Made during the winding-down days of the enduring comedy trio, THE THREE STOOGES IN ORBIT is another feature-length effort dealing with science fiction themes. Coming off the recent success of THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES (released the same year), the film made for cheerful kiddie matinee fodder and an entertaining entry for fans to enjoy year after year. Although Moe and Larry were up there in years by this point and the antics were less violent, the film still delivers plenty of slaps and classic Stooge camaraderie. And despite the original poster art, the Stooges don't wear space helmets in the film!
Playing themselves as bumbling TV stars, The Three Stooges (Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Joe DeRita) get thrown out of their apartment for... cooking! They then take up residence with the eccentric Professor Danforth (Emil Sitka), who has just invented a tank/helicopter/submarine contraption that he present to the military. His plans are thwarted by a duo of Martians named Ogg (George N. Neise) and Zogg (Rayford Barnes) who want to obtain the weapon/vehicle for their own planet, and they also intend to destroy the earth. Of course, the Stooges baby-sit the invention, end up destroying a military base, and accidentally launch it in the sky for some zany adventures. When it later gets in the hands of Ogg and Zogg, it's up to the Stooges to stop their evil intentions in time to prevent their cartoon TV program from being canceled.
Anyone approaching THE THREE STOOGES IN ORBIT has to have an open mind about "Curly Joe" as the third stooge. Even diehard fans single him out as their least favorite, but he actually fits in quite smoothly here, more so than Joe Besser ever could. The orbiting invention give the Stooges plenty of opportunities for diverting perils (helped by some well-used stock footage from other sci-fi films) and director Bernds even revisits some familiar "haunted house" routines repeated from his past work with the Stooges and the Bowery Boys. Longtime "foil" Emil Sitka has always been kind of a fourth Stooge, but here he's given his most significant role in Stooge movie history, and the chemistry he had with them is always evident. Luckily (like many 60s Stooge features), the blossoming romance between young Carol Christensen and Edson Stroll is kept to a minimum, giving the Stooges, Sitka and the creepy aliens more screen time. The aliens are a treat, looking like mutated, big-cranium Frankenstein monsters who speak babble as subtitles translate what they are saying. One of the best gags has Moe looking down and reading out loud a subtitle to learn their dastardly plans to destroy earth!
This is the fourth Stooges feature film that Columbia TriStar has released on DVD, and the quality is terrific. For the first time on home video, IN ORBIT is shown in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio and has been anamorphically enhanced. The black and white source material is in excellent shape, with sharp detail, deep blacks and fine contrast. There's only evidence of film dirt on occasion, mostly when stock footage appears. The mono audio track is also surprisingly clear and serves the films well. English subtitles are provided. This is one of the best-looking transfers of any Three Stooges product available on the DVD market.
There are no other extras included, which is kind of a shame. Columbia TriStar's DVDs of THE OUTLAWS IS COMING and STOP!, LOOK! AND LAUGH! both contained a bonus shorts. The subsequent release of THE THREE STOOGES GO AROUND THE WORLD IN A DAZE and this title doesn't. A title such as IN ORBIT would be a great opportunity to add often-ignored Joe Besser shorts like SPACE SHIP SAPPY, OUTER SPACE JITTERS or FLYING SAUCER DAFFY, but the opportunity has been wasted. At any rate, it's still a nice disc, and I eagerly await the DVD releases of HAVE ROCKET, WILL TRAVEL and THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES. (George R. Reis)
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