Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.
Welcome back for another full post of Coming Up Shorts! Once again, I’m sticking with theatrical shorts featuring Popeye The Sailor, although this time I’m swinging back around to the shorts from 1943 through 1945 that have been released together on disc in Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 1.
Here’s a list and quick plot description for each of the cartoons included in this set (for my comments on the individual cartoons, click on the title to go to my previous reviews):
- Her Honor, The Mare (1943) (Length: 7 minutes, 15 seconds)
- Popeye’s nephews bring home a horse rejected by the glue factory, but he doesn’t want the horse in the house.
- The Marry-Go-Round (1943) (Length: 7 minutes, 52 seconds)
- Popeye’s pal Shorty tries to help him propose to Olive.
- We’re On Our Way To Rio (1943) (Length: 7 minutes, 50 seconds)
- Popeye and Bluto come to Rio, where they run into Olive Oyl as a nightclub singer.
- The Anvil Chorus Girl (1944) (Length: 7 minutes, 5 seconds)
- Popeye and Bluto come across Olive, who is working as a blacksmith and try to help her out.
- Spinach-Packin’ Popeye (1944) (Length: 7 minutes, 6 seconds)
- After giving blood, Popeye loses a fight to Bluto and tries to convince Olive not to reject him.
- Puppet Love (1944) (Length: 7 minutes, 32 seconds)
- Bluto creates a life-size puppet that looks like Popeye, and uses it to make Popeye look bad with Olive.
- Pitchin’ Woo At The Zoo (1944) (Length: 6 minutes, 51 seconds)
- Popeye and Olive are walking through the zoo, and zookeeper Bluto tries to impress Olive.
- Moving Aweigh (1944) (Length: 6 minutes, 22 seconds)
- Popeye and his pal Shorty try to help Olive move.
- She-Sick Sailors (1944) (Length: 6 minutes, 37 seconds)
- Bluto disguises himself as Superman to win Olive’s affections, but Popeye tries to prove he is still just as good.
- Pop-Pie A La Mode (1945) (Length: 6 minutes, 53 seconds)
- After being shipwrecked, Popeye makes it to an island that, as he later discovers, is inhabited by cannibals.
- Tops In The Big Top (1945) (Length: 6 minutes, 26 seconds)
- Circus ringmaster Bluto tries to sabotage star attraction Popeye to get the attentions of Popeye’s assistant Olive.
- Shape Ahoy (1945) (Length: 6 minutes, 51 seconds)
- Popeye and Bluto have come to a deserted island to get away from the ladies, but when a shipwrecked Olive comes ashore, their friendship and ideals go out the window!
- For Better Or Nurse (1945) (Length: 7 minutes, 6 seconds)
- Popeye and Bluto try to injure themselves to get into the hospital, where Olive works as a nurse.
- Mess Production (1945) (Length: 7 minutes, 7 seconds)
- Factory workers Popeye and Bluto have to rescue Olive when she gets knocked for a loop by a swinging grappling hook.
In the early 1940s, the Fleischer Studios, who had been creating the Popeye cartoons, were taken over by Paramount. Having fired the Fleischer brothers, Paramount renamed the studio as Famous Studios. After producing about 14 black-and-white Popeye shorts at Famous Studios, they made the switch to Technicolor starting with the 1943 cartoon Her Honor, The Mare. During the 1943-1945 “seasons,” several other changes occurred. Jack Mercer, the voice of Popeye, left to serve in the war, resulting in Popeye being voiced by some others during that time (mostly Harry Welch, although Olive Oyl voice actress Mae Questel did the part once for the cartoon Shape Ahoy). Speaking of Olive Oyl, Margie Hines started out voicing her for one of the Technicolor shorts, but, with production of the shorts moving from Miami back to New York City, Mae Questel resumed her voice duties as Olive for the first time since 1938. Also, starting with The Anvil Chorus Girl, Jackson Beck would voice the character of Bluto, and would continue to do so until 1962.
Ok, so I’m doing things the roundabout way by commenting on the 1940s Volume 1 set after having already done so for both the second and third volumes, but I still enjoy these cartoons! A lot more of the cartoons from this set are familiar to me, as I have stronger memories of some of them from my childhood. As a whole, these shorts are definitely better than the later ones, with greater variety and more characters involved, such as Popeye’s buddy Shorty. The only less-than-stellar short in this set is Pop-Pie A La Mode, which is so blatantly racist in some of its portrayals that its not even funny (but at least you can skip past that one if you are so inclined). I will admit that a couple of the later ones in this set aren’t *quite* as fun, since Jack Mercer didn’t voice Popeye (and your level of enjoyment for that reason may vary), but I personally don’t think they’re too bad. These cartoons all had their original nitrate Technicolor negatives scanned in 4K, and the colors are just so fantastic and vivid here, just as they are in the later sets. Personally, I have no trouble whatsoever in recommending this set (especially if we still want more)!
Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 1 is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection. The whole set has a runtime of one hour, thirty-nine minutes.