Thursday, January 31, 2013
Popeye on the Flying Trapeze
Again, a long slow zoom-in on the title card. What gives?
First scene: the usual; Popeye singing his theme song... or is it? Apparently the Fleischers were conscious of a certain sense of monotony setting in, so they switched it up a little bit. We catch Popeye at the "I Yam what I Yam" part of the song this time. And, of course, the Fleischers always liked to fight back against the normal easy use of perspective in cartoons. Popeye's the lone captain of a giant steamer ship that still has an old-fashioned wooden wheel. We see Popeye steering in between giant waves on the ocean. The saxophones signify that he's out where we can see him. Lol. Next scene: the shore, and I'll be damned if Popeye doesn't make his ship sail onto dry land. Next scene after that: Popeye makes a turn at the intersection, knocks down a traffic light, and drops anchor in front of the ramshackle Oyl household amidst the newer development in the city blocks. Popeye knocks on the front door.
Nana Oyl comes to the door, and Popeye sheepishly asks for Olive. Then... the musical begins.
We learn that Olive has run off this time with the Man on the Flying Trapeze. Nana Oyl sings about the dude! If you're a fan of this song, you just might really like this Popeye cartoon. Unless you're very picky about how they envision what he looks like. I can't tell if he's voiced by Bluto or not; kinda sounds like it. "My love he has taken away," sings a heartbroken Popeye. He slowly slinks off the Oyl's porch, hands in pockets.
And then, Popeye runs across a temporary soul mate: three young kids and their cat. We don't know who the kids are, but they know who Popeye is, and they listen to Popeye's heartbreaking tale. That eats up some time.
We go from a poster of the Trapeze Man to the Trapeze Man himself, where a carnival barker who sounds like Wimpy sings the song for us yet again, but at a slightly faster tempo. Back to Popeye, who says again "My love she has taken away." (she?) He punches the poster, and the part with just the Man on the Flying Trapeze falls out. Popeye and his four companions go inside to watch the show.
What is it with the Fleischers and bleachers full of people? You'll like the way Popeye makes room for himself and his new friends. I know I did. Cut to the actual Wimpy, who's alternately blowing on a whistle, and eating Homer-sized bites of a hamburger. I think Homer Simpson was influenced by these cartoons, I really do. He gets the two confused at this point, lol. Just like Intolerable Cruelty.
Anyway, Wimpy introduces Trapeze Man, and now it's Trapeze Man's turn to sing the song. I still say it's Bluto. And then, we see Olive, who's now part of Trapeze Man's act! Things always turn out this way for Olive. Olive sees Popeye in the crowd and tries to say hello. Oh, Olive, you just don't get it. The territoriality of guys, and how their hearts get so easily broken. Popeye turns up his nose, and now Olive's heartbroken.
Oh, it gets worse, folks. Time for Olive to go to work. Trapeze Man grabs Olive by the neck with his feet and starts swinging her around! That's cruelty to people! This goes on for a while, until Trapeze Man throws Olive to the next trapeze. The trapeze breaks, and Olive hangs onto the ropes. Trapeze Man leaps and has to use Olive herself as the trapeze. Man, Trapeze Man's got glassy-looking eyes! And that moustache of his is so... masculine. Dead butch, especially for the time.
Next stunt: Trapeze Man goes to the next trapeze. He puts a strap in his mouth and dangles Olive from the other end of the same strap. Olive spins around until she gets totally twisted up like a big wad of spaghetti on a fork. Or like string on a spool, to use a non-food example. How the guy's able to sing with a thing in his mouth, I'll never know. Popeye's finally had enough; time to intervene.
Popeye turns out to be a rather accomplished trapeze artist in his own right. He grabs onto Olive and reaches the nearest trapeze. The strap breaks that was being held between Olive's teeth and Trapeze Man's teeth. Soon enough, the metaphorical tug-of-war over Olive between Popeye and Trapeze Man now becomes all too literal, as they both end up pulling on Olive and stretching her out like a giant piece of taffy, with Popeye holding on to Olive's feet, and Trapeze Man holding on to her hands. This happens three times. She ends up on Trapeze Man's side of the big top, alas. She struggles to maintain her balance. Soon after, it's Popeye's turn to struggle to maintain his balance! Not as good as he thought he was. Trapeze Man has nerves of steel for this kind of thing, and he has enough presence of mind to give Popeye a good punch. You shouldn't a did that, Mister! Popeye flies over one trapeze and grabs onto it with his chin. And then, it hits Popeye in a flash: this would be a good time to eat some spinach. Popeye's finally had enough; tine to take his game up a notch to the next level, back in the day. Epic! Iconic! Game changing! The spinach theme's a little different this time, too.
And so, with complete trapeze skills in his temporary arsenal, Popeye confidently steps from one trapeze to another to give Trapeze Man the beating he'll never forget. Reminds me of the end of A Dream Walking when Olive steps from I-beam to I-beam to end up home. Popeye knocks Trapeze Man over to the trapeze that Popeye was just on. Then, the two swing back and forth, meeting in the middle for a quick punch, then back out again. If this film teaches you nothing else, it's that it's tough to have a proper fist fight in the air on trapezes. Olive cheers Popeye on from her lofty but treacherous perch. We can see her underpants... you might want the kids to leave the room at this point.
And now, the two warriors hang from the trapezes by their feet, but Trapeze Man's apparently out cold. Popeye gives him a good punch, and his trapeze comes back with just Trapeze Man's shoes clinging to it, lol. That's probably the second visual highlight of the whole pic.
Don't worry, folks, the filmmakers make sure that no serious harm really comes to the bad guys, as is the case here. Trapeze Man found his way to another trapeze. So, Popeye starts kicking a guy when he's down... I mean, kicking Trapeze Man from one trapeze to the next, in time with the music. Cut to the audience; specifically, the three kids and their pet cat, who start singing "He floats through the air with the greatest of ease..." Sheesh. It takes a hell of a song to prop up a 6 minute short like this. But you will notice that the he of the song clearly now refers to Popeye, and not the other guy.
But the other guy's not quite down for the count yet, and he lands a solid punch on Popeye's giant chin, laughing about it afterwards. But Popeye doesn't let this aggression stand, and hits the guy twice right back. Trapeze Man hits the soft ceiling of the big top and morphs into an electric candelabra from Hell! Clive Barker, eat your heart out.
Joyous in victory, Popeye slides down the pole, Aug-aug-auging all the way. He then gestures to Olive to jump, so he can catch her from the ground. Oh, if government regulations were more widespread, these things would be riddled with giant "DO NOT ATTEMPT"s all over them, just like episodes of Beavis and Butthead once had. To make matters worse, she takes Popeye up on his offer and jumps! At this point, the three kids and one cat run up to Popeye and scream "HOORAY FOR POPEYE!" Popeye turns and misses Olive, but catches her on the first bounce. THEY DID THAT ON PURPOSE!! But I guess it's okay, because this is not Husbands and Wives, and it's not Mia Farrow. It's Popeye and Olive in The Man on the Flying Trapeze, and they'll be working together for a long, long time. And no matter how low the bar drops on the quality of the animation, they're in this for life.
Good double bill with: Beware of Barnacle Bill
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan