How well I remember the long lines at the box office for Have Rocket, Will Travel. Harry Cohn may have died a year before, but his successors at Columbia Pictures realized they had a gold mine on their hands when those old Three Stooges shorts were gaining a new generation of fans of which your's truly was one of them at the age of 11. The lines were comparable to those for a new Harry Potter film, I kid you not.
The Three Stooges had their half hour comedy show with Officer Joe Bolton on WPIX Channel 11 in New York and other similar venues throughout the country. So with only two Stooges still on this mortal coil (Joe Besser was never really a Stooge), the search was on to find a third one to fit in with Moe Howard and Larry Fine.
Character actor Curly Joe DeRita was hired to pinch hit for the late Curly Howard. Movie audiences if they had noticed would have also seen him in 1959 as a treacherous hangman in the Gregory Peck western, The Bravados, but here he simply steps in as a kinder, gentler, and somewhat less zany version of Curly.
Looking back, Have Rocket, Will Travel borrows quite liberally from the Abbott&Costello film, Abbott&Costello Go To Mars. The same premise happens, three nincompoops instead of two accidentally get launched into space and head for Venus where they establish interplanetary relations.
The film does not have the Stooge zaniness, there could only be on Curly. But Joe DeRita is not the only problem. Moe and Larry had aged and the physical comedy they did in their younger days, just isn't present any more.
For the kids back then it was satisfying enough, but Have Rocket, Will Travel just doesn't measure up to the Three Stooges in their prime.
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