Friday, January 20, 2012

More Public Domain Videotapes

Hey everyone, I'm back with another round of public domain videotapes. So, unlike last time when I rambled on and didn't have enough energy to get through one videotape, this time I'll just jump right into them. So here we go: PUBLIC DOMAIN VIDEOTAPES, ROUND TWO!!!!
First on our list is one of many Popeye videos I've obtained through the years. I'm really surprised at how many Popeye cartoons are available for public domain. Most of them are from the Famous Studio days, from the early WWII era well into the 1950s. Most of the Fleischer cartoons, the studio that started the animated Popeye as well as Betty Boop, weren't available on any home console until very recently when they were released on DVD. The lone exception were the three two-reel color cartoons released in 1936, 1937, and 1939. The first of which is on this tape and shown in the images below.
That's right, it's Popeye vs. Sindbad the Sailor. This animated classic was released in 1936 and it is widely regarded as the first animated feature because it was a two-reeler and lasted longer than your normal 7-minute animated short. It is also the first Popeye short to be animated in color, more specifically, Technicolor. The following year, Walt Disney would release "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and the title of "First Fully Animated Feature" would be given to that classic while Popeye and Sindbad would just become another short in the animated timeline. If you haven't seen this short, and you're a Popeye fan, I highly recommend it. It's well worth purchasing the DVD set I linked because it has a great commentary and behind the scenes featurette about the making of the Fleischer two-reelers. If you can't afford the DVD, it's widely available on YouTube because, after all, it is public domain.
Just as before, I also scanned the back of the video box. Along with the Sindbad short you have two other Popeye shorts. One a gender-reversed retelling of the Cinderella story and the other a meaningless, one of many shorts in which Popeye and Bluto fight over Olive Oyl's affection. I'm not going to review them or post images because they aren't the greatest in Popeye cartoons. They aren't bad, but compared to Sindbad the Sailor, these are just leftovers.
Finally we get to the video itself. Once again, Troy Video decided not to invest in labels and Viking Video was given the honors. As you can see, I mispelled Sindbad and put Sinbad instead. I can't give the excuse of, "Well, I was young at the time!" because the correct spelling is on the box itself. Call it laziness or maybe perhaps I just wanted to have a little play on words. Come on, Sinbad sounds like "Sin Bad." Okay, I probably only think that's funny!
Our next videotape has my favorite Popeye two-reeler, "Popeye Meets Ali Baba and His Forty Theives." Now, unfortunately, the title is wrong. Popeye does not meet Ali Baba himself but a gang of his known as the forty theives. The character that Bluto is playing is called Abu Hasan.
The above images capture my favorite moments from the short. Jack Mercer, who did the voice of Popeye, has some of his best ab-libs in this short and his showdown with Bluto/Abu Hasan, is just classic! I love this short so much, I even linked it to the title so all you have to do is click on it and enjoy that fine piece of great animation! I should mention that this was released one year after Sindbad in 1937, and the same year that Walt Disney released Snow White, though I think this was first. Anyway, moving on...
In this volume, we only get one other short besides Ali Baba. Is is even more forgotten than the ones in the previous video. It is called, "Abusement Park." I often stopped the video after Ali Baba because I never got into this short. If you want to see it, check it out on YouTube.
Now we come to the video itself. Same label as before and the same handwriting as before. I don't think I need to say anything else about this.
Here's the video that contains the third Fleischer two-reeler, "Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp." This short lacks the quality of the previous two shorts for a couple of reasons. First, there's no Bluto in the short. The villian is an evil vizier who, I have to admit, still looks pretty creepy to me. Parents, if you have young kids, I would advise you not to show this short to them until they are much older. Also, this was made after the Fleischer studio moved from Brooklyn to Florida. Finally, this came out in 1939 after Walt Disney released "Snow White." So, the thrill of the two-reeler was gone. I also don't think it was that strong a story when compared to Sindbad or Ali Baba. In those shorts, you had Popeye, Olive Oyl and Wimpy on some kind of adventure. In this short, Olive is a movie writer who acts as a princess in the short, Popeye is Aladdin, and there's no Wimpy or Bluto. The chemistry of that team that made the first two shorts is gone in this one. I'd consider it the black sheep of the Fleischer shorts. If this one had been made first before Sindbad, it might have been a stronger short. It's not bad as a short itself, but compared to what we got previously, this one falls short. I will say that there are a couple great moments in this short. There's a scene in the princess quarters where Popeye, dressed as a prince, gets nervous when asking Princess Olive to merry him. Mercer does one of his many of his great ad libs and says, "Oh, I don't know what to do. I never made love in Technicolor before!" That does seem true considering the previous two color shorts does not have Popeye and Olive making out. The genie is also pretty hilarious, and not in the Robin Williams Genie-type hilarious, but hilarious in his own way. Also, the showdown between Popeye and the vizier at the end where Popeye is running up the stairs of the palace tower and the vizier sends everything down from knights to a vulture to a dragon to kill Popeye is also very memorable. Popeye responds each time by rubbing a can of spinach like a genie lamp. Great humor, but other than that, there's nothing memorable about this. I would recommend seeing it if you haven't already, or want to revisit it after not seeing it for so long. I won't post any images but I will link it from YouTube here.
If you haven't noticed by now, there's another cartoon on this tape starring Superman. No, there's not a short where the two of them are together. This is a completely different short. It is to noted however that the studio who made the Popeye shorts also did Superman, which would be Fleischer. Anyway, this short is fairly dark so I would recommend parental supervision upon viewing it. Oh, and here it is on YouTube.
Ah, notice the label is from a different company. This time Burbank Video supplied the label. I guess Viking thought they weren't getting enough of the profits and therefore, severed their relationship with Troy Video. Yeah, I didn't even bother writing the title on the label. It's my least favorite of the videos so it got the anonymous treatment.
Okay, I know this blog is getting pretty long so this will be my last videotape for this edition. It's also the last tape I have of Popeye so this should be a fitting end. Anyway, here are a collection of Popeye cartoons. They were all from the Famous Studio days and for the most part, the shorts are pretty good. The company producing this video is FunTime Video. I will say that this tape had the exact same cartoons from another video I owned previously. I also got this as part of three videotapes (all public domain) I received that year for Christmas. This would have been late 80s to early 90's. Anyway, here's the front of the box. You may notice some familiarity with the artwork, like it was from a short I talked about before. Check the next photo and you shall have your answer.
The third short listed is called "Big Bad Sindbad." It's actually a remake of "Sindbad the Sailor" and uses much of the same footage. The new footage is Popeye taking his nephews (why is it always nephews? Where are these kids' real parents? Donald Duck has the same situation with Huey, Dewey, and Louie) on a tour of a museum housing the great sailors of the world. Anyway, the dialogue is changed and it is very poor in comparison to the original Fleischer cartoon. Of course, when I was young, I thought the two shorts were made by the same company and within just a few years of each other. Looking back on them now, I can notice the big differences between the animation done by the Fleischer Studios and the animation done by Famous Studios. I should also mention that there was a remake of the Ali Baba cartoon entitled "Popeye Makes a Movie." Unlike "Big Bad Sindbad", this was not public domain. I can't see why, it's just as bad as the Sindbad remake. Oh well, his annoying nephews are in this one to. Nothing for me to really review so just check it out on YouTube. Oh, as for the other shorts on this tape, just check them out. You know where to see them.
Well, we finally come to the tape itself and look, they actually printed out the title on their label! Perhaps Troy Video should have gotten their company to print them some labels. Also notice that they tell you to adjust your tracking control to get the best quality. So, there's nothing on the tape to tell you that and of course, no FBI Warning so, it just gets right to the toons. That's something that not even DVDs do today! Well, that about does it for this edition of public domain tapes. I have two more that I want to share and many more for me to view. Keep checking back for more of my tape reviews! Peace Out!!!!

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