Friday, January 25, 2013

Spinach-Drunk Love

Ah, the boxing ring.  Is there any more overused location in cartoon history?  Probably, but Bugs Bunny did it, and then there was the landmark case of Daffy v. Elmer.  And EGGHEAD!  Egghead, for God's sake!!!  So it would only seem a natural fit for Popeye, so much so that there was a boxing scene in Robert Altman's 1980 Popeye movie.  So let's dive right in to Let's You and Him Fight.


That's gotta be the longest zoom-in on a title I've ever seen.
Ah, so many other things to link to, so little time.  Circle-fade-in on two of those giant amplifiers, just like in an old Betty Boop cartoon.... dang.  That one's going to be hard to find.  (found it!!!!!)  Anyway, to up the ante, the amplifier turns into a hand that points at Bluto.  To kill some time, but not much, we see Bluto wailing on a dummy.  There's not as much time to waste in these things as in Stooge films, after all!  I don't know how Bluto became the champ exactly, but it ain't gonna last on Popeye's watch.  We see him skipping rope with a bunch of sausage links.  And... I nearly forgot!  Tradition has been broken with!  Popeye starts singing his theme late in the game instead of right off the bat!  Boy, I really know my sports terms... hmm.  Popeye seems to be wearing adult diapers, and he starts landing on his ass as he jump ropes.  Oh well.  He scats for the first time in these here toons.  He can do it all.  But I will give the Bluto his due: he takes a 1,000 pound weight and punches it into a car!  Take THAT, Henry Ford!  Popeye will top that feat, of course.  Boy!  He may not know it, but Popeye's really into that psychological warfare!  He gets hoofed in the face by a mule... it's more pastoral, you gotta give him that.


Next scene: the big banner.  The big fight is to-nite!  The crowd pours into Yank 'Em Stadium... hey, take it up with the filmmakers, not me.  Besides, the best is yet to come.  Popeye prepares for the fight by having a guy massage his rear end with his fists.  What is he, a lump of dough?  Good, 'cause I might knead ya!  And then... the plot thickens.  Olive begs Popeye not to fight.  No particular reason, she just doesn't have a good feeling in general about it.  Ah, weepy dames.  Where would plots be without them?  Popeye says nothing as Olive rants and raves.  She eventually walks out the door, and Popeye sums it up by saying "I yam what I yam."  Our culture has finally sunk to his level, with gender roles being ossified on TV.  Then again, it is a little more egalitarian these days, but everyone has to be a warrior now.  Gotta burn calories somehow, I guess!  All that office work ain't gonna do it.
Popeye is summoned to the boxing ring.  He walks towards the "camera," but the perspective gets a little skewed when his body leaves the frame, and his head follows the same straight line.. something like that.  Guess the Fleischers didn't rotoscope that part.
Next scene: the ubiquitous long shot of the boxing ring.  Popeye parts the proverbial Red Sea that is the crowd to get to the ring.  The crowd cheers.  Bluto leaps down to it from the audience like a giant flea.  The crowd boos... or are they saying "BLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-to"?  We better let history decide that one.
Bluto can't just enter the ring, of course.  He pulls up the post and crawls under it like some kind of a big shot.  Popeye has to outdo him, of course, ripping the ring's ropes and hastily tying them back together behind his back.  At least Bluto's damage seemed to put itself back together!
Wimpy's the timekeeper, blissfully munchy-wunching away at a big pile of hamburgers on the floor.  This isn't Russia, but the clock punches him all the same.  Wimpy's head hits the bell, and the fight begins.  The tiny referee gets caught between Popeye and Bluto like a piece of chewing gum.  The referee breaks loose, and bounces out of harm's way.  And then... a loop begins to save wear and tear on the animators.  I guess you could think of this as an early form of rope-a-dope: Bluto keeps hitting Popeye against the ropes, and Popeye hits the canvas, then gets back up again to get hit again.  Repeat often, at least three times.  Then, DING!  Time to stop.  Kinda like the Ralph and Sam cartoons later on, no?  Bluto walks to his corner, while Popeye daintily prances to his.
The Fleischers have a thing about moving tattoos.  Well, they were ahead of their time in the '30s, but CGI technology is finally catching up, and you can see animated tattoos on the hot young models in alcohol commercials on TV.  For us, Bluto has a ship on his chest, and he shows it to the audience as it travels round his body and back to its original place.  The crowd is not impressed or amused... so picky.  Speaking of picky, I couldn't help but notice that Bluto's facial hair next to his right ear is kinda in and out.  For shame, Fleischers!  For shame.  Fix it in post.
Time to start the fight again.  Popeye returns to his place in mid-air, and Bluto gets ready to punch him again.  Lol.  That's probably the high-light of the whole film.  The loop starts again, but without the accompanying music of before.  Actually, the highlight comes later on...
Cut to ringside, where one of Olive's relatives is watching the fight!  2nd Lol.  She's pretty big and strong herself; probably rooting for Bluto... no, she looks worried.  The guy to the left of the announcer has Popeye's smile.  3rd lol.  The announcer has teeth like someone in a Richard Condie cartoon.


Fade to Olive, listening to the fight at home over the radio (Station WHAM... get it?  GET IT?....)  She's got the radio on the oven, and she's doing everything but chewing her fingernails typewriter-style.  That comes later in a different cartoon.  You hardcore Fleischer fans out there know which one, dontcha?
Olive's tears start flowing into the soup pot.  Mmmm... salty!  Popeye seems to be taking the Gandhi approach in the ring.  And then... Olive remembers!  She's got a can of spinach on her shelf!  She breaks down her own door and hot-foots it over to Yank 'Em Stadium to sabotage God's plan for the boxing match, much like Larry in Punch-Drunks.
Next scene: the ring, where Bluto connects with Popeye, but there's no sound!  The second punch does, however, making a bass drum's "thump."  Popeye slides over to the side of the ring, and Olive steps up next to him.  And in a stunning reversal, she says to Popeye "Fight, ya palooka!  FIGHT!"  But I guess she changed her mind when she decided to bring the spinach, which Popeye eats.  He wolfs it down with a mighty gulp, and lo!  For once, the game has actually been changed.  Good thing nobody saw this small transaction.
Popeye starts connecting with Bluto.  There's some variety to the punches, but soon enough Popeye gets his own loop, hammering on Bluto's head over and over.  I haven't seen many boxing matches, and I've never been to a live one, but I don't think that's a legal move anymore.
And then, time for more morphing.  The music morphs into the anvil song from "Barber of Seville" as often gets played in cartoons.  Bluto's head turns into an anvil, and Popeye's arms get elastic, and his gloves turn into sledgehammers.  For sledging!  That's the real highlight of the film, am I right, folks?  Popeye taunts Bluto, saying "Ya can't take it, huh?  Ug-ug-ug-ug..."  I don't know how to properly spell Popeye's laugh.  I know, I know.. a blogger worried about spelling errors. What an endangered species.
Olive is so excited by the fight now, she jumps into the ring, wildly swinging her arms about, trying to coach Popeye.  She tells him to do the Twister Punch.  Unfortunately, Popeye doesn't.  The bell rings, and it's time for another break.  Olive's so exhausted from cheering on Popeye, she passes out in the stool.  Popeye comes over and waves a towel on her.  Lol.  See how they did that?
The bell rings, and Popeye gets back to work.  The next loop turns into a waltz of sorts, as Popeye hits bluto in the face, then the gut and waits two beats to repeat.


Eventually, at the right point in the song, Popeye sends Bluto flying into the corner, bouncing off the post and landing in his stool.  Time for the callback: Bluto again rips the post out of place... it should be a little easier this time, after all.  He beans Popeye with it, and wraps him up with the ropes of the ring like spaghetti rolled on a fork.  My God!  Is spinached-up Popeye down for the count?  Is this film going to have an unhappy ending after all?  What do you think? (he asked sarcastically)  Popeye comes to, and hits Bluto in the gut with his be-capped head.  And then, just to taunt Bluto a little more, Popeye breaks the ropes with his mere chest, just by breathing in.  Oh siz-nap!  Big punch this time: Bluto goes flying out of the ring, breaking beam after load-bearing beam.  I wonder who that is saying "Give it to 'im Popeye!"  Just some loud guy in the crowd, I guess.  Bluto bounces off the wall and flies back, and we see the remnants of the beams he broke.  We don't see the upper deck of the stadium fall, alas.  Bluto lands back in the ring on top of Popeye and the ref.  Because of this, the ref declares Bluto the winner.  "Oh yeah?" Popeye says slowly.  Popeye punches the ref through Bluto.  Both go down, and Popeye sings his theme song, and the inkwell closes up.  Well, it looks like Bluto's still the champ anyway.  What a racket.
...oh, right.  The rating.  Not my favorite one, but still rife with good moments.  Three stars, what say.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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