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Monster Kid Online Magazine #5

Move over, Bud and Lou! The movies' zaniest comedy team is headed for Horrorsville. Slapstick and shivers combine when the world's most lovable imbeciles battle werewolves, mummies mad scientists and invaders from Mars!



For kids of the late fifties and early sixties there were certain inescapable forces that made an indelible impact on their formative years. Afternoon TV viewing had become an essential part of life for baby boomers. Almost very TV market across the country had its own local kids' show host who presented an array of cartoon entertainment like Bugs Bunny and Popeye to young audiences who were being introduced to decades worth of Hollywood magic in concentrated doses.

Then in 1958, something hit that generation like a slap in the face and a poke in the eyes. Columbia Pictures' TV subsidiary Screen Gems dusted off seventy-eight old two-reelers starring a then washed-up comedy team and offered them to local stations.

The Three Stooges exploded onto afternoon TV and American kids were never the same. Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Jerry "Curly" Howard, who began their career in Vaudeville as Ted Healy and his Stooges, made a shaky transition to the movies and had a difficult time finding their niche in the business until they left Healy and signed with Columbia as The Three Stooges

The team's wildly violent humor, though worrisome to parents, delighted kids who, in addition to slaps and roundhouse conks on the head, had begun making strange "nyuks nyuks" sounds, calling each other things like "numbskull" and "knucklehead" and running/spinning in a circle on the ground going "Woo woo woo woo." Curly was everybody's favorite Stooge because of his childlike personality and outlandish physical humor.

The Stooges made an amazing 190 short films, all of which were eventually released to television. In 1946 the beloved Curly suffered a stroke and was replaced in the team by older brother Shemp who had been an original member of the Stooges before beginning a successful solo career. Shemp died suddenly in 1955 and Joe Besser became the third Stooge for the remainder of the waning series. After Columbia discontinued producing shorts, The Three Stooges went back to live performances at small venues with their old Vaudeville pal Joe DeRita joining the team as "Curly Joe". However, the Stooges and their act had begun to grow old and audiences weren't responding as they once had.

Just when it looked like they would spend their final days playing Holiday Inn lounges, the rediscovery of their early shorts by millions of TV watching kids brought them back into the limelight. Columbia re-signed them for a series of feature films aimed at young audiences and soon the Three Stooges were back on the big screen. The feature films of the Three Stooges entertained a new generation of moviegoers while their classic short subjects made them a permanent part of the TV landscape and of the lives of millions of kids of the '60s, '70s and beyond. The Stooges were an essential part of local television programming of the '60s along with other rediscovered vintage entertainment like the Johnny Weismuller Tarzan series, Abbott and Costello movies, Our Gang comedies and of course, the classic Universal horror films being shown in cities across the country on various versions of SHOCK THEATER.

To Monster Kids it was always a special treat when the creatures they loved occasionally crossed paths with their favorite funnymen. ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN with Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Jr. and Glenn Strange in their famous monster roles was the ultimate crossover of horror and comedy and will probably never be topped. It was so popular that Universal teamed Abbott and Costello with monsters in several more films with varying results (see Monster Kid #3).

The Stooges face a slight obstacle during their search for King Rutentuten's tomb in WE WANT OUR MUMMY.

Even before Bud and Lou, there was something of a tradition of putting comedy teams in scary situations. Laurel and Hardy had shivered through spooky graveyards and old dark houses in films like DO DETECTIVES THINK? and THE LAUREL AND HARDY MURDER CASE. And The Ritz Brothers set a new record for scare takes and mugging in THE GORILLA where they faced not only the title character, but Bela Lugosi as a creepy butler. The East Side Kids (later known as The Bowery Boys) battled Bela in SPOOKS RUN WILD and GHOSTS ON THE LOOSE. Later they made a few other forays into scary territory including a run-in with Glenn Strange as Atlas the monster in MASTER MINDS and in the mid-50s they even made a movie called THE BOWERY BOYS MEET THE MONSTERS. Olsen and Johnson faced spooks in GHOST CATCHERS and Wally Brown and Alan Carney tangled with mad scientist Bela Lugosi in ZOMBIES ON BROADWAY. Lugosi even met Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo (the low-rent version of Martin and Lewis) in BELA LUGOSI MEETS A BROOKLYN GORILLA making him the record holder as the horror star who met the most comedy teams

The Three Stooges' first major encounter with a creepy character (not counting their abusive old boss, Ted Healy) was in the 1939 short WE WANT OUR MUMMY. When they are hired to find a missing archeologist who was searching for the mummy of King Rutentuten, the intrepid trio soon find themselves in an ancient tomb being stalked by a living mummy. The bandaged bad guy turned out to be just one of a gang of crooks after Rutentuten's treasure, but the film featured one of the few images of a reawakened mummy on film between Universal's THE MUMMY in 1932 and THE MUMMY'S HAND in 1940.

The Stooges have an uneasy feeling in IF A BODY MEETS A BODY.

The Stooges dealt with spooky characters and strange happenings in several comedies during this period. In 1943's SPOOK LOUDER, while guarding an inventor's secret weapon they faced three spies in weird disguises plus a mysterious pie-throwing spirit with a maniacal laugh. But the scariest moments came from a balloon with a ghastly face painted on it which followed Curly wherever he went. The boys faced an almost identical trio of seemingly supernatural characters two years later in THREE PESTS IN A MESS. Reworking parts of the silent Laurel and Hardy comedy HABEAS CORPUS, Moe, Larry and Curly try to dispose of a body (really just a mannequin) in a pet cemetery. The cemetery owner and two of his friends leave a costume party to investigate the suspicious activities and literally scare our heroes out of their shoes.

Later that year in IF A BODY MEETS A BODY Curly and his pals were forced to spend a stormy night in a creepy mansion for the reading of his long lost uncle's will. This remake of THE LAUREL AND HARDY MURDER CASE carried the fright gags even farther than the original by adding a screeching flying specter (a parrot inside a skull). The sequence of the Stooges repeatedly finding the uncle's dead body wherever they run is one of the funniest of its kind.

Duke York as Lupe the Wolf Man in IDLE ROOMERS

The first time the Three Stooges crossed paths with a bona fide monster was in a 1944 short called IDLE ROOMERS but which could have easily been called THE THREE STOOGES MEET THE WOLF MAN. This time the boys are bumbling bellhops at a big city hotel who deliver a large trunk to the room of a guest not knowing that it contains his new carnival attraction, Lupe the Wolf Man. The showman assures his startled wife that the captive creature is harmless except when he hears music. Of course the first thing the unknowing Curly does while he cleans the room is crank up the radio. The enraged Lupe bends the bars of his cage like pipe cleaners and escapes to terrorize the hotel guests.

When the Stooges find themselves trapped in a room with the monster, Moe hands Curly a trombone he finds nearby and orders him to play it, hoping music will soothe the savage beast. Lupe again goes wild and in no time the instrument is wrapped around Curly's head.


The Stooges try to escape the hairy creature by way of the hotel's elevator and are last seen sailing through the sky with the Wolf Man at the controls of the runaway elevator which has crashed through the roof of the building. The shaggy make-up worn by Duke York as the Wolf Man was somewhat similar to the one used on Matt Willis in Columbia's RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE a year earlier.

The Stooges were no strangers to hairy horrors even before IDLE ROOMERS. Over the years they had riotous run-ins with a series of savage simians. In THREE MISSING LINKS, while playing cavemen in a movie Moe and Larry mistake a real ape (played by Ray "Crash" Corrigan) for Curly who was playing the missing link.

Curly, Moe and Larry find that the stories of a Wolf Man loose in their hotel are more than just idle rumors in IDLE ROOMERS.

Lupe tells the Stooges how terrible their musical performance is in the original version of AMERICAN IDOL.
"Say hello to my little fiend!" said Igor the gorilla when the doctor told him he was getting Curly's brain in A BIRD IN THE HEAD.

Some policemen track down cat burglars. New patrolmen Moe, Curly and Larry are out to capture a gorilla burglar in DIZZY DETECTIVES.

In one of the Stooges' best shorts, DIZZY DETECTIVES (1943), our boys are rookie cops trying to catch the mysterious burglar known as the ape man. After pursuing the thief through a spooky department store at night, they find the ape man is a circus gorilla (again played by Corrigan) trained to perform robberies. In A BIRD IN THE HEAD (1946) a mad scientist looking for a human brain small enough to transplant into his gorilla, Igor, is delighted to meet Curly and tries to make the boys his permanent guests. His plans don't work out though as Curly and Igor become pals. But when the gorilla is on the other end of a blazing machine gun it's every Stooge for himself. Sadly, because of his failing health A BIRD IN THE HEAD was the Stooges' last funny fright film with Curly as part of the team.


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