Reviewin’ the Box: Blondie Vol. 1

(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Blondie is a 1938 film that started an enormous series which would run until 1950. The 28 films in the series, each one running at about 70 minutes, were based on a popular, eponymous comic strip created by Chic Young. The comic strip is still published today, now written by Chic Young’s son, Dean.

Available from Echo Bridge Home Entertainment are two DVD sets which together include the first 10 films of the series. I purchased both in February. They sell for only $3.00 each and can be found at Echo Bridge’s web store. A set that contains both the Blondie Vol. 1 and Blondie Vol. 2 DVDs is also available for $5.00.

Today I’ll be reviewing the Vol. 1 set, with brief reviews of each included film and a “Reviewin’ the Box” analysis of the DVD itself.

The Cast

Penny Singleton as Blondie Bumstead

Arthur Lake as Dagwood Bumstead

Larry Simms as Baby Dumpling

Gene Lockhart as C.P. Hazlip

Ann Doran as Elsie Hazlip

Jonathan Hale as J.C. Dithers

and Daisy the pup as himself

(Image via Library of Congress)

(Image via Library of Congress)

The Films

Blondie (1938) – Dagwood owes his boss some money and must land a very important contract in order to make up for the debt. His wife, Blondie, knows nothing of his financial troubles and thinks he’s stepping out on her instead of actually doing extra work. This film is a good start to the series. It sets the characters’ personalities up very well and contains some pretty good gags — Dagwood getting his fortune read by a scale three times when he doesn’t want to believe what it says about him, for example. The humor is corny, but I would expect no less from a film based on a mid-century comic strip. The performances are very good and suit the material.

(Image via Movie Poster Database)

(Image via Movie Poster Database)

Blondie Meets the Boss (1939) – Dagwood resigns from his job and immediately regrets his decision, but is too embarrassed to ask for his job back. Blondie takes it upon herself to go talk to the boss for Dagwood… but then Mr. Dithers offers Dagwood’s job to her! He decides to solve the matter by going fishing, which just gets him into more trouble. This installment of the series has a somewhat quicker pace than the first and it has the addition of quite a bit of fun music (and a great Dagwood dance scene), since part of it takes place in a dance club. I enjoyed it a lot.

Blondie Takes a Vacation (1939) – The Bumsteads are going on vacation! Mr., Mrs., son and pup are all packed and ready. After a couple of delays (one of which is caused by a scary hat), they finally make it to the train and head off to the resort. But once they get to the resort, further complications ensue, as they’re refused a room by the mean manager that they met on the train and must find a new place to stay. Major puppy bonuses for this third installment of the series! There are plenty of laughs to be had here, too. Two favorite scenes include one in which the Bumsteads try to cover up the fact that their dog is on the train by all starting to bark, and one in which Baby Dumpling tries to dry the dishes by tying a dish rag to the dog’s tail. Lots of physical comedy and sight gags, but along with a surprisingly heartwarming story and an edge of drama.

Blondie Brings Up Baby (1939) – Blondie and Dagwood decide to put Baby Dumpling in school after a door-to-door salesman of child psychology books gives Baby Dumpling an IQ test and scores him at 168. Convinced her child is a genius, Blondie is eager to get him into school. Dagwood also faces some trouble at work after making a shady deal with one Mr. Cartwright (Robert Middlemass), a scheming real estate developer, and accidentally causing the company $90,000. This installment isn’t quite as high-energy or fun to watch as the others in this set. At times it’s kind of sad. (Poor Daisy! Poor Melinda!) There are a couple of funny scenes and quotes, though. (“He knows the alphabet, from A to B!”)

Blondie on a Budget (1940) – Dagwood wants $200 to join a fishing club, while Blondie wants to spend the money on a new fur coat. When Dagwood’s ex-girlfriend, portrayed by Rita Hayworth, pays a visit to the Bumsteads, Blondie lets jealousy get the best of her. The mood of this installment is appropriately awkward at times as Blondie and Dagwood invite Hayworth’s Joan into their home. Hayworth is a lot of fun to watch, as usual, but she doesn’t play quite as big of a part in the film as I expected her to. Still, this installment in the series is an entertainment piece of domestic dramedy.

A note on all of these films: I’d only seen a couple of the Blondie flicks before purchasing this set, but one thing I’ve always loved about them is that watching them feels very much like you’re watching a comic strip come to life. I appreciate the fact that the adaptations fit the tone and comedic style of their source material so well.

And now, for the Reviewin’ the Box rubric…

  • Packaging: 4/5 – While I always prefer DVD sets that have each film on a separate disc, this one-disc set has nicely-designed packaging, much better than you’d expect from a $3 DVD. The colorized cover photo doesn’t look cartoonish as some colorized photos do, and I like the fact that each film in the set is listed on the back cover with a short description.
  • DVD quality: 3.8/5 – The film quality is much higher than I expected it to be, since the set is so inexpensive. I didn’t notice any major problems with the picture or audio. My one qualm with this DVD is the menu. It offers a “Play All” option and an “Episodes” option, but the “Episodes” option takes you to scene selection menus and just plays all of the films starting with the scene you select. I wish there was an option to watch the films individually without having to go to a scene selection menu, or without leading into the next film. This isn’t a major problem, though — just me being picky — so I won’t take off much for it.
  • Special features: N/A
  • Overall score: 3.9/5 – I’m glad to own these films, which make for fun little diversions/quick watches. The DVD quality is pretty good and the packaging is nice, expecially for such an inexpensive DVD. Aside from the menu, I’m impressed with this release.
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