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Betty Boop: The Essential Collection - Volume One(1932-1937)
No synopsis for Betty Boop: The Essential Collection - Volume One.
For more about Betty Boop: The Essential Collection - Volume One and the Betty Boop: The Essential Collection - Volume One Blu-ray release, see Betty Boop: The Essential Collection - Volume One Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on August 9, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Mae Questel
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Betty Boop: The Essential Collection - Volume One Blu-ray Review
Betty's finally on Blu.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, August 9, 2013
Betty Boop may have made her ebullient debut in 1930, but there's little question that she's actually a child-woman of the 1920s, a kind of virtual hangover from the chaotic twenties, a flapper both out of her proper era and well ahead of her time. Betty became one of the most iconic figures in animation, something that continued well past her heyday, including as recently as the brouhaha which arose when she made a cameo in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and actually bared her breasts for one solitary frame, something that became a cause célèbre when the first home video versions were released and prurient viewers could pause playback to actually see Betty in all her momentary glory (Disney later bowdlerized subsequent releases when the furor threatened to disrupt their wholesome image). Betty was always a flirt and a bit of a loose woman, and until the Hays Office came along, anyway, she was fairly forward in displaying her physical charms. Olive Films is releasing a glut of Betty Boop cartoons on Blu-ray and this first set features some of Betty's earliest entries (including Talkartoons), including several that feature the interplay between live action and animated elements.
Volume One includes the following shorts:
Chess Nuts (1932). This bizarre piece has live action bookending sequences where two men are playing chess, with the chess pieces morphing into Betty and Bimbo. A whole glut of various sports then enters the picture, as Betty attempts to keep herself from getting "captured" by the black king.
Betty Boop, M.D. (1932). There's just a slightly un-PC element to this brisk little cartoon, with Betty and her cohorts selling a tonic known as "Jippo", a misspelled but nevertheless obvious allusion to being "gypped". Betty uses her flirtatious wares to make the tonic more desirable, but there are some unusual repercussions once people actually start taking it.
Betty Boop's Bamboo Isle (1932). Like Chess Nuts, there's a brief live action element to this cartoon, with the Royal Samoans performing a native song before the actual cartoon escapades get started. This piece again has some potentially questionable material, including Bimbo "going native" and Betty with brown skin, but the saving grace is a fun hula segment featuring Betty dancing up a storm.
Betty Boop for President (1932). This is a pretty breezy entry in the Boop canon, with nice wisecracks about the then current political environment (a brief allusion to Al Smith missed the fact that the Democrats would actually nominate Franklin Delano Roosevelt that year). Betty's opponent is Mr. Nobody, a name which offers a fair number of gags, but Betty wins the day with a laundry list of campaign promises that sound frighteningly realistic even to modern day ears.
Betty Boop's Penthouse (1933). Betty's considerable charms distract Koko and Bimbo while they're indulging in some chemical experiments, leading to a mutant monster threatening everyone. Luckily Betty is able to quickly transform the beast into something considerably less problematic.
Betty Boop's Birthday Party (1933). Like any aging character, Betty is a little depressed when her birthday rolls around, especially since she's buried under housework and is still single. Count on Koko and Bimbo to come to the rescue.
Betty Boop's May Party (1933) proves just how elastic (sorry, couldn't resist) the Fleischer animators could be with a relatively minimalist concept. When the town is covered by rubber, Betty and friends find it a wonderland to frolic in.
Betty Boop's Halloween Party (1933). This is a really nicely evocative little piece that is slightly menacing feeling without ever losing the whimsy of most Boop outings. Betty's annual Halloween shindig is threatened by a marauding gorilla, but Betty and friends have the last laugh.
Betty Boop's Rise to Fame (1934). This was for me the highlight of this first set of Betty Boop shorts. Dave Fleischer and Max Fleischer appear here, with Dave playing a reporter and Max playing the creator of Betty (a bit of typecasting there). This does use snippets from other Boop cartoons, but it's still great to see the Fleischers "live and in person".
Betty Boop's Trial (1934). This features an early appearance by Betty's quasi-boyfriend Freddy, who in this outing is a cop who arrests the damsel after she speeds. There's some surprisingly racy content in this short, with Betty's charms ogled by the judge and jury.
Betty Boop's Life Guard (1934). Freddy is the lifeguard in question in this outing, as Betty indulges in a day at the beach and later engages in a huge fantasy sequence after she disappears beneath the waves. Freddy of course comes to the rescue.
The Foxy Hunter (1937). It's kind of interesting that this later Boop feature in included on this first set, as it's from what might be termed the Betty 2.0 era, with Betty's nephew Junior and Pudgy the Dog taking the place of the earlier Bimbo and Koko. Junior and Pudgy get into some considerable trouble when they decide to be small game hunters, leading to a sort of Revenge of the Wild.
Betty Boop: The Essential Collection - Volume One Blu-ray, Video Quality
Olive Films is touting its new release of Betty Boop The Essential Collection Volume 1 as having been sourced from 4K scans of the original negatives and fine grains. This set of AVC encoded 1080p transfers in 1.37:1 is impressive on many levels, especially for those who only remember tattered, faded broadcast prints, but there are still issues that will confront the ardent videophile. All of these shorts contain the U.M.&M. bumpers, which leads me to believe they may be sourced from the syndication masters, circa 1955. That means we may not be dealing with original elements, but dupes. Even if that is the case, there are still some very significant upgrades in this presentation, mostly to do with much improved contrast. Betty's dress reads a true black now and gray scale is considerably more variegated. There is still some fairly bad damage in evidence in virtually all of these shorts, however. This includes everything from minor issues like scratches and speckling to more problematic issues like emulsion bubbling (usually toward the sides of the frame). Lovers of Betty will probably be willing to overlook most if not all of these issues for their chance to see Betty looking better than ever, but curmudgeons might be wishing more of a concerted restoration effort had been done here.
Update: Though some evidently misread my comments above as stating absolutely that dupes were used, I think I was clear that I was stating an assumption of mine based on the bumpers (hopefully a careful rereading of what I wrote above shows it was not posited as an undisputed fact). I've since been contacted by knowledgeable members who indicate the bumpers were actually spliced onto the original negatives. That said, my qualitative comments above stand: the image quality here is incredibly improved, but there is still substantial damage that appears in virtually all of these cartoons.
Betty Boop: The Essential Collection - Volume One Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Betty Boop The Essential Collection Volume 1 features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track that simply can't overcome some of the inherent issues on many of these tracks. The 1932-33 features especially have some prevalent distortion in the midrange which interrupts the smooth flow of the music, but typically the voice work comes through at least adequately and often a good deal more than that. One has to remember these were still the early days of talkies and despite the fact that the filmmakers weren't dealing with a simultaneous recording situation as with most live action films, there were still definite limits to the technology available at the time and those are revealed in this lossless offering, with an often brittle, tinny sound.
Betty Boop: The Essential Collection - Volume One Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No supplements are offered on this Blu-ray disc.
Betty Boop: The Essential Collection - Volume One Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Betty Boop made the Fleischer Studios a real contender to be the leading animation house of the early thirties, in an era when Walt Disney hadn't quite become the paramount (sorry) figure in the genre. The Boop cartoons are incredibly wacky a lot of the time, with an almost surreal quality as Betty gets involved in various crazy misadventures. The visual style is incredibly fluid a lot of the time, with features getting stretched beyond recognition and seemingly solid objects bending at will. These first twelve offerings on Blu-ray are a mixed lot, as might be expected, but Betty is her usual winning self in all of them, never letting depression (or The Depression) keep her down for long. The video quality here is certainly massively improved from previous home video releases (especially some of the botched public domain offerings), but there are still some issues that fans should be aware of. The audio is about what those willing to remember the historical context should expect. Overall, this release comes Recommended.
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