Friday, February 15, 2013

Hold yer Hosses

Awright, time to dive in to the next Popeye short, Shoein' Hosses.  Not one of my go-to shorts, but who knows?  Maybe it'll be good.


Things are looking up!  As with Bridge Ahoy!, the title card sequence has a song with lyrics to accompany it!  Sounds like it's being sung by the voice of Bluto... as with Bridge Ahoy!  This current one's got big shoes to fill already.  "How the smithy must feel when there are no wagons to wheel..."  I love it.  Yes, the automobile put a lot of people out of work initially, didn't it?  DAMN YOU, FORD!!!!!  And with Olive Oyl working as a blacksmith, well... Popeye was pretty chauvinist back in his heyday.  Why, he was against sailors dating mermaids in the cartoon strips, for God's sake!  "It ain't eti-cute!" he probably said.
First scene: the exterior of Olive's "Ye Blacksmith Shoppe."  See?  She was a job creator back then.  The '50s tamed her, making her nothing more than Popeye's sidekick.  No life of her own.  And always with Bluto saying "How's about that kiss?" as if he's Clark Gable or something.  Anyway, check out the tree next to the shoppe.  The Flesichers kick ass!
Olive's trying to hammer on a hot horseshoe, but Wimpy's holding it with tongs.  He keeps going in for a bite of his endless ... hamburger?  Looks more like a pita bread dealie.  Nice to see someone's trying to eat healthy for a change.  They get stuck in an endless loop, with Olive getting angry at constantly just hitting the anvil and not the damn hot horseshoe.  The good news is the loop gets broken.  The bad news is Olive's ass gets burned by the horseshoe  to do it.  She doesn't take it standing up, however, and she chucks the burning hot horseshoe right back at Wimpy.  It bounces off Wimpy's head and falls into his pants... and his ass gets burned!  He runs out of the shoppe, but returns to pick up his hamburger, of course.  See the way Wimpy's running?  That's the way cartoon characters are supposed to run, damn it.  Call me old-fashioned if you will. Olive puts up a "Help Wanted" sign, advertising for employees that are strong, handsome and willing.  How 0 for 3 Wimpy got that job I'll never know.
As often happens, these plot developments come in pairs, and no sooner does a fresh job opening at Olive's blacksmith shoppe open than it's time for Popeye to reintroduce himself to audiences waiting for the double feature to begin.  Even Popeye gets bored with the same ol' song, and this time he changes the "Strong to the finich" part to "The way to get wealthy is to always keep healthy."  Makes a little more sense than the Book of the Talents, anyway.  Popeye's theme ends with Popeye ending up at the entrance to Olive's shop, and the song ends with Popeye sneezing, rather than one last whistle blow.  Again, the boredom, and the next new way to fight it.  Popeye reads Olive's "Help Wanted" sign, and knows right away that this is the job for him.  Seeing Olive sweeping up seals the deal, of course, and he dolls himself up as best he can, spitting into his hand and rubbing it into his hair.  Sheesh.  Well, can't argue with results... you know, I just noticed something but never thought to actually articulate it.  Does Popeye have nipples on his kneecaps?


Meanwhile, somewhere across town, but not far enough away that he can't see the same job offer at the same time that Popeye does... these plot developments seem to come in pairs... Bluto leaves a saloon, trashes its swinging doors, bends a lamp post out of shape to light his cigar, hikes his pants and heads out into the world, looking for "a good time," as George Carlin would often say derisively about α-males.  Popeye's down to scrubbing his shoes when Bluto arrives, reads the sign, and declares "That means me!"  He then breaks the sign in two and throws the halves away.  Good thing Olive didn't see that... then again, she'd probably like that, who knows.
Popeye and Bluto are in lockstep now.  They bend the entrance to the shoppe slightly as they enter at the same time.  They march up to Olive and say "I wants ta join!"... I mean, "I wants the job!"  Olive is confused at first, and understandably so.  She invites the two of them to demonstrate their skills, and yet another pissing contest between Popeye and Bluto begins in earnest.
Now, it doesn't happen often, but every once in a while the rules of cartoon physics get violated.  That's the least of the problems of, say, Catch as Cats Can, for example.  That one holds a special place of infamy in my heart because it makes cartoon violence seem like a bad thing, but we'll save that for later.  As for Shoein' Hosses, well, Bluto picks up a hot flat piece of iron... and holds on to the hot part with his bare hands.  On top of that, he bends the hot part around his arm.  Kids, do not... well, what percentage of kids these days will ever be around molten steel?  Maybe more likely in the South.  Anyway, as I get older, that's the kind of thing I have a problem with.  Also, the YouTube's Gio Ranada points out that 2:36 represents the first light saber.  Not that I'm on Bluto's side of anything, but technically, it shows up at 2:19.  But I suppose it makes it a light saber because Popeye undoes Bluto's curly fry effect with the same piece of iron.  I mean, if a cartoon character's going to get credit for inventing the light saber, it should be Popeye over Bluto, am I right?
Frankly, Olive should hire both of these guys right now.  Think of the money she'll save on safety equipment! The next feat of strength: the I-beam segment.  Bluto lifts a small hunk of I-beam onto an anvil and beats it three times with a sledgehammer.  The I-beam splits in half.  Bluto looks over at Popeye.  Popeye lifts his own hunk of I-beam onto an anvil of his own.  In two sledgehammer hits, Popeye splits the I-beam, the anvil, and the pieces of wood the anvil was anchored to.  Frankly, I think Olive should hire Bluto.  Popeye might have some trouble with finesse work and end up inadvertently destroying the entire shop.
Next feat of strength: something involving the proverbial wagon wheels that were sung about earlier.  Bluto struggles, but manages to wrap a piece of metal around a wagon wheel.  The metal piece is a bit longer than the wheel's circumference and there's a bit of overlap to drive in a rivet.  In a bit of Popeye-esque freakishness, Bluto clamps down on the rivet with his teeth so hard that, not only does he drive the rivet into place, but the metal strip now appears seamless!  No sign of the overlap!  Popeye does the same thing, but faster of course, but he's got the help of gravity and Newton's laws on his side.  Popeye throws his metal strip at his wagon wheel, and the wheel kinda does the rest somehow.  Why, it even sets itself into place on a wagon and self-fastens with a square-shaped nut!
It's at this point that Bluto realizes he can't win playing by the rules, so he's going to have to play dirty and knock out Popeye somehow.  But... one more strength feat first: the horseshoeing of horses, as hinted at by the film's title.  Bluto goes over to a sad-looking white horse and pounds in horseshoes into its two front hooves, then into its two rear hooves... all with just his fist.  And, on top of that, Bluto's horse is smiling now!  Kinda makes me want to see an educational film about how it's actually done.  Certainly not the way Popeye does it, who carefully arranges the four horseshoes on the ground, then gently slams the horse down onto all of them at the same time.  Popeye is indeed automation personified.  (...they're not on backwards, are they?)
Popeye gives the laugh he gave in Blow me Down.  Okay... at this point, not only does Bluto realize he can't win, he wants to f... to strangle Popeye with his bare hands.  "Oh me, oh my... CURSES!!!" says Bluto.  I've seen Bluto mad before, but usually not this mad.  This is indeed an outlier... hah!  Finally, all those statistics classes comes in handy.


And so, the reign of Bluto's new-found paradigm begins.  He rips one of the anvils out of the floor and throws it at Popeye.  Popeye's head splits the anvil into two equal-sized pieces.  Oh, and Popeye gets a little faint and falls to the floor.  Hmm!  Maybe Popeye's head could be used in some unforeseen industrial process.
And then... as part of Bluto's new-found paradigm, he's strangling Olive, asking "Well?  Do I get the job?"  Dayamn.  I haven't seen Olive strangled like that since Learn Polikeness... I've seen a lot of these out of order, you see.  Now, there's probably some room for discussion about the political or sociological ramifications of this section, but... what's the point, really?  If, for example, you were to point out that Bluto seems to be acting like an evil Democrat hell-bent on taxing the rich, they would either wholeheartedly agree, or give you some line about Bluto fulfilling his manifest destiny, or something about the "Promise Keepers."  Sheesh.  Some '90s references are best left alone.  Besides, Olive needs to be shown the foolishness of her lifestyle choice; the more tough love involved, the better.  But no.  Popeye has to come to and protect the vested interests of the goose-stepping Diversity Nazis.  Popeye interrupts Bluto in the midst of his strangling, taps him on the shoulder and says... too bad YouTube doesn't have closed-captioning.  I think he says "Dont'cha know that the female sex is the weakerist?"  Frankly, that's even more chauvinistic than what Bluto was doing.  If women want to be truly equal, getting strangled is the biggest part of that package.  Of course, Bluto's not exactly a right-wing intellectual; he just tends to hit the things he doesn't like, and he now turns his attention on Popeye.  "Sez you!" says Bluto and he bonks Popeye on the head, mashing him down like a coiled spring.  Popeye rebounds in a stunned state, but he's got a fist pointed at the sky, and he manages to deck Bluto in the chin.  This loop repeats a second time, but on the third iteration, Bluto has the presence of mind to get out of the way of Popeye's fist.  I hate to use the phrase as you might know, but this is indeed a "game changing" moment for Bluto.  As Popeye heads back to Earth from his latest bounce, Bluto sends him flying into the wall.  Popeye destroys a brick kiln that was under a ventilation pipe.  As with Ollie in Dirty Work, Popeye lies there for a while amidst the rubble of brick and cement, preparing to rise like a phoenix.  His head emerges from the bricks, and is glowing like a piece of steel.  Blaring trumpets accentuate Popeye's sorry state.  Bluto laughs and pulls the glowing hot Popeye from the bricks.  As it turns out, the heat of the kiln fire has transferred to Popeye, and Popeye's upper half now shines bright as if he were a piece of steel.  Bluto lays him on the last undestroyed anvil in the place and starts beating Popeye on the head with his fist to a tune similar to that ubiquitous anvil song from Barber of Seville, but just different enough to throw off the copyright lawyers.  It's spinach time.
For some reason, Bluto never sees it coming.  As Popeye's getting hit on the head, he downs a mouthful of spinach, then lands just one punch in Bluto's large gut.  Bluto holds his gut like a little sissy baby.  The next punch from Popeye sends Bluto against a wall, where he dislodges a large box full of about a thousand horseshoes.  Bluto rises from the giant pile of horseshoes on the floor and tries to fight back in vain.  Bluto quickly mumbles "You can't do that to me and get away with it!!!" and starts throwing the horseshoes like a machine gun firing bullets.  Cut to Popeye caught in a hail of horseshoes; Bluto's not as accurate with them as it first seemed.  Popeye catches a bunch of horseshoes on both arms and fires them right back at Bluto, who ends up with horseshoe imprints on his gut and forehead.  Bluto regains his composure, and starts throwing some more horseshoes.
It's at this point that Olive Oyl reappears, trying to get these two idiots to stop fighting each other, as they're kinda destroying her shop.  Frankly, she needs to call off their job audition right now.  Olive now gets pinned to the wall by horseshoes: first her ankles, then wrists... then her neck!  Any more than that would just be cruel.  She could probably get her abdomen pinned by a horseshoe and still have room to breathe, but never mind.  Cut to Popeye who's starting to turn the repelling of horseshoes into a musical art form.  Bluto's too busy throwing the horseshoes that he doesn't do as good a job protecting himself from the ones that return, of which there seem to be quite a few.  Bluto gets hit on the head and grows a giant lump so tall that, you know, it'd be perfect for a game of... damn, those Fleischers are always three steps ahead.
Bluto recovers from his latest indignity, then comes up with a brilliant idea of his own.  Sorry, I mean "brilliant."  One of those ideas that would only work in a cartoon.  He starts loading horseshoes into a giant bellows.  He fills up his bellows, squeezes on it and... it works!  He sends a steady stream of horseshoes at or near Popeye.  The only drawback is that he has to keep pumping it very rapidly to send this machine gun bullet-esque stream of horseshoes at his target.  Also, it sounds like a cowbell, which frankly is much worse, am I right?  Too much cowbell!!
Popeye's standing out of the way of the stream of horseshoes, but quickly turns it into horseshoe lemonade.  He starts hammering the horseshoes into a chain.  Patriotic music starts playing... oh, God!  I admit it!  I don't know what it's called... but I think this is the first time it's used in a Popeye short.  After Popeye makes about 28 links in his chain, he hammers the anvil itself into a giant Navy-grade anchor.  See?  Again, no finesse work.  He punches a hole in the floor with the anchor, thereby holding it in place.  He gathers up all of the anchor's chain, which seems to have grown about 5 to 6 times the length that Popeye originally gave it, and throws it at Bluto.  The chain now has a hook on the end of it, and Bluto's got a new chain belt.


Bluto's got one last shot at this thing.  He runs over to Popeye with his new chain belt, but it was over before it began.  Popeye sends Bluto flying upward, knocking a hole in Olive's ceiling.  Bluto would normally fly around the world at this point, but the anchor and chain constrains his range.  Popeye sends Bluto straight up again.  No new hole in the ceiling this time!  Third time's the charm, however.  Popeye sends Bluto at a 45 degree angle now, knocking a new hole in the side of the ceiling, and leaving Bluto dangling in the entrance of the smith shop.  Popeye goes over to Olive and she kisses him.  Popeye frees Olive from the wall with one punch.  No finesse.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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