Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Popeye Goes to War

I found Popeye the Sailor 1941-1943 at the library not long ago and I had to take a look at that. It's the third volume of the Warner Home Video release of Popeye cartoons made from 1933 to 1943. It includes two disks and 32 cartoons. I didn't have time to see them all in one week, so for my own viewing I picked those that sounded the most interesting (or strangest).

The collection is interesting for a number of reasons. For one thing, it covers the transition from Fleischer Studios to Famous Studios. It also features the last of the black-and-white Popeye cartoons. And of course many of them are World War II cartoons, some of which are every bit as racist as you'd expect when depicting the Japanese. More on these matters can be found in this detailed Wiki article on the collection.

I thought Bluto had the best line among the ones that I saw. In "Seein' Red, White and Blue," he receives a letter that turns out to be from his local draft board, but before he opens it, he looks at it and asks himself, "Who do I know that can write?" It's also an unusual cartoon in that Popeye and Bluto, in the end, team up against a common enemy -- Japanese spies disguised as orphaned babies (don't ask). At one point Popeye actually feeds Bluto some spinach so that he can help Popeye vanquish those minions of Hirohito. I don't think I've ever seen Bluto access spinach the way Popeye does. You'd think he would have tried that some other time.

Much more information about these particular cartoons is at the last three subpages at this web site, "Popeye in Black and White: The Fleischer and Famous Studio Cartoons." The writer(s) obviously had more time to think about Popeye than I do. But they're well-written reviews. I like this description of one of the worst cartoons I saw in this particular collection, the God-awful "Spinach Fer Britain."

"There is a curious lack of detail in 'Spinach Fer Britain,' a short in which a Nazi submarine attempts to keep Popeye from delivering his boatload of spinach to No. 10 Downing Street," the site says. "For a series that always prided itself on distinctive backgrounds and painstakingly detailed textures, 'Spinach Fer Britain' often resembles one of the careless and shoddy Popeye television cartoons from the 1960s. There is not a single label on any of the cans of spinach in Popeye's rowboat, the clouds are just blobs in the background, and half the time, Popeye doesn't even look like Popeye but rather like the third runner-up in a Draw Popeye Contest for six-year-olds."



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