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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Betty Boop Volume 1 DVD Review

Betty Boop Volume 1 is a collection of twenty-two animated shorts featuring one of the most endearing, adorable and funny cartoon characters of all time, Betty Boop. Though she embodies the fun and attitude of the roaring twenties, she wasn’t introduced until the 1930s, and these short films are actually from the years 1933 to 1936.

One of the elements that make Betty Boop so appealing is that great voice. And the short films in this collection feature many songs, all of which are all basically wonderful. I particularly love the song from Betty Boop’s Ker Choo, a short that finds Betty Boop as a racecar driver. Another song that really stands out is that from A Language All My Own, a short from 1935. In this film, she sings her “Boop-Oop-a-Doop” song, certainly a language all her own. Is there anything cuter that Betty Boop saying “Boop-Oop-a-Doop”?  

One of my favorite cartoons in this collection is the 1933 short Is My Palm Read, in which Betty Boop goes to a fortune-teller. It’s really creative and playful, and Betty Boop sings a song on a haunted island. Another favorite of mine is Not Now, from 1936, in which a cat keeps Betty awake. She and the cat sing a seriously funny duet, in which she tells the cat to stop it, and he responds, “Not now, meow. Maybe later, but not now.” Pudgy, Betty’s dog, then chases the cat.

There are a couple of other shorts which feature mischievous cats. In Taking The Blame, Betty buys a cat to be a playmate for her dog, but the cat terrorizes the poor guy (while of course acting the angel in front of Betty). Betty blames her dog for all the mischief. Then in We Did It, the final short in this collection, while Betty is gone, three kittens cause a lot of trouble. Once again, cats are portrayed as malicious, wicked things – which I love. But this time the cats admit their guilt in a little song.

All but one of these shorts are in black and white. The sole exception is a 1934 cartoon titled Poor Cinderella, in which Betty Boop plays the Cinderella character. Interestingly, she has red hair in this film. This is also one of the longest cartoons in the collection, at approximately ten and a half minutes.

One more cartoon I should note here is Betty Boop’s Rise To Fame, from 1934. This one begins as live action, with Max Fleischer being interviewed and then drawing Betty Boop. The drawing then interacts with him before getting onstage and doing her various acts.

By the way, when you pop the DVD in, before you reach the DVD menu, there is this warning: “The animated shorts you are about to see are a product of their time. They may depict scenes with racial, ethnic and sexual prejudices that were commonplace in films from this era.” But don’t worry, as there isn’t much that most people will find offensive here. In fact, there was only one short that stood out as possibly being offensive. In that one, titled Making Stars, two characters are portrayed in a way that could be upsetting.

Bonus Material

This DVD includes two bonus animated shorts. The first, In My Merry Oldsmobile, is from 1932.  A peeping Tom breaks into a woman’s house and serenades the woman he was spying on. She then sings, “You’re the type that should be taken out and drowned.” Another man then comes in and wins her heart by suggesting they go for a ride in his Oldsmobile. The short then, interestingly, becomes live action, with lyrics appearing across the screen and a bouncing ball so we can all follow along. The song continues, as the short returns to animated form. It’s basically delightful.

The second short is titled Finding His Voice, and is from 1929. In this short, a silent film attacks a talkie and asks where he got his voice. The cartoon then explains how talkies are made. This one is somewhat amusing, but is mostly of interest because of its historical context.

Betty Boop Volume 1 was released through Legend Films. Also released was Betty Boop Volume 2, which features another twenty-two episodes, these from the years 1936-1939.

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