Thursday, August 07, 2008

dvd review: popeye the sailor vol. 2

Say I yam what I yam to your spouse when they point out something that perhaps needs attending to in the house, and see how far you get. I dares ya. Better just fix it, whatever it is and then plop down and read our review of Popeye the Sailor, Vol. 2 to see how he handled it. Not much better sometimes, as it turns out. But that's ok, there is one upside to all of this; we've done the legwork to answer the question: is this DVD worth your hard-earned sawbucks? Read our review and find out, I tells ya.

The Hard Facts
Popeye The Sailor, Vol. 2: 1938-1940

2 Discs in a slipcase
Studio: Warner Brothers
Black and White/Color
Full Screen
Some Features in Widescreen
Original Studio: Paramount
Release Date: 6/17/2008
Rated: NR
Animators: Out of the Inkwell
(Fleischer) Studios
Directors: Fleischer Brothers

If you haven't, you really should read John McElwee's essay on Walt Disney's show about animation history over at Greenbriar Picture Show. The show was entitled Story of the Animated Drawing, an episode of the Disneyland show and presented by Uncle Walt himself (and is found on Walt Disney Treasures: Behind the Scenes at Walt Disney Studio). The article is well worth a read, and the Disneyland show very much worth the viewing. In that show, Walt briefly discusses (and pays tribute to in a small way) to one of his fiercest competitors, Max Fleischer. It was interesting that I had been reviewing today's DVD for our review and happened to read John's great piece. It, the Disneyland show and some of the bonus features on this DVD made for an in-depth look at the man who helped to bring some of the greatest characters to the animated screen, such as Superman and Popeye, and even created an iconic character of his own, Betty Boop. The success and talent of the Fleischer brothers caused me to ruminate on a topic for another post in the future, but is fascinating history and a true American story of achievement and a lasting legacy in American culture.

For you post-DVD and VHS boom kids out there, you really don't know how lucky you are: when I was a kid... oh, let's not go down that road, shall we. Suffice it to say, having a library of your favorite flicks and cartoons to watch at a moment's whim was a fantasy indeed. Now it's a reality. Do we know how good we have it? Perhaps not. I consider it important; to further understand our shared history, to have a better awareness of our popular culture: that which a great majority of Americans enjoyed and understood. That alone would make DVD volumes like Popeye priceless. But if it wasn't so darn entertaining and great- well, the series wouldn't have lasted anyway and we may not be discussing it now. And the cartoons are great.

The Shorts:
This Volume contains shorts released from 1938-1940 listed as follows:
Disc 1:
I Yam Love Sick
Plumbing Is A Pipe
The Jeep
Bulldozing The Bull
Mutiny Ain't Nice
A Date To Skate
Cops Is Always Right
Customers Wanted
Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp
(Technicolor Two Reeler!)
Leave Well Enough Alone
Wotta Nitemare
Ghosks Is The Bunk
Hello, How Am I
It"s The Natural Thing To Do

Disc 2:
Never Sock A Baby
Shalespearian Spinach
Females Is Fickle
Stealin' Ain't Honest
Me Feelin's Is Hurt
Onion Pacific
Wimmin Is A Myskery
Fightin' Pals
Doin' Impossikible Stunts
Wimmin Hadn't Oughta Drive
Puttin On The Act
Popeye Meets William Tell
My Pop, My Pop
With Poopdeck Pappy
Popeye Presents Eugene The Jeep

These are some great cartoons that shouldn't be missed. The Fleischer animation style and technique is different than say Disney or Warners, as should be- these are different animators who are innovative and evoking a style of their own. The Popeye shorts maintain the earthiness and lovable rough and tumble world of Popeye and his friends. As a fan of the comic strip and the cartoons, I was even more pleased to see the great care taken with them, as demonstrated by things like original title cards restored and the terrible "a.a.p." cards taken out. Also- Warner's is including the Technicolor two reelers as the appear in the chronology, in this Volume's case, Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp.

Bonus Features:
After the restored shorts, this is where the set really shines. There are many commentaries on various shorts from an array of animation experts like Jerry Beck, Eric Goldberg, Michael Barrier and more. There are several extra non-Popeye Fleischer shorts on disc 2 and several storyboard reels and galleries as well. There are also several "Popumentaries" focusing on various aspects of Popeye's career and friends. The crown jewel of the set is a wonderful, almost hour length documentary on the Fleischers and their work entitled: Out of the Inkwell: The Fleischer Story. Narrated by Carl Reiner, and featuring great pictures and rare footage of the Fleischer family, this a thoughtful and well researched portrait of the Fleischers and the animation and innovations they brought to American culture. The documentary is extremely well produced and features interviews with many animators, animation historians, and some contemporaries and family members of the Fleischers. Max's son tells a little known story of his role in bringing two competitors together: Disney and Fleischer, who would form a friendship in Max's later years. The documentary is worth the price of the set alone.

Most of the cartoons are in black and white, with the exception of the technicolor Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp, and the restoration work done on this series is well done. There are only occasional scratches that this reviewer could see, but it did not take away from the experience. The audio is fantastic, and having seen some of the cartoons on Boomerang recently and on local channels, I can tell some of the audio which had been cut for television years ago has been restored. The under the breath mutterings of Jack Mercer thankfully have also been restored. All in all- a treat for the viewer, and a definite treat for the eyes (especially the Aladdin two-reeler).

The Bottom Line:
Hands down, this series is a must have, and the latest entry, Volume 2, lives up to the promise and expectations of many fans. If not for the history, if not for the slice of Americana- buy it for the pure joy of the cartoons. They don't make 'em like this anymore. Don't believe me? Just take the kids to some CGI flick (Pixar excepted for the most part) and then let the kids watch Popeye at home. See which gets the most laughs and the most demands to watch again. This is animation joy and technique at some of it's most stylistic and fun. A pure joy to watch.

Review Rating:
If we were reviewing the set of shorts and the set of bonus features separately, they would earn the following grades:
The Shorts: A+
Out the Inkwell feature documentary: A+
Other Bonus features: A+

Overall Rating: We give
Popeye the Sailor, Vol.2 5 stars (Groucho glasses). It's most defintely a Shelf Classic!

Stay tuned- more reviews and stuff on the way!

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

I never made love in Technicolor before.

1 comment:

ghp said...

Love me some Popeye. I've ordered this and already pre-ordered Vol.3. Now when will see more Tex Avery on DVD?


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