|The last Popeye DVD, released in 2008!|
|Wha' Hoppened ta the' Forties an' Fif-kies?|
|At last! I'm out of the comic pages, and FREE TO MOVE! Oh, wait... It's LIMITED ANIMATION! DRAT!|
|Wot's HE got ta be embarasked about, up there?!|
Not that it doesn’t have its own shamefully damning faults, mind you. FOUR of those “first five” end with Popeye turning to the audience and bobbing up and down as he sings an original and “plot-appropriate” final verse to his signature theme, and winking to close things out! This is the SAME re-used animation every time, only marginally disguised by a varied BACKGROUND – often of a single solid color. I’ve rarely seen such blatant re-use of animation stock character footage, outside of the Filmation productions to come later in the decade. Certain character walk and run cycles are also re-used – but never in as painfully obvious a way as this.
|Simon the Pieman - from Filmation's BATMAN (1968) He's probably struck this pose before - and will do it again!|
Additionally, the FINAL NINE shorts of this collection were not done by the Paramount crew – and are clearly the product of another studio entirely! So, when Warner says in its text: “Among the cartoons contained in the stupendous 2-Disc, 72 episode volume, are all of the Paramount TV Popeye cartoons”, they aren’t just blowing smoke out of their pipe! That would also indicate that, if the collected order is to be believed, Paramount produced 63 of these cartoons.
While the animation may be “cheesy”, that doesn’t mean the cartoons are bad – perhaps, quite the contrary! That is, if you can accept plots like The Sea Hag and Toar counterfeiting three dollar bills (with a picture of a HANGED Benedict Arnold on them), and Popeye, Olive, and Wimpy as vacationers stumbling onto their operation, in an outing called “The Last Resort”.
|Remember when CHEESY was FUN, Bullwinkle?|
As is our custom in these reviews, we’ll break it into CONS and PROS.
|I ain't very "CONTENT" wit th' way things is "LISTING", me-self!|
If this first effort was intended to “modernize” Popeye for the early sixties audience, I’d say tapping into the astronaut mania we all had back then was a good move.
|I KNOWS a good thing, when I SEES one!|
For the record, the 1961 UPA DICK TRACY cartoon “Rocket Racket”, featuring Hemlock Holmes and The Retouchables in a rocket chase with Sketch Paree and The Mole, offered the same astronomic inaccuracies in the name of some gags.
Seeing a mountain (of angularly stacked slices of Swiss cheese, compete with holes), Popeye declares: “This must be th’ SWISS CHEESE ALPS!” This is followed by a nicely done sequence where Olive falls down and through the many Swiss holes, and Popeye is just a moment too late to grab on to her each time.
|Don't expect a SQUARE DEAL from a ROUND CHEESE!|
|See? He's GONE BAD already!|
|Yeah, who WAS that writer, anyways!|
|We're OUTTA SIGHT, man... When we're invisible!|
“Strikes, Spares, an’ Spinach” (Runs 05:36) Writer: Seymour Kneitel. “Brutus”, having now assumed the former role of “Bluto” sabotages Popeye’s bowling date with Olive. You’ve gotta wonder how they managed to overlook “bowling”, when they did countless versions of this plot in the theatricals. Oh, and I’ve always differentiated “Brutus” from “Bluto” due to “Brutus” having a much larger paunch, while “Bluto” was more muscular overall.
We end our look at the “First Five” with a real goodie!
|Hmmm... Was it North, South, Eask, or Wesk?|
|This comic would ALSO have made a good Sixties cartoon!|
It’s almost all here! Popeye, Poopdeck Pappy and his ill-fated, long ago romance with “Rose of the Sea”, the Sea Hag with her eerie, mystery-melody emanating, evil magic flute and her vulture, and the powerful force of Eugene the Jeep! I saw this as a kid, completely unaware of its origins as one of the most celebrated Popeye strip adventures of all time!
For the record, you can read E.C. Segar's original "Mystery Melody" in this magnificent collection, published by Fantagraphics...
...And, merely to digress further, you can read an "alternate world sort of sequel" to the tale in this 1957 Dell Comic, where Pappy is unaware of the Magic Flute's powers -- and The Sea Hag brings in "The Big Guy Who Hates Popeye" (who's been known to go by the name "Bluto") for a cameo -- along with a lion, a box of poison snakes, a bear, a gorilla, and a giant bomb -- to bust-up our Sailor Man! ...Would I spoil things if I said the plan failed?
What we might lose in animation quality, we more than make up for in diversity of subject matter, and a stronger animated adherence to the Popeye comic strip and comic books than has EVER occurred before or (alas, again) since.