Saturday, March 23, 2013

Popeye is a lousy fireman

I hate to say it, but you'll come to the same conclusion if you sit through this one.


"Adolph Zukor presents A Max Fleischer Cartoon."  The lettering's getting a little bit slicker now!  For some reason, the name Adolph isn't as common as it used to be... oh, right.
First scene: no Popeye opening theme.  Even Popeye gets tired of talking about himself.  Setting: the Thimble Theatre Volunteer Fire Department, where the clouds are rolling by, and Bluto and Popeye are side by side, waiting for a fire to break out.  Bluto is Company C, and he sings the Company C theme song while smoking his stogie.  Bluto then squeezes the water out of a metal cylinder onto Popeye's fire rickshaw.  Popeye sings his own theme song that doesn't seem to have anything to do with anything, let alone his beloved Company D.  He sings it with a slight Eastern European accent, then uses the fire hose like a giant party favour, hitting Bluto with it.  It's kind of a sight to behold!  Also, it's in "3-D" for the time.
Next scene: Olive Oyl's sprawling mansion, built by Big Tobacco, I'm assumpting.  Ironic, since Big Fire's about to try burning it back down again.  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, and tavy in between if you're lucky.  'Tis a bit of a comedy fire, and it chases Olive from window to window, trumpets blaring with each new unit it conquers.  Olive finally ends up trapped on the roof.
Fortunately for Olive, a rogue flame makes its way over to the Fire Alarm on the street corner.  Imagine that!  A fire calling the Fire Department.  Only in a cartoon, and maybe only ever in a Fleischer cartoon.  Well past time for Act Two.


Meanwhile, back at the lab... I mean, the fire station, Popeye and Bluto are about to pound the crap out of one another, when the alarms start ringing.  We see that there are two alarm bells.  Morale is so low at the Volunteer Fire Station that even the two alarm bells hate each other!
...AND THEY'RE OFF!  It's Bluto in the lead because they have to make a right turn, and Bluto's on the right side.  If they had to turn left, it'd be Popeye in the lead.  Popeye's galloping as fast as he can but can't seem to beat Bluto.  Boy.  People-powered fire engine rickshaws.  Olive's so screwed.  She's still stuck on the roof, by the way, flames lapping at her heels.  One of the busier flames burns Olive on the ass, and all the flames coming out of all the windows shake hands.  It's a comedy fire, you see.  Meanwhile, Popeye's catching up... he's catching up... HE'S TAKEN THE LEAD!  Hooray for Popeye, the one-eyed freak!
Alas, the race was kinda pointless.  The boys arrive at #17, and there's only one hydrant between the two of them.  They start setting up shop.  First, Bluto, who starts unwinding the entire hose.  He's mumbling worse than Popeye here!  Very disorientating.  Fortunately, Popeye's got a hydrant across the street, so he uses that.  The boys, of course, get into a pissing match over who hooks up their hose best to the hydrant... oh, skip it.
Now, I hate that villainous Bluto as much as the next guy, but you gotta hand it to him: at least he starts in on the fire first.  Okay, maybe he just won the coin toss.  Bluto goes to work on the closest window he can on the 2nd floor.  Well, it ain't Superman 2, and neither one of 'em's going to freeze a lake and take the ice and drop it on top of the fire... or was that Superman 3?  I'm just not interested enough to find out.  Anyway, try as he might, the fire becomes the proverbial lump in the rug.  Bluto aims for one window, and flames erupt from a second window.  Bluto moves the stream, and the fire changes windows.  Eventually, the fire starts erupting out of two windows, so Bluto puts his finger over the nozzle and shoots the water at both windows simultaneously.  Genius!  I used to do that kind of stuff as a kid when we didn't have a proper nozzle.  I don't water as much as I used to, these days... oh, well.  Wait; what were we talking about?
Anyway, as he often does, Bluto looks over at Popeye, as if to say "Try and top that!"  Cut to Popeye, whose fire hose has barely enough pressure to shoot water about half a foot.  Still too early to give it spinach, I guess.  Popeye looks up at the roof and flames are going by like targets at a shooting arcade.  Comedy fire, remember.  Popeye starts shooting the flames down.  In case the shooting arcade metaphor isn't clear, the flames start turning to ducks around this point.
That's about all Bluto can stand, so he starts spraying Popeye with the hose.  Popeye quickly sprays right back.  At about 3:38, an epic struggle rages.  And as StFidjnr of YouTube fame rightly points out, at about 3:43 or so, Popeye says "Push, push, push!"  Lol.  Actually, it sounds a bit like "A-push-a-push-a-push," but why quibble over details.  Bluto says "Oh, you think you're good, huh?"  I'm probably the only one, but I'm suddenly reminded of the fire engines in Gangs of New York.  Quite similar, if I remember correctly!
To cut to the chase, Popeye wins at about 3:47.  Bluto does not take this defeat at all well.  He's barely understandable, sounding a bit like a faulty fire hose... wait a second!  This animation looks very, very familiar.... SHOEIN' HOSSES!!!!!!  Oh, Fleischer... you let me down a little bit.  I guess since I saw Shoein' Hosses first, I prefer Bluto's lines in that one, but Bluto's lines here are just so strange that I like them just as much.  Also, they seem to have flipped, or mirrored the animation.
Cut to Popeye laughing.  Suddenly, we hear a scream!  It's Olive, still stuck on the roof.  Popeye springs into action and grabs a ladder off his fire rickshaw.


Popeye hooks the ladder to the top of the roof by scrunching it down and letting it fly, as if it were a spring.  And, apparently it is!  Climbing the ladder won't be so easy, especially with Bluto and his fire hose.  He knocks Popeye off the ladder.  Popeye never knew what hit 'im.  Well, fool me once, shame on me.  Fool me twice... how does the rest of that go?  However it goes, Popeye sez "You did that accidentally on poipose!" and charges at Bluto like a batter that gets beaned once too often by the pitcher and a stray ball.  But Bluto's ready for Popeye and hoists Popeye up by the neck with just the water from the hose.  I'm on Popeye's side, of course, but even Popeye would have to admit later on... that was pretty cool.  Not so cool, however, is the second part, where Popeye gets spun around by the water like a top... I guess that's possible.  Then, Bluto hits Popeye on the head with the metal hose nozzle.  Totally uncool.  No subtlety at all.
Back to Olive, still trapped on the roof, still screaming.  Victim of the modern age, poor, poor girl!  Bluto starts climbing the ladder, but the fire starts eating the ladder up behind him.  Shiver me timbers!  Bluto picks up Olive and starts to climb back down but sees that the ladder's gone.  Things go from bad to worse when the two of them are cut off by a wall of fire.  Now would probably be a good time for spinach.  He hoists up his gut and starts climbing the house.  Spinach is his safety gear now.  Strike up the band for Popeye the Sailor!  They start playing that song, see.  Instrumental version.
Popeye opens the fire as though it were a curtain, extracts Olive and Bluto, and politely puts the curtain of fire back into place.  He falls through the roof and carries the crispy duo out to the street.  He drops Bluto and is a bit more tender with Olive.  Olive comes to and is grateful.  And now, back to Bluto... oh boy, here we go!!  Popeye revives Bluto, dusts him off, stands him up and says "Are ya all right?"  Bluto says yeah.  That's all Popeye wanted to know.  A slight adjustment of Bluto's chin and.... WHAM!  Okay, maybe that was gilding the lily a bit, but Bluto had it coming.


"Popeye!  My house!" screams Olive.  Popeye puts out the whole burning house with one giant breath.  Now you might be asking yourself....................... ah, skip it.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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