Friday, December 21, 2012

Popeye's next target: ... Mexico?

While I'm not qualified to speak with authority on stereotypes in the movies, let me just take this brief opportunity to lash out against the "colorized" Fleischer cartoons.  Of course, this was in the old days of the beginning of the art form, before computers did everything, and before filmmakers used the techniques to make their films look like old films.  Needless to say, the Fleischer cartoons were a big casualty of the process.  All the life and hard work drained out of the films for the sake of making everything look like a smeary color pastel painting.  Furthermore, they've shortened and truncated the films in addition to colorizing them!  A lot less to color, apparently.  Take, for example, our next Popeye cartoon "Blow me Down!"  Both versions are currently on YouTube, thankfully.  The black and white version clocks in at 6 minutes 19 seconds, while the color pastel version is a sleek 5 minutes 22 seconds!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Speeding up the main theme song helps that out.  I'm so disgusted and short on time, I'm not even going to compare the two back to back.  Phooey.


We find Popeye all on his own this time, singing the usual theme song, hitting the wrong note with his pipe.  It's a closeup, so we pull back to get a better look at his "ship:" it's a tiny whale with a sail's mast in its blowhole!  Good Lord.  These aren't for kids, I tells ya.  But the whale happily turns into a set of stairs so Popeye can step up to the pier with ease.  Next scene: Popeye walks down a street and... hoh boy, here we go.  First it's Indians, now this.  I guess the Fleischers wanted to get the ethnic humour out of their system or something.  With each window Popeye passes, another angry Mexican sticks his head out.  Trust me, Popeye's the last person in the world to be jealous of.  The music speeds up at 1:08, and the stakes are raised as well.  A sniper takes a shot at Popeye's head, but the bullet merely bounces off and hits the sniper right back, who falls to his almost certain death, or at least a long stay in a Mexican hospital.  Of course, these days you'd probably be better off in a Mexican hospital than an American one.
Popeye stops at the "Alla Kinda Flowers" flower shop and says "I wants a bouquet of flowers for my sweet petootie!"  I probably didn't spell that right.  More angry Mexicans.  Popeye comes out of the store with one flower.  He walks by this one dude... I'll stop calling them Mexicans now.  Who's the real racist, right?  Anyway, we get a close-up of this one dude, smiling and cackling at Popeye.  What else to do?  Popeye sez "Oh YEAH?" and punches the dude right in the teeth, leaving him with a mouth full of loose teeth, munching away like a cow with a cud.  See, in Popeye's world, with great power comes great responsibility... to use that power as often as possible, against the slightest hint of a bad guy.


Dame?  Orphan?   This time, just a dame.  Scene: a run-down but busy saloon, where Flamenco dancer Olive Oyl entertains the diminutive crowd.  Popeye gets hit by the door on the way in, but lets that infraction slide.  He joins in with the rhythmic bobbing and swaying of the crowd, as often happens with crowds in Fleischer cartoons.  She sees Popeye and runs over to his side right away.  Rather, she does giant ballet leaps to his side.  So many terms to learn, so little time or interest.  Good teachable moment here: don't do giant leaps in a saloon, because your foot just might end up in a spittoon, as happens with Olive.  Popeye laughs like a jerk, and hands Olive his one-flower bouquet.  Olive thanks Popeye and gets back to work.  This time, both of her feet end up in spittoons, and the Two Spittoon Dance begins.  Wait a second... time killers in Popeye cartoons?  What is this, a Stooge film?  Popeye laughs anew, and it's notable because we return to Olive, and Popeye's laughs sound like they're coming from far away, as if Costello's standing far away from the mike.  I love that kind of thing.  Mel Blanc did it a lot; take, for example, the ending of ... phooey.  That they don't have.  They have Daffy Duck as Stupor Duck, but not the whole thing.  How about Bugs Bunny in Hold the Lion, Please?  This sort of demonstrates what I'm talking about.  Anyway, back to the Two Spittoon Dance.  A bassoon is added to the second chorus.
The dance finishes, everyone applauds and... finally!  Some excitement!  Bluto rushes in, causing a bigger stir than even Yosemite Sam.  With his two pistols blazing, he fills the saloon with white smoke.  When the smoke clears... why, you'll never guess what happens.  That's right!  Everyone's gone... except Popeye, that is.  Bluto asks "Huh?  Who's that guy?" and takes a seat next to Popeye.  Time for another game of "I'll do anything that you do."  Popeye wins, of course, but personally, Bluto wins the shooting contest for me, ironically by being the more delicate one.


Play time's over.  Bluto takes the first punch, turning Popeye's head over and over again.  Nobody does the Twisker on Popeye... nobody!  Popeye goes for distance with his punch, and Bluto flies across the room.  Bluto apparently already knows he's licked, so it's time for his reinforcements.  To make things simpler, he's standing next to the door they're going to come through.  Bluto opens the door, and in comes the Rogue's Gallery of ... of provincial tough guys.  As often happens in Fleischer cartoons, they make the most of a single loop of animation.  The bad guys wiggle up and down, and make rhythmic grunting noises to boot!  That's one of those things that other animation companies would be hard pressed to rip off, so they didn't.
In these early ones, Popeye gave the bad guys much more warning.  He sounds a note with his pipe, says "You guys'll get hurt traveling alone!" (Get on that, The Onion!) and sounds another note.  Spinach is eaten without much of the usual fanfare (No theme music!  No imagery emanating from the new-fangled muscles!) and it's time to go to work.  Multiple groups of the same bad guys come pouring in through the door, but Popeye's got it covered.  Bodies fly out every window, and a mounted moose head gets to have a little fun.
While all this is going on, Bluto goes up to Olive Oyl's dressing room.  As Bluto stands in front of the door, four objects hit the door and Olive says "Come in!"  Soon, Olive is screaming "Popeye!  HELP!"  Popeye comes to the rescue, breaking through Olive's door, but in a way that causes the fragmented door to reassemble.  And yet, James Cameron gets all the credit for morphing technology.
As it turns out, Olive doesn't need as much help as she thinks.  We find her beating Bluto over the head with a club to a tune similar to the Anvil song from "The Barber of Seville." ... that's probably not what it's really called.  Bluto appears to be out of it, but one eyeful of Popeye and he's awake with rage.  A cycle of violence repeats itself: Bluto punches Popeye, Popeye flies back, Olive hits Bluto with the club, and Popeye steps in front of Bluto to repeat the cycle.  Popeye punched, Bluto clubbed.  Popeye punched, Bluto clubbed.  It gets faster and faster.  Lol.  Bluto eventually has had enough, so Popeye punches him out the window.
The fight's far from over, and Bluto's still an equal match to a spinached-up Popeye.  They finally fall to the ground.  Popeye hits Bluto so hard in the stomach, Bluto clutches his back in pain, saying "Oh!  My back!"  Popeye gets his pipe punched out of his mouth, but he grabs it up again.  2nd Lol.  And then, time for another Fist Tornado.  No Popeye cartoon would be complete without it.  Well, it was in the percussion section's contract.  This time, Popeye takes some time to light his pipe, before diving back in with all his energy into the Fist Tornado.  Boy, some people know how to live.
All right, enough fooling around.  Popeye summons all his muscle troops, and it's the punch heard round the world.  Literally!  Heard AND seen!  Why, I almost feel sorry for Bluto.


Well, the ending's nice and all, but I'm sorry.  This one's not up there in my Popeye Pantheon.  Fortunately, Wild Elephinks isn't too far off.  I'll just have to wait for it.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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