'Popeye the Sailor: The 1940s Volume 1' 1st Release of 14 Technicolor Adventures of Spinach-Loving Strongman
The Warner Archive December 11, 2018 Blu-ray release of "Popeye the Sailor: The 1940s Volume i' is the latest example of Archive coming to the rescue. This first-ever release of the first two-seasons (1943-44 and 1944-45) of Technicolor "Popeye" cartoons comes several years after Warner Prime only takes this series of those theatrical shorts up to 1943 in three volumes. This is one of numerous examples of Archive "adopting" abandoned film and television series.
The titular squid is an everyman who temporarily develops super-strength and speed on ingesting spinach. The prelude to this typically involves Popeye stumbling into a bad situation and getting along without his 'roid until he finds himself badly defeated. This setback often comes at the hands of nemesis/antagonist Bluto (sometimes Brutus). The source of their conflict regularly is their concurrent courtship of lanky Olive Oyl.
"Her Honor, The Mare" is the first of the 14 beautifully remastered shorts in Volume One. This somewhat change-of-pace adventure has the Huey, Dewey, Louie, and my other brother Louie style nephews of Popeye first sneaking a horse into his house and then trying to coerce him into letting him keep their new pet. This arguably is the most cute one in the set and establishes that the first several cartoons are the "missing link" between the more crudely animated black-and-white offerings and the more polished color cartoons that many folks remember from after-school airings.
Up next is the "Marry Go Round." The notable aspects of this one include featuring Navy buddy Shorty and a "don't ask, don't tell moment" that is surprising for the '40s. The plot this time is Shorty helping his buddy wok up the nerve to propose to Olive.
This leads to the technicolor-popping "We're On Our Way to Rio." This first Bluto cartoon in "Volume One" has him and Popeye competing for nightclub performer Olive. This time, spinach helps Popeye by turning him into a dancing fool.
One of the strongest offerings comes fairly late in the set. "For Better or Nurse" is one of the first with the more polished look. This especially amusing tale has Popeye and Bluto simultaneously trying to get injured and prevent the other one from getting hurt. Their motive is to be admitted to the hospital where Olive is the titular health-care provider.
"Nurse" is notable for a few twists that all are too good to spoil.
The first side note is that these war-time productions surprisingly have virtually no propaganda; the second side note is that Pop-pie ala Mode sadly more accurately reflects the era. Insensitive depictions of stereotypes can be dismissed as reflecting less enlightened times; however, the presentation of dark-skinned cannibals who are duping Popeye with an eye toward feasting on him pushes the envelope even for the '40s.
The aforementioned vintage animation style and unique characteristics of the early 40s fully prove that they don't make 'em like that anymore. Sets like "Volume One" show we have reason to be glad that Archive brings 'em back.