‘Idiots Deluxe’ (1945) is the 85th short film made by The Three Stooges for Columbia Pictures. It was photographed from Thursday, October 5 through Monday, October 9, 1944 (that’s 78 years and ten months ago) and was released on Friday, July 20, 1945 (the 201st day of that year on the Gregorian calendar). Its story begins promisingly with the truly odd premise that Larry and Curly have brought charges against Moe on the grounds of assault and ‘intent to commit mayhem’. One wonders why it never occurred to them to do this before? The film proceeds in flashback to outline the events that led to the charges and now one is puzzled to find that Moe’s behavior isn’t especially different or more cruel than usual. Indeed the real culprit of mayhem in ‘Idiots Deluxe’ is a black bear who appears in the woods that surround the little cabin in which the Stooges are staying (Moe’s ‘nerves’ are shot and require a calming country rest a la Oliver Hardy in ‘Them Thar Hills’). But even the bear isn’t terribly scary–its more the fear that it provokes in the Stooges that proves to be the undoing of the team. Though the general energy and comic invention of the Stooges are on the downhill slide in ‘Idiots Deluxe’, the film has particular resonance for me due to the fact that, as I write this, I’m in my house in Connecticut which is nestled in the woods and has occasionally hosted black bear on the property. The film actually gets bear behavior right–the bear isn’t violent, it curiously pokes around for food and is capable of getting scared and running from humans. Indeed, black bears are as unhappy to see humans as humans are to see them and usually scurry away in fear (unless you somehow wind up coming between them and their cubs in which case they will eat you). Still, much like the Stooges are, I’m aghast at seeing bear when they come poking around and fear for my life. No matter how many times people in the area have told me not to be afraid of them (but also not to engage with them) I still dread the thought of a face-to-face encounter. Which is why watching ‘Idiots Deluxe’ on a Sunday morning is a better idea than taking a hike in the woods. So there!


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