Sony has been doing The Three Stooges proud in its continuing series of restored and remastered DVD editions. Volume 6 is highly recommended for comedy fans and a must for Stoogeheads. Many of the 1949-51 films benefit from witty scripts and direction, and are exceptionally funny.
The best shorts here were produced by Hugh McCollum and directed by Edward Bernds, who soft-pedaled the gratuitous roughhouse and allowed Shemp, Larry, and Moe to improvise freely. This brings new freshness to the standard slapstick format, and shows how professional and resourceful Howard, Fine, and Howard were. (You'll see many amusing instances when a scene is supposed to be over, but Bernds keeps the camera rolling to see what the Stooges will do.) The films also benefit from Columbia's resident stock company of the late 1940s: the lovely Christine McIntyre and Jean Willes, both equally adept at playing sincere heroines and crafty schemers; the suave Kenneth MacDonald, a definitive villain; the versatile Emil Sitka, appearing here in any number of guises; veteran comic Vernon Dent, playing the Stooges' foil with his usual authority; expressive comedian Dudley Dickerson ("This house has sho' goan crazy!"), and the superlative stuntman Jock Mahoney. It isn't easy to steal an entire film from the Stooges, but watch Mahoney in the clever PUNCHY COWPUNCHERS; you'll roar as he indulges in some athletic and hilariously clumsy slapstick.
Many of the Stooges' best-remembered scenes are included in this set: the pie fight, the spooky old houses inhabited by gangsters or mad scientists, the "plumbers" routine, "the window ledge," "the cats in the piano," "the talking suit of armor," "the feathers in the cake," the Santa Claus masquerade, the "dance instructors," the trio singing at least two variations of "Just Plain Jane," the Stooges playing themselves AND their own girlfriends... and the gags just keep on coming! There is so much quality material in these films that producer-director Jules White consulted them frequently in the 1950s, borrowing entire sequences and sometimes the complete storylines for later Stooge shorts.
Be advised that a few of the shorts will stop at nothing for a cheap laugh, thanks to the heavy hand of director Jules White. MALICE IN THE PALACE has some unfortunate stereotypical humor and a tasteless gag involving a meat cleaver. In BABY SITTERS' JITTERS White shows a toddler endangered by both the Stooges and by a loaded gun. But such lapses are rare in this set; most of the material is a joy for Stooge fans.
This DVD set should surpass Columbia's former VHS releases, which weren't as comprehensive, and occasionally were technically inferior (at least three titles derived from 16mm prints). The recent DVD volumes have been sparkling, and Volume 6 should be no exception.