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Have Rocket, Will Travel

Entry updated 9 September 2022. Tagged: Film.

Film (1959). Columbia. Directed by David Lowell Rich. Written by Raphael Hayes. Cast includes Anna-Lisa, Robert Colbert, Jerome Cowan, Joe DeRita, Larry Fine, Moe Howard and Don Lamond. 76 minutes. Black and white.

The Three Stooges – Moe (Howard), Larry (Fine) and Curly Joe (DeRita) – are janitors working for a space programme that has had a series of unsuccessful flights. The problem seems to be the Rocket fuel formula, which means that the programme might be cancelled and chief chemist Dr Ingrid Naarveg (Anna-Lisa), the janitors' friend, might lose her job. The janitors then undertake to develop their own fuel mixture to help her, discovering (by accidentally mixing up a cup of fuel and a cup of coffee) that adding sugar makes the fuel more effective. After they pump their modified fuel into a Spaceship, they hide inside the craft to evade pursuing programme executive J P Morse (Cowan); when he ignites the fuel hose, the spaceship is launched and proceeds on an automatic course to the planet Venus. When they disembark, the janitors are wearing spacesuits, but after fleeing from an enormous spider, they discover that the air is breathable when one man's helmet is cracked, and they discard their helmets. They then encounter a friendly talking unicorn and the ruler of Venus, an evil Robot who has transformed all people on Venus into electrical energy; now lonely, the robot decides to create robot duplicates of the three janitors for company. The janitors contrive to escape from the robot, and with the unicorn's help they fly back to Earth to be celebrated as heroes.

Having previously traveled to Venus in two short films, Space Ship Sappy (1957) and Outer Space Jitters (1957), the Three Stooges chose the same familiar and timely scenario for their first feature film, which proved unexpectedly successful and led to several subsequent Three Stooges films. Their unusual adventures on the planet may reflect the fact that the two standard tropes of juvenile space adventures – encounters with beautiful women, and evil dictators wielding advanced Technology – had been respectively employed in their previous shorts. The only serious aspect of the film is its ponderous opening narration, which begins, "Stars beyond number, time without end. The universe stretches mysterious, unknown, demanding to be explored" – with no intimation that the findings of such exploration would here include a giant spider, a unicorn, and three robotic Stooges. [GW]

see also: Three Stooges Films.


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