Punch Drunks

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Punch Drunks
Directed byLou Breslow
Produced byJules White
Written byMoe Howard
Larry Fine
Jerry Howard
Jack Cluett
StarringMoe Howard
Larry Fine
Curly Howard
Chuck Callahan
William Irving
Jack "Tiny" Lipson
Dorothy Granger
Al Hill
Billy Bletcher
Arthur Housman
Larry McCrath
George Gray
A.R. Heysel
Dorothy Vernon
CinematographyHenry Freulich
Edited byRobert Carlisle
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • July 13, 1934 (1934-07-13) (U.S.)
Running time
CountryUnited States

Punch Drunks is the second short film released by Columbia Pictures in 1934 starring American slapstick comedy team the Three Stooges (Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Curly Howard). The comedians released 190 short films for the studio between 1934 and 1959.


Struggling boxing manager Moe is having lunch with several associates who are angry at him for their low payment and threatening to quit on him. When he notices their shy waiter (Curly) goes into a violent fugue whenever he hears the song "Pop Goes the Weasel", which is the case when he knocks out three associates and later his boss. Moe also takes notice of a fiddler (Larry), who happens to be playing the potent tune at the restaurant. Seeing dollar signs in the uncontrollable waiter, Moe quickly recruits the two unsuspecting cohorts and preps them for the boxing world. Curly's boxing handle becomes "K.O. Stradivarius", and with Larry in tow—playing "Pop Goes the Weasel" at every boxing match, Curly becomes the number-one contender for the heavyweight championship.

Before the matches occur, while Curly is doing the rowing exercise under the supervision of Moe, on a rural road, they notice a young lady, whose car is stuck in the ditch. Moe wants to help her out, at first not letting Curly get involved, stating that "Boxing and women don't mix." However, Moe asks him to help with the problem, and requests Larry to play the "Weasel" tune. When Larry does this for the second time, Curly does succeed in getting the car out of the ditch, and hops in the car with the lady, driving away from the rural area. Curly is found on the day of the big match with the lady in the dressing room, causing Moe to hit him, telling him not to interfere with women and to go upstairs into the arena.

All goes well until the night of the highly anticipated World Championship match with Killer Kilduff (Al Hill). Only a few moments into the first round, Kilduff plants a left hook at Curly, sending him into the crowd, landing on Larry and crushing his violin. Frantic, Larry scurries the streets, looking for anything that is playing "Pop Goes the Weasel", while Curly is being battered by the boxer. Larry finds a radio playing the tune, takes it, and heads back to the arena. Larry arrives at the arena a few minutes later with the radio. The song ends moments later just as Curly is about to knock out Kilduff, when the radio announcer is about to tell the children's story involving "Peter Rabbit", causing Moe to crash the radio on Larry's head, ruining the box. Moe sends Larry back out to find something else playing "Pop Goes the Weasel".

Larry manages to come across a politician's campaign truck blaring the tune from its speakers and "race-drives" it to the arena, crashing through a side wall. Curly is just about ready to throw in the towel until he hears "Pop Goes the Weasel". The wobbily boxer comes to his feet with renewed energy, and knocks out Kilduff in a matter of seconds, winning the fight. The song continues, however, and as they celebrate in the ring, Curly knocks out Larry and Moe and begins to advance on the camera as the short ends.

Production and significance[edit]

The script for Punch Drunks was written by the Stooges, credited as "Jerry Howard, Larry Fine, and Moe Howard". According to Moe, the initial treatment of the script was originated by Moe; on its strength, the studio decided to produce the Stooges' next film sooner than scheduled.[1] Filming was completed May 2–5, 1934.[2]

In 2002, Punch Drunks was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", the only Stooge film to achieve such an honor.


  • Punch Drunks was originally titled A Symphony of Punches, but was changed before its release. The title Punch Drunks comes from the expression "punch drunk", referring to any fighter who has been hit so many times he is unsteady on his feet. Punch Drunks was remade with Shemp Howard in 1945 as A Hit With a Miss. The plot device of gaining uncontrollable strength after hearing "Pop Goes the Weasel" was reworked with Joe DeRita in the Stooges' 1963 feature film The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze.[3][3]
  • A colorized version of this film was released in 2004 as part of the DVD collection Goofs on the Loose.
  • The short is notable as being one of the few in which the Stooges are not an established trio at the beginning of the film.
  • Curly's first "woo-woo-woo!", done when Larry first plays "Pop Goes the Weasel", ended up being reused as a stock overdub in several future Stooge shorts featuring Curly.
  • Jerry Howard's natural voice was rather lower than the high-pitched voice he effected for his "Curly" character.
  • This is the first film in which Curly calls himself a "victim of soycumstance!" (circumstance): this comment would become one of Curly's catch-phrases.
  • When the Stooges are taking part in Curly's first workout as a boxer (rowing down the street), Larry is playing a tune on his violin that sounds akin to "Let's Fall in Love", a song sung 23 years later by the character Tiny (Muriel Landers) in the Stooge film Sweet and Hot. Larry plays the song before he loses his balance and falls, causing Moe to push him backwards, ending up in a shallow lake. Larry, who has hidden behind the door of the dressing room, suddenly appears, attempting to play a snippet of the same song, later on in the film for the young lady in the dressing room before Moe angrily uses a bucket of water to put on his head, to tell him to go upstairs to the arena.
  • The man who was standing on the back of the van suffered an injury during the fall.[citation needed]
  • The short ends with the playing of the song "Pop Goes The Weasel", which would become the opening theme for the short Pop Goes the Easel.
  • This is the first of several films in which a normally passive Curly sees, hears, or smells something that triggers a violent reaction from him. The idea would be reused in Horses' Collars, Grips, Grunts and Groans, and Tassels in the Air.[3]
  • The boxing option in The Three Stooges video game is based on this short.[4]
  • This was also the first of 9 shorts that featured Larry Fine playing his violin.
  • Over the course of their 24 years at Columbia Pictures, the Stooges were occasionally cast as separate characters, with this being one such occurrence (the boys start out in separate roles and end up working together). While some would argue that this ruins their comic dynamic, this is a notable exception in that the dynamic is not lost by their personal separation (although this could be partially because they become and stay a group by short's end, unlike most of the other examples).
  • During the fight, when Larry is seen running down the street, Curly's voice can be heard in the distance saying, "Run! All the way!" This happens twice in the film.
  • As the referee is introducing challenger Curly, an audience member gestures obscenely at the camera.
  • Larry's running down the street is sped up for comic effect, with postproduction sounds of rapid footsteps added. His frantic driving of the van, with its speakers booming out "Pop Goes the Weasel" (the same recording as on the radio earlier), is also sped up.
  • This film features a rare scene in which Moe smacks someone other than one of his two pals; as several people begin to rub Curly down after a rather painful round of boxing and accidentally pull Moe into it, he slaps one of them in the back of the head.
  • The title music uses a unique jazzy big band 1930s melody called "I Thought I Wanted You". It was composed by Archie Gottler, who directed the previous short. The first part was also used in Woman Haters; the second part was later used in Men In Black.
  • Originally, the song "Stars and Stripes Forever" was going to be used, but the producer did not want to pay royalties, so the song "Pop Goes the Weasel" was selected because it was in the public domain.[5]
  • A snippet of Punch Drunks appears in the Eddie Murphy comedy Daddy Day Care.
  • The Stooges receive "story" credit for the short, with Curly credited under his real name; they did not actually write the script. The story was submitted by Moe, and he added Larry and Curly's names in consideration of his partners. The "screenplay" was written by Jack Cluett.
  • Curly's quote "Did I do that?" was later used for the Family Matters character Steve Urkel.


  1. ^ Howard, Moe (1977). Moe Howard and the Three Stooges. Citadel Press. p. 73. ISBN 0-8065-0723-3.
  2. ^ Pauley, Jim (2012). The Three Stooges Hollywood Filming Locations. Solana Beach, California: Santa Monica Press, LLC. p. 220. ISBN 9781595800701.
  3. ^ a b c Solomon, Jon (2002). The Complete Three Stooges: The Official Filmography and Three Stooges Companion. Comedy III Productions, Inc. p. 45. ISBN 0-9711868-0-4.
  4. ^ Fletcher, JC (2008-04-17). "Virtually Overlooked: The Three Stooges". Retrieved 2010-06-11.
  5. ^ American Movie Classics Stooge-a-Palooza New Year's Eve Marathon 2009

External links[edit]