Tuesday, August 16, 2005

THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES

When any genre becomes popular, it becomes ripe for parody. So, when Columbia Pictures was looking around in the early Sixties for a feature vehicle for their aging comedy stars, The Three Stooges, someone took a look at the box office figures for all these Italian peplum potboilers and came up with the idea of teaming the boys with the son of Jove. The result was 1961's THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES.

 The Stooges – Moe Howard, Larry Fine and "Curly" Joe De Rita – are working as soda jerks in a drugstore in Ithaca, New York. One of their favorite customers is shy science whiz Schuyler Davis (Quinn K. Redeker), a hapless bookworm who is smitten with the lovely Diana Quigley (Vicki Trickett). In an attempt to help the pair get together, the Stooges get Schuyler's time machine working, and the whole motley crew is transported to ancient Greece. There, they meet the evil King Odius and his henchman, the arrogant, self-absorbed Hercules (Samson Burke). Odius takes a liking to Diana, and banishes the men to the galleys, intending to take the lovely brunette as his wife. As it turns out, Schuyler's heavy labors as a galley slave soon turn him into a muscleman, a muscleman the Stooges pass off as Hercules in a series of fights to make money so they can return to the palace, rescue Diana and return to 1961.

The boys had lost a step or two by the Sixties, and their once-brutal physical comedy had been replaced by a gentler, sight-gag oriented brand. Columbia re-positioned them as kiddie-matinee stars, and MEET HERCULES is clearly aimed at that undemanding audience.

That said, it's still a fun romp, with some good gags, a cool "Siamese cyclops" (played by Mike & Marlin McKeever) and a few scattered reminders of the trio's glory days. I've never been fond of Joe De Rita, but he's acceptable here.

The DVD from Columbia presents the black & white film in a pristine 1.85:1 widescreen transfer and mono sound. It looks great for a film of its vintage. There are no extra features on the disc except for a home video trailer for some recent "colorized" Stooges releases from the studio.

For Stoogeophiles (?) it's a solid presentation of one of the trio's later features, and for everyone else, it's a fun Saturday afternoon diversion.

BUY: The Three Stooges Meet Hercules