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Posted March 20, 2010
I thought I was the only person to understand, as the title of this book says, the secret appeal of the Famous Studios Popeye films. Steve Bierly was the first person I spoke to who did not frown upon the color Popeye films; believing that they were inferior to the groundbreaking Fleischer cartoons that preceded them. Bierly saw the same subliminal images in these films, and also how the redrawn Popeye characters were given psychological makeovers, as well as physical ones. The prettier (kinkier) Olive Oyl of the 40's and 50's had a different effect on audiences than the Segar-esque model, and was for many weaned on TV, was a first crush for many. Most people don't bother to discern one Popeye cartoon from another, but those whom pay attention to detail (to the point of recognizing one director's character design from another) can find much in these films. Bierly chronicles the period of cartoons when the people who worked for Fleischer, went back to Paramount Studios, and from their inhouse studio (Famous), and made new Popeye cartoons; less like the Elzie Segar models observed in the black and white Fleischer films. The films were still funny, though many focused on an improbable love triangle between the three principals. From a psychological perspective, they are fascinating to watch, as both Olive and Popeye seem to have the psyches of 9 year-olds, and Bluto seems to be the only true adult mind of the three. Sometimes, Popeye's childish self-absorbance can be shocking to watch/hear. The kiss is the alpha/omega of sexuality in these films, and others of that period, and thanks to Tex Avery's influence, all studios made the reactions big. The Famous directors (Kneitel, Sparber, Tytla et al) reveal their libidoes in their work, and Bierly faithfully reports on the best and the worst of their output. Eleven of these films are analyzed in depth. It is commonly believed that Olive Oyl was the least likeliest sex symbol (at least as far as the Fleischer/Segar model goes). Those who have found themselves attracted to this tall flat-chested (80% of the time), woman with the voice of a child (the same voice used in the Little Audrey films from the same studio), will find many answers to their questions in this labor of love in book form. As one who has virtually memorized all these films, I can attest that Bierly's memories (and research) of these films are as vivid as my own. I found myself looking for the films I would read about on YouTube, and study the films as I would read. I recommend all to do the same when reading this book. At this writing, Warner Brothers have yet to release the Popeye films of this period on DVD. This book will re-introduce you to the cartoons you thought you remembered, or if you tend to think of them all as one basic film, this will show you what great differences there were from film to film; from director to director. For too long, these color Popeye films were grossly underappreciated, compared to the films from Warner Bros., UPA, and MGM. At last, a book praising the work of Famous Studios Popeye films, has been written on the same level as Jerry Beck's encyclopedia of Warner Bros. cartoons, or Joe Adamson's "Tex Avery: King of Cartoons". I have no doubt that this book will be required reading for any serious or semi-serious student of American animation. The memories of these films go deep; libido deep. See what memories you may have, are touched in this book. Enjoy.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 28, 2010
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