REVIEW: Popeye the Sailor: The 1940s Volume 2
If younger people today know Popeye at all, it’s probably his connection with spinach. The brilliance of the animated cartoons from the 1940s is forgotten as is his Can-Do personality and rich supporting cast. A while back, the classic black and white cartoons were being collected as a three volume DVD so it is most welcome that Warner Archives is releasing the color ones using restored and remastered in HD 4K scans of the original nitrate Technicolor negatives for Blu-ray where we can appreciate the detail.
Popeye the Sailor: The 1940s Volume 1 came out last December and now we have Volume 2 with 15 more in chronological order on a reasonably priced disc ($17.97 if you look around). There were released in 1946 and 1947 just after World War II so the content reflects that euphoria and forward-looking approach.
These are a fanciful collection with adventures under the sea, on Mars, out west, and in darkest Africa.
The cartoons lack the imagination and brilliance of the earlier Fleischer Studios, but the renamed Famous Studios still offered up some of the finest animation of the era thanks to the efforts of director Jim Tyer and director Bill Tytla who worked on the majority of these offerings. Veteran director Seymour Kneitel and writers Jack Ward, Carl Meyer, Otto Messmer, and Woody Gelman also well represented here.
We open with “House Tricks?”, which is the first to feature Popeye on the title card and is a remake of the earlier “The House Builder-Upper”. Harry Foster Welch does Popeye’s voice the first few toons before Jack Mercer arrives and takes over with “I’ll be Skiing Ya”. You will watch styles change, notably Olive Oyl, but the antics remain fresh and engaging.
“The Fistic Mystic”, “Wotta Knight”, and “The Island Fling” both feature Black stereotypes that have been edited or not aired on television and are here for inclusiveness. Look for a Herman the Mouse cameo in the latter one. Similarly, there was a moment in “Popeye and the Pirates” where he changed into drag with a glimpse of nudity that screened in 1947 but was snipped for airing and is thought lost, so remains missing here.
The loving restoration from the negatives means we’re seeing crisp, clear version with brilliant colors, a superior collection compared with the first volume. The cleaning also means we’re treated to a superior sound track without the artifacts and hissing that mar broadcast versions.
There are no special features, but I can live with that given the overall quality.
For the record, the titles include are:
“Service with a Guile”
“Peep in the Deep”
“Rocket to Mars”
“The Fistic Mystic”
“The Island Fling”
“I’ll Be Skiing Ya”
“Popeye and the Pirates”
“The Royal-Four Flusher”
“Safari So Good”
“All’s Fair at the Fair”