austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

That's your one life-saver

Several weekends ago I bought the Delta Entertainment Corporation's Popeye the Sailor Man Collector's Edition DVD of Fleischer cartoons, mostly because I wasn't able to buy anything else that day. To answer natasha_nelson's question first: the audio or video mangling done so they can assert copyright, they forgot to do. The cartoons are, so far as I can tell, uncut, unedited, and lacking any ear-crushingly inappropriate sound effects. Now, my review:

The cartoon lineup is With Little Swee'Pea, Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor, I'm In The Army Now, The Paneless Window Washer, I Never Changes My Altitude, Popeye Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves, A Date To Skate, Customers Wanted, and Aladdin And His Wonderful Lamp. This isn't the best conceivable selection of Fleischer cartoons, but it is really up there. Even the clip cartoons -- I'm In The Army Now and Customers Wanted -- are good ones, with Popeye and Bluto dueling by their clips.

Two minor gripes first. The main menu has two options, Play and Chapter Select; the screen highlights which is selected by changing the color of text. You'd think by now DVD manufacturers would know this is useless when only two options are on screen; is the selection in yellow or in red? Use an arrow, people. When you have three or more options you can highlight in color, if you don't worry about accessibility to the color-blind. The other gripe is that ... Sindbad the Sailor is in black-and-white. As this was the first of the Technicolor Popeye cartoons this seems absolutely bizarre. But it turns out this cartoon looks fantastic in black and white; the palette of grays might be even better than of color.

The good things, though, are first that the cartoons are (so far as I can tell) uncut -- apart from having the AAP opening and closing cards -- and the prints, while sometimes dark, are nice and clean. Only the sound on Customers Wanted is muffled; the rest are reasonably clear (many have fuzzy patches, particularly in song numbers) considering there doesn't seem to be any effort to digitally clean them. And they are clear enough to see all the wonderful stereooptic backgrounds -- the real sets behind the cartoons the Fleischers were famous for -- including some I'd never noticed before, like the pan across Hott Airport at the start of I Never Changes My Altitude. And it does, after all, have Ali Baba; my experience had been any public-domain videotape or video CD claiming to have that cartoon was lying. I don't know why.

Furthermore, nearly every cartoon -- including the clip cartoons -- features sequences with complicated action in perspective. None of it compares to the skyscraper under construction in A Dream Walking, but there are roller coasters and high-rises seen at odd angles and moving. It's impossible to say one type of picture is invariably a good thing, but detailed drawings in perspective almost invariably shows what's best about hand-drawn animation. Also Paneless and Aladdin give us Olive Oyl in glasses, and she looks really good in them.

It does wrap up with Aladdin And His Wonderful Lamp. Many are disappointed in this two-reeler, but it's one of my favorites. Not only is it (I believe) the longest theatrical Popeye cartoon ever (22 minutes), but the plot is more packed than the other two-reelers, with the action building to a frantic climax featuring, if I'm not mistaken, a record (for non-clip and non-``teach the kids to eat spinach'' cartoons) four cans of spinach eaten in under ninety seconds. While I used to think the framing story for Aladdin was unnecessary, on seeing the entire thing with my full attention I now see it's exactly right, providing just the right punchline and release after the day is saved.

And all this for US $7.00, at the Saturday Matinee video store. As bargains-for-entertainment-provided go the only comparable one I've gotten would be the Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume One DVD set. It's fantastic.

Trivia: Pierre Fermat published one mathematics paper during his lifetime, one which found the arc length for the curve y = x3/2 between x = 0 and x = a for an arbitrary positive number a. Source: Mathematics in Civilization, H.L. Resnikoff and R.O.Wells, Jr.

Currently Reading: Dolphin Island, Arthur C Clarke. Teenaged runaway human becomes ambassador to the dolphin kingdom. Exists in an odd time warp in which you feel its view towards respecting sea life was progressive when written, but now seems to have a cruel edge -- researchers on a station in the Great Barrier Reef harbor rather bigoted views against killer whales -- despite being set still a few more decades in the future. And telecommunications technology is surprisingly primitive for a Clarke story. Still, it's a tender juvenile novel and I like the notion of a dolphin-pulled surfboard.


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