Sunday, March 17, 2013
"I'll save 'er, ya pop-eyed freak!"
I wonder if the Fleischer Orchestra ever got tired re-recording the opening theme music over and over again. In this case, yes, so they added part of the song A Dream Walking to go along with the title. You know, like how Paul Shaffer keeps playing "Frankenstein" every time Al Franken goes on the Letterman show, that kinda thing. Good tie-in.
First scene: night time, and our three principals are fast asleep. First, Popeye, who snores to the rhythm of his theme song. Kinda dorky.
Next scene: the "camera" pans out to the outside of the tenement building where Popeye's staying, and we go to the next window: Bluto's bedroom. I'm laughing already for some reason. We see Bluto snoring away, so hard that he blows his one bedsheet clean off. Notice the knife on the floor next to him, the knife buried in the floor, and the axe with the chewed-up blade on the wall. Must be a momento from the previous pic. At one point, his bedsheet tears from the sheer force of his halitosis. Pure Fleischer.
The "camera" pulls back to the outside of the building again, and we go up a floor to the top, to Olive's room. If you notice, she's got pictures of both Popeye and Bluto next to her bed. Nasty, girl! PICK ONE. Sheesh! Dames.
And then... the conceit of the pic. Olive starts sleepwalking in her sleep. Her first feat: she walks right up to the screen as close as her nose can take her. Worth the price of admission right there! Oh, it gets more death-defying after that. For her next trick, she steps outside and walks the length of the flagpole outside her apartment... seven stories up, if I counted the building's windows correctly. Oh, I can't look! And yet... can't turn away, either. Now, I hate to nitpick, but Olive ends up knocking a box of plants off her balcony, and it wakes up Popeye and Bluto at the same time. Plot device! "What's that?" says Bluto. Good delivery. Popeye bellows "It's Olive Oyl!" and Bluto says "Ohhhhh!!" Reminds me of this here thing, and I know I'm not the only one. 2.5 million hits!!... was that Taran Killam? I'll be damned! Small world. Anyway, back to the cartoon. Olive seems to be doing all right on her own, but you know how those two men are. They gotta save her. Bluto grabs Popeye's neck and calls him a pop-eyed freak. Popeye straightens out his neck and takes off, trying to beat Bluto to the punch. Alas, they both get dressed and grab their hats at exactly the same time. They're in such a rush, they don't even bother closing their apartment doors!
Pan down to the ground floor of the building... I think they skipped a few floors along the way... where Popeye and Bluto head out at the same time. Now all you animation buffs out there should be able to spot the difference between the painted background and the painted cels of the part of the building that's going to break. Even on YouTube, you can make it out. If this were the colorized version, the whole thing would look really crappy... okay, not that bad. Bluto knocks Popeye down and starts chasing after Olive. Popeye says "Oh, tough guy, huh? Wise guy!" Good line reading.
And so, Popeye and Bluto are on the ground chasing after a sleepwalking Olive, way up on the tops of New York's finest buildings. Bluto sees that Popeye's following after him, so he has to take action. Action in the form of a donkey kick to the chin. Good Lord! Popeye's only slightly hurt by that, though. Don't worry, because it's going to happen a second time. Meanwhile, Olive runs out of balcony, so a power line will just have to do in a pinch. And then... the conceit of many a picture, no? What better place for some cartoon-y hi-jinks than a construction site? Take Baby's Day Out, for example... actually, that's probably the only one.
Meanwhile, back to ground level, where Bluto gives Popeye a second donkey kick. That's about all Bluto can handle, gymnastics-wise. Bluto makes it to the construction site's fence proper, and lets himself in, the alpha male that he is. Why, he doesn't even turn to look at Wimpy, the night watchman! Popeye follows soon after and tries to do the right thing by alerting Wimpy, but he's far too busy with his open box of a dozen hamburgers, conveniently labeled "LUNCH." Wimpy looks up and sees Olive, and Olive's emaciated figure is suggestingly illuminated by the moon... hmm! E.T. ring a bell, anyone?!!!! Oh, Spielberg'll never cop to it. Wimpy replies "She'll awaken when she falls" and gets back to his pile of hamburgers. Popeye kicks the chair out from under Wimpy for good measure and enters the site. Wimpy has fallen flat on his belly, but he can still reach the endless pile of hamburgers, so he just continues stuffing his swollen face with hamburgers!!! He was 80 years ahead of his time.
Meanwhile, Olive's made it to the top of the structure of naked steel. Bluto tries moving the cranes around to catch Olive before she falls. Now, this is where the percussion section of the Fleischer orchestra gets to have some fun... more or less. You might notice that one of the gears has six teeth and is shaped just like a star of David! I just noticed that just now, I swear! As well as that it's the crane with this gear that takes Olive to the floor below... I hesitate to say that it's the only thing that would've saved her. Again, a plot device. Bluto gets in an elevator at this point. Popeye grabs the next one. Man! They don't stop for very long, do they?
Awright, now we're talking. Something for animation buffs. Before they started using their 3D backgrounds on a giant turntable, they had little sections like this one. Olive gets carried up on the top of Bluto's open-faced elevator. Bluto ends up on the same floor as her, but is looking the other way, so he doesn't see her. Popeye then arrives in his elevator, and goes to all the trouble to bend one of the steel beams so Olive can walk down. Does she appreciate it? Of course not! Sheesh. And neither does Bluto, who comes walking up at the same time. Popeye's just about to grab Olive when Bluto says "I told ya..." and then he says "Sega!" just before decking Popeye. You know, like those old Sega commercials... or does he? Maybe he says "Take that!" but he just says it so staccato. Unsettling! The stuff catch phrases are made of. Popeye flies up to the top, sees a large hand-cranked hook with rope... Man, but do I not know the proper names of things. He rips this hook from its steel moorings on the building, says "That's the thing I want!" and uses it to catch Bluto just before he can save Olive.
Now comes a bravura sequence, and I don't use that word lightly. Bluto does not take his plight lying down, as he climbs the length of Popeye's steel fishing pole, says "SEGA!" again and punches Popeye while he's still standing on it!!!! They both fall off the side of the building, presumably to their deaths... if not for the pulley. The rope gets caught on a girder and the pulley snaps off, crushing Wimpy to death... by implication. There's a little bit of rope left dangling on this girder, which Bluto and Popeye grab a hold of, of course. They take a beat to catch their breaths, and a subtle dance begins. This is the kind of thing that could only happen in a cartoon. Popeye says "WHAM!" and punches Bluto. I'm laughing already. Bluto swings around the axis of the exposed girder, and they both fall to the next exposed girder down, the thin rope stopping their fall to the street. Now it's Bluto's turn to punch. Same thing happens to Popeye, and down they go another level. They don't hit each other, by the way, when they land. They're not a Newton's cradle, after all! Popeye says "WHAM!" again, and down they go again! Death wishes, anyone? This time, the rope snaps, and they fall. Fortunately, a lone girder is being hoisted by a rope just under them. Hmm! Makes me wonder why we didn't see that rope before. Oh well. The point is, they're saved, and ready to beat the snot out of each other some more. But they wait, as they're clinging to this rising girder for dear life. Incidentally, good perspective work on the girder. Must've been rotoscoped to hell. The crane on autopilot takes the two numbskulls to the top, where we see Olive happily walking towards the audience once again. God has saved Popeye and Bluto to fight another day, but has a little deus ex machina mischief for them, too. The girder swings back and hits the two of them in the back of the head and... yup! You guessed it. The three of them are now all sleepwalking! Probably a good time for an Act Break.
Notice how their hands wave up and down as they walk. The three of them just narrowly missed each other, but the two men finally bump into each other and instantly wake up. A Category 2 Fist Tornado breaks out, and they fall off the building for the twentieth time in this damn pic! They land on another suspended girder and do some fancy moves around on it. Jackie Chan and what's his face... Jason Statham would be jealous. Popeye, however, bites off more than he can chew and ends up hanging off the end of the girder by his hands, which Bluto promptly steps on over and over and over and over again... Brutal! Makes that scene in Mel Gibson's Payback look like child's play... or Child's Play 2, whichever comes first. It's probably time for some spinach, and Popeye bites off exactly as much of that as he can chew. Bluto seems to be achieving some lucidity here! He looks down and sees that Popeye's arm muscles are transforming into Monopoly game pieces, and starts freaking out big time. It'll take him several more years to figure out that he needs to attack spinach itself to win. For now, time for an ass-whoopin'. Bluto takes off running away as fast as he can through this construction site. Popeye gets his bearings, and... it's time for some more fancy "3-D" action! I know, not as good as Jurassic Park 1 in 3-D, but at the time even Disney himself must've been slightly impressed. Popeye brachiates up to the top level of the construction site, with the greatest of ease, I might add.
Bluto's forgotten about Popeye for the moment and is quietly tiptoeing after Olive. Popeye swings on yet another girder hanging by a rope and kicks Bluto in the butt. So cruel. But Bluto's rarin' to go, and grabs the same girder and starts charging at Popeye with it. Popeye punches the girder into an @ symbol, punches the twisted metal away, and punches Bluto away. Bluto flies over to an elevator, and Popeye runs over to Bluto. Popeye punches Bluto and he falls back onto the elevator. The elevator goes down to ground level, dings, and flies back up. You know, like that strength game with the bell at the top, but in reverse. Repeat. Do we get a third iteration? Alas, no. Popeye sends Bluto right down to the ground, which of course would kill a flesh and blood human being. For Bluto, he lands next to Wimpy. Wimpy's okay after all!!! Hallelujah. He has no hamburgers left, so he's down to heating a patty on a slab of metal with a portable blowtorch. "Beg pardon, sir" says Wimpy to Bluto. Bluto says ".......huh?" Wimpy asks the dazed Bluto "Do you have any Grey Poupon?" Sorry, I had to go for it, but Wimpy does ask for mustard. Bluto gives the proper response to that by passing out.
Oh, right! Olive. Almost forgot about her in all the commotion. She looks like she's really headed off the side of the building this time, but a girder hanging by a rope saves her at the last second... then another! Then another! And by the time it got to the sixth or seventh girder leering and smecking... I began to feel really sick, but you didn't hear that from me. How many of these damn rope girders ARE there? Popeye sees what's going on and he manages to snag his own Girder Express and starts chasing after Olive. Now how's that work?! "I ain't afraid a'nuthin" says Popeye. We know, Popeye, we know...
And so, after all that, Olive ends up putting herself safely back to bed. You can probably guess how and when she's going to wake up, especially if you've seen the earlier Popeye short they call Sock-a-Bye Baby. Sorry... SPOILER ALERT. Olive wakes up, and sees Popeye looking at her. Olive screams, calls him a Peeping Tom, and throws a bunch of stuff at him... ending with a giant stove!!! And lit, no less! No wonder they play the spinach theme while this is going on. Popeye ain't afraid of nothin', but he's a little wary of Olive at this point.
I hate to say that I can't put my finger on it, and I don't like to over-analyze these things, but somehow this just isn't one of the all-time classics. Maybe it's that they didn't quite land the ending for me. Yeah, that's probably it. I mean, there's all the 3-D in it and everything. Three and a half for this one.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan