The Three Stooges: Hapless Half-Wits
March 5, 2007
Hapless Half-Wits is Sony’s fourth volume of newly remastered Three Stooges short films with the option of viewing each one in its original black and white form or in a colourized version (although, any Stooges purist would scoff at this second option). The dynamic between them is simple but effective: Moe is the “smart” one, the enforcer who keeps the other two in line through physical and verbal intimidation; Curly is the idiot, the holy goof who bears the brunt of Moe’s wrath; and Larry is Moe’s yes-man and often tries, unsuccessfully, to keep Curly in line. As much as they antagonize each other (and they do a lot of that), when the chips are down, they work together to defeat a common foe or achieve a common goal – usually with varying degrees of success.
“I’ll Never Heil Again” (1941) sees the Stooges as dictators of the country of Moronica which gives them a chance to make fun of real-life dictators like Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin by portraying them as incompetent buffoons. This short film shows off their knack for broad, slapstick humour in a dinner scene where Moe uses a cooked turkey to keep Curly and Larry in line. All of their actions and reactions are greatly exaggerated for comedic effect – a result of their Vaudeville roots. The Three Stooges short films display a funny, anarchic energy like when they play a game of keep-away with a large globe of the world with Stalin, Mussolini and other dictators.
“Beer Barrel Polecats” (1945) sees the boys making their own beer in a get-rich quick scheme. Predictably, it doesn’t pay off – especially after Curly tries to smuggle some booze into a holding cell – and they end up in jail. This short reminds one of the almost psychotic glee that Curly would display when attacking a project head-on. Here, we see him practically cackle with delight as he fills a bathtub up with lager. One highlight of this film has them paint prison guard uniforms over their prison duds in an attempt to escape.
“Brideless Groom” (1947) was made during their Shemp period when he replaced Curly suffered a stroke in 1946. Shemp plays a vocal teacher with Larry as his accompanist on piano with Moe as the brains of the operation. One day, Moe tells Shemp that he just inherited a fortune but the catch is that he’s got to get married by six o’clock that day. There’s a funny bit where Moe and Shemp try to make a phone call in a confined booth which shows what they can do with little surface area. Shemp strikes out with a few women and so he decides to tie the knot with one of talentless students. Once all of the ladies he proposed to find out about the money, they show up and chaos ensues as they women wreak havoc on the Stooges including a memorable bit where Moe sits on a bear trap.
“Dopey Dicks” (1949) sees the boys accidentally becoming detectives in order to save a girl from a mad scientist. Shemp brings a different dynamic to the group. He’s more of a sap and easily dominated by Moe unlike Curly who often gave as good as he got. This short film gives the boys a chance to parody the mad scientist film complete with a dark and stormy night setting, the creepy assistant and the insane doctor, all cranked up to theatrical proportions.