Monster Kid Online Magazine #5

Before rejoining the team after the loss of Curly, Shemp Howard had already had a few brushes with the fantastic. As a contract player at Universal in the early '40s he had comedic roles in THE INVISIBLE WOMAN (1940) and THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. RX (1942). Interestingly, he was even teamed with Lon Chaney, Jr. in SAN ANTONIO ROSE (1941) where they played a pair of dimwitted gangsters. Compared to being slapped and knocked around by the burly Chaney (not known for pulling his punches) working with Moe again must have been a relief.

New team member Shemp shows that he is just as brave as the other Stooges in THE GHOST TALKS.


After Shemp became the third Stooge the monkey business continued when a gorilla with a scalpel almost operated on him in CRIME ON THEIR HANDS (1948). And in BUBBLE TROUBLE (a 1953 reworking of their 1947 film ALL GUMMED UP) the Stooges' new youth elixir unexpectedly turned their landlord into a human gorilla. The angry ape-man lifted Moe by the ankles and pounded his head to the floor until a flat-topped Moe looked like the Stoogenstein Monster. Luckily, Shemp was able to beat Moe's head back into shape with a hammer. After all, what are friends for?

In the classic 3-D short SPOOKS (1953) the boys again encountered a mad scientist attempting to put a human brain into a gorilla. SPOOKS was one of the Three Stooges' best blends of comedy and scares. With howling winds, skeletons and conwebs, it has a fun and spooky Halloween-type atmosphere that's sure to grab any monster kid. The laboratory scenes with the mad scientist, his brutish assistant, a caged gorilla and a beautiful girl in bondage resembled an old pulp magazine cover of the '30s and '40s.

In one memorable gag, as the Stooges arrive at the creepy old house in search of the missing girl, they are greeted by a bat who is a dead ringer for Shemp. Shemp is more horrified than anyone at the sight and cries, "What a hideous, monstrous face!" Director Jules White takes full advantage of the 3-D effects and during the course of the film viewers have everything from poking fingers and flying pies to hypodermic needles, knives and a snarling gorilla hurled in their faces in suitably unsubtle Stooge fashion.

Several other films from the Shemp years feature horror elements. SHIVERING SHERLOCKS (1948) featured a monstrous cleaver-weilding killer named Angel (see top of page) played by Duke York who had played the wolf man in IDLE ROOMERS. In HOT SCOTS (1948) our fearless heroes spend the night in a spooky Scottish castle and experience eerie occurrences similar to those in IF A BODY MEETS A BODY. In THE GHOST TALKS (1949) the boys are moving men hired to remove items from an ancient castle. They soon find that a suit of armor they are moving is haunted and series of "strange happenings" follow.

Looks like the boys have found a clue to the murders in WHO DONE IT?

In WHO DONE IT? (1949) the Stooges try to solve a murder mystery in a creepy mansion. They are menaced by a gang of crooks and a reanimated corpse called "the goon" once again played by Duke York. Dressed in a black suit and with a wild mane of black hair, he looked like a cross between Universal's Frankenstein Monster and Conrad Veidt in THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI. A clever sequence of blackouts gags during the big fight is the highlight of this short.

In the 1950 short DOPEY DICKS (detectives, that is) the Stooges are again in the clutches of a mad doctor. The doc has created an artificial man whose only problem is he keeps walking into things and knocking his head off. The solution: replace the artificial head with a human one. Enter the Stooges who spend the rest of the film trying to keep their heads. Spooky scenes from some of these shorts also appeared in later Stooges films like SCOTCHED IN SCOTLAND (1954), CREEPS (1956) and FOR CRIMIN' OUT LOUD (1956).

Pick out two. Grab your 3-D glasses and duck as you check out this frame from SPOOKS! courtesy of
By the time Joe Besser replaced the late Shemp Howard for the final years of Three Stooges shorts, flying saucers had replaced old fashioned monsters and mad scientists. It was now the atomic age of rock and roll and teenage sci-fi films but the aging Stooges carried on, adjusting to the times as best they could. Two of the Besser films were set in outer space. In the first, SPACE SHIP SAPPY (1957) the Stooges go along on a space mission and are almost devoured by beautiful cannibal women then giant lizards.

Dan Blocker (later Hoss Cartwright on TV's BONANZA) played an alien Neanderthal in OUTER SPACE JITTERS.

That same year in OUTER SPACE JITTERS they traveled to another planet to establish peaceful relations. The three Earth specimens are treated royally at first but they soon discover that an invasion is being planned using an army of electrically controlled prehistoric zombies. Of course, as with most low-budget sci-fi films, we never see the army, just a single demo model. Future BONANZA TV star Dan Blocker portrayed the monstrous looking creature. These bizarre films closely resemble other bottom-of-the-barrel Hollywood product at the time such as Ed Wood's PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.

When Columbia ceased production of short subjects, things looked uncertain for the Stooges. Moe took a small straight role in the low-budget sci-fi film SPACE MASTER X-7 (1958) directed by former Stooges director Edward Bernds. Now ex-Stooge Joe Besser even died on film at the touch of the HAND OF DEATH (1961) starring John Agar as a scientist transformed into a monster after a lab accident.

The Stooges get a warm reception on Venus from a fire-breathing giant tarantula.

Robot Stooge duplicates get their morning wake-up zap.

But soon, because of the popularity of their old films on afternoon television, The Three Stooges were in demand again. In 1959 Moe and Larry, now joined by Joe DeRita as "Curly Joe", were called back to Columbia to star in their first feature length movie. Like some of their last shorts, it also had a sci-fi theme. The title, HAVE ROCKET, WILL TRAVEL, was inspired by the title of the then-popular TV western HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL. Although they were more than 25 years older than when they began their film careers, Moe and Larry had aged fairly well (it helps that they were never very good looking to begin with). DeRita's had neither Curly's lovable zaniness or Shemp's comedic skills, but his resemblance to Curly at least gave the team the right physical balance. This new kinder, gentler and more parent-friendly version of the Three Stooges, though a far cry from the team's glory days, still provided some enjoyable kid's entertainment. I was five years old when HAVE ROCKET, WILL TRAVEL was released and it is among my earliest moviegoing memories.

In their new movie the Stooges play janitors who are accidentally blasted into space in a rocket. They end up on Venus where they meet a talking unicorn, a flame shooting giant spider, featuring footage shot for Universal's TARANTULA, and an artificial super intelligence who captures the trio, shrinks them to mouse size then creates his own set of robot Stooges. All of this was pretty cool stuff for a blossoming young Three Stooges and fantasti-film fan. If the music during the spider scene sounds familiar, it should. It's from the 1955 Ray Harryhausen classic IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA.

Hercules personally delivers a chain letter, ancient Greece style.
The Stooges' next two movies were also fantastic in nature. SNOW WHITE AND THE THREE STOOGES (1961) had Moe, Larry and Curly Joe filling in for Happy, Doc, Dopey and the rest in a retelling of the storybook tale. The dull musical didn't give the boys much to do but it did feature a wicked queen who transforms into an ugly witch and rides a flying broomstick. In the end Curly Joe destroys the Queen when he inadvertently mutters "I wish the Queen would go to Hades and stay there!" while holding a magic sword. His wish is granted and she promptly does!

This cyclops doesn't know which head to blame for getting it into a movie like THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES.

Next Stop for the Stooges was ancient Greece in THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES (1962). Italian sword and sandal movies had become very popular in America. after HERCULES and HERCULES UNCHAINED starring former Mr. Universe Steve Reeves were imported and dubbed into English. Columbia capitalized on the trend by having the comedy team travel back in history in a time machine to meet the mythical strongman. The most interesting scene for monster fans was when the boys battled a two-headed cyclops.



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