20 May 2006 | Zontar-2
Curly-Joe lines his nyucks in a row
Don't dis Joe Derita, final successor to Stooge Jerome "Curly" Howard. It's true that no replacement could best a comic genius like Curly, but those belittlers of brother Shemp and the Joes should consider this: If Curly had survived the booze and strokes, would you really want to see a middle-aged man playing an overgrown, psychopathic child? The results would likely be more horrifying than humorous.
Unlike Joe Besser, who foolishly tried to upstage Larry and Moe, Derita was a team player who helped keep Moe's mayhem machine cranking for another decade to the delight of countless kiddies. Unfortunately, Joe's "character," a meek bumbler, requires strong material. Excluding WEDLOCK DEADLOCK, his comedy shorts are flatter than day-old Panther beer. One wonders what possessed old man Cohn to authorize the series.
You could substitute a dummy for a Stooge in SLAPPILY MARRIED, as Joe is pummeled with dishes, manhandled by comic tough Dick Wessel, and vexed by a cavalcade of slapstick clichés, minus the laughs. In the painfully bad follow-up, GOOD BAD EGG, Joe's inventions are sabotaged by his insufferable stepson. I think Shemp could have salvaged these, but why bother? It appears that everyone involved knew the scripts were putrid. JITTER BUGHOUSE, the last series entry, is livelier, but mostly serves as a showcase for the Novelites, a crude musical comedy act. Joe, playing their manager, addresses the camera when introducing their odious numbers.
That leaves the high-flying WEDLOCK DEADLOCK, wherein the gags are plentiful and the cast is game. When his honeymoon nest is invaded by boorish in-laws, Joe drives them off by inviting friends to pose as his relatives...who happen to be homicidal lunatics! Joe provides some funny asides - his "character" has a habit of talking to himself - and absurd, Stoogeworthy touches abound. (After devouring Joe's wedding cake, a gluttonous uncle gnaws on the bridal figurines!) WEDLOCK DEADLOCK may not change one's opinion of Joe Derita, but it's still a solid comedy equal to most Stooge efforts of the period.