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Senior Shackster
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I received this box set for Christmas and it's quite interesting. The Fleischer Brothers,
Max and Dave, were Disney's main competitor in the thirties. They were just as
innovative as Walt and Roy but poor businessmen. Unlike the independent
Disney brothers, the Fleischers were never able to operate outside of major studio
control which in their case was Paramount. In addition, the two brothers didn't
get along and before they folded were not even on speaking terms.

The Fleischers did create some original characters including Koko the Clown and
Betty Boop but since they were working as a branch of other studios, they weren't
able to capitalize on them in other markets the way Disney practically cornered
the toy market with his product. Disney called it "vertical integration" and it's
what kept them in business in the Depression and between cartoon features.
The toys, comics and other merchandise promoted the movies and vice versa.
Ironically, Fleischer's son, Richard ended up working for the Disney company
years later.

Fleischer's most popular character, Popeye, was licensed by King Features and derived from the Thimble Theater comic in newspapers but they didn't own it.
Their animated version of the strip was bizarre, grotesque and completely
different in key respects. The Fleischers operated out of New York City and
their shorts were influenced by the urban decay and dismal conditions of the Depression. Whereas Disney and Warner Brother's Looney Tunes took
place in sunny California, Popeye and Betty Boop lived in squalid tenements with chunks
of plaster missing from the walls. Of all the animators, the Fleischers were the most
surrealistic. Their characters weren't 'cute' they were exagerated and ugly. Their
most noteworthy aspect was everything could 'morph' into something different
then shift back. Clouds, clocks, lightning, buildings and trees might come to life for a moment or two during a scene. Sometimes talk or interact with the characters. Really
weird, creepy images.


The other thing that the Fleischers developed was 'rotoscoping' a live actor and then
animating them so the movement seemed authentic. Their most famous examples
included Cab Calloway in the Betty Boop shorts and the Gulliver character in their
feature. They also built miniature sets and put the animation cells in front of them during photography for a unusual three dimensional appearance. It was just as fascinating as Disney's multi-plane system which had cells stacked in layers.


Fleischer's career dropped in quality when they decided to shift operations
from NYC to Florida in the late thirties to save on labor costs. Paramount sponsored
the move which put them in severe debt to the studio. The other unfortunate decision
was to tone down the surrealism and try to make their animation more mainstream along
the lines of Disney. They produced the second cartoon feature, "Gulliver's Travels"
which is very good but doesn't resemble their earlier work. There was no way of competing with Disney on his own turf. The morphing, surreal touches and urban decay is gone which is what made thier cartoons so distinct and unique. The infighting between the brothers caused Paramount to panic and call in their marker. They couldn't come up with the cash to pay them back for the move so the studio took over their operation and forced them out resulting in lawsuits. (The Betty Boop character and shorts are still in a tangled mess of ownership disputes which is why an official/restored version of the cartoons isn't available right now...just collections of the individual public domain titles with variable quality)


It was a sad end to a great team although in one respect it was a blessing. The Fleischers signed a horrible deal with King Features that stated the negatives and prints of the Popeye cartoons were to be destroyed after ten years. It's unlikely they would've had the money to renegotiate or renew the license and that might have been the end of these 60 cartoons. Fortunately, Paramount did renew them and continue the series so they survive.


When they were sold to TV, another distributor bought the rights and replaced all of the
titles. In this box set they included the original Paramount credits. While they are all uncut and remastered in black and white they have not been 'restored' despite the claim they were 'fortified with Spinach' on the cover. Some cartoons are mint whereas others have scratches and accumulated dust and dirt from decades of abuse. They look a lot better than the 16mm prints I used to watch on TV as a child but not as good as they could with modern transfer technology. The shorts are worthy enough to deserve a full digital clean up in the future. The most innovative and technically impressive short in this collection is the Technicolor two reeler, "Popeye meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves". The stereoptical process of cells in front of sets is really awesome, especially the cave scenes. It's also one of the funniest shorts ever made and had me laughing out loud especially when Popeye
says "tippy toe, tippy toe" as he skips through the location.

Jack Mercer supplied the Popeye voice for most of the shorts and Mae Questel (also the voice of Betty Boop) did Olive Oil. Questel was the senile aunt of Chevy Chase in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" for trivia buffs. The few shorts where other people's voices are used for these characters don't work as well. It's interesting to watch these cartoons in chronological order to see how they developed the series. They're all very violent but outrageously funny in that respect because of the previously mentioned morphing. A punch by Popeye might turn a tree into a a stockade. Nothing was permanent in Fleischer's off the wall cartoon world. You never knew what would happen next which was part of the fun. By the time you get to the third disc, Mercer is starting to crack one liners and puns under his breath and you have to pay close attention if you want to hear them all. Olive Oil started with arm and leg joints but in later shorts she just has loose stick figure limbs that can twist around and get tangled like a rubber hose.


The Suppliments are mediocre. There is a generalized history of the studio that doesn't
go into too much detail about the brothers, their conflicting personalities or how they
ran their operation. I guess much of the documentation was lost when they left unlike
Disney which saved everything from their productions. The commentaries range from mildly interesting to ludicrous. They found some contemporary animators who talk out loud and laugh while they watch the cartoons but don't offer any new information. Kind of like listening to someone next to you in a movie theater speaking to their friend and distracting you from the show. They also have some ancient dupes of scratchy, worn decomposing nitrate silent shorts made by the brothers but I couldn't sit through them. Too damaged to be entertaining and they didn't include a music track so they play without sound.

At the beginning of each disc is a 'politically correct' notice from WB 'appologizing'
for 'racist' and 'sexist' stereotypes in these cartoons as if the animated films were
supposed to depict reality. I really hate when they do this sort of thing since
these terms are politically slanted and not everyone agrees on their definition.
And it's always one sided. They never put a warning on a DVD that contains
stereotypes from the other side of the spectrum (i.e. blaxploitation films of the
seventies).

So if you like violent, grotesque and surreal cartoons starring ugly characters living
in Depression era New York City that are completely different than other animation of the thirties, I highly recommend this DVD box set. Wham!
 

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re: "Popeye the Sailor 1933-1938" Standard DVD review

Richard,

Since I am of the generation that grew up with Popeye, I found this very informative (as usual) and thank you for posting it.

Bob
 

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Senior Shackster
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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
re: "Popeye the Sailor 1933-1938" Standard DVD review

Bob,

Thank you. I grew up with Popeye on television. They appeared to have been
syndicated on a non-exclusive basis since I recall many stations playing
them. They also fell into the "host" children show format. If memory
serves, they were shown on the "Office Joe Bolton" show which was
on WPIX (Channel 11) in New York in the sixties. He would play them
and 3 Stooges shorts. Sometimes Moe Howard would drop by and warn
kids not to try to mimic them and pull out each other's hair. I think they also
played on Wonderama which had numerous hosts over the years including
Sandy Becker and Bob McAllister. It's possible they were shown on the
"Chuck McCann Show" too. McCann is the only one still around.

The problem with the Popeye series was that they were syndicated with
the later ones made by Famous Studios which was the remnants of the
Fleischer unit after they were forced out and taken over by
Paramount. They're in Technicolor but have none of the surrealism
of the early black and white shorts. There are also the World
War II propaganda cartoons that I'm not fond of. I don't like any
agit-prop content because it dates so quickly. When I watched
"The Popeye Show" on TV I never knew which vintage cartoon they
would show. And, the syndicator removed the titles and replaced
them so you couldn't identify Fleischers from Famous Studios work in the
credits and had to wait for the actual cartoon to start. I guess it's
important to remember that all programming was designed to sell
commercial spots, not to maintain the integrity of the movie itself.
Cartoons and shorts were re-edited, censored and altered.
I'm glad that the home video revolution changed the way vintage
productions are presented and restores them to their original version.
 

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re: "Popeye the Sailor 1933-1938" Standard DVD review

Richard Haines, Happy New Year. I hope you had a safe and pleasant one so far. I can tell, that whenever we hookup, we should have a good time. Chuck McCann, ohh my GOD!! Sunday mornings, I wanted Chuck, with those Dick tracy skits, my sister wanted Sandy becker and Wonderama. And after Chuck, there was Flash Gordon, my sister wanted, the Flintstones.
My father`s pancakes were good though!! Popeye, talk like this, gives away my age.

You know what though, i have a site for you to check out. I`m going to see a tour of this studio. Its insane!! Its www.kipnis-studio.com/. This looks like the real video experience right here in our back yard in Connecticut. Go through each title.
 

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Senior Shackster
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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
re: "Popeye the Sailor 1933-1938" Standard DVD review

Thank you. You too.

It's a pity that as far as I know most if not all of the kinescopes of the McCann
and Sandy Becker show were destroyed by the station. There is a bootleg DVD
of Sandy Becker bloopers on ebay but no complete show. Some Soupy Sales
episodes exist and are on DVD. I don't think anything from Officer Joe Bolton
exists. Distributors were far from dillegent preserving broadcasts back then.
TV programmers were even worse that film distributors and the advantage of
feature films is that so many prints were made there's always a chance that one
still exists in a private collection or archive. For television broadcasts and kinescopes
there were fewer copies, sometimes just one. When Du Mont folded they
intentionally destroyed all of the film elements of their shows. I read there was a lawsuit by Paul Winchell against the station that aired his show. He owned it but they
threw away the episodes. Milton Berle also sued NBC for disgarding his variety show
but they later found back up kinescopes in another vault.

It's fortunate that performers like Jackie Gleason kept a copy of everything he did
as did Sid Caesar's producer. I store and preserve my own negatives of course but
I've had no luck persuading other indie filmmakers to take charge of the preservation
of their movies. They just assume the distributor will do it which is a very foolish
attitude. Distributors and labs fold all the time and when they go, so do the negatives
in many cases. I wouldn't even trust some of those professional storage places and
advocate making your own film vault that is temperature and humdity controlled. I met
a producer the other day who stored his negative in a Bonded warehouse and when he
retrieved it discovered it was water damaged from some leaky pipe at the place. While
you can always insure the negative and collect on it if it's damaged, you still lose your
movie.

Fortunately with home video recorders, a lot more will exist after the eighties since
even if the distributor didn't save the show it's probable that one of the 300 hundred
million TV viewers did

For some reason when I clicked your link I couldn't access it.
 

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re: "Popeye the Sailor 1933-1938" Standard DVD review

Thank you. You too.

It's a pity that as far as I know most if not all of the kinescopes of the McCann
and Sandy Becker show were destroyed by the station. There is a bootleg DVD
of Sandy Becker bloopers on ebay but no complete show. Some Soupy Sales
episodes exist and are on DVD. I don't think anything from Officer Joe Bolton
exists. Distributors were far from dillegent preserving broadcasts back then.
TV programmers were even worse that film distributors and the advantage of
feature films is that so many prints were made there's always a chance that one
still exists in a private collection or archive. For television broadcasts and kinescopes
there were fewer copies, sometimes just one. When Du Mont folded they
intentionally destroyed all of the film elements of their shows. I read there was a lawsuit by Paul Winchell against the station that aired his show. He owned it but they
threw away the episodes. Milton Berle also sued NBC for disgarding his variety show
but they later found back up kinescopes in another vault.

It's fortunate that performers like Jackie Gleason kept a copy of everything he did
as did Sid Caesar's producer. I store and preserve my own negatives of course but
I've had no luck persuading other indie filmmakers to take charge of the preservation
of their movies. They just assume the distributor will do it which is a very foolish
attitude. Distributors and labs fold all the time and when they go, so do the negatives
in many cases. I wouldn't even trust some of those professional storage places and
advocate making your own film vault that is temperature and humdity controlled. I met
a producer the other day who stored his negative in a Bonded warehouse and when he
retrieved it discovered it was water damaged from some leaky pipe at the place. While
you can always insure the negative and collect on it if it's damaged, you still lose your
movie.

Fortunately with home video recorders, a lot more will exist after the eighties since
even if the distributor didn't save the show it's probable that one of the 300 hundred
million TV viewers did

For some reason when I clicked your link I couldn't access it.


Hmm, I don`t know why. I wonder if the cost (obviously I have no idea of what that is) of doing it themselves, keeps business from keeping there own copies. But, like you say, in the technical age we are in now, preservation should be easier hopefully. I `m surprised your not at CES.
 

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Senior Shackster
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Discussion Starter #7
It wasn't the cost it was ignorance or naivite. There was the general consensus
that distributors were preserving their assetts...namely their library of movies and
TV shows. I mean it would make perfect business sense to save everything in case
there were future markets to derive income from. But...the movie and TV industry
didn't always make sense. So now it's a mad dash to try to save what they can
and what still exists at least from the pre-home video era.
 

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It wasn't the cost it was ignorance or naivite. There was the general consensus
that distributors were preserving their assetts...namely their library of movies and
TV shows. I mean it would make perfect business sense to save everything in case
there were future markets to derive income from. But...the movie and TV industry
didn't always make sense. So now it's a mad dash to try to save what they can
and what still exists at least from the pre-home video era.
That is a shame Richard.
 

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Senior Shackster
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792 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
Greg,

You don't know the half of it. TV preservation is in far worse shape than
film preservation. While much of what survives is in excellent shape and looks
great on DVD (i.e. "Get Smart", "The Invaders") it's really only the tip of the
iceburg of all of the shows that were broadcast from the late forties through
the advent of home video. Part of the problem is that even if some series
still exist in a studio vault, the copyrights weren't renewed so they won't
release them. Shows like Desi Arnaz's hilarious "Mothers in Law", the sitcoms
"It's About Time", "The Second Hundred Years" and "Captain Nice" all fell into
the public domain. There are episodes of popular shows like "Dick Van Dyke"
and "I Love Lucy" that are also PD.
 

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Greg,

You don't know the half of it. TV preservation is in far worse shape than
film preservation. While much of what survives is in excellent shape and looks
great on DVD (i.e. "Get Smart", "The Invaders") it's really only the tip of the
iceburg of all of the shows that were broadcast from the late forties through
the advent of home video. Part of the problem is that even if some series
still exist in a studio vault, the copyrights weren't renewed so they won't
release them. Shows like Desi Arnaz's hilarious "Mothers in Law", the sitcoms
"It's About Time", "The Second Hundred Years" and "Captain Nice" all fell into
the public domain. There are episodes of popular shows like "Dick Van Dyke"
and "I Love Lucy" that are also PD.


It really is a shame that this kind of stuff goes down. Then, it gets into the hands of people who really don`t care, and they just hold things up, and cause problems. When that happens, everyone suffers.
 

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Senior Shackster
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792 Posts
Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Well the problem is the same for all filmmakers...dealing with the reality of
the era you live in. In my case, I take precautions to make sure the camera
negative remains in my hands. Very few producers or directors have that option.
So, they have to count on the distributors to preserve their film and perhaps they
believe that because they want to believe it. I don't so I perserve my own negatives.
But I'm not the kind of person who puts blind faith in anything unless I can verify it
and even then it's good to double and triple check and have back up plans.
 

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Well the problem is the same for all filmmakers...dealing with the reality of
the era you live in. In my case, I take precautions to make sure the camera
negative remains in my hands. Very few producers or directors have that option.
So, they have to count on the distributors to preserve their film and perhaps the
believe that because they want to believe it. I don't so I perserve my own negatives.


Yeah, I hear you Richard. So, and I know this must be a huge number, how many negatives do you own? Or, should I say, how many movies are in your collection? It must be great to pick from your collection, then sit down and watch a classic movie, and or classic tv show.

Like for me, The Time Tunnel, My Favorite Martian, Chuck McCann, Flash Gordon, I Dream of Jeannie, or the classic horror movies like: The 50 foot Woman, It,, The Terror from Beyond Space, The Hideous Sun Demon, Karen Blacks "Trilogy of Terror", (something I wish I had on dvd), etc. "The Crawling Eye", Supernatural Theatre, for you this list must go on and on!!

Your a blessed man.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
It's probably not in my interest to disclose that.

However, yes it is comforting to know that I have preserved my negatives, some
other people's negatives and some classic Technicolor prints for the future. Which
is about the only thing I find comforting this 20th day of January, 2009.
 

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It's probably not in my interest to disclose that.

However, yes it is comforting to know that I have preserved my negatives, some
other people's negatives and some classic Technicolor prints for the future. Which
is about the only thing I find comforting this 20th day of January, 2009.
Sorry about that, It was not my intention to make you feel uuncomfortable. We do fortunately have some of the same tastes, it would be nice to hookup one day as you mentioned.

BTW, hopefully in 2 - 3 weeks, I`m going to kipnis Studios. Check Jeremy out on line. He has one of the most breath taking systems I have ever seen.

www.kipnis-studios.com/
 

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526 Posts
Well the problem is the same for all filmmakers...dealing with the reality of
the era you live in. In my case, I take precautions to make sure the camera
negative remains in my hands. Very few producers or directors have that option.
So, they have to count on the distributors to preserve their film and perhaps they
believe that because they want to believe it. I don't so I perserve my own negatives.
But I'm not the kind of person who puts blind faith in anything unless I can verify it
and even then it's good to double and triple check and have back up plans.
Richard, I know what I`ve been meaning to ask you, a classic movie we both saw some years back, The Day The Earth Stood Still, what do you think about the current remake? And you know, a lot of these young viewers don`t even know there was a original!! I asked my stepson`s friend, if he knew that there was an original "War of the Worlds" The answer was, no Mr. Thorne.
I share with my kids and give them a little history. In fact, I had Peter watch King Kong, before going to see Peter Jackson`s version of it. He thanked me after and was able to depict the differences.
Its a shame that Hollywood is running out of ideas.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I haven't seen the remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still". Of course I've seen
the original and I'm not particularly fond of it even though I like Robert Wise movies
in general and "The Sand Pebbles" is one of my favorite films. I thought it was too
preachy.
 

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I haven't seen the remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still". Of course I've seen
the original and I'm not particularly fond of it even though I like Robert Wise movies
in general and "The Sand Pebbles" is one of my favorite films. I thought it was too
preachy.
Okay, I thought it was a decent film. I watched the end of a film I never saw before. It came on about 3am Saturday Night - The Flesh Eaters. Quite laughable and interesting at the same time. Followed by Lon Chaney and Carradine in the House of dracula. Try kipnis again. I really want you to see what this man has.

http://www.kipnis-studios.com/The_Kipnis_Studio_Standard/Cinema_Alpha.html
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I was able to log onto the link. It looks very impressive, especially if they really
can simulate 70mm Cinerama digitally. Now that is something you cannot get
in a home theater that might 'wow' people back into cinemas...providing the
filmmaker knows how to shoot and compose the film for maximum impact in this
type of immerssive presentation. Lots of POV shots of moving items like cars
or space ships to make the audience dizzy with motion sickness and spreading
characters all the entire width of the frame rather than just centering them with
excess empty sides.

Regarding the Wise movie, he was best when he kept his 'messages' very subtle
and not too obvious. Otherwise it starts coming off like propaganda which some
people use to 'define' what cinema ought to be but I don't. I find propaganda the
least worthy content in a feature film. And of course, times change and the political
stakes of one era aren't the important issues of another and future audiences wonder
what all the fuss is about.
 
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