The Three Stooges: Stooged & Confused and The Three Stooges: Goofs on the Loose Studio: Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment Year of original release: 1934-1941 Aspect Ratio: 4:3 (OAR) Audio: English, Dolby Digital 2.0 Color/B&W MSRP: $44.95 for both The Three Stooges are an acquired taste – or, more accurately, a taste that most people come pre-equipped with at birth, but then shed along with their diapers. There are those who love the Stooges, though I confess I am not among their number. But there is undoubtedly a market for quality DVD reissues of their classic shorts. Columbia has done an honest job of putting together a package that should appeal to most hardcore fans. The gimmick here, as has been widely reported, is that these shorts have been colorized using a new, allegedly superior process. Colorization seemed to have been rightly confined to the dustbin of celluloid history some years ago, when Ted Turner’s attempts at it resulted in the butchering of many beloved black and white classics. For these discs, the technicians behind the process used extensive research – old costumes, swatches of cloth, first hand accounts – to accurately reproduce the colors on the set when the shorts were originally shot. Of course, this doesn’t make a bit of sense. Costumes, makeup and set colors were chosen because of how they would film in black and white. As a result, sets are ludicrous shades of green (the hospital walls in “Men in Black”); clothing is inappropriately saturated with color; and skin tones still have that flat, red cast that screams ‘colorization!’ Indeed, the best thing about the colorization work on these discs is that you can turn it off. Pressing the ‘angle’ button on your remote control toggles between the color and black and white versions of the shorts. In every instance (with the possible exception of the opening credits) the black and white wins out. As Roger Ebert commented recently: black and white movies aren’t missing something. The world is in color. Black and white cinematography actually is actually adding something on top of that. The discs include the following shorts: Goofs on the Loose: Men in Black, The Sitter Downers, Punch Drunks, Playing the Ponies Stooged and Confused Violent Is the Word for Curly, You Nazty Spy!, No Census No Feeling, An Ache in Every Stake It should be noted that there is wide sentiment regarding the overall release pattern of Stooges material, with numerous different and sometimes conflicting sets available. Getting your hands on every Stooges short is an expensive proposition. How these shorts were chosen for colorization also remains a mystery. Special Features Both discs make use of the same documentary, in which Sony technicians make laughable assertions about how far the colorization process has come. It’s anamorphically enhanced and shot in 1.85:1, and is technically fascinating. Clips of an upcoming ChromaChoice release actually look superior to the quality of these discs. ChromaChoice – Columbia’s name for the ability to toggle between color and black and white – is the main attraction here. It works quite well, though I imagine most readers here will check the color version a few times, run to the bathroom, and watch the rest of the disc in black and white. Video 1/2 One positive side effect of the dubious colorization process is that the new black and white transfers are pretty solid. Whether you want to see such facial detail is debatable – the comedy is so broad that subtle facial inflections actually detract sometimes. I suppose the point is that they’re mugging shamelessly, but I prefer the long shots in which they’re cracking each other over the head with punch bowls. There are very few scenes which are dimly lit, which makes it easy on the transferring process, and there’s some graininess. This is natural for 30’s era productions, and it makes it a bit difficult to discern edge enhancement, which is present throughout. Regardless, the detail makes for a pleasing image, certainly worthy of the source material. For notes on the colorized transfer, see the main review, above. Audio The Dolby Digital stereo track preserves the dubbing of the original shorts, for better or worse. The shrill crashes and thwaps as the Stooges make mayhem haven’t been remastered too heavily. A 5.1 track would’ve just been bizarre anyway. Conclusion 1/2 It’s nice to see a studio taking advantage of some of the interesting and underused features that DVD has to offer, though it’s a bit disturbing that it’s in service of a purpose that is hardly noble. The Stooges are a pretty good choice for colorization, I suppose, because their fan base is likely to reach for a weapon when they hear terms like ‘artistic integrity’ thrown around. And because access to the black and white material is easy, even fans who object to colorization (as I’m sure most on this board do) can’t gripe too much. Of course, if as much time an energy were put into a chronological Stooges collection, fans would have nothing to complain about. And we can’t have that.