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  Have Rocket - Will Travel Stooges In Space
Year: 1959
Director: David Lowell Rich
Stars: Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Joe DeRita, Jerome Cowan, Anna-Lisa, Robert Colbert, Don Lamond, Dal McKennon, Marjorie Bennett
Genre: Comedy, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Space, the infinite wonder of it which forever begs the question, what lies out there in that void? Perhaps that is about to be answered, as an American space agency has built a series of rockets to investigate what lies beyond our atmosphere, such as the one launched today heading for Venus with a chimp as its sole passenger. Alas, the project hits a snag when the fuel for the vehicle is not up to the task, and it fails to make it into space, falling to earth instead where it lands with its nose in the ground. This does wake up the project's janitors, Moe (Moe Howard), Larry (Larry Fine) and Curly Joe (Joe DeRita), who immediately rush out to see what has happened...

The story of how The Three Stooges came to make feature films after decades of simply creating short subjects is an oft-told one, but essentially they had come to the end of their contract with Columbia Studios by the close of the fifties and were expecting to be put out to pasture, particularly in light of the personnel changes necessitated by the deaths of Curly Howard, possibly the most beloved of the team, and Shemp Howard, who often stood in for him. Joe Besser had filled in for a few years in the shorts, but was unpopular, so when he left Joe DeRita stepped into the big shoes Curly Howard left, being physically similar to him if more of a teddy bear as a performer.

Anyway, long story short and the Stooges' films were sold to television where they were hugely successful with the younger viewers, so all of a sudden Moe and Larry were getting the chance they always wanted, to make a legitimate feature-length movie, and not just one but a few as the decade changed to the sixties. Have Rocket - Will Travel (the title spoofing a TV Western of the day) was the first of those, but the diehard Stooges fans have mixed feelings about these movies, as while it was nice to see the boys doing so well with their second wind, the fact remained the material was not as funny as it could have been as it tended to be toned down for an audience which largely consisted of kids.

You could see that in the subject matter the team were given: usually take-offs on the sort of flicks that would make double bills for the matinees aimed at children, science fiction, fairy tales, a Hercules movie, even a Western. In this case, after we were regaled by the team singing the title song we had a long preamble towards the scenes the audience would want to see as the Stooges travelled to another planet, Venus in this case, much as Bud Abbott and Lou Costello had done in not dissimilar circumstances for Abbott and Costello Go To Mars. There were no nubile ladies to be found this time, but what they did discover was no less weird than the sort of thing a more serious sci-fi story would have depicted; if anything, crowbarring the Stooges into this scenario was even more outlandish.

There was love interest, but not for the janitors, nope there was a regulation beautiful lady scientist played by Norwegian starlet Anna-Lisa, whose job it is to devise the superfuel, but she hasn't succeeded and is romanced by another scientist (Robert Colbert) in scenes which you imagine played out under a hail of popcorn in the cinema when the audience wanted to get back to the Stooges. By absurd contrivances, the boys devise that superfuel to help her out, and soon have accidentally blasted off with the very mean-looking chimp (who notably wanders off once they reach the alien world, never to be seen again). The first life form they meet is a giant, firebreathing spider (huh?) which chases them from the craft, whereupon the second life form encountered is a unicorn (voiced by uncredited Dal McKennon, one of the kings of cartoon voice work of his era). The unicorn is very helpful in directing them towards the most intelligent being there, a computer which shrinks the Stooges and puts them in a birdcage - you get the idea. Not all that funny, but very strange. Music by Mischa Bakaleinikoff.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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