Sailor: The 1960s Classics, Volume One (King
Features/Warner Archive DVD set)
Picture: B Sound: B- Extras: D Animated Shorts: A-
PLEASE NOTE: This DVD release is only available from Warner Bros. in their Warner
Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.
In 1959, Popeye the Sailor was billed, on some products, as “TV’s Most
Popular Cartoon Star”, billing given to the one-eyed
spinach eater was quite accurate. By
this time, Popeye’s theatrical film library was airing on television stations
across the country to extremely high ratings.
Popeye, Olive Oyl, Swee’pea and Wimpy items filled department store
King Features Syndicate, though owning
the rights to the characters and “Popeye” comic strip, did not own any
financial stake in the syndication of the theatrical films. Associated Artist
Productions, who owned the theatrical series, was the beneficiary. King wisely decided to cash in on the Popeye
hysteria sweeping the country.
Al Brodax, head of the Syndicate’s
television division, hired five studios to crank out 220 color Popeye episodes
primarily during the years 1960 and 1961. These shorts would be solely owned and
distributed by King Features Syndicate.
The cartoons were completed quickly and unfortunately the animation
quality in many is cringe inducing.
Wisely, Warner Home Video chose to
release the best of these TV-cartoons on this DVD. These were the films produced by Paramount
Cartoon Studios and nine from Producer Gerald Ray. Paramount Pictures’ personnel had prior experience
in the production of the theatrical Popeye films. The animation, though on a lower budget, was
on the same level the studio was turning out for theatrical release in the late
1950s. Paramount’s animation quality for
television retained a high standard.
Stand outs on this set include: The Medicine Man, Popeye Thumb,
The Whiffle Bird’s Revenge, Strange Things Are Happening, Hamburgers
Aweigh, County Fair and My Fair Olive. Ray’s shorts, though having character designs
on the rough side, featured culture-conscious humor. No one was safe from being blown to bits (The
Last Resort), smashed flat (I Bin Sculped), falling off a roof (Baby
Phase) or buried in an avalanche (The Big Sneeze).
Paramount Cartoon Studios based several
of their shorts on Popeye’s comic strip’s adventures from the 1930s. These titles include: Myskery Melody, Me
Quest For Poopdeck Pappy, Valley of the Goons,
Poppa Popeye, What’s News and It Only Hurts When They Laugh. They also utilized characters from the comic
strip that did not appear in the theatrical films. Viewers were introduced to King Blozo, Alice
the Goon, Toar, Geezil, Rough House and The Sea Hag! The presence of The Sea Hag meant Olive Oyl
ate the spinach to bop the ol’ witch.
Popeye’s sailor’s code would not allow him to smack a woman no matter
how despicable. The sailor did not battle
Bluto but a similar looking bully named Brutus!
A dispute over the origin over the brute’s name led Brodax to rechristen
him. Voice actor’s Jack Mercer, Mae
Questel and Jackson Beck provided the vocals for the different characters. This series was extremely successful as noted
in this headline from the October 25, 1961 edition of Variety:
New Popeyes’ Hit $4,500,000;
On 112 Stations.
The cartoons played on independent
television stations in the United States through the 1990s and continue to air
internationally. My only gripe about the
set is the use of stock Popeye art for the front and back cover. I would have preferred an original piece of
art featuring Popeye like this coloring book proclaiming him “TV’s Most Popular
Cartoon Star” viewed here:
Overall the selection of shorts on this
DVD is quite enjoyable with excellent 1.33 X 1 color video (despite some
variance in quality from print to print, which is to be expected for a series
of shorts their age) and audio quality (lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono) on par
with any previous DVD or other video release down to the fine film print
quality. There are no extras.
For more on the trilogy of classic
Fleischer/Paramount theatrical Popeye animated cartoon classics Warner has
already issued on DVD, try these links for those three great Volumes:
2, with Popeye & Friends,
To order this Popeye DVD set, go
to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:
- Fred Grandinetti