''Snow White And The Three Stooges'' was the most lavish film the famous comedy team was ever associated with. (not counting their brief cameo appearance in ''It's A Mad,Mad Mad Mad World''). Released in 1961, ''Snow White'' had a budget of 3.5 million dollars. Originally, director Frank Tashlin, who had directed Jerry Lewis in the fairy tale farce ''Cinderfella'' was set to helm the film. However, when production got underway in late 1960, he had been replaced by famed director Walter Lang, known for the many musicals he made during ''Hollywood's ''Golden Age''.In fact, ''Snow White'' was his last film. Somehow, 20th Century-Fox, who were then in serious trouble after a series of expensive duds (and pouring tons of money into the fiasco ''Cleopatra'') gave the OK for the 3-plus million dollar budget, which was originally set at a mere $750,000. The star of the film was Olympic skating champion Carol Heiss. She was 20 years old at the time and had won her Gold Medal the year before. In fact, ''Snow White'' was always intended as a vehicle for her skating talents, with the Stooges aboard merely as support. Cast in the dual role of the Wicked Queen and the Witch she turned into was veteran leading lady Patricia Medina, who had recently married the actor Joseph Cotten. Edson Stroll, a virtual unknown, played Prince Charming, while British character player Guy Rolfe (beating out Martin Landau) was the evil Count Oga, henchman to the Queen.Also present were Blossom Rock, sister of Jeanette MacDonald, who would gain fame later as ''Grandmama'' on the ''Addams Family'' TV series, as the Prince's onetime Nurse, and Herbie Faye as the Head Cook.And look for veteran ''codger'' Burt Mustin (''Detective Story'') cast as a disgruntled spectator in the ''Medicine Show'' sequence. The plot is basically the same as the Grimm fairy tale, with the skating sequences added to showcase Carol Heiss' talents on ice. The Stooges are substitutes for the vacationing Seven Dwarfs, and are ultimately responsible for uniting Snow White with her Prince. He has grown up with the Stooges, who have a traveling medicine show, and he becomes part of the act after they rescue him from an assassination attempt engineered by the Queen. ''Snow White And The Three Stooges'' has long been reviled by critics, fans of the Stooges and even the Stooges themselves, who felt cheated by the rather subordinate roles they play. When it was released in the summer of 1961, it proved yet another flop for the beleaguered studio. It is, however, a wonderful fantasy with fine performances by Carol Heiss, who made a lovely Snow White in what was both her film debut and her swan song, the beautiful Patricia Medina (as the Wicked Queen) who conveyed the evil in her character without overdoing it, Guy Rolfe, as sinister a villain as one could wish for, and Edson Stroll, a ''charming'' Prince of whom little was heard from since, outside of a part in the ''Mchale's Navy'' TV series. He and Ms. Heiss have a few songs together (though both are dubbed) and have good chemistry in their romantic scenes. Ms. Heiss sings courtesy of Lawrence Welk's ''Champagne Lady'' Norma Zimmer. Stroll's ''ghost voice'' was none other than Bill Lee, who dubbed for, among others, Christopher Plummer, in ''The Sound Of Music. The voice he uses in his ventriloquist act is that of Mel Blanc (''Bugs Bunny''). As for the Stooges, they are fine in their parts, and prove they can be touching as well. The CinemaScope production is truly beautiful. with sets and costumes in gorgeous color, which convey the perfect fairy tale mood, as well as establishing where a good deal of the budget went. The music score by Lyn Murray, and the songs by Harry Harris and Earl Brent are delightful as well. Two of them, (''Snow White And The Three Stooges'' and a number by the Stooges themselves ''Looking For People Looking For Fun'') were sadly deleted from the final cut, though the latter tune can be heard on the Columbia soundtrack album, and the former on a 45 backed with the title tune, ''A Place Called Happiness''. Although the film was also criticized for toning down the Stooges antics, there is, after all, little room for all-out slapstick in a fantasy of this kind without destroying the mood. There is a brief pie-throwing scene, of course. But though it's better appreciated by fans of fantasy than Stoogephiles, the film is successful as a lavish and satisfying adaptation of a classic fairy tale, and no apologies need be made for it.