Happy Thanksgiving! It’s once again that time of the year for family, football and good food, and as you longtime readers know, its time for my Turkey Day Hercules update. This year we will be looking at when Hercules met the princes of slapstick comedy, The Three Stooges. But before we get silly with this update I want to get serious for a moment and say that I am thankful for my family, friends and readers all of whom make my life way more fun! Plus, I want to dedicate this update to family and friends I have sadly lost over the years as each of them have helped make me the person I am today and they are all missed. I should also state that once more this year I am over at my parents house this Thanksgiving and waiting to eat some amazing home cooked food and enjoy good conversations with my family. So here is hoping that the belly full of laughs from this update doesn’t counteract your belly filled with food as we take a trip down memory lane with The Three Stooges.
It’s crazy to think that I have been doing this blog for several years now, and I have yet to talk about The Three Stooges, comedians I grew up watching alongside my Dad and brother and whose classic movies and shorts still entertain me to this day. The Stooges started out in 1925 as Ted Healy and His Stooges that consisted of Ted, Moe, Larry and Shemp, and the group toured around entertaining the masses and even made a feature film called “Soup To Nuts”. Shemp left the group in 1932 and was replaced by Curly, and a brief time later The Stooges broke away from Ted Healy in 1934 after making several short films and became The Three Stooges! Ted Healy died in 1937 from unknown and mysterious causes. One thing that should be noted is that Moe, Curly and Shemp were all brothers and all had their own wacky style of slapstick style humor. As The Three Stooges much work came their way in the form of short and feature length movies, and the threesome became one of America’s top comedic acts with Curly becoming the fan favorite for his silly faces and childlike behavior. But while things were good for the Stooges, bad luck caught up to them in 1946 when Curly suffered a massive stroke that left him unable to work, and up to the stroke Curly’s health was on a decline. Time passed, and The Stooges retired for some time hoping that Curly would get better, but the signs of him coming back were growing slim so they asked Shemp to rejoin. He did for some time, and even was a part of The Stooges’ first ever TV appearance on “Texaco Star Theater” in 1948. But once more some bad news was coming The Stooges’ way in 1952 as Curly passed away at the age of 48 from a cerebral hemorrhage caused by more strokes. They also lost some of their supporting cast when Columbia, the studio they were signed to, decided to downsize its short film department and the short films of the Stooges were being done cheaper and faster. Then in 1955, Shemp passed away from a heart attack on his way home from a boxing match; he was 60 years old. I should also note that in many of The Three Stooges films, a stand in was used for Shemp in shots who would wear a wig; this term was called Shemping and is still used to this day. In 1956 The Stooges hired Joe Besser as the new member who was a character who was goofy and would also fight back against Moe who was the dominate Stooge. During this time The Three Stooges lost steam, and Besser was considered the weakest link in the trio. After only three years with them his time came to an end, and in 1959 it appeared The Three Stooges had come to an end or did they?! The old Three Stooges short films were now being aired on TV and aimed toward kids. This gave Moe and Larry an idea to try and launch a quick comeback with new Stooge named Curly Joe, and the trio launched into making movies again, this time aimed at the young and young at heart in the 1960’s. They became one of the highest paid acts in Hollywood and even got turned into an animated cartoon series in 1965 called “The New 3 Stooges” and even tried their hands at becoming a weekly TV show that would have been called “Three Stooges Scrapbook”. In 1969, they were given another chance at becoming weekly TV stars with a show that would have been called “Kook’s Tour” that would follow the Stooges as they traveled the world, but this was not to be as Larry suffered a heart attack ending his run with the trio as well as ending The Three Stooges. Even a dark comedy film written by Moe’s grandson called “Make Love, Not War” or “Make Mine Manila” and was about Moe, Curly Joe and Emil Sitka (a regular in Stooge movies) being POWs of World War II trying to escape never could get a green light from a studio. In 1974 Larry at the age of 72 suffered a stroke that put him into a coma, and sadly a short time later he passed away. Moe tried so hard not to let The Three Stooges end even after the death of his long time comedy partner and tried to get many movies off the ground but never could. His last idea was a movie called “Blazing Stewardesses” but before it began Moe fell ill with lung cancer and had to retire from acting and passed away in 1975. Curly Joe still performed for years with a group he called The New Three Stooges that consisted of Mousie Garner and Frank Mitchell that went on till 1979. Joe Besser passed away in 1988 at the age of 80 from heart failure; Curly Joe passed away in1993 at the age of 83 from pneumonia, and Emil Sitka who was the only Stooge replacement never to be in a movie or show as a Stooge passed away in 1998 from a stroke at the age of 83. The Three Stooges are icons in the world of comedy, and now that I gave you a brief history on who they were, next I will share some memories of watching them!
I can remember even as a young child my dad watching old Three Stooges shorts on TV, mostly on WGN, a TV station out of Chicago that use to air them a lot on Sunday mornings. I used to laugh at the silly ways The Stooges would smack each other and all the silly faces they would make when they were worked up over whatever was annoying them at the time. While my Dad liked The Stooges, my Mom was the opposite and was not amused by their slapstick antics and was by no means a fan. I think my brother liked them like I did because I can remember watching them with him and him laughing at them as well. Besides the short films, I also really enjoyed watching the Three Stooges movies with my favorite being, of course, them meeting Hercules. I can remember watching this film on TBS and loving every cheesy sword and sandal moment. I can also remember watching the cartoon at my grandparents’ house with my cousin Nathan on VHS. I also always wanted 3 ¾” action figures of The Stooges that I could have had as characters in my Toy Wars. Imagine Moe slapping Han Solo or Larry poking the eyes of Captain Power; that would have been some epic stuff. Even at the age of 36, I still find myself really enjoying The Three Stooges and can say they were a part of my childhood that was good memories watching with my Dad and brother.
On January 26, 1962, Columbia Pictures released a comedy sword and sandal film that mixed the Greek hero Hercules with the slapstick goofballs The Three Stooges that consisted of Moe, Larry and Curly Joe at the time. The film had The Stooges helping a down and out scientist with his experiment to create a time machine, and by accident The Stooges, the scientist and his girlfriend are flung back to ancient Greece and come face to face with an evil king and his henchman Hercules. The film was filled with lots of moments of silly comedy, and the Stooges played off Hercules who was the prefect straight man who had no time for their silly antics. The film starred Quinn Redeker, Vicki Trickett, Samson Burke and Emil Sitka and was, and still is, my favorite of all the Three Stooges movies. The plot is filled with lots of fun surprises, but I figured we would save that for the comic adaptation made by Dell. I used to not only watch this film on TV but also on VHS and later on DVD. So do yourself a favor and check it out if you’re into sword and sandal films and Three Stooges comedy.
In 1965, Saturday Morning Cartoons as well as after school kids programs on TV were very import to stations as they tried to lock viewers for their station over the other and many production companies took advantage of this as they made syndicated programs and so was born The New 3 Stooges that combined live action segments to intro the cartoon and was distributed by Normandy Productions. Each episode ran for 30 minutes and had a total of 4 seasons and 156 episodes with 40 live segments shot making many of the cartoons use the same intro, confusing the viewer. The cartoon was a pretty big hit at the time and reruns can still be seen on TV to this day on Me-TV and Boomerang as well as can be found on many cheap dollar DVDs and VHS as well as all 156 episodes on DVD thanks to Image Madacy Entertainment. It should also be noted that many of the episodes are in the Public Domain and that for some time The Stooges were in a legal battle with Normandy over the show’s profits. So I am sure if you grew up watching classic cartoons, you have seen a few episodes of this series and have fond memories of it.
In 2012, someone in Hollywood decided that the world needed a new Three Stooges movie that would have three new actors step into the shoes of Moe, Larry and Curly as well as recycle plots from many of their short films. This time around Chris Diamantopoulos played Moe, Sean Hayes of Will & Grace fame played Larry and Will Sasso of MADTV played Curly. The plot had The Stooges having to go into the cruel world in order to get money to save the orphanage they grew up in after they could not afford the insurance due to all the accidents the Stooges have caused. During this adventure, they stumble on a murder for hire plot as well as go their separate ways after a fight leaves them at odds. In the end, they stop the murder, patch up their friendship and get the money needed to save the day thanks to Moe and MTV…yep, the one time music station. I saw the film in the theater with Josh Weinberg, and we both thought it was okay. I watched it again with my Dad when I bought it for him for Christmas. The film did $54,819,301.00 at the USA box office for 20th Century Fox, but was trashed by the critics. I should also say that The Three Stooges showed up on WWE Monday Night Raw and got booed by the crowd, and they only cheered when Kane choke-slammed Curly!
So I am sure you are wondering who played Hercules in The Three Stooges Meet Hercules…it was Samson Burke. Now I am sure some of you are now asking who is Samson Burke, well I am here to tell you a little about him. Samson was born on April 8, 1929 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and got a degree in physical education as well as wrestled and swam for Canada in the 1948 Summer Olympic Games. In the 1950’s, he became a bodybuilder even winning Mr. Canada, Mr. Montreal and Mr. Muscle Beach, and his pure power also lead him into becoming a pro wrestler where he went under the name Sammy Berg and wrestled such legends as Lou Thesz, Nick Bockwinkel and Johnny Valentine. Samson also got bitten by the acting bug and started to appear in sword and sandal films like “The Revenge Of Ursus”, “Toto vs. Maciest” and “The Three Stooges Meet Hercules”. When the sword and sandal genre faded, he continued to act in such films as “The Triumph of Robin Hood” and “Sartana The Gravedigger”. In the 1980’s, he moved to Hawaii and retired from acting in the late 80’s, and as of 2009 he ran his own fitness business. Samson, who is 86, still makes appearances at conventions and is a beloved icon of Three Stooges lore and remains one of the only actors to play Hercules not as a hero but as a jerk!
So before we take a look at the Dell Comic adaptation, I will pause for a moment to let you get another plate of food…go on, I can wait…. you good? Okay, let’s continue then, shall we? I want to thank an Ebay seller for having this issue in stock even though they had it listed as in great shape but it came complete with water damage and mold and a very strong rotten ink smell. So yeah, great shape it is not! Before we get to the review I want to thank you for spending a part of your Thanksgiving with me. I should also note that I grade this issues on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So let’s get on that time machine with Moe, Larry and Curly Joe, and let’s not forget our turkey leg and see just why Hercules is being a henchman jerk to a evil ruler. I am going to guess he is upset because someone ate the last corn on the cob, but that’s just a rumor.
The Three Stooges Meet Hercules # 1 **1/2
Released in 1962 Cover Price .15 Dell Comics #208 of ??
Moe, Larry and Curly Joe are working at a drugstore that is being rocked by the next-door neighbor inventor Schuyler Davis whose experiment to make a time machine is going a little crazy. While The Stooges like him, the owner of the drugstore, Ralph Dimsal, hates him and wants him to fail in his attempt to time travel and even tampers with his plans. Schuyler is in love with Diane Quigley, and she gives him only two more days to get his time machine done before she walks away from their relationship because he is spending all his time on it and not her. All the while Curly Joe has made some pills that calm things down, and they use it on Schuyler’s machine. After the Stooges try and help, it causes them as well as Schuyler and Diane to travel back in time to 900 B.C.! They land in the middle of a battle and meet Odius and his right hand man Hercules and help them take the crown of Ithaca from Ulysses when his men flee that battle. Odius takes a liking to Diane and has a feast for his new friends, but when Schuyler figures out they helped an evil man get into power he has The Stooges set Ulysses free after he had been captured. Ulysses escapes, and The Stooges and Schuyler are punished to work the rest of their lives on a slave ship, but after some time they are able to taste freedom when Schuyler gains muscle mass and a King thinks that he is Hercules and asks them to kill a two headed Cyclops that has been eating the kingdom’s live stock! With the help of the pills, Schuyler beats the Cyclops, the Cretan Bull and a Hydra and builds the name of Hercules. Meanwhile the real Hercules is not pleased with the fake and gets his chance to challenge Schuyler to an arena fight when The Stooges and he come to the castle to stop the wedding of Odius and Diane. In the arena Schuyler manhandles Hercules and makes him promise to turn good and help Ulysses reclaim the throne. He along with The Stooges save Diane and head to the time machine and return home, only in the end for Schuyler to punch out Dimsal!
This is one of those adaptations that does a great job of capturing the silly story and the goofy characters that made the film such a classic in the first place. The plot of the comic is a great mix of many genres like comedy, sword and sandal and science fiction, and they make them all blend so well together. The plot has three dim whit drugstore workers as well as a scientist and his girlfriend being flung back in time to ancient Greece, and by doing so they change history and must make things right before they return to modern times. To make things worse, Hercules is not the hero icon we all believed but is an ego driven creep who works for the side of the evil King. The Stooges are screw ups, but their heart is always in the right place. If not for Curly Joe’s pills, they all would be in serious trouble many times. Moe is the hotheaded and smarter of the group, Larry in this just seems like a bit player who is around to get smacked and deliver jokes and Curly Joe is the dumb one who might not be as dumb as everyone thinks. Diane is just a sweet beautiful young woman who acts as the love interest to both the film’s hero and villain. Schuyler is the main hero who turns from nerdy wimp to strong nerd and even matches strength with Hercules and brings down the evil king. Hercules is a smug ego driven super strong man who reminds you of the bully jock in high school, and funny enough he is beaten down and made to look a fool by a man who he viewed as weaker. Hercules in this comic’s good guy legend was really built by Schuyler, who forces him to stop being a jerk and be the hero he can be. King Odius is a cruel man who doesn’t get much time in the comic to show his true evil ways but is given enough for the reader not to like him. As always with most Dell Comics I could not find the artist’s name, but I must say it’s very cartoonish in nature and while good, at some times it appears like a talented 10 year old did it, but I still found myself enjoying it. Over all this is a cool comic adaptation, and while not as good as the Steve Reeves Hercules comics by Dell, it still was a perfect read for this Thanksgiving update. Check out some samples of the artwork below and see the cheesy cartoon nature of this fun issue.
It’s weird that The Three Stooges didn’t meet more Greek and mythology icons. I mean who wouldn’t want to see “The Three Stooges Meet Samson” or “Maciste and The Three Stooges Save A Roman Holiday” or better yet “Three Stooges and a Strong Man”…so many missed opportunities. Well our next update will be in December, so I am thinking that we will do something fun and toy-related so let’s take a look at Starriors, a robot toy line that was created by Marvel Comics and Tomy Toys that had a four issue mini series. So until then I hope you have a great Thanksgiving and remember to read a comic or three and support your local horror host.