Friday, March 29, 2013

Dancing near Lufthansa

Time for another Popeye short I haven't seen a lot... in fact, I don't think I've ever seen it once!  Shame on me.  Time to rectify that right now with our next Popeye short: The Dance Contest.


Scene: the exterior of a big time dance hall.  Once again, we skip the formality of Popeye's theme song.  I hate to jump ahead, but they use the same incidental music later on in Learn Polikeness.  And as you can see, there's no parking space in front of the dance hall.  This does not deter the car that pulls up and mashes the other cars out of the way.  It's Olive and Popeye!  "Hurry, Popeye.  We're very late!" she says.  Popeye gets out and pays the driver.  Olive's wearing a nice dress, while Popeye's got his usual duds.  Sheesh!  If Bluto shows up, he'll probably be properly dressed.
Cross-fade to the dance hall proper, where we see many couples dancing the night away.  In the background we see Olive and Popeye walk up.  Pretty cool!  They look to Stage Right, and the camera pans to the stage, where we see that Wimpy is judging the dance contest.  Wimpy!  Wimpy, the dance contest judge.  With his pile of hamburgers, no less.  That's like sending Bob Fosse to judge a hamburger-eating contest.  But Wimpy seems to be enjoying the part of his new temporary job where he pulls the lever marked "Eliminator," and couples fall through the floor.  He's got a smile on his face, the fat bastid.  Now, I know what you're thinking, because it's what I was thinking.  Perhaps the couples could avoid that part of the floor entirely!  That's when we go back to Olive and Popeye entering the dance floor proper, and the trap doors start opening all over the place.
Fortunately for us, Olive and Popeye are spared this fate... probably because they're the freakin' stars of the pic.  Olive and Popeye start dancing.  Needless to say, Popeye's a better sailor than a dancer, and he starts stepping on Olive's toes.  To be fair, it only happens twice, and Olive still seems happy despite the temporary pain and embarrassment.  Popeye starts changing his dancing style at this point, and it works for a while until they both collapse on the floor.


I never thought I'd say this, but thank God Bluto shows up!  He's sitting at a table, and he laughs at Popeye and Olive.  And, as I figured, he's more appropriately dressed than Popeye... at the same time, what's the deal with his open shirt?  He's about 30 years ahead of his time on that one.  All he's missing is a gold chain.  He stands up and says "That's TERRIBLE!"  He walks over to the two of them, still sitting on the floor.  Bluto kicks Popeye out of the way and picks up Olive.  "May I?" he asks Olive.  So far, he's behaving like a perfect gentleman... but he'll probably end up strangling her by Act Three.  Popeye's angry at first, then he starts scratching his head as he watches Bluto strut his stuff.  Oh my God... Bluto's dipping Olive!  That's a definite deal breaker.  So much so, in fact, that when Popeye tries to cut in, Olive refuses.  Bluto and Olive continue dancing.  Popeye says "I guess I have no sex appeal," and he sounds just like a dejected Nelson Muntz.  So far, this is the highlight of the short, hands down.
Back to Wimpy, still doing his thing.  Well, they're not just going to repeat the same animation here, are they?  Phew!  Thank goodness.  A couple dances close by Wimpy.  Wimpy asks them for some mustard.  They don't have any, so through the floor they go.
Continuing the nourishment theme, we cut to Popeye, sitting at a table with a bowl of spinach.  "My only friend," he says as he twirls some spinach onto a fork like spaghetti.  This is about as close to suicidal as I've ever seen Popeye.  Fortunately, his fortunes change once he eats that little bit of spinach.  The spinach goes right to his left leg, which starts tap dancing... then stops.  A second bite of spinach goes right to his right leg, which starts tap dancing... then stops.  An idea is bourne.  He grabs all the contents of the bowl of spinach, stuffs it all into his mouth, and his whole body starts to dance.  But the cartoon's not even half-way over yet! Is Popeye going to lose his momentum early?  We'll just have to wait and see.
At this point, like all great dancers, Popeye leaves the comfort of his table and takes to the dance floor proper.  I'll bet this part was rotoscoped.  In fact, from here on out, most of it probably is rotoscoped.  I just hate to think of some genius animator coming up with all that on his or her own, basically.
Next scene: Popeye's about to run into the happy couple again.  He shoves Bluto aside.  Olive looks angrily at Popeye, but her expression changes once the new spinached-up Popeye takes her hand and starts dancing.  Popeye twirls her across the dance floor and... I think the move is the "sashay."  What do I know? I'm no dancer.  I'm human!


'Tis pity it's a bit early for Act Three, but Popeye makes a bold announcement, saying "Clear the deck, on account of I'm gonna do me stuff!"  Wimpy happily obliges, and uses the lever to eliminate everyone else on the floor.  Sheesh!!!  There's protestations in the usual way a crowd in a Fleischer cartoon does, but it soon falls by the wayside, and Olive and Popeye proceed to bring a little class to the dance floor.  They briefly dance forehead to forehead.  You know, all you young people could learn a thing or two from this!
They end their dance by standing side by side, and touch their... um, glutes together.  There's actually still a crowd left on the perimeter of the dance floor, and they applaud mightily.  Except for Bluto of course, standing there, sulking with a cigar in his mouth.  Bluto steps onto the dance floor and tries for a second helping of dancing.  Shoving Popeye aside, Popeye slides until he finds a chair next to a table.  Bluto's dancing style this time is punitive for Olive at least, and humiliating at worst.  Bluto takes advantage of Olive's elasticity at this point, and the slide guitar is an all-too-willing accomplice.  Popeye's thinking about doing something about it, but we've still got about a minute and a half to go, and I guess he wants to give Bluto plenty of rope to hang himself with.
After Bluto bounces Olive off a drum on the other side of the room, Popeye's finally had enough.  "That's all I can stand, 'coz I can't stands no more!" he says, which I believe is the first time in these shorts where that line is uttered.  Popeye marches himself right out to that dance floor and, after an initial punch to Bluto's face... no.  He wouldn't.  Popeye's going to dance with Bluto???!!!!  Yes he is!  But it's all terribly butch, don't worry.  Then again...


Oh, it's too wonderful.  I dare not call the play by play on this one.  Needles to say, Popeye reigns triumphant over Bluto on the dance floor.  He even scares Bluto just by sticking out his stomach!  Bluto ends up crashing through several pillars (not unlike this one), and smashes into a thick column holding a statue of a cherub that seems to have Betty Boop's face.
Wimpy gives Popeye the trophy, and voila!  Wimpy ends up getting that mustard he wanted.  The only problem is, it's inside Popeye's trophy.  Popeye will have to get that cleaned.
To be fair, this seems to have all the elements of a great Popeye cartoon, but it's still not one of my favorites. I'm just not cultured enough to truly appreciate it, I suppose.  Three stars.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

No comments: