Betty Boop on video

These days Betty Boop has a fairly innocent wholesome image but her early cartoons are extremely twisted and surreal. Check these out:

• Bimbo’s Initiation (1931) — Bimbo our canine protagonist is casually walking down the street when the Earth itself suddenly swallows him up. He descends into a vast underground labyrinth where a bunch of goofy cultists with candles on their heads try to recruit him. Bimbo spurns them and tries to escape but only winds up getting deeper into the booby-trapped catacombs. He faces all manner of cartoon death traps as the walls come alive and try to digest him. From time to time another cultist will pop up and ask if he wants to be a member yet. This continues until one of the cultists removes her cowl revealing herself to be none other than Betty Boop. Well sort of. She has dog ears. In any case proto-Betty does a suggestive dance causing Bimbo to rethink things. He happily joins the cult and the rest of the members all strip down to their miniskirts and have a spanking party. This was all pre-Hays code by the way.

• A Hunting We Will Go (1932) — Betty dreams about owning a luxurious fur coat. Her two suitors Bimbo (from Bimbo’s Initiation) and Ko-Ko the clown overhear her wistful song and set out with shotguns to slaughter the local wildlife so that Betty can have her wish. Several funny hunting skits follow culminating with the boys presenting Betty with a huge steaming pile of fresh pelts. Sadly the gift backfires as Betty sees all of the animals shivering in their underwear and scolds the boys for denuding so many innocent forest creatures. She hands back all of the skins to the animals but makes no effort to determine which skin belongs to which creature. Now instead of being naked all of the animals are either stuffed into tiny squirrel pelts or swimming in enormous bear skins. Oops.

• Barnacle Bill (1930) — Bimbo and Betty sing a cleaned-up version of one of the dirtiest songs ever written “Barnacle Bill the Sailor.” While leaning out the window Betty’s bra-clad boobs slip out of her dress. When Bimbo comes upstairs to Betty’s apartment they draw the blinds and Betty’s neighbours gossip and tut-tut to themselves before the blinds snap up revealing the couple engaged in… wait for it… a game of checkers!

• Snow White (1933) — This one’s a cross between a straightforward retelling of the fairy tale and an LSD trip. Sweet little Snow White (Betty) is condemned to death by the evil queen. Her escape goes awry and she winds up in an ice coffin being carried through a nightmarish underworld by seven dwarves as Ko-Ko sings “St. James Infirmary Blues” while doing dance moves rotoscoped from the legendary Cab Calloway. The Queen transforms herself into a witch and then into a dragon before being turned inside out by the heroes. Hooray! An incredibly weird must-see.

• Boop-Oop-A-Doop (1932) — Betty the circus performer endures constant sexual harassment from her boss the ringleader. He rubs his big hands all over her and insists that she’ll have to put out if she wants to keep her job. Appalled Betty pleads with the sleazebag not to “take her Boop-Oop-A-Doop away.” (Hmmm… what could that mean?)

• Dizzy Red Riding Hood (1931) — We’re invited to ogle Betty’s shapely legs during an extended sequence in which she adjusts her garter. It’s all a bit too much for Bimbo who decides to stalk Betty on her way to visit her Grandma. A wolf turns up to fulfil his role as the villain in the “Red Riding Hood” story but after one menacing song he gets beaten up and skinned by Bimbo. (The wolf’s skeleton screams and runs away.) Bimbo gleefully wears the wolf’s skin and continues to stalk Betty all the way to Grandma’s house where they do that “such big teeth” routine. Bimbo then strips out of his wolf costume and the two get into bed and start kissing.