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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Betty Boop Volume 2 DVD Review

Betty Boop Volume 2 contains twenty-two short films featuring that adorable, endearing and funny character from the 1930s, Betty Boop. These films are from the years 1936-1939, and are each five to seven minutes long. In this collection, other characters like Pudgy and Grampy figure more prominently in the storylines of many of the episodes. Wiffle Piffle also appears in a couple. Most (but not all) of these shorts feature at least one song.

More Pep, a short from 1936, begins with live action, then moves to an animated hand drawing an obstacle course for Pudgy, Betty Boop’s dog. (Terry Gilliam must have seen this film, for it’s similar to some of his work in Monty Python’s Flying Circus.) Pudgy is too tired to run the obstacle course, and Betty Boop laughs at the trouble “Uncle Max” (Max Fleischer) is having with his cartoon subject. Betty sings a song about pep, and then we get a mix of live action with animation as everyone and everything gets energized.

Grampy’s Indoor Outing, also from 1936, is a short that features Grampy. At the beginning a truck goes by advertising the carnival. It says, “Today Only – Also All Week!” Betty sings a song about going to the carnival. But then it rains. A little boy in her care throws a tantrum, so Grampy creates his own carnival in his apartment.

Be Human, from 1936, is one of my favorites. It opens with Betty playing the title song on her piano. She then sees a man whipping a dog outside, and she tells him to stop, then sings the song to him. He doesn’t listen, and is cruel to several other animals. So she calls Professor Grampy’s Animal Aid Society. Grampy gives the man a taste of his own medicine. One of the funniest images in this episode is the chickens playing pool with their own eggs.

Another short that is absolutely delightful is House Cleaning Blues, from 1937. Betty wakes to find her place a mess after a great party took place the night before. She sings as she cleans, but things don’t go well, and she loses her temper. Grampy arrives and helps out.

The short with unquestionably the best title is Whoops! I’m A Cowboy, also from 1937. Wiffle Piffle, a silly little man, proposes to Betty, but she tells him no, and sings a song about how she wants a cowboy. So he goes off to learn how to be a cowboy. When shooting at a target, he hits everything but the mark. He even hits a cow which then falls from the sky.

The short with the best song is The Hot Air Salesman. Wiffle Piffle is in this one too, working as a door-to-door salesman who is having no luck. When he gets to Betty’s house, they sing a ridiculously fun and silly song. She finally admits him, and he demonstrates his wares, and in the process destroys her home.

But my favorite short in this collection is Pudgy Picks A Fight (1937). Betty gets a package from “I. Skinnem & U. Wearem Fine Furs.” Inside is a fur stole, which she puts on and caresses and adores. She rubs the fur against her face, which makes Pudgy jealous. So he fights the stole. At first he loses, but then after winning, he becomes worried that he’s actually killed the poor fellow, and tries to revive him.

One other short I have to mention is So Does An Automobile, from 1939. Betty runs an “Auto Hospital,” and sings a song likening cars to people. This is definitely one of the cuter songs from this collection, and one of the silliest shorts. According to one car’s medical chart, it was “Hit by a lamppost.”

Bonus Features

Like Betty Boop Volume 1, this disc contains two bonus shorts. The first is News Sketches by Max Fleischer. The disc doesn’t specify the year of its release, but judging from the content, it had to be the mid-1940s. A card at the beginning reads, “Drawn from the wires of the associated press.” A voice over reads short news items, and a hand illustrates the stories. Some of this is really funny, like the bit about the class “on how to choose a husband, how to keep him, and how to spend his money – as if you didn’t know.”

The second short is Now You’re Talking, and ironically is a silent film from 1927. This film, combining live action and animation, is about a telephone’s troubles. It’s kind of amazing. And at just under nine minutes, it’s the longest film on this disc.

Betty Boop Volume 2 was released on February 26, 2013 through Legend Films.

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