLUME TWO – SHEMP HOWARD (1933-1937)

By • Nov 8th, 2014 •

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Fans of the Three Stooges will be all over this fun-filled Warner Archive DVD. Even those who are not Stooge-philes will enjoy this collection of 21 rare short subjects featuring slapstick, the often surreal humor of Mr. Shemp Howard.

For those not well versed in Stooge-history, during the 1920’s, Brooklyn born Shemp Howard was originally part of a sight-gag filled vaudeville act called “Ted Healy and His Stooges”. Healy, and comedians Larry Fine and brothers Moe and Shemp Howard were a hit on vaudeville, but their debut film, SOUP TO NUTS (1930), was a critical disaster. Shemp soon left the team to pursue a solo career. At the same time, theatre managers wanted to book Larry, Moe and Curly (Shemp’s brother and replacement) without the abusive, alcoholic Ted Healy tagging along. A bitter Healy supposedly threatened to bomb theatres hiring The Three Stooges.

Shemp, already in his early fifties, would reunite with The Three Stooges after Curly suffered a stroke in 1946. The shorts in this collection, made about a dozen years before this reunion, gives us a more youthful, limber and physical Shemp.In these shorts, Shemp is teamed with obscure depression-era movie comics such as silent funnyman Henry Gribbon and Roscoe Ates, who had this very un-PC stuttering routine. Many of the shorts here feature Shemp successfully paired with Australian born pint-sized, wise-cracking Daphne Pollard. The two of them come across like a volatile version of George Burns and Gracie Allen from the rough neighborhood.

The 21 shorts here include HIS MUMMY’S ARMS (1934), a surreal romp through a newly discovered Egyptian mummies’ tomb.The short, with some pretty wild gags, plays on the exotic lure that followed the celebrated discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb a decade earlier. DIZZY AND DAFFY (’34), features ballplayer Shemp giving an early version of his famous two-fingered eye-poke to umpire Roscoe Ates. Many of the gags in these shorts are repeats of sight gags from other comic teams’ collection. In A PEACH OF A PAIR (1934), Shemp and his shrew wife, Daphne Pollard, are mistaken for a millionaire’s cook and butler. Just as Our Gang would do in an earlier short, they accidently mix mouth-shrinking alum and small, dangerous household items into the food they serve.In WHY PAY RENT? (1935), Shemp and fellow house-builder Roscoe Ates assemble one of those packaged homes in a kit that comes with instructions. The results are almost identical to the ready-made house Buster Keaton built in the silent gem ONE WEEK.

My neighborhood deli, the Rob Roy, has Three Stooges photos all along their walls. This indicates how this almost century-old comedy team still has a strong fan base. Warner Brothers’ Shemp Howard Collection shows “The Once and Future Stooge” fine-tune his craft. It is a must for fans of classic comedy.

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