‘Slaphappy Sleuths’ (1950) is the 127th short comedy made by The Three Stooges for Columbia Pictures. It was photographed from Monday, April 11 through Thursday, April 14, 1949 and was released on Thursday, November 9, 1950 (the 313th day in the Gregorian Calendar). It is a mostly laugh-free Shemp outing, flatly directed by Jules White from an uninspired script by Felix Adler. Frankly I had trouble getting through it, though in the interest of being a Stooge completist I doggedly persevered. It’s strange when things go wrong in a Shemp entry as opposed to a Curly entry; Curly’s manic energy keeps the thinnest of the scripts alive–assuming it was made before his multiple strokes shut down his ability to speak and react smoothly. Shemp is a different kind of comedian, one dependent on situations that match his very specific character, a man filled with false bravado that gives way almost immediately to extreme cowardice. When Shemp is placed in the right scenarios, the shorts take on a more cerebral (yes, I just used that word in conjunction with the Three Stooges) air–we are, in effect, watching character studies of these three lost souls–Moe’s violence feels more pathological than funny, Larry’s status as the middle-child is more forlorn and Shemp is as described above. But when the material isn’t strong enough, Shemp’s energy can’t carry the day as Curly’s could. The air goes out of everyone and the gags become labored and uninspired. Of interest is a head-vice gag at the end that prompts a confession, a full forty-five years prior to Joe Pesci’s version of this in ‘Casino’. Oddly, the Pesci version is funnier than the Stooges version. Oh well. 127 shorts in fifteen years is an awful lot of work so the Stooges (and their writers) can be forgiven for a couple of dogs. Even the misfires leave me feeling happier for having seen them…which says a lot about the state of our world I guess.


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