Betty Boop Scandals

This fabulous compilation of 20s and 30s cartoons by Max and Dave Fleischer, highlighting (but not devoted exclusively to) their Betty Boop cartoons, looks as wild and wacky now as when it was put together (1974). Over the years, it seems that Tex Avery has become the recognized surrealist master of the Hollywood cartoon, and with reason. But one shouldn’t forget that the Fleischers anticipated many of his free-form imaginative flights with charming and creepy fantasies and radical transitions that are in some ways even more dreamlike. The plots are minimal, but the intricate and integral uses of live action, Cab Calloway and his orchestra, bouncing-ball sing-alongs (complete with scat lyrics, in some cases), rampant and delirious anthropomorphism, and daffy wit make these cartoons enduring classics. The black-and-white (and triumphantly uncolorized) selections include Koko’s Earth Control (1928), the only silent film in the bunch; Koko’s Harem Scarem (1929); Bimbo’s Initiation (1931); Minnie the Moocher (1932); Stoopnocracy (1933); Boilesk (1933); and Betty Boop’s Rise to Fame (1934). Stoopnocracy, a demented concerto about insanity, is alone worth the price of admission. (JR)

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