The Three Stooges in Orbit (1962) poster

The Three Stooges in Orbit (1962)


USA. 1962.


Director – Edward Bernds, Screenplay – Ellwood Ullman, Story/Producer – Norman Maurer, Photography (b&w) – William F. Whitley, Music – Paul Dunlap, Art Direction – Don Ament. Production Company – Normandy Productions.


Moe Howard (Moe), Larry Fine (Larry), Joe DeRita (Curly Joe), Emil Sitka (Professor Danforth), Carol Christensen (Carol Danforth), Edson Stroll (Captain Andrews), George N. Neise (Ogg), Rayford Barnes (Zogg), Norman Leavitt (Williams), Thomas Glynn (George Galveston)


Three idiots, Larry, Moe and Curly Joe, have a tv show where they appear as The Three Stooges. They are constantly being thrown out of their apartments for cooking indoors when such is forbidden. They then take a job with Professor Danforth who asks their aid in helping build a combination tank, submarine, helicopter and rocketship, which he is intending to sell to the armed forces. At the same time, the Stooges are ordered by network executives to come up with better cartoons for their show or be fired. The professor’s house is invaded by two Martian spies who are determined to get the secrets of the professor’s vehicle for their planned invasion of Earth. During the professor’s demonstration of the vehicle to the military, it goes out of control and takes off with The Stooges and the Martian spies aboard. What The Stooges do not know is that while repairing the vehicle, they have unwittingly replaced its engine with an atomic bomb.

The Three Stooges are some of the most famous comedians in American cinema. The Stooges complement varied over the years but consisted principally of brothers Harry Moses ‘Moe’ Horwitz and Samuel ‘Shemp’ Horwitz (and initially another brother, Jerome ‘Curly’ Horwitz, who dropped out in 1946 following a stroke). The Horwitz’s were born of Jewish immigrants but quickly Anglicised their surname to Howard. Moe and Shemp were the mainstays of the group up until Shemp’s death in 1955. The role of the third Stooge then circled between Larry Fine, Joe Besser and by the time of these feature films, Curly Joe DeRita.

The Three Stooges started out as a vaudeville act, initially appearing as support to Ted Healy. There they perfected their physical slapstick, involving much in the way of clonking one another over the head, their famous eye-poke and various other acts of comic violence. They appeared in several films with Ted Healy, beginning with Soup to Nuts (1930), and then parted ways with Healy and began to appear as themselves in various short comedies for Columbia Pictures, beginning with Woman Haters (1934). Between 1934 and 1959, the Stooges appeared in 190 short theatrical films.

Interest in these dried up with the rise of television in the 1950s, but the Stooges quickly found a renewed interest when the shorts were brought up and started to air on tv. With this newfound popularity, the Stooges went on to make a series of new feature films – Have Rocket — Will Travel (1959), Snow White and the Three Stooges (1961), The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (1962), this, The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze (1963), The Outlaws is Coming (1965), as well as a short-lived tv series The New Three Stooges (1965-6), before the act came to an end.

The Three Stooges joined a number of other comics of the era who took on the Space Age. Other comics to venture forth included Abbott and Costello in Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953), Norman Wisdom in The Bulldog Breed (1960), Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in The Road to Hong Kong (1962), Frankie Avalon in Sergeant Deadhead (1965), Doris Day in The Glass Bottom Boat (1966), Soupy Sales in Birds Do It (1966), Jerry Lewis in Way … Way Out (1966) and Don Knotts in The Reluctant Astronaut (1967). While these others only made a single venture into space, The Three Stooges had previously ventured into space in three space related short films and one feature film with Have Rocket — Will Travel (1959).

The Three Stooges - (l to r) Larry, Moe, Curly Joe holding the model of the tank/submarine/helicopter/rocketship in The Three Stooges in Orbit (1962)
The Three Stooges – (l to r) Larry, Moe, Curly Joe holding the model of the tank/submarine/helicopter/rocketship

In The Three Stooges in Orbit, the Stooges essentially took on the alien invader film that 1950s B cinema became extremely paranoid and worked up about and put it through slapstick shenanigans. At times, The Three Stooges in Orbit could almost be described as an alien invader haunted house comedy. In spirit, the film harkens back to the Old Dark House comedies of the 1930s with Martians in the place of the masked lunatics/criminals who would usually lurk about a big old house in these films. The various gags – hands appearing through cubbyholes, a Martian turning up in bed, the Stooges clonking the wrong guy over the head as they appear through a hidden door – had all been done by Abbott and Costello in their horror films. The film involves much physical comedy running around in the professor’s laboratory, involving gadgets and a shower going amok, items pushed through holes in the wall and banging the two Martians in the eye ad infinitum.

There is much slapstick chaos involving the film’s central vehicle going amok at a military base – including the inevitable scene where a line of pompous military brass are pelted with custard pies – and an energetic, if eventually tiresomely drawn out, climax with the Stooges around the outside of the vehicle as it is flown by the Martians while the military (represented by stock footage) try to shoot them down. The vehicle does very briefly venture up into orbit in order to justify the title. As always, one ends up either loving or hating the Three Stooges exploits. I must admit I don’t have a high tolerance for their lowbrow tomfoolery.

Edward L. Bernds’ other genre films include:- The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters (1955), Bowery to Bagdad (1955), Jungle Gents (1956), World Without End (1956), Queen of Outer Space (1958), Spacemaster X-7 (1958), Return of the Fly (1959), Valley of the Dragons (1961) and The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (1962).

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