Directed by: Robert Altman
Starring: Robin Williams, Shelley Duvall
Wow, Popeye is a movie I haven’t thought about in ears. I haven’t actually seen it since I was a kid. This does seem like a good time to bring out a new blu-ray since the film is celebrating it’s 40th anniversary.
It’s kind of crazy to think about the fact that this film, a surreal musical based on a comic strip and cartoon series first introduced in the 1920’s, was directed by the same director responsible for M.A.S.H and Short Cuts. The film stars Robin Williams early on in his career and the great Shelley Duvall. Perhaps the greatest success of this film is the casting. No two actors from 1980 could have brought Popeye and Olive Oyl to life better.
The story of Popeye is quite a bit different than the stories of the cartoons and comics but Altman and his cast did lovingly bring the characters to life making the film a better cinematic experience while still giving Popeye fans the characters they love. Popeye is a musical comedy about a sailor visiting a small seaport town and falling in love, well, essentially. The acting here, as it pertains to all of the characters from the cartoons is literal and specific, which may throw off non fans, but if you aren’t a fan why are you even watching this film to begin with?
The music is cute, some of the comedy still works, some of it is obviously to dated to work now, but the experience is overall a good time. It’s such a treat to see all the work that went into bringing this cartoon world to life with practical fx, sets, props, and costumes rather than slapping it together with cgi the way it would be done today. I believe some of the sets are still standing in Malta today.
For a forty year old film Popeye sure pops. I shouldn’t be shocked that the transfer is good because Paramount as a general rule, does great presentations. This film features some very vibrant colors and solid HD level detail. Dirt is apparent on the screen here and there but that just shows the age of the film and quality of the source. I’m very gald Paramount didn’t choose to digitally remove the dirt because that always looks bad. Digital noise reduction is kept to a minimum if it’s used at all here, and that’s another very positive decision from Paramount.
The structure of the film grain is consistent and well very filmic. The grain is never overwhelming on the image either. Black levels are compress-y looking but they certainly could be darker. Overall this is a pretty minor complaint for this forty year old film. This really makes me wish we had gotten a 4k uhd presentation.
We get the original stereo sound mix here but also a DTS lossless surround and Dolby 5.1 option. The core of this sound presentation is in the musical numbers and they sound great. Music hits all the surround speakers, is crisp and clean, and even makes the subwoofer bounce a little. Dialogue is properly center mixed and generally very clean and easy to hear. This is no sound system demo disc but does sound so much better than anticipated.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The single disc release is packaged in a standard blu-ray amaray case. The artwork is fine but honestly a little bland. This a blu-ray premiere and a 40th anniversary but the release feels basic in presentation.
Not only is the quality of the transfer impressive it’s also quite impressive that Paramount crafted new bonus features for a film that was mostly considered a box office bomb.
Return to Sweethaven: A Look Back with Robert and the Altmans is a way to brief featurette that combines archivl interviews with director Robert Altman and Robin Williams as well as segments with Altman’s son who was a propmaster on the film. The gold nugget are segments from a 2014 interview with robin Williams, perhaps his last interview. The whole thing is only around thirteen minutes long.
The Popeye Company Players is another ten minutes of archival interviews and new segments with Robert Altman’s son all focused on the cast. There are some cool stories here which I won’t spoil.
There’s a a digital copy, trailer, a still gallery, and a menu allowing you to skip to the songs in the film. This film desperately needs a commentary of some sort. You really only get around thirty-five minutes of bonuses here but it’s so appreciated to at least get some small new interview segments.
So, the reality is that Popeye is really mostly for fans of the character and secondly for fans of Robin Williams. If you aren’t in one of these catagories but you really enjoy quirky musicals again I recommend you gibe this little film a chance. There’s some real fun to be had here.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10