I’ve been working my way through the DVD boxed set Popeye the Sailor 1933-1938 – Volume One.
This is a wonderful collection which presents the original Max and Dave Fleischer cartoons in their original form, complete with Paramount title openings and closings (and the occasional NRA badge), which were clipped off the TV versions. The transfer to DVD is absolutely brilliant– none of the other Popeye video sets look half as good as this.
My earliest recollection of Popeye was from the 1960s King Features made-for-TV cartoons. Years later, a local TV station began showing the 1950s Paramount theatrical Popeye films, which had a little more to offer in animation quality. But sometime in the late 1970s the same station got their hands on the Fleischer-era cartoons, and when they showed 1935’s “You Gotta Be A Football Hero” I was completely hooked.
Sometime in the 1980s, many of these cartoons were colorized. In the process, the engineers ruined the animation by decreasing the frame counts and “smoothing out” much of the image. These versions were abominations. Thank heaven someone within Turner Entertainment, oddly enough the people responsible for the colorized versions, championed the idea of releasing these wonderful films in pristine form.
As the title suggests, this DVD covers the years 1933-1938, and we get to see everything from Popeye’s debut in a Betty Boop cartoon up to the two-reel Technicolor productions Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor and Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves. There are also a few documentaries about the history of Popeye and animation as well as some great early cartoons featuring characters like Felix the Cat and Krazy Kat.
While this set is titled Volume One, I have to say that these are the best of the best Popeye films. As the years went on, the characters softened and once World War II started the films took on a very strong patriotic flavor.
Here’s the Wikipedia page on the dude. One of the many great reviews of this DVD set can be found here.
If you’re a fan of classic animation, check out this set!