Betty Boop, seductive cartoon character who wowed movie audiences in the 1930s, has become a new item on the home video circuit 50 years later. At least a half-dozen collections of original Betty Boop cartoons, as well as a full-length animated movie, are available on videotape. In addition, other cartoons by Boop`s creator, the late Max Fleischer, are being released. Not all of these collections are quality material. Some, such as ``Betty Boop Classics,`` feature original black-and-white cartoons redone in color. Another, ``Hurray for Betty Boop,`` a full-length color animated movie, awkwardly catapults the heroine into modern times to the accompaniment of a slick and offensive, disco-style music soundtrack.
The fact is, Betty Boop does not need a facelift in the processing laboratory. Many of Fleischer`s original cartoons are visual masterpieces and will stand the test of time, even if they are not in color or feature Top 40 hits. Fortunately, some unadulterated, vintage Fleischer material also is available on videotape. ``Betty Boop: Special Collector`s Edition`` ($39.95), from NTA Home Entertainment, includes 90 minutes of original, uncut cartoons. Many feature musical performances by such jazz greats as Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway. The collection includes such classics as ``Old Man of the Mountain,`` ``Bamboo Isle,`` ``I`ll Be Glad When You`re Dead, You Rascal You`` and ``Betty Boop`s Rise to Fame,`` which includes an appearance by Fleischer.
The Austrian-born animator was a genius with a wild, and often hilarious imagination. His Betty Boop cartoons, quite arguably the best of his work, are a surrealistic vision in which inanimate objects (flowers, clocks, houses, virtually anything) continually come to life. The cartoons are a marvel to watch, no matter what your age. During his career, Fleischer`s chief competitor in the animation business was Walt Disney, who eventually became vastly more successful. Therefore, it seems quite ironic that Walt Disney Home Video recently gained the rights to some of Fleischer`s 1930s cartoons.
Walt Disney Home Video recently released the first batch on a videotape called ``The Fabulous Fleischer Folio--Volume 1`` ($49.95). It is a collection of six color cartoons from the animator`s ``Color Classics`` series.