A new Three Stooges collection on DVD this week includes a short that has long been lost, and making their disc debuts are vintage titles starring George Arliss, Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland. (Warner Archive titles are available at warnerarchive.com.)
“Classic Shorts From the Dream Factory, Volume 3” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1933-34, b/w and color, six short films). Some of the Three Stooges short films collected here have been on DVD before, though not in such high quality. But a couple will be of particular interest to fans.
The two-strip Technicolor short “Roast Beef and Movies” features Curly (billed with his real name, Jerry Howard, and eschewing the squeaky inflections he used with the Stooges) as one of three idiots pretending to be movie producers. The presence of Curly without Moe or Larry, and a pair of lavish musical numbers, are all that distinguish this one.
The real find, however, is another two-strip Technicolor short, “Hello Pop!” Unseen for some 80 years, this one was rediscovered in Australia just last year and makes its DVD debut here. Like the other four Stooges shorts, this one stars Ted Healy and His Stooges before the trio broke off to go on their own. And in a strange twist, they play Healy’s sons, dressed in Little Lord Fauntleroy suits.
The other shorts are “Plane Nuts,” “The Big Idea,” “Beer and Pretzels” and another in two-strip Technicolor, “Nertsery Rhymes.”
“The Man Who Played God” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1932, b/w, trailer). Oft-filmed soap opera of concert pianist who loses his hearing, learns to read lips and begins helping less fortunate people he observes from his Manhattan apartment window (remade in 1955 for Liberace as “Sincerely Yours”). George Arliss, a major star in the late silent era through the 1930s, has the lead role (he also starred in the 1922 version). Arliss handpicked Bette Davis for a supporting role in this film, and she later credited him with jump-starting her career.
“Roger & Me” (Warner/Blu-ray, 1989, R for language, audio commentary, trailer). Inspired documentary/editorial by Michael Moore (before he became notorious for controversial films such as “Bowling for Columbine” and “Fahrenheit 9/11”) when he was an unemployed journalist chronicling the effects a General Motors layoff had in his hometown of Flint, Michigan. Moore’s arrogant attitude is occasionally annoying, but the film is very funny as he tries to set up a meeting with GM board chairman Roger Smith and is repeatedly rebuffed.
“Gold Is Where You Find It” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1938, trailer).
“Government Girl” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1944, b/w).
“Wings of the Navy” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1939, b/w, trailer). These three films all co-star Olivia de Havilland, best known as Melanie in “Gone With the Wind,” for which she earned the best supporting actress Oscar (she later won for best actress in “The Heiress”). “Gold” is only the second full, three-strip Technicolor feature (after “Becky Sharp”), a story of feuding miners and farmers after the California Gold Rush, with de Havilland and George Brent in a “Romeo and Juliet” romance. “Government” is a romantic comedy with de Havilland as a War Construction Board employee and Sonny Tufts as her new boss. And “Wings” is a fairly typical prewar saga of two brothers (George Brent, John Payne) competing as pilots and fighting over de Havilland.
“Oh, Sailor, Behave!” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1930, b/w). This is the first film to feature the absurdist comedy team of Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson, most famous for the stage and screen versions of “Hellzapoppin.” Here, they provide anachronistic comic relief against a story of an American reporter (Charles King) mixed up in a kidnapping plot. Olsen and Johnson were reportedly added at the last minute to an otherwise straightforward musical comedy.
“Film Noir Collection” (Timeless/DVD, 1949-53, b/w, two discs, 10 films). Ten public-domain films, most of which fit the film noir category, including some that are excellent examples of the genre. The best are “The Stranger,” with Orson Welles as a Nazi hiding out in Middle America, married to Loretta Young and stalked by Edward G. Robinson; “Impact,” with Brian Donlevy set up for murder until plot twists prevail; “Scarlet Street,” with Edward G. Robinson as a naïve sap drawn into crime with Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea; and “Beat the Devil,” a clever spoof of the genre with Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida and Peter Lorre.
“John Wayne Collection” (Timeless/DVD, 1935-63, color and b/w, two discs, five films). These five public-domain Westerns featuring Wayne include two that are quite good: “McLintock!,” a “Taming of the Shrew” riff with Maureen O’Hara; and “Angel and the Badman,” which has Gail Russell taming gunslinger Wayne. The other three are early low-budget pre-”Stagecoach” programmers: “The Desert Trail,” “Paradise Canyon” and “Rainbow Valley.”
“The Hercules Collection” (Timeless/DVD, 1960-64, six films). Six “Hercules” sequels … sort of. There’s a photo of ’60s Hercules star Steve Reeves on the box, but his only film here -- “The Trojan Horse” -- isn’t about Hercules. And another stars Jayne Mansfield. But they are all Italian productions and offer campy fun for fans of the muscle-bound sword-and-sandal genre.
“The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams: Once Upon a Starry Night” (Timeless/DVD, 1978). TV movie follow-up to the series with Dan Haggerty as the frontier woodsman, here helping some lost kids in the woods on a cold winter night.
“Kingpin” (Paramount/Blu-ray, 1996, PG-13/R, theatrical/extended versions, audio commentary, featurette, trailer). The Farrelly brothers’ follow-up to “Dumb & Dumber” was this sleazy, absurdist farce about a down-and-out former bowling champ (Woody Harrelson), who now sports a hook for a hand, trying to turn an Amish natural (Randy Quaid) into a championship bowler. Bill Murray has a supporting role.