Thursday, February 07, 2013

Popeye's Initiation

NOW we're talking!  These truly classic Popeye cartoons are fewer and farther in between than I thought.  Of course, things really get rolling when the Fleischers use more of their patented three-dimensional sets.  For now, we're stuck with 2D, which they were also pretty good at... but I fail to do it justice.  Time for Can You Take It?


The usual beginning, with Popeye faithfully following behind an adoring Olive.  He escorts her to her place of employment: the Bruiser (Boys) Club, a place for guys to beat the sh... oe leather out of each other.  Now, my pappy warned me about dating girls who work as bartenders... is this not a similar situation?  Anyway, Olive bids adieu to Popeye, and Popeye's either thrilled to be free, or thrilled to wait for his next date with Olive.  I'm going to assume the latter and risk offending all the hipster cynics out there.  But Popeye does take some time to check out this place where Olive works.  Can Popeye take it?  We dare him to join!  Well, Popeye's like any other guy on shore leave with too much time on his hands and who's been off his meds too long.  There's no way he's going to pass on this affront to his dignity.  Popeye mumbles something about being able to take it.
Cross-fade to the inside of the Bruiser Boys club.  As he enters, he's flanked by two groups of two guys beating each other.  The group Stage Left has mallets, and the group Stage Right kicks each other in the chin.  Two guys meet in the middle, shake hands, then beat each other about the head and neck.  When they emerge, they've got bumps all over their heads.  Unlike the two groups, they're not stuck in an endless animation loop.  And so, the Jackass TV series and movie series was born.
Next scene: the Initiation Room is right next to the Hospital Ward.  Gotta admire that planning!  Two unlucky victims get carried by gurney into the Hospital Ward... actually, they look a lot alike to me, don't they to you?  Hard to believe that health care was better in the '30s than today, but it must've been!  Popeye takes all this in stride and says... well, you should probably see for yourself.  He makes himself presentable and heads for the Membership Committee.


Close enough.  Popeye presents his case to the Membership Committee, consisting of Bluto and two goons. So much for the old Groucho Marx line about not wanting to join a club that would have someone like him as a member.  Gotta double-check my sources, as always.  But I guess that its logic is consistent here.  After all, Bluto seems reluctant to let Popeye join.  Note the symmetry of Bluto's response.  Also, paperwork was a lot simpler back in the '30s.  Bluto asks "Can ya take it?"  No forms to fill out, no waiting three weeks for the central office to process it, just a simple question.
The feats of manliness begin.  It starts with a simple handshake.  Bluto squeezes Popeye's hand out of shape.  Popeye gets a turn and, without the aid of spinach, crushes Bluto's hand in a Popeye hand-vice, making a sound heard quite often in Bimbo's Initiation... damn!  Gave away my secret source!  Second feat: the bad cigars.  Bluto doesn't quite smoke his whole cigar in one breath, but he makes Popeye cough.  Popeye manages to smoke the whole cigar in one breath, then shoots the smoke out through his eye!  Another Only- the-Fleischers moment.
As if all that wasn't bad enough, now it's time for "Da Woiks."  Popeye gets blindfolded, kicked once by each of Bluto's goons, then punched in the stomach by Bluto.  Popeye flies and bounces off a door.  The door grabs Popeye and pulls him inside!  Another Only-the-Fleischers moment.
Next scene:'s just a cartoon.  It's just a cartoon!  I can't remember when I first saw this one, but the two giant saw blades took me aback momentarily.  Isn't this what the movies are all about?  Warping minds young and old?  Popeye heads fearlessly towards the spinning blades and... gets tickled by them.  The blades get bent and eventually stop spinning.  That Popeye must have iron in his love handles!  Must be all the trace minerals in spinach or something.  Alas, the rest of Popeye's subterranean journey won't have as much laughter.  He gets his head pushed down, kicked in the ass, head pushed down a second time, kicked in the ass again, and twisted all out of shape by a giant coiled pipe.  Popeye uncoils himself and heads out into the world once again, blindfolded, straight into more torture.
Next scene: a hallway, where Popeye gets punched by three mechanical arms with giant boxing gloves on them.  On the fourth, there are two mechanical arms and, not only do they punch Popeye in the sides of his head, but the gloves stay there and twist a little bit.  You know, just to rub it in.  His face morphs back into shape, and it's off to one last diabolical test: a coffin with daggers in its back.  The coffin is standing on an elevator.  It closes on Popeye and the elevator begins to rise.  Is this the end of Popeye as we know it?  If it was, I think we'd have heard about that by now, like the violent end of Xena or something.  Just 'cuz she's a girl.
The coffin arrives at the main floor of the Bruiser Boys club, where everyone awaits to see the bloody mess inside the coffin.  Bluto opens and... CURSES!  Not only is Popeye very much alive, he's completely BENT all the knives!  "Curses!" says Bluto.  Curses?  What is he, the evil landlord with the gnarly moustache?  Geez Louize!
The Bruiser Boys have one more trick up their sleeve.  Bluto grabs Popeye and says "We're gonna take your picture!"  The camera is actually a cannon.  God, I love that gag.  The cannon fires, and Popeye bounces the cannonball off his stomach back towards the cannon.  The guy who fired the cannon tries to run away, but it's too late.  The cannon blows up and the dude goes flying.  Popeye clutches his tummy in pain.  Oh dear.  Is this the end of Popeye's chance to be a Bruiser Boy?  Bluto punches Popeye into a tray suspended up in the air near the ceiling by a wire, and Popeye's whisked away to the Bruiser Boys hospital.  Socialism!


Olive tends to a hurt Popeye.  She tries to take Popeye's temperature, but he ends up smoking the thermometer like the aforementioned cigars.  Good callback.  With Olive by his side, Popeye's feeling 50% better already until he hears something Bluto says from within the other room: "Ha ha!  He thought he could be a member!"  That tears it.  Popeye angrily asks Olive "Ain't I a member?"  She replies "No!  You can't take it!", as though she's talking to a corpse.  Popeye knocks the medicine from her hand, and from the table next to him, and says "WHO SAYS I CAN'T?"  Time for the spinach.  Well, they had a point, Popeye.  Remember!  With great power comes great responsi... ah, skip it.  Popeye eats the spinach, grows to Barry Bonds size... I mean, Bluto size, and Olive swoons.  Oh, don't encourage him, Olive!  Popeye proceeds to kick ass on the floor of the Bruiser Boys club.  And for every ten beatings he doles out, he takes one knock on the head; but to be fair, he takes beatings that would leave most men paralyzed.  Meanwhile, Popeye takes great relish in beating Bluto on the head with his own club... both literally and figuratively.
Popeye beats a whole bunch of guys senseless, sending them flying into the next room.  Apparently, he beat the color out of their outfits, as they all appear to be the same color when Popeye turns them into a giant human lasso.  He does some fancy lasso work for the sake of all the corn-fed hicks in the audience, and sends a fresh batch of victims to Olive for their dose of Marxist Bolshevik health care, courtesy of Herr Doktor Fattenupzelazymasses-geitbrucken.  Something like that.


Popeye declares himself the new President of the Bruiser Boys club, and calls his first meeting to order.  Unfortunately, he manages to tear down the building with his first gavel hit.  Tis easier to destroy than to create, after all.  Besides, he'll probably get bored with the club soon enough anyway, and move on to his next, latest and greatest exploit.  Frankly, I don't know what I see in that one.  But, I'll give it four stars anyway.

-great double bill with: Bimbo's Initiation

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

No comments: