Popeye The Sailor: 1933-1938: The Complete First Volume
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Popeye The Sailor: 1933-1938 Volume One (DVD)
Spinach--YUCK! But not to the most famous, fearless comic strip sailor in the world--Popeye. Whether romancing his longtime sweetheart, Olive Oyl, rescuing defenseless infant Swee'pea, or wrestling his nasty nemesis, Bluto, Popeye summons his spinach-induced strength to save the day. With one gulp of the vitamin-rich vegetable, Popeye transforms his scrawny body into a human dynamo! For high seas hijinks or landlocked levity, turn to the hilarious animated antics of that two-fisted tar--Popeye.]]>
In 1933, a squint-eyed sailor with outsized forearms danced a hula with Betty Boop--and began one of the great series in American cartoon history. Popeye had made his debut in Elzie Segar's comic strip "Thimble Theater" four years earlier, and the jump to animation only increased his popularity: by 1938, he rivaled Mickey Mouse. During the '30s, when Disney was creating lushly colored, realistic animation, the Fleischer Studio presented a gritty black-and-white world that was ideally suited to the bizarre misadventures of Popeye, Olive, and Bluto. The animators ignored anatomy, with hilarious results: Olive Oyl's rubbery arms wrap around her body like twin anacondas, and her legs often end up in knots. Exactly what Popeye and Bluto saw in this scrawny, capricious inamorata was never clear, but they fought over her endlessly. As the series progressed, the artists grew more sophisticated: in "Blow Me Down" (1933), Olive does some clumsy steps to "The Mexican Hat Dance;" one year later, in "The Dance Contest," she and Popeye perform deft spoofs of tango, tap, and apache steps. The stories are little more than strings of gags linked by a theme: Popeye and Bluto as rival artists; Popeye and Olive as nightclub dancers or café owners. But the minimal stories allow the artists to fill the screen with jokes, over-the-top fights, and muttered asides from the characters. Cartoon fans have waited for years for the "Popeye" shorts to appear on disc, and the Popeye the Sailor 1933-1938 was worth waiting for. The transfers were made from beautifully clear prints with only minimal dust and scratches. The set is loaded with extras, including eight "Popumentaries," numerous commentaries, and 16 silent cartoons. It's a set to treasure. (Unrated, suitable for ages 10 and older: violence, tobacco use, ethnic stereotypes) --Charles Solomon
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And supplementing this great material is a whole lot of entertaining and informative special features which range from the history of the Popeye character from his inception to today, a documentary about the beginning of animation, commentaries, and much, much (much) more.
As for the "warning" disclaimer: GET OVER IT!!! There's plenty of stuff in music and movies right now that makes Popeye and all cartoons from the theatrical era look tame. Popeye was made for adults, but appealed to kids as he became famous.
If you love classic theatrical cartoons, I recommend this and others such as Woody Woodpecker (Vol #1), The Looney Tunes Golden Collections (I'm aiming to purchase someday), Droopy, the recently Re-released Tom and Jerry Golden Collection, and the Public Domain collections found at dept. stores (200 Colossal Cartoons, perhaps?) although they're poor in color/sound, but the contents still intact.
Vol's 2 and 3, here I come....
Enjoy the nostalgic trip as you watch these shorts.
This set has not only met, but far exceeded my expectations. Not only have they been lovingly restored by Warner Brothers, but the sound and print quality are exceptional, showcasing the full, fluid animation of the characters (which were on the same caliber as early Disney and Warner Brothers shorts), and the spectacular hand-drawn background scenes that worked in perspective instead of a flat background scene repeating over and over, as was the norm for limited-animation cartoons. And they even restored the original Paramount logos on the leader and trailer!
Even though many of the story lines were based on the same premise as the later Popeye cartoons -- Popeye and Bluto (or Brutus in the 60's cartoons) -- fighting over Olive Oyl; Bluto trying to harm Olive Oyl; Popeye eating his spinach and beating up Bluto to rescue Olive Oyl -- there were a lot more sight gags and plays on words than in the later versions. Also Popeye's ad-libbed mutterings under his breath only add to the hilarity. Notice the intricate timing in the construction zone while Olive Oyl, Popeye and Bluto are "sleepwalking" in "A Dream Walking"; the factory scenes as Popeye and Olive Oyl try to rescue Swee'Pea in "Lost and Foundry," and the clever use of spinach cans in "The Spinach Roadster." Additionally, there were other cartoons such as "Lost and Foundry," "Spinach Follies" and "Brotherly Love" that deviated away from the basic storyline, and these Fleischer cartoons in general featured a lot more song and music. Listen and laugh out loud at Olive Oyl's solo rendition of "Why Am I So Beautiful" on "Morning, Noon and Night Club."
Even though these cartoons would be considered "politically incorrect" and violent by today's standards (and, to some degree, were back in their day as well), they hark back to more innocent times when people laughed more easily at other people's expenses and weren't as uptight about offending certain groups. Popeye's abominable table manners while eating his spinach only adds to the hilarity and certainly didn't warp me as a kid. Thankfully, Warner Brothers has added a disclaimer to the beginning of this set warning viewers of this so as to avoid any surprises.
The icing on the cake is the special features section, including Koko the Clown, Felix the Cat (the hilarious 1920's versions, not the cheesy redo's of the 1960's) and some full-color, two-reel cartoons, such as "Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor" and "Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves." Even though the picture jumped a little in the "Sinbad" cartoon, that's just a minor flaw compared to the superb quality of the rest of the cartoon.
For you longtime Popeye fans, enjoy this trip down memory lane, and for those of you who have been exposed to these gems in their original B&W glory for the first time, welcome to a fun and, hopefully, entertaining addiction.