POPEYE THE SAILOR MEETS ALI BABA'S FORTY THIEVES

(1937)
With: Popeye, Olive Oyl, Wimpy, Bluto (as Abu Hassan)
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Animated by Willard Bowsky, George Germanetti, Orestes Calpini
Two Reels

     Less visually dazzling than Popeye Meets SinbadPopeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves is nevertheless a funnier film than the previous color special and a better overall film than the final entry into this sub-series, Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp.

    After using Sinbad as a showcase for their special "stereoptical processes", The Fleischers seemed to downplay the quasi-3D Rotograph effects in Ali Baba, displaying it most prominently in the opening credits and later when Popeye enters a secret cave.  The two-reeler focuses mostly on gags, both visual and verbal.  Many of the gags recall Betty Boop and the early days of Popeye, where inanimate objects like radios and clocks suddenly come alive and figures in paintings live a life of their own.  The film also takes advantage of the talents of the Jack Mercer, leaving much of the comedy in his hands.  Puns and wisecracks rule the day, with such classic stuff as Popeye stealing Abu Hassan's thermal underwear and declaring "Abu Hassan't got them any more!".

     Once again, the Technicolor work is beautiful, with pastels in the background and bright, sometimes garish tones dominating the foreground and characters.  The animation itself is up to the superb standard of the previous film, and sometimes surpasses it.  As the forty thieves race through town stealing everything in sight, right down to the gold teeth of one poor man's mouth, all we see is a long blur of colors streaking across the screen, representing forty men running by.  The main character animation is equally top-notch, with highlights including Olive Oyl being turned into a camel, and Bluto devouring a sumptuous meal while making the most disturbing guttural noises. (both Mercer and Gus Wickie were experts at making tasteless eating noises.)

      All three Popeye color specials have much to recommend them, but Popeye Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves is the one that balances dazzling animation and solid comedy the best.

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