Last week, I noted that Volume One of Betty Boop: The Essential Collection ended depressingly, with Betty’s boop-oop-a-doop stolen in Foxy Hunter… Thankfully, Volume Two quickly sets things right again with Betty’s premiere as a nameless, floppy-eared, French poodle caricature of Helen Kane in Dizzy Dishes (1930).
An army of Bettys show up (in a Dr. Moreau-like half-canine, half-human state) near the end of Bimbo’s Initiation (1931). In tackling the secret society of the Masons, Fleischer and company attempt to out-Dalí Salvador Dalí. The Mason are transformed into… whatever the hell they are, and Bimbo is put through a phantasmagorical rite. This balls-to-the-wall, off-the-meter entry is the best from either volume.
The ringmaster attempts to throw Betty on the casting couch in Boop-Oop-A-Doop (1932), but she she responds to his dirty whispers with a slap in the face and retains her boop-oop-a-doop, even when taming lions.
Betty Boop Limited (1932) is a rare, unfocused early misfire with Betty and Koko singing and dancing on a train (and not much else).
Betty Boop’s Bizzy Bee (1932) has flying wheat cakes, a surreal moon, and rowdy patrons being served up by hostess Betty.
There is plenty of surrealism afoot in Betty Boop’s Ups and Downs (1932) when Betty’s house and the earth itself go up for sale. A flapper Venus tries to outbid a Semitic caricature in the guise of Saturn. Of course everything that goes up, must come down.
We tour through Betty Boop’s Museum (1932) and find Imhotep practicing Yiddish; a model for future Arab-Israeli relations. Flying skeletons and a musical number close this portion of the tour. Now, to your right for…
Betty Boop’s Big Boss (1933) who does not know the difference between innocent flirting and spewing naughty limericks in poor Betty’s ear. Naturally, an extended chase scene follows the harassment, but by the time the “poleece!” come out in full force, Betty has succumbed to the fat guy’s advances.
Popular violinist David Rubinoff brings his famed Stradivarius to add a touch of artistic class to Betty Boop’s Morning, Noon and Night (1933) . This is a direct takeoff of Disney’s Silly Symphonies (which, of course eventually evolved into Fantasia). True to form, the Fleischer Brothers stamp the pastoral scene with their own idiosyncratic touch (the sun bedeviled with a bad case of influenza, and Tom Cat’s amorous Social Club).
With the inevitability of the enactment of the Production Code on the horizon, the rot stars setting in with Betty Boop Little Pal (1934). Betty is already taking on the mantle of a desexualized mother, and the equally offending surrealism of the early shorts is fast becoming a distant memory.
A femme lifeguard gets manned up in Betty Boop’s Prize Show (1934). Betty herself is claustrophobically glued inside of a dress, playing a Beth Marion schoolmarm to her Johnny Mack Brown. While Johnny and Beth were delightful in their B-Western environment, this dynamic is depressingly ill-fitted to our favorite boopster.
A saccharine Betty is reduced to following instead of creating trends in Keep in Style (1934). She tries on a variety of Decency approved dresses for an audience which, understandably, no longer cared.
Neither the classic “Minnie the Moocher,” Cab Calloway’s head flying through hell, nor the glorious jazz shorts are anywhere to be found, making the Essential moniker for these selections not entirely accurate. Hopefully, these oversights will be rectified in the upcoming volumes. Until then, these will mostly satisfy. Quibbles aside, overall, these are excellent gifts from Olive.