Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ami-want... Ami-need... Ami-love.... Aminals

Ouch.  As YouTube's Landaux says, "They should [have] redubbed this episode with Jack Mercer's voice."  There was apparently a kerfuffle that week at the Fleischer Studios, and the guy who did Popeye's voice on the radio, Floyd Mutrux... I mean, Floyd Buckley, stepped in at the last minute.  I only know that because of Wikipedia, incidentally.  That's what I get for not reading the text of Cabarga's extensive book about the Fleischers.  So let's dive right in, strange new voice and all.


Scene: the park.  Popeye and Olive on a bench feeding the birds.  Background music: Laurel and Hardy-esque.  Check out the groovy statue behind them!  A happy runner carrying a happy fish.
And so, the vocal fun begins.  Popeye's got a box of bird seed, and Olive maneuvers her foot over to Popeye.  Popeye says "Ha ha ha ha... O-kay!"  Good Lord!  Who IS that guy? ...oh, right.  I already forgot.  Popeye places one piece of bird seed on Olive's foot, and she deftly moves her foot over to a small bird.  The small bird eats the food.  Repeat.  Well, it's either this or fighting the Nazis in the trenches, folks.  For the third iteration, Popeye puts a bunch of seed onto Olive's shoe.  The birds get into a mild frenzy on her shoe.  When they fly away, her toes are now visible.  Normally, she might be outraged about this, but she's having too much fun instead.  She and Popeye have a good laugh.  God, give me a hit of that Bluto soon!
We scroll right, and there's a wipe fade simultaneously.  Epic.  And so, we come to a scene about as opposite from the one with Popeye and Olive as you can get.  We see Bluto sitting in a rickety wagon atop a giant pile of grain sacks.  The wagon is buckling under the weight of the cargo, and Bluto's got only one horse to pull it, so Bluto's whipping the hell out of the horse.  Some economists might call this good business practices.  No wonder it's called the dismal science.  The horse finally starts slowly moving the cart, with Bluto on top of it all, as the whipping continues unabated.
Bluto gets a chance to rub it in some more.  The horse slowly makes its way to a mini-trough on the sidewalk.  Kewl!  This is educational, historical... I'm sorry, I mean, ed-ja-ma-kash-cional, and... historigible?  The hegemony of the car was not yet complete at this point, and the metaphorically and literally dying horse reaches for the water.  Bluto dismounts and goes over to the trough.  "Oh, yeah?" he mumbles to himself.  Bluto picks up the trough, shows it to the horse and... drinks all the water himself.  I guess that makes Bluto the laziest horse of all time.  Just to rub a little more salt in the wound, there's a few droplets of water left in the trough, which Bluto throws away.


Bluto returns to his post atop the pile of produce.  Note the sign that says "Bluto - Produce."  Popeye and Olive finally witness this travesty in progress.  Popeye says "Hey?" much like Paul Newman does in Hombre and Butch Cassidy.  His pipe twirls in his mouth, making that trilling noise we all know and love.  Apparently, not only were the Fleischers hard up for vocal talent to replace Costello that week, but they were hard up for a script for Popeye as well.  All Popeye seems to say in this one is one word at a time!  Mostly the word 'hey.'  Olive does most of the heavy verbal lifting, as she chews out Bluto for cruelty to horses.  "Mind your own business..."  I'm sorry, I mean, Bluto says "MIND YER OWN BUSINESS, YA LONG-LEGGED SKANK!"  I'm sorry, I mean "scarecrow."  Oh, this guy deserves a beating... and Bluto as well.
Sorry, I was a little premature about Popeye in this one.  He starts having lines now... sheesh.  Pretty rough.  Sounds like Popeye had a stroke.  "Stop that!" he slurs.  Radio audiences clearly took a back seat to the silver screeners on this one.  "Stop, I say!" says Popeye.  That's a little better.  Popeye gets on the horse's back and starts taking the brunt of Bluto's whip.  "Better me than a dumb aminal!" slurs Popeye.  I know, I know, but it's a reflection of the times these cartoons were made in.  And despite this slur to the horse's character, the horse kisses Popeye anyway. 
Olive comes over and kisses the horse.  She ends up with the horse's bridle in her mouth.  There's a lesson there somewhere.  Probably something about waiting for the laugh.  Olive waits a couple seconds for the laugh to sink in before putting it back.
Bluto keeps whipping Popeye until he gets the whip around Popeye's neck, and lifts him up to the back of the produce truck.  Popeye takes a banana, and Bluto whips it open for him.  Popeye eats the banana and drops the peel onto the pavement.  There's one on the pavement already and another one soon follows.  Olive comes over and starts slipping on the peels... gee, this one's kinda lame, huh?  Bluto switches focus from Popeye to Olive.  He takes a big bunch of bananas and throws them on top of Olive.  Olive ends up flat on the ground under a big pile of bananas.  If that happened to me, I'd get a scar or two, I can tell ya that.  "Oh, my embarrassment!" says Olive as she continues to slip slide around.
Next scene: Popeye takes notice of Olive's plight and stands up to take on Bluto.  Bluto hits Popeye with a bunch of bananas, and Popeye falls to the ground under a big pile of bananas.  Bluto's starting to lose his economist fan base if he had one at the beginning of this pic.  He's clearly out of Pareto optimal territory, at the very least.  Popeye laughs, gets up and starts slipping around in his own right, next to a slipping Olive.  Maybe they're just doing the Lindy Hop or something, or the Harlem Shuffle.
With Popeye and Olive preoccupied with their own troubles, Bluto now turns his focus back to the horse.  He jumps on the horse's back and jumps down in front of the horse.  "YOU STARTED THIS MESS!" he tells the horse.  He then makes a fist and starts punching the horse in the face.  At one point he punches the horse so hard that his head... well, you just have to see it.  My description can't do it the same justice, I'm afraid.  I'm just not that good.  Is it bad of me to say that I got a slight chuckle out of that?  Probably.  It's just a cartoon, after all!  The loop repeats.


Man, this one is short!  Five minutes, 37 seconds?  That's how little faith they had in the new guy on Popeye voice duty, I guess.  I think it's time for some spinach.  Back to Popeye, still slipping around on the banana peel-laden ground like a FOOL!  A DAMN FOOL!!!!!  Why did I ever look up to you?  fOOL!!!!!  Anyway, as fate would have it, Popeye's slipping around near the back of the wagon... the spinach part.  He braces himself on a crate of spinach, dislodges it from the wagon and drops it on the ground.  So, not only is Popeye disrupting Bluto's legitimate business, he's eating Bluto out of house and home!  Why, there oughta be a massive lawsuit.  Popeye grabs a big handful of spinach and stuffs his face with it.  Sheesh.  The guy can't even do the proper chewing noises!  Wotta disappointment.  As a result of eating spinach this time, in addition to the usual extra muscle, Popeye grows a few hairs on his chest ... which, of course, he should promptly shave off.  They're not popular anymore in today's world.
Bluto's still working the horse's head over real good, so Popeye goes over and stands in front of the horse's face, as though he's taking on all of China's tanks by himself.  Bluto keeps hammering away, but now on Popeye's face of steel.  The ultimate rope-a-dope.  Unfortunately, Bluto's fists don't shatter into a thousand pieces, but don't worry.  Bluto will get his just desserts.  Bluto gets weary from hammering away at Popeye's face and stops to take a breather.  Popeye lifts Bluto's chin up with one finger.  "See this?  Well... BAM!" says Popeye, as he hits Bluto in the face, sending him flying.  Bluto lands at the end of the wagon, and starts to make his way over to Popeye... that is, until the bananas finally go to work on the guy who should be slipping around!  Bluto starts slipping on the bananas, but Popeye gets a few opportunities to hit him right square in the face.
Overjoyed, the horse wriggles its way out of its various stirrups and such (the music changes slightly as this happens... for shame, composer, for shame), and goes over to watch the fun from a better vantage point.
When the horse gets over there, Popeye hits Bluto, sending Bluto flying into the wagon.  Bluto slumps down in front of the wagon in a heap.  Olive hits Bluto with a coconut.  I think it's a coconut, anyway.  Let's assume it is for the sake of argument.  The coconut then lands in the horse's mouth, and the horse squeezes it at Bluto.  The coconut's milk hits Bluto in the face.  Bluto waves his hands like a little girl.  The loop repeats.  Before they go into a third iteration, we circle-wipe to the just desserts: Bluto is now towing the cart, and the horse is sitting on the cart, whipping Bluto!!


Because it's not William Costello or Jack Mercer, the cartoon doesn't end with Popeye singing the ending theme, but he is throwing banana peels in front of Bluto's struggling feet.  They don't seem to stick, however.  For shame, Fleischers, for shame.
As much as I'd like to say that this is the worst Popeye cartoon I've ever seen, I can't.  They come during the '60s when they really really skimped on the animation, and Bluto became Brutus.  Why, I'm not even going to review those.  But Floyd Buckley does what he can, and I did find myself liking it a little better this second go-round.  Three stars.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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