Stooge And Then Some

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Ya just gotta love a movie with a guy named Achilles the Heel…

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I’m referring to Achilles, straight outta Greek Mythology—except in this case, he’s somewhat to the left and slightly askew.  Rather than swinging a sword at some Trojans, this Mr. Heel prefers more subtle methods of persuasion, as he and Freddie the Fence (flipping a coin à la George Raft) show up with an offer we better not refuse.  Greek myth or not, a Heel’s a heel, right?  And hey, what else is Greek Mythology for?

This Heel’s a joke, son, typically so in that great 1962 cinematic masterpiece—one ready to stand alongside such other 1962 greats as Lawrence of Arabia, L’Eclisse, The Longest Day, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Jules et Jim, The Exterminating Angel, To Kill A Mockingbird, Ride the High Country—I can only, of course, be referring to The Three Stooges Meet Hercules.  Amirite or what?

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That’s right, the ‘Greek Humor Man’ — whatcha call a JOKE…

Hercules (he being one-half the title role here) is already well known to readers of my blog.  As you may recall, we last met Herc when he was joining forces with Samson, with a little help from BFF Ulysses, in another cinematic masterpiece, called, you guessed it, Hercules, Samson, and Ulysses.  Only now, in the current film, Herc’s helping bad King Odius (that’s another joke, ok?) fight against Ulysses—oh, how brief are those friendships we thought would endure!—but then the Stooges (they being the other titular half) intervene and, in typical Stooge fashion, screw everything up.  And am I glad they did.

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Bonus Pie-Chucking Lesson

Sure, I’m claiming greatness for this film.  It’s, like, Stooge Auteur—right from its opening images, of the Columbia studio icon followed by a Greek statue icon holding a lit stick of dynamite.  The dynamite explodes, of course (of course—like, what else is dynamite for in Stoogeland?), and we’re off and running with Moe, Larry, and Curly Joe demolishing a pharmacy’s interior (what else are interiors for?).  Our Boys Three demolish other interiors, including those of an apartment, a galley ship, a dungeon, a chariot, a ladies’ bathhouse (with Ladies…).  They also bonk Hercules on the head and chuck pies at King Odius (what else are pies for?), but then there’s this time machine they tear apart and put back together; only, miraculously, that demolishment works, because our Boys time-travel to 900 BC, landing smack in a war between Kings Odius and Ulysses in ancient Ithaca, who then think these three bozos are Olympian Gods, but I get ahead of myself—

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The movie’s basically a protracted Stooge short, stretched to 90-minute length, with a forgettable love story and an extended routine about the 12 Labors of Hercules being marketed as a touring circus act (Mr. Heel demanding his cut of the take).  That last gag is not only funny but educational—what a great way to learn Greek mythology!  Hercules was inserted no doubt to cash in on the then-trending Peplum craze, while the time machine could have sprouted from the sci-fi-tinged cinema of the 1950s (which probably influenced Stooge flicks Have Rocket, Will Travel and The Three Stooges in Orbit).  Or even from the 1960 film The Time Machine.  Our Boys were nothing if not observant.  As well as omnivorous.

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That one got past the censor…

By this phase of the Stooge saga, the Stoogeian humor and mayhem were toned down.  Things do get screwy and screwed up (“There’s too much Bockamanus!” cries Larry when his blender goes bonkers and churns up enough suds to float a laundromat), but the boys are slower, more careful, with little of the choreographed bedlam of yore (a softening also evident in Snow White and The Three Stooges, which I wrote about here).  Director Edward Bernds said he felt he had “to be careful” when working with the Boys, as they were…no longer boys.  (Joe DeRita also objected to being hurt, so Moe toned down the antics).  Such mildness might have also reflected the personality of new Third Stooge Curly Joe, who’s sweet, dim, and dumply, like an old, floppy teddy bear—but who lacks the popeyed mania of his namesake.  Nothing can replace the original Curly.  (Sigh…)

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A curious side note is that Hercules and the romantic ‘lead’ are split between two actors.  But why?  Why not have the Boys interact with Herc as an honorary fourth Stooge?  My guess is that the overlords figured a ‘normie’ was needed, so normies in the audience wouldn’t feel left out.  It’s like a throwback to Allan Jones in A Night at the Opera.  (Or even to Zeppo…)  So we get this normie inventor dude (Quinn Redeker) tagging along with Les Stooges, doing a bit of battling with the real Herc (bodybuilder Samson Burke) and a bit of tepid romancing with someone I forget.  But did the Boys really need a normie?  One thinks wistfully of the great, real Curly, who coulda done everything, even Hercules’s 12 labors, all by himself (while Larry plays “Pop Goes The Weasel” on his violin to rile him up…).

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Well, I’m not gonna complain.  I’ll take the Stooges even with the normies.  Just so long as there’s Stooge.

Anyway, it’s kinda cute seeing the guys in their sort-of peplums racing through what we’re assured is a rocky ancient Grecian landscape but which looks awfully Southern Cal to me—but hey, what else is Southern Cal for?

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One other note is how the movie ends with Herc promising that from now on he’ll ally himself with good-guy Ulysses.  And then, wouldn’t you know it, 1963 sees the release of—Hercules, Samson & Ulysses

Surely that’s not a coincidence…

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You can watch a complete (and great-looking) print on YouTube of The Three Stooges Meet Hercules here, courtesy of The Three Stooges Official.  Like, what else is YouTube for?


Bonus Clip:  Here’s the trailer for The Three Stooges Meet Hercules—more bad puns than might be good for you (“The most frightening challenge of all time!”):

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4 Comments

  1. Marjorie J. Birch

     /  December 13, 2022

    Oh golly, I saw this about sixty years ago in a small-town movie theatre (popcorn came out of a machine and cost ten cents — you know you’re old when you remember what stuff used to cost). Screamed with laughter along with my best friend… we were exhausted at the end of it. We did our best to re-enact the movie for our suffering parents.

    (Fond memory — Curly, in agony of shyness, attempting to paint the nails of a Roman matron… with his eyes tightly shut.)

    Only recently, the movie theatre was demolished. Last movie that was shown there was “Muscle Beach Party.”

    Reply
    • Oh, thanks for sharing such a wonderful memory! (I have those same memories of what things cost, such as movie tickets…). I remember when I was small kid, being taken to see Snow White & The Three Stooges, and still retained vivid images from the film well into an age I don’t care to remember. And I agree that 3 Stooges Meet Hercules is screamingly funny — I laugh out loud NOW when watching, well beyond the age you’re supposed to! Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
  2. Brian Schuck

     /  December 14, 2022

    I too saw this in the theater and absolutely loved it (of course, I was at that age when every movie that I saw in the theater was the best movie ever made, until the next time I went to the theater…) As for my adult assessment, this is far and away the best feature-length movie the boys ever made (their space travel outings being particularly cringey and unfunny). There are so many sight gags, and that twin cyclops is a blast! Great to know that you can go to YouTube for a nice copy!

    Reply
    • I was surprised at how good the YT copy was (though, as with everything on YouTube, who knows how long it will stay? Though you can also find the film on Tubi streaming). I agree, I think this film is the funniest of their feature-length excursions. The gags are good, even witty, the actor who plays King Odius is very funny (he gives a true comic performance), and the Stooges themselves are enjoying what they’re doing. Thanks so much for commenting, and long live the Stooges!

      Reply

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