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Betty is singing a song called "Be Human," about being kind to animals
when he hears horrible noises outside. She looks and sees her brutish
neighbor beating a little dog. It's actually kind of shocking the see,
even though it's only a cartoon, but the man keeps whipping this little
dog who is howling in pain. Frankly, I've never seen anything that
unpleasant in a cartoon before. Then the guy punches a cow in the face
and strangles a hen because they wouldn't deliver milk and eggs,
Betty, in desperation, calls Professor Grampy of the Animal Aid Society. From that point, we get humor as Grampy's desk turns into an automobile and he slides down the fire poll (in the car!), races to the scene and quickly captures the animal abuser. That guy is then deposited in a dungeon at Grampy's place, where he gets whipped and in the process, sets off some clever assembly-line sight gags which feed all the animals.
Although brutal in parts, it's a good message and told in a blunt-but-most humorous way.
The "be nice to animals" message is presented with some unsettlingly violent images of cartoon animal abuse. It's just a little shocking, which is exactly what the creators intended. It's probably best not to spoil any of the gags; sufficient to say that the mixture of cuteness and brutality is certain to startle present-day cartoon watchers.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Betty Boop sits at the piano singing her "Be Human" song against animal cruelty when suddenly, she witnesses her neighbor, a very cruel farmer beating on his animals. He whips a dog like crazy, then punches his horse while teasing it with hay, slams his hens when they don't produce eggs. Betty tells him to cut it out, but he doesn't listen. So she calls her old friend Grampy. As soon as he gets the word, his table transforms into his paddy wagon and he rushes over, dodging the other cars on the road. He takes the cruel farmer back to his place and drops him down a chute where an automatic hand snaps a whip at the man. He runs from it, but is on a conveyer belt, which meant he wasn't going anywhere. The belt powered several mechanisms that fed farm animals and allowed hens to play pool with their eggs. After about several hours of tasting his own medicine, the farmer begged for mercy and swore he would be kind to animals from then on.
This cartoon reminds me of a Popeye cartoon called, "Be Kind to Aminals" where Bluto beats up on his horse. Sure the subject of animal cruelty is touchy, but this is just a cartoon. The characters are not real so nobody is really getting hurt. Betty Boop is voiced by the legendary Mae Questal (1908-1998). She also voiced Olive Oyl from the Popeye cartoons, which were also produced by Max and Dave Fleschier, who produced Betty Boop. Those two were masters at animating over live action footage. They also mastered at making the real surreal: talking trees, strange inventions, machines that talk, etc., so anyway, if you're a Betty Boop fan and enjoy the classic black and white toons from your grandparents' day, I recommend Be Human. Sure it shows much cruelty towards animals, just keep in mind the abuser gets his just desserts in the end, and it is only a cartoon.
Geeze! If you want a Most Violence Against Animal Award winner,
this is it. Let's see, a cow gets it's face punched in, a dog is tied
down and whipped viciously (and I mean mercilessly so), a
chicken fails to deliver eggs and gets it's neck wrung, and then a
horse suffers the same fate at the dog, another merciless
whipping. Luckily, Betty Boop was right next door, heard the poor
animals cries, and telephoned Grampy's animal rescue center.
Grampy comes racing to the rescue with a very flexible paddy
wagon (they have to be bendable - otherwise it wouldn't be a
Fleischer cartoon). The deviant alpha animal torturer is kidnapped,
thrown onto a treadmill, and, in that timeless eye-for-an-eye spirit,
whipped mercilessly in retribution. He sees what it's like to be
brutalized and tortured, and resolves to change his ways.
I always warn people about this one. It's definatly not for the faint of
heart. While the message, be kind to animals by being human
(hence the title), is indeed admirable and welcome, the leering
and exaggerated way that the violence is treated is questionable to
me. Maybe I'm just reading too much into it, but you never know...
As a history teacher and lover of films, I occasionally like watching
cartoons that have been banned, as they tell us a lot about our society
and how far we have come over the years. What was perfectly acceptable
decades ago is now, in some cases, seen as gross and inappropriate.
Occasionally, these cartoons which have been removed from screening
aren't particularly offensive but often, as in the case of this
cartoon, they are so god-awful it's hard to imagine that people would
have laughed at and enjoyed these films! Thirteen of these cartoons
have been packaged together on a DVD entitled "Cartoon Crazys: Banned
and Censored" and while the print quality of many of the cartoons is
less than stellar, it's a great chance to see how sensibilities have
The first cartoon in the set is BE HUMAN and I was totally shocked at how violent and depraved it was. Now I am NOT talking about cartoon violence, but really sickening violence--the type you'd never want little kids to see. The cartoon is all about Betty Boop's neighbor who is a farmer who severely beats his animals. Seeing him lash one animal again and again and again made me think at first the film had been made by PETA!! And that isn't all as he punches the cow in the face and brutalizes every critter on the farm in a variety of nasty ways. Naturally, none of this is funny. So Betty's solution--get Grampy to help by torturing the farmer. Once captured, he's severely beaten and everyone lives happily ever after!!!
What a sick and disturbing cartoon--and I am not just saying this because it's Betty Boop! My horror to the film was so severe I ran and got my 14 year-old daughter and showed it to her and she just couldn't believe her eyes either. It's just not funny and I truly can understand pulling this film from TV!!!
A good deal of the pre-Production Code Betty Boop cartoons are daring
and creative, with content that makes one amazed at what's gotten away
with. While the later Betty Boop cartoons made after the Code was
enforced are still watchable and exceptionally well-made, they are so
toned down that they feel bland.
Fleischer were responsible for some brilliant cartoons, some of them still among my favourites. Their visual style was often stunning and some of the most imaginative and ahead of its time in animation. The character of Betty Boop, one of their most famous and prolific characters, may not be for all tastes and sadly not as popular now, but her sex appeal was quite daring for the time and to me there is an adorable sensual charm about her.
Luckily, her charm and cuteness is still there despite her ahead of the time personality being very toned down and her material not being strong enough for her comic timing to come through properly.
As always the animation is extremely good, very beautifully drawn and meticulous in detail, not to mention the very imaginatively rendered backgrounds. The music is infectious and dynamic with the action. The message is a good important one and makes its point well enough. The voice acting is good.
It is a shame however that a character as good as Grampy, who is generally one of the best Betty Boop supporting characters and stole the show in 'Betty Boop and Grampy' and 'Grampy's Indoor Outing', is saddled with material that is lacking in laughs and not particularly inventive.
'Be Human' is never funny and, although it was intended to be shocking, it does overboard with the disturbing brutality that it's almost sadistic. The surreal and risqué edge that was such a large part of the pre-Production Code Betty Boop cartoons' appeal are completely absent.
Overall, disturbing and not in a good way. 4/10 Bethany Cox
Be Human (1936)
** (out of 4)
Betty Boop is in her home singing when she sees that her neighbors is severely beating his dog. Later she sees him abusing another animal so she calls Grampy to come and take care of it. BE HUMAN isn't a good film but at the same time you can't help but recommend it to adults who enjoy really weird films. I'm really not sure what the filmmakers were going after but it's hard to get any sorts of laughs out of the torture scenes. I use the word torture because the animals are really beaten to a pulp so you have to wonder if the director thought this was going to be funny and you also have to wonder how many kids saw this back in 1936 and were left terrified. Obviously this thing isn't meant to be seen by kids and especially those of today's generation because this thing would probably leave them in tears. As you'd expect from the series, the quality of the animation is quite high and I actually thought the title number was quite good. There's some great imagination at work during the finale of the film but by this time you're still not over what you've already seen.
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