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Fox Lorber presents
70 Years of Popeye (1929-1999)

"That's all I can stands; I can't stands no more."
- Popeye

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: May 05, 2000

Stars: Popeye
Other Stars: Olive Oyl, Bluto, J. Wellington Wimpy
Director: Seymour Kneitel, I. Sparber, Dave Tendla, Dave Fleischer

Manufacturer: Nanotechniq
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (cartoon violence)
Run Time: 01h:40m:00s
Release Date: May 02, 2000
UPC: 720917307725
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BC-F C-

DVD Review

This DVD features a dozen Popeye shorts from the mid-thirties to 1957. Most of them are one-reelers; the extended cartoon Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves (the followup to the Oscar-winning Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor, not included here) is a two-reel feature. Approximately half of them feature the eternal love triangle of Popeye, Bluto and Olive Oyl and the struggles between the two sailors for her skinny hand. Actually, one of the cartoons features a fairly voluptuous Olive, which is rather mind-boggling. The other half of the cartoons feature Popeye taking up such disparate antagonists as a gopher, a mouse and an army of termites.

The selection is pretty good, with a number of different variations on the basic theme. Only two of the Fleischers' cartoons are included, which is a shame since those are the best of the hundreds of Popeye cartoons made. A several-disc set could be made of those classics. However, this disc gives a decent overview of the classic era of Popeye cartoons. Despite the title, none of the later Popeye cartoons made for television are included. One I'd not seen before, Bride and Gloom, features Popeye and Olive on the night before their wedding, as Olive has a nightmare of what their life together would be like and their completely obnoxious boys. There is one amusing instance of breaking the third wall, when Bluto in Taxi-Turvy says, "Oh no, you ain't eatin' no spinach in this picture," as he takes Popeye's can away from him.

The other shorts presented are Assault and Flattery, Fright to the Finish, Parlez Vous Woo, Shuteye Popeye, Insect to Injury, A Haul in One and Customers Wanted. The best are the two by the Fleischer Studios, since they feature the hilarious mutterings by Popeye to the greatest extent. The later shorts tend to minimize this characteristic, which really spoils the charm of the character for me. The selection of the cartoons is quite satisfactory to give the more casual Popeye fan a set to work through, though they may be a bit much to take in a single sitting.

The music includes a pleasing set of variations on the sailor's hornpipe amalgamated with standard cartoon music as well as popular hits of the day such as Love in Bloom and Cocktails for Two.

The introductory segment is taken from an unrestored cartoon, which is simply awful in sound and video quality. The featured cartoons are quite a bit better (though far from ideal) so don't get too discouraged by the first view you get of Popeye.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The picture is rather unsatisfactory. Instead of the clean line work we see on the various Disney DVDs, or on the Tom & Jerry's Greatest Chases, the lines are rather soft and blurry throughout the disc. This is a major failing in any animation DVD. Black areas are, however, solid and dark and do not show signs of pixelation.

The colors have various problems. Except for the color red, the colors are very much washed out, with very little blue or yellow visible. Red is boosted to the point of being painful. The reds are highly oversaturated and bloom every time they appear on the screen. The color is very unstable, as Popeye's skintone changes from flesh to bright orange within a single shot. Wimpy's suit in Ali Baba flashes from dark to light blue and the backgrounds are afflicted with severe flicker.

Ali Baba's Forty Thieves, even with the foregoing drawbacks, is infinitely better than the absolutely miserable transfer of its predecessor Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor which is found on Cartoon Crazys: And the Envelope Please, also issued by Fox Lorber.

For the most part, the damage to the cartoons is limited to occasional speckles here and there (primarily at the beginnings and ends) and two or three damaged frames. The "thousands of hours" of restoration that are claimed to have been performed on these cartoons was a good start, but there is still quite a lot of room for improvement here, between the black lines and the color correction. As an example, on some cartoons, the word "Technicolor" with its multicolored letters tends to just fade into a uniform blackish-green that is hardly readable.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Fox Lorber has a lot to answer for with the audio on this disc. In the process of "restoration" they have gone back and redone the sound effects and the foley completely. The resultant soundtrack does not mesh well at all, with the effects and the foley work being far too forward, crisp and loud in comparison to the rest of the soundtrack. Furthermore, a great deal of unnecessary noise has been added, such as crowd noises in Popeye for President and bird sounds throughout Gopher Spinach. These too are excessive and are highly distracting and disruptive of the original soundtrack.

These problems are most pronounced on the DD 5.1 soundtrack. The Dolby Surround track is less annoying in these respects, but the main speakers on the DS track have an enormous amount of hiss coming from them. The case and the menus claim that there is also a stereo soundtrack but there is none on the disc to be found.

The original mono tracks are not included. The music tends to be shrill, particularly in the opening theme sequences. While re-mastering of audio can be effective (see, e.g., Vertigo and Yellow Submarine), it has to be done subtly or we end up with the thoroughly unpleasant results we have here.

Audio Transfer Grade: F


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single
Layers Switch: na

Extra Extras:
  1. History of Popeye
  2. Credit screens for each cartoon
  3. Synopses for each cartoon
  4. Restoration demo
Extras Review: The history of Popeye (not, as the case states, "in his own words") is adequate although awfully brief. The time before and after the Paramount cartoons included here is skimped over quite quickly.

The restoration demo is one for the first Fleischer Brothers' Superman cartoon, which appears on other volumes in the Cartoon Crazys series issued by Fox Lorber. It would have been nice to see a demo that actually featured one of the Popeye cartoons. This demo seems to indicate some fooling with the original materials, since if you look closely at the before and after pictures, the relative size of characters in the picture is different.

The menu lists previews of other discs, but these are limited to a shot of the cover only. The discs covered include several volumes from the Cartoon Crazys series and the Fleischer Superman discs. The case also advertises the usual "Feel the Sound" demo found on Fox Lorber's animation discs, but it is nowhere to be found on the disc.

The timing listed is that on the case; I was unable to confirm it since the disc disables the time function for no good reason.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Although the selection of Popeye cartoons is good, the restoration leaves a lot to be desired. The audio will satisfy only the most uncritical viewers. The disc is an acceptable stopgap until a better edition comes along, but aficionados will want to replace it.


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