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When we last left the naughty adventures of Betty Boop, with August's Betty Boop The Essential Collection Vol 1, we knew that Olive Films was planning four collections. But the first selection had begun in 1932, raising the question of whether earlier cartoons would be excluded. The new Betty Boop The Essential Collection Vol 2 backs up to near the beginning with 1930's Dizzy Dishes, a cartoon in which she's designed as a half-woman, half-dog character. Instead of earrings, Betty has long floppy ears. It looks almost disturbing. The gags are just as crazy, if not crazier than in the later cartoons. Adding to the overall impression of an LSD attack in the animation studio, some of the work looks as if drawing talent were not required. Characters seem to change shape as they move, and even Betty (especially her insect-like mouth) is very crudely animated. By the next cartoon this has been all cleared up, and we're safely in the Fleischer world of bizarre animal creatures bopping to the beat of the music, Toon-town style.
Here's a rundown of the twelve titles, with a brief note as to contents:
All but the final three cartoons are clearly Pre-code, with the expected voyeuristic frills, such as Betty's skirt being raised for various reasons and occasional cute gags with her little breasts; I have a feeling that in the early '30s Betty probably did represent an easily accessed sex object. The cartoons from 1934 are an alarming change. She's costumed differently and behaves in a different manner -- in the carton with the puppy, sex attraction is replaced with motherly affection. Under the Production Code, Betty is finally acting like a 'proper' woman - she's helpless and she does a lot of crying. The other two '34 examples aren't that memorable at all. The winner in this Volume 2 is Bimbo's Initiation, hands down -- it's solid surreal weirdness from one end to the other.
What does disappoint is the absence of any of the cartoons that use jazz music, particularly the ones with the Cab Calloway soundtracks. Volume 1 only had one such cartoon, and it was a reprise of an unseen title called The Old Man of the Mountain. I hope that the music rights won't keep the musical Boops from showing up on Volumes 3 and 4.
Olive Films' Blu-ray of Betty Boop The Essential Collection Vol 2 continues the series with fine 4k transfers. All of the cartoons have undergone title sequence alterations over the years, with TV distributors' logos tacked on. Fine scratches show up in every cartoon as well, but the images have not been softened or the animation compromised by any digital cleanup.
One thing that has been pointed out to me about some of the cartoons on this disc, and Volume 1 as well: all the cartoons have been given the Academy Aspect Ratio of 1.37:1, even though many of the earliest were apparently produced in the narrower Movietone AR, before the Academy settled on its standard. This means that everything is squashed out a little bit -- Boop devotees noticed it right away. The thing to check is the oval code seal -- which should be fairly narrow. On the mis-formatted cartoons, it's a little fatter.
Frankly, until this was pointed out to me I didn't see it. But technically, it is a flaw. Here's hoping for more early Boop madness, and maybe some musical gems, on Volume 3.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
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