Combustible Celluloid
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With: Mae Questel (voice), Ann Little (voice), Bonnie Poe (voice), Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Dave Fleischer
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 81
Date: 04/29/2014

Betty Boop: The Essential Collection Volume 3 (1932)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Hoochie Coocher

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The bad news is that Olive Films' third collection of remastered Betty Boop cartoons, created by the brothers Max and Dave Fleischer, still does not contain her essential Snow White, but the good news is that it still contains several great animated short classics. The best of these is Minnie the Moocher (1932), with Cab Calloway singing his classic tune, and Betty getting into all kinds of surreal strangeness. Calloway returns for another fan favorite, The Old Man of the Mountain.

Another jazz legend, Louis Armstrong, turns up for the most bizarre I'll Be Glad When You're Dead You Rascal You. Then, Mother Goose Land is a perfect example of just how disturbing these cartoons can be, and probably not intended for kids. Betty falls asleep and dreams herself into "Mother Goose Land," and the first thing that happens as she's whisked away through the air is that her house grows a face, says, "I'll keep the home fires burning," and burns itself to the ground.

I Heard has Betty running a tavern near a mine, where all the miners go for lunch. Things start to become more narrative and less surreal here, but Bimbo still has some amazing adventures down below while Betty dishes out some food and drink related jokes above. Around 1935, however, these cartoons quickly drop the surreal, nightmarish quality altogether, and the set's second half contains some fairly innocuous shorts, very plot- and joke-driven. (Indeed, they start to resemble the Popeye cartoons, which had been launched by the Fleischers in 1933.) In the final short, Betty becomes a supporting character in a short about her funny dog; it's even an actual pet dog, not a quasi-human love interest like Bimbo.

All of which boils down to the conclusion that if you love cartoons at all, you need to check out all three of the Betty Boop releases to see her history and evolution, as well as the different inventions and attitudes that went into her films. Olive has remastered twelve shorts in HD, making 4K scans of the original negatives and fine grain prints. This collection includes: Minnie the Moocher (1932), I'll Be Glad When You're Dead You Rascal You (1932), Mother Goose Land (1933), The Old Man of the Mountain (1933), I Heard (1933), Ha! Ha! Ha! (1934), Stop That Noise (1935), Service with a Smile (1937), The New Deal Show (1937), Be Up to Date (1938), Out of the Inkwell (1938), and Pudgy in Thrills and Chills (1938).

One small complaint: the first two Betty Boop releases, Betty Boop: The Essential Collection Volume 1 and Betty Boop: The Essential Collection Volume 2, came with cardboard sleeves with artwork on the spine. Placed on the shelf side-by-side, these bits of artwork began to piece together a picture of Betty. Now the third release does not come with the cardboard sleeve, so my picture is only half complete. Oh well.

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