Marshall Fish is a remote trivia writer for Hasbro, Screenlife Games, and other pop culture websites.
Popeye, the spinach-eating sailor man, recently celebrated his 90th birthday. Coinciding with this milestone, Warner Archive Collection has added a new Blu-ray title, “Popeye the Sailor: The 1940s, Volume 3”, to its catalog.
17 uncut Popeye color cartoons from 1948 and 1949 are included in the set. All were produced to run in movie theaters by the Famous Studios division of Paramount Pictures. In these cartoons, Popeye and his girlfriend Olive Oyl travel back in time to various locations, including ancient Greece, the Sherwood Forest, the Egyptian desert, and Plymouth Rock. Of course, the films feature Popeye taking on his nemesis Bluto, who's seen in various guises such as Hercules, “Wild Bill” Bluto, and “The Magical Hypnotist”.
Some of these Popeye cartoons do seem familiar from their many airings on local television broadcasts in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, as well as Cartoon Network in the 1990s and Boomerang in the 2000s. But, the Blu-ray’s toons have been remastered from the original negatives, and they’ve never looked as good as they do in this collection. The picture quality is tremendous, with vivid hues. Nearly half of the cartoons here are in Polacolor, developed by Polaroid as an alternative to the Technicolor process. The rest are in Technicolor, except for one in Cinecolor. All of these shorts feature their original titles, not the Associate Artist Productions intros seen during their broadcast and cable runs.
Seymour Kneitel and Izzy Sparber, two of the three men who headed Famous Studios, directed all of these Popeye films, except for one by Bill Tytla and another which used footage from Dave Fleischer’s “Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp”. In fact, “Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp” has never been issued in Blu-ray before, and looks great, too, in this new Popeye cartoon collection.
Additionally, the short “Spinach vs. Hamburgers” also includes scenes from three previous Popeye films (1944’s “The Anvil Chorus Girl”, 1945’s “Pop-Pie a la Mode”, and 1944’s “She Sick Sailors”). This group of Popeye cartoons are all found, complete, in the Warner Classic release, “Popeye the Sailor: The 1940s, Volume 1”.
"Popeye's Premiere" open with "Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp" footage
Ahead of their time
Three of the films present ideas that were ahead of their time when shown on screen. “Silly Hillbilly”, a remake of the Betty Boop short “Be Up to Date”, finds the Sailor Man opening a pop-up department store. “Popeye Meets Hercules” has the mythological strongman (Bluto) at the First Olympic Games, displaying the back of his robe that has the words “This Space Reserved For Advertising Reasonable Rates” printed on it. In the 21st century, sponsor logos are found on the outfits of professional golfers and tennis players, as well as on NBA player uniforms. Moreover, the idea of a woman running for the U.S. presidency as a major party’s candidate might not have been thought about by many in 1948. But in “Olive Oyl For President”, Popeye’s dream of his beau becoming Commander In Chief came 68 years before Hillary Clinton was named the Democratic party’s presidential nominee.
"Olive Oyl for President"
Additionally, these cartoons include clever, pun filled dialogue. When Popeye gets irritated by a pesky bug in “The Fly’s Last Flight”, he says to it, “Come on out and fights like a man, you insect”. While auditioning for a spot in Olive’s band in “Symphony in Spinach”, Popeye tells her, “I used to play in the sympathy orchestra once”. And when trying to find his way out of a cave in the “Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp” footage, Popeye states to himself, “Wish I was light-headed so I could see what I was doin’.”
Surprisingly, Popeye’s spinach works against him in two films in the set. The troublesome bug in “The Fly’s Last Flight” lands in Popeye’s can of spinach, eating some of the vegetable. As a result, the fly gains muscles and strength. He uses The Sailor’s nose as a punching bag, and lifts up a piano and drops it on Popeye!
Plus, Popeye’s nephews Pipeye, Peepeye, Poopeye, and Pupeye, would rather eat hamburgers at Wimpy’s restaurant than have spinach at Popeye’s Diner in “Spinach vs Hamburgers”. After finally eating their uncle’s spinach, the nephews use their new found energy to entangle Popeye and Olive in the restaurant’s anchor decoration. The nephews are next seen at Wimpy’s eatery, with stacks of burgers in front of them while they enjoy what they really wanted for their meal.
Like the other Warner Archive home videos, no booklet is available with the collection.The 17 Popeye cartoon titles are printed on the disc’s label side.Of the 1940s Popeye Blu-ray releases, Volume 3 has the largest number of cartoons, with a total running time of just over two hours. English subtitles are available for the films. This assortment of Popeye shorts is also available on DVD.
© 2019 Marshall Fish
“Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s, Volume 3” is definitely “strong to the finich”. The Warner Archive Collection team has produced another winner in their series of Popeye adventures.