The concept of growing old gracefully eluded the Three Stooges, as witnessed in their disastrous 1970 swan song “Kook’s Tour.” Its failure as a comedy is compensated by its value as an unintentional horror film: the sight of three rickety old men engaged in psychological abuse of each other in the middle of a camping trip offers more genuine chills than any slasher or CGI creature could inspire.
“Kook’s Tour” was originally planned as a pilot for a TV travelogue series in which the elderly Three Stooges tour the great national parks of the United States. Unfortunately, the trio forgot to look in the mirror before the production began: Moe Howard and Larry Fine appear to be on the verge of physical collapse (Larry actually suffered a stroke during filming) while Curly-Joe DeRita is so grotesquely obese that it seems his skin is about to burst. While they were obvious physically unfit for their trademark knockabout, the Stooges compensated for their infirmities by engaging in endless name-calling and verbal bullying among each other. Thus, while Larry might have received an eye-poke or face-slap in previous years, in “Kook’s Tour” he is deprived the right to have a fish dinner by Moe (in punishment for Larry’s failure to catch a piscine dinner) and is made to eat corn flakes while Moe and Curly-Joe broil a trout. Anyone who gets a kick out of elder abuse will love this one!
“Kook’s Tour” is virtually plotless, with dumb scenes involving fishing mishaps and cooking disasters crashing into each other like bumper cars. The film’s ramshackle storytelling is a result of director/producer Norman Maurer (Moe’s son-in-law) trying to salvage a film that should have been aborted once Larry was incapacitated. Maurer pads what should have been a 30-minute pilot into an hour-long mess. Much of this is achieved with a seemingly endless number of scenes in which a Labrador named Moose (the Stooges’ on-screen pet) runs around the forests of a national park. Moose is supposedly our canine guide to the great outdoors, and obviously Moose has strong bladder control since he never thinks of using any of the trees for urinary relief.
When Moose gets worn out, Curly-Joe takes over with an inane vacuum-bike that sweeps up after litterbugs who drop their rubbish all over the park. Stooges fans who loathe Curly-Joe have plenty of ammunition here to build their anger, as witnessed in his utter inability to gain a laugh either from his girth or his attempts at being an ecological fussbudget.
“Kook’s Tour” was never broadcast and only turned up in 1974 for brief release as an 8mm title for sale to movie buffs who shopped at Sears. Incredibly, the original negative and print of the film became lost and all that remains of “Kook’s Tour” were the 8mm prints, which have somewhat faded color and a horrible tinny soundtrack (the film sounds like it is being played over speakerphone). Watching “Kook’s Tour” today on DVD is literally like watching an old, bad home movie. But then again, anyone who genuinely loves the Three Stooges should not watch “Kook’s Tour.”