Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Three Stooges Vs. Zombies! (well.... a zombie)

Moe Howard and Dan Blocker in Outer Space Jitters (1957).
With The Three Stooges opening this weekend, I thought the time was right to explore a vintage Stooge short in which the hapless trio dealt with the living impaired. Yes, the Three Stooges did a zombie movie, though not until they were pretty much out of gas creatively. The boys made 190 shorts for Columbia Pictures between 1934 and 1959, and the film in question -- 1957's Outer Space Jitters -- is #182 of that series, which should give you an idea. By this point, they were already on their third "third Stooge." Curly and Shemp were both dead by then, so the role was filled by comedian Joe Besser. Stooge fans tend to be divided about Besser. Some loathe him, while others despise him. Me, I tend to be more forgiving because I grew up hearing Besser's voice on Hanna-Barbera cartoons like Scooby's All-Star Laff-A-Lympics. Maybe Joe's prissy, effete style of comedy does not mesh with the rough-and-tumble aesthetic of the group, but to me he's a livelier "third Stooge" than "Curly Joe" DeRita ever was.

Blocker and the Stooges.
None of which is to say that Outer Space Jitters is any kind of masterpiece. The boys were well past their prime here -- their average age in this short is 55 -- and the episode just kind of chugs along without generating much in the way of actual laughter. My favorite moment, in fact, comes early on when Larry turns to the camera to plug Colmubia's then-recent musical, Pal Joey. The plot has Larry, Moe, and Joe, along with their frequent co-star Emil Sitka, on a fact-finding trip to the planet Sunev to find out "what's cookin'" up there, only to discover that the Sunevians, who run on electricity rather than blood, are planning to conquer the Earth by raising an army of cavemen from the dead. Or something like that. The one caveman zombie we see is played by Dan Blocker, much better known for his role as Hoss Cartwright on the long-running Western series Bonanza. Like pretty much all monsters in the Stooge films, Blocker just kind of staggers around after them but never inflicts any damage. He doesn't need to. As always, the Stooges are quite adept at injuring themselves and each other.

Anyway, if the preceding article has piqued your interest, here is Outer Space Jitters for your perusal. Enjoy.

 

1 comment:

  1. While I kinda agree with your thoughts on DeRita (okay, I TOTALLY AGREE!), I always find it odd that the most rabid fans never admit that Larry (or Moe) wanted DeRita over Besser. Depending on who tells the story, either Moe wanted to buy DeRita's contract from the Minskys (which they wouldn't sell because he was the best burlesque comedian they had...and seeing a bit of footage from his act, he was pretty damn funny), or Larry saw him in Las Vegas...during Minsky's Follies. So, whomever "found" him, the Minskys were a common point.

    There are 2 things that made me respect, or even like DeRita as (ugh) the "new Curly." One was their appearance on the Steve Allen Show (with Lenny Bruce! The Stooges and Bruce on the same program!),where they did the "Stand-In Sketch," and the most hilarious--the "Doctor" sketch on the Ed Sullivan Show. When Moe slaps Curly-Joe and his wig flies off? No one could go on for a few seconds, including Moe. He manages to keep it together enough to poke Larry (who was also laughing--while he was supposed to be unconscious.)

    Then again, there are those fans who claim that Shemp's an "inferior" Stooge! SHEMP! (That's another rant for another day.)

    As always, love the blog!

    ReplyDelete