Betty Boop Scandals | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Betty Boop Scandals 

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This fabulous 1974 compilation of 20s and 30s cartoons by Max and Dave Fleischer, highlighting (but not exclusively) their Betty Boop cartoons, looks just as wild and as wacky as it did 16 years ago. Over the years Tex Avery has become recognized as the 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, as are the leading characters (Betty, Koko, and Bimbo), 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. All the black-and-white and triumphantly uncolorized) selections here will be seen in good 35-millimeter prints: 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. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, November 16, 6:00, 443-3737)

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