Time Travel Film Reviews
The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (1962)
Directed by Edward L. Bernds
The Three Stooges are up to their usual antics when they help a young inventor Schuyler Davis (pronounced Skyler) complete his time machine. The machine prematurely activates catapulting Schuyler, the 3 Stooges, and Diane (Schuyler's girlfriend) back to ancient Greece.
The appearance of the time machine and its passengers in the middle of a battle causes history to be altered when Odious defeats Ulysses at Ithaca. At this point Hercules is not the heroic figure of mythology, but rather a hired thug of Odious. When the 3 Stooges and Schuyler attempt to free Ulysses, Odious has them imprisoned on a slave galley rowing endlessly through out the Mediterranean Sea.
Schulyer slowly begins to build his confidence and physical strength during their journey. Making good their escape the Stooges and Schuyler find themselves stranded far from Diane and the time machine. When King of Rhodes assumes Schuyler to be the legendary strong man Hercules, the Stooges decide to profit from the case of mistaken identity . Borrowing Hercules name, the Stooges begin to feature Schuyler in sporting matches trying to raise money to get them back to Ithaca.
Arriving back in Ithaca after a much-delayed journey the Stooges and Schuyler are faced with an angry Hercules who is not pleased that he has been used. The Stooges and Schuyler save the day by showing Hercules the error of his ways and by restoring Ulysses to the throne, before returning to Ithaca, New York circa 1962 aboard the time machine. Oh, and Schuyler gets the girl.
With a title like "The Three Stooges meet Hercules", you know the studio was thinking, high concept combined with lowbrow humour and that is exactly what this movie delivers. Featuring Moe and Larry with the last of the Curly substitutes - Curly Joe (Joe DeRita) the movie has the Stooges performing their usual antics as they try to save the day.
With both the jokes and the Stooges themselves looking a bit tired, it's amazing that this movie works at all. One of the redeeming factors for me was an attempt by the writers to try to balance the need for the obvious patented Stooges antics and an attempt at some form of subtle humour.
An example of this occurs during a scene where the Stooges and Schuyler are ship wrecked on a Greek Island. Trying to get their bearings they discover a signpost with arrows pointing in various directions. Naturally the writing is all in Greek. Larry turns to Moe and begins to say "Hey, you know what…" Moe interjects and says, "I'll hit the first guy that says 'Its all Greek to me'". Larry quickly changes his story and pointing at Curly Joe says, "He was going to say it." At a point where the writers could have went for the obvious, I felt they should some creativity by putting a slight spin on an obvious gag.
As far as the time travel aspect of the movie is concerned, I found it somewhat amusing that the time machine coincidently transports the gang from Ithaca, New York to Ithaca, Greece.
During the sequence in which the Stooges and the rest are transported back to modern times, they see a series of scenes (obviously stock footage) depicting major historical events that allow them to get their bearings. A somewhat common device employed by other Time Travel related shows such as Time Tunnel and the Time Machine.
An unintentional aspect of time travel related movies that I've noticed before is that many shows unintentional act as their own time capsules by dating themselves to the period during which the movie was made. For example, in The Three Stooges Meet Hercules, the 1960's influence is captured in the hairstyles of the women in Grecian bathes the Stooges visit. I noticed a similar hair-style anachronsim happening in The Philadelphia Experiment (1986), which has 1940's sailors sporting 1980's haircuts.
In addition to the obviously anachronistic hairstyles, I can also provide another genuine example of an anachronism in this movie. If you look closely at the table during the celebration Odious is giving near the beginning of the film, you'll see a pineapple sitting in front of Odious and Hercules. Pineapples were not introduced to Europe until the 1500s.
One of the things that make the Three Stooges comedy work in my opinion, is the fact that they are traditionally limited to the classic comedy short, where their antics help move a story along to its conclusion. In the feature movie format however, it becomes a challenge to sustain their antics over the course of the movie while trying to support a plot. As a result I feel its becomes a trade off of either the plot or the comedy suffering as a result. Fortunately for the viewer, the movie attempts to strike a happy medium and succeeds most of the time.
At 80 minutes in length, this movie is mercifully short and the writers had the good sense to reign in the Stooges during scenes where there humour was not essential. Of course there is the obligatory food/pie fight and the rewiring of the time machine is lifted directly from some of their earlier work. If you happen to be a fan of the Stooges, then all this analysis seems irrelevant when watching the picture. If however, you can't understand what it is about the Three Stooges that fascinates so many people, then you are sure to hate this picture.
Return to Movies by Title Index
Return to Andy's Anachronisms Home
Jump to Internet Movie Database for The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (1962)
Check out the Official Web Site for The Three Stooges