Monday, July 8, 2019

That time Betty Boop went to Hell...

Red Hot Mamma (1934)
Starring: Bonnie Poe (as the voice of Betty Boop)
Director: Dave Fleischer
Rating: Ten of Ten Stars

When Betty Boop accidentally opens a gate to Hell, she decides to check the place out.

"Red Hot Mamma" is one of the greatest Betty Boop cartoons ever made; heck, it might be one of the greatest cartoons, period. Hell has never been jazzier and funnier than it is here: Even the initiations of new demons into the infernal ranks is a laff riot! It was also one of the last of the truly "risqué" ones, as the Hayes Office hammer was about to come down on the Fleischer Studios and the rest of Hollywood.

In fact, "Red Hot Mamma" as so "risqué" that it was banned by Great Britain's film censorship board in 1934, not because of sexiness but because they considered the lighthearted portrayal of Hell to be blasphemous. Maybe it's the fact that I'm not terribly religious, maybe its 85 years of eeeevil cultural decay, but I don't see the blasphemy here. If anything, the film makes a point about how the pure of heart can resist and overcome evil, since the film shows Betty to be the baddest Good Girl there is when she responds to devils who are happy to see her ("Hiya Betty!") with a shoulder so cold--and such a frigid stare--that Hell literally freezes over! (There's another element to Betty's trip to Hell that makes this ban even more of a head-scratcher for me, but to talk about it would really ruin )

But what do you think? Did this cartoon deserve to be banned by the British Board of Film Distribution? I've embedded it in this very post, for you to enjoy the sleek animation, nifty music, and hilarious sight gags--right here, right now.

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