Friday, May 24, 2013

James Cameron's "Popeye of the Deep"

Dizzy Divers... what is this?  A Stooge flick?


Some fun, eh kid?  ...sorry, wrong one again.  God, I love that part.  Okay, on to the next one.  Circle-wipe on a scene that's destined to eventually erupt: two rival deep sea diving companies side by side!  On Stage Left, we have Bluto and his assistant Wimpy, and on Stage Right we have Popeye and his loyal assistant Olive Oyl.  Popeye calls to Bluto.  Bluto emerges from his ship and bellows "Hello, Popeye!"  Then, their two ... geez, how to describe this... I did this for a living once!  Describing books on audio tape.  The billowing smoke from each of their ships turns into giant arms, and the hands shake hands.  Oh, that's going to be my new facebook wallpaper.
Ugh.  Don't look at the animation on the water, whatever you do.  Especially if you're picky like me  Anyway, Popeye, in the spirit of brotherhood, invites Bluto over for a job.  Did I foreshadow it enough already?  SPOILER ALERT.
Next scene: the inside of Popeye's ship, where Bluto enjoys a rare contemplative moment.  'Tis some sort of treasure map!  After a lot of mumbling to himself... I thought only Popeye did that!  Go figure... Bluto has figured out the best course to take.  Well, I hate to say it, but it's time to stretch out time a little bit.  Not that the dialogue isn't good, mind you.  And so, Bluto draws a long wavy path on the map towards the treasure.  Popeye kills his buzz by drawing a straight line to it... gee, I wonder who copied that bit later on to greater notoriety?  BUSTED!!!  PLAGIARIST!!!  Hah!... ah, no one cares. (wipes away tear)
And so, Bluto is forced to agree that Popeye's idea is better, but he still don't look too happy about it.  "Now, look!" says Popeye.  However, rather than rubbing it in, Popeye lifts the tab on the map with that fancy-schmancy "X" on it that's always on treasure maps.  Or maybe he is rubbing it in, in a way?  Anyway, Popeye lifts the tab, and it shows a shipwreck.  "There's the wreck," says Popeye.  Popeye lifts the shipwreck tab to show a picture of a chest.  "There's the treasure!" says Popeye.  I assume it's somewhere in the shipwreck.  Anyway, note the weird look in Bluto's bulging eyes, the slobbering expression on his face.  Telltale signs of an altruistic soul, of course.  And as in Jim Jarmusch's 1995 deconstructionist Western Dead Man, Popeye insists on starting right away, even though it's already well into the afternoon, and no one's even had their nap yet!  What a pushy guy.  However, Bluto wants to git that treasure, and he wholeheartedly agrees.  Now, here's the tricky part.  Popeye says "Fifty fifty!"  And even though Bluto shakes Popeye's hand, Bluto's mind gets a slightly different idea...


And so, Bluto has slugged Popeye, leaving Popeye spinning in his chair.  Bluto grabs the map and takes off.  Olive rushes to Popeye's side, even though she apparently doesn't know what just happened.  Popeye comes to and goes out on deck to see Bluto sailing away, waving the map in a goodbye fashion.  Alpha dog of the week... interesting effects shot, by the way.  They must've used a really large background and zoomed in close on it, then slowly pulled back.  And even though it's in black and white, I think they knew how to do "green screen" type effects anyway.  I doubt they had a second layer of glass mounted to the actual camera with cels of Bluto on it, anyhow... Cabarga?
And so, Bluto never learns.  Hasn't he figured out yet that Popeye's just going to keep kicking his ass over and over, even though he's a puny and goofy-looking?  Sometimes Bluto figures it out, but God bless him, he just doesn't remember the next day, or the next film.
"I'll see you at the last roundup!"  This is one of the things Popeye mutters as he prepares to set sail for the treasure.  Snapping the rope holding the boat to the dock, Popeye pushes the ship out to sea as far as he can from the pier, then jumps on at the last last possible second!  Now I know it's just a cartoon and all, but the Fleischers rotoscoped these things, you know.  Real enough.
Next scene: the deep sea proper, where Popeye grows unhappy with the forward progress of his vessel.  "Wotsa matta?" he says.  And so, in order to speed things up and catch up with Bluto, he tosses a rowboat out in front of his ship and starts rowing!  Lol.  Well, even without his spinach, he's still pretty strong.  Next scene: so strong, in fact, that his vessel's flying above the waves!  Must be fun to watch this after smoking a lot of weed.  And now Popeye's passing Bluto.  We could tell he was gaining on Bluto because of the smoke from Bluto's ship.  Lol.  And now it's Popeye in the lead by two boat lengths... three!  Four!  FIVE!!!
Next scene: the "X" that marks the spot is conveniently floating in the ocean.  Lol.  Take that, Zemeckis and the beginning credits of your What Lies Beneath!!!  And now, Popeye's approaching the giant floating "X".  Why, Popeye looks like a flea compared to it!  That X is HUGE!!!  Popeye stops and flies into the air, landing on the deck of his main vessel, and begins to don the deep sea diving equipment he needs to get to the undersea treasure.  He's not Superman, after all!  He does a perfect landing on deck right into his boots, and he starts to put on his deep sea diving coat.  Lol.  They dived in style in his day.  However, since the beginning of time, man has been consistently plagued by two seemingly mutually exclusive arch nemeses: gravity and zippers.  In this instance, the zipper on Popeye's deep sea diving coat gets stuck.  And it couldn't come at a worse time, for up comes laughing Bluto, practically already in his suit, and therefore practically halfway to the treasure.  Bluto secures his helmet into place by pounding on his chest.  Lol.  A smiling Wimpy gleefully hooks up Bluto's airline, and down dives Bluto.  "Aw, give him a head start," says Popeye.
Next scene: a nice cutaway view of the ocean, as though it were captured in a big-ass fishtank, with Bluto in the lead heading down to the treasure.  Don't go too fast now, or you'll get the bends!  Meanwhile, back on the surface, Olive's still lifting Popeye's helmet up.  Jeez, he'll never get down there in time now!  Notice that Popeye's diving helmet has extra room in the chin.  Lol.  And so, with his helmet very loosely fastened, in the same manner as people rub their eyes when they can't believe what they're seeing, Popeye hops onto the ship's anchor.  Using it like a pogo stick, he leaps over the side, while Olive begins pumping Popeye's air.  If Popeye doesn't get the bends, no one will.  Popeye "skeet-scat"s past Bluto in this literal race to the bottom.
nEXT SCENE... God, I hate when I do that.  NExt sce... man, I wish I enrolled in that typing class this quarter.  Next scene: the ocean floor proper.  Popeye lands and heads over to the shipwreck.  Is that an electric eel swimming close to him?  I guess this isn't the time for that yet.  But first, Popeye turns on his windshield wipers.  Lol.  Always gotta do that.  Okay, NOW is the time to head over to the treasure.  And, of course, it wouldn't be right unless there was some sort of challenge for the workers in the Fleischer factory, so Popeye walks behind a wooden piece of the ship, then what looks like an underwater cactus.  And so, like a video game, Popeye arrives at two giant safe doors.  Lol.  If only all treasure were so conveniently located.  Does anyone remember hearing about those giant natural deposits of gold off the coast of Australia or somewhere?  Oh, there must be someone trying to steal that stuff.
Anyway, back to Popeye at the doors of the giant safe... hmm!  They seem to be stuck!  Time to fire up the old corn cob pipe acetylene torch!  That'll cut through anything, lol.  ...whoa, dude!  Popeye's circumventing the doors and turning the safe into a breadbox instead.  Epic!  Iconic!  Game-changing!  And speaking of game changing, down finally comes Bluto.  Gee, you'd think he'd drop a lot faster seeing as how he's such a tub of... well, anyway, he finally hits bottom.  At about the same time, Popeye finishes up the welding job, then gives the safe the old "Wham!" punch.  Right behind the safe appears a saber-toothed shark.  Popeye quickly cooks its bacon.  Oh, now the Fleischers are just ripping themselves off.  But I am a video junkie, so here's a link right to the moment of contact.
And so, with the underwater guardian of the treasure defeated, Popeye goes over to lift up the trunk.  Alas, tis a bit too heavy for him.  Gee, but I hate to see that.  As Popeye's tugging away, Bluto comes walking up carrying a hammer, just like people on the New York subway.  Bluto hits Popeye in the face, and Popeye goes sailing backwards about twenty feet.  Dayamn!  That would kill you or me, of course.  Gee, but I hate to see Popeye take a light beating like that.  Next scene: Bluto hit Popeye so hard that Popeye's pipe is now inside his helmet!  Lol.  Have I been saying that too much in this review?  Probably, but it's too late to turn back now.  Speaking of which, Popeye takes advantage of the underwater environment by sailing at Bluto like a torpedo.  Popeye hits Bluto in the head with his own head, and Bluto flies back.  "Ohhhhhh!" says Bluto.  Bluto's getting ready to strike back, when he turns and looks... why, it's a mean-looking octopus and its shadow floating behind him!  That's just what the doctor ordered.  "I'll crown him with this spider," Bluto mutters... and he does.  Popeye starts swearing up a semi-blue streak, but can you blame him?  He can't always keep his cool like Bruce Willis!
Which reminds me.  Did you happen to notice the lack of music during this part?  It just occurred to me.  GENIUS!  Of course, it'll probably start up when Popeye eats the spinach, as you would expect.  Anyway, Popeye's new set of octopus eyes is quickly disposed of.  One punch, and the twisty-armed octopus straightens out.  A second punch, and it starts rolling, picking up Bluto along the way, and with Bluto's oxygen line, the whole thing turns into a wagon-wheel shape in the process.  LOL.  The octopus lands in a heap next to Bluto. :(. come its one tentacle is standing up straight?... oh, okay.  They both hit a mirror-like wall.
Back to Popeye struggling once again with the chest.  Alas, Popeye's too busy struggling to look up and see Bluto bearing down on him avec hammer in hand.  Bad move.  No, see, you're only supposed to not notice the other guy when you're in a bar and you're hitting on his girlfriend.  Oh, and you're only supposed to do that if you're richer, bigger or know more kung fu than the other guy, basically.  Do the Sy Ableman Shuffle!  Why not?


And so, having smited Popeye with the hammer, but on top of his head this time so he flies down into the chest rather than away from it, Popeye seems to be down for the count.  He is now Bluto's plaything to do with as Bluto pleases.  And Bluto's got a Duesenberg of a dilly lined up for an unconscious Popeye.  It's the old giant Venus-less clam that only seems to be in cartoons like this.  And for those of you who don't get it, it snaps shut on a tiny fish first, and licks its giant clam lips with a rather human-looking tongue.  LOL!!!  So, now that that's been established, time for Popeye to go in.  Fortunately, Popeye isn't digested as quickly.  "I never liked oysters on the halfshell anyway!" grumbles Popeye.  Damn, he's in a tight spot, and he's not ashamed to admit it this time.  Time to send the pipe beacon to the surface, and fast!
Next scene: the surface.  The hose unhooks, and Popeye's pipe toots twice.  That's all Olive needs to hear.  (The pipe quickly goes back down to Popeye, Lol)  She frantically reaches for the spinach, removes the can from its holster (a pick-a-nic basket LOL!!!), triumphantly holds it up for all to see, and then proceeds to jam it into the oxygen hose to send down to Popeye.  "There you are," says Olive.  Awww...  ...did anyone else notice that the camera couldn't stop zooming in on the can of spinach?  I thought only Art Davis did that in some of his Ant & Aardvark shorts.  Bush league, guys, Bush league.
And so, having digested the lump of spinach, Popeye finds the strength to free himself from the iron jaw of the giant clam.  He shows mercy on the clam as it snaps back shut, but Bluto will not be so lucky, I predict.  Meanwhile, Bluto uses the old leverage trick to free the trunk from its place in the ocean floor.  I guess Popeye just wasn't massive enough to do that, lol.  What is it with Popeye and trunks?  And so, the opposite scenario presents itself!  Bluto does all the work of freeing the trunk, and Popeye now moves in for the glory!  Surely Popeye won't stop being the hero now?  Popeye the penny pincher?  A greedy little coward like Daffy Duck?  Popeye starts shaking his ass and catching up to Bluto, on his way to the surface, with the trunk in his arms like an underwater newborn babe.  Popeye opens Bluto's helmet and punches him in the face.  Bluto sinks out of sight.  Oh, dude, somehow that seems uncool.  And then... it happens AGAIN!!!  I know Bluto has it coming and all, but still.  Popeye's holding all the cards now.  The third time is apparently too much for Bluto, and Popeye helps him to the surface this time.  Wotta pal.  Next scene: there's fish swimming around in Bluto's helmet.  Oh, that's just not nice.  But it is a cartoon, and Bluto always survives for his next beating.
Next scene: we're almost to the surface when... oh, snap!  Bluto punches the chest out of Popeye's grasp and it plummets to the ocean floor a second time; the first being when the ship it was in sank in the first place.  Seems like the safe it was in was more valuable!  Probably heavier too.  It may have fit within the Plimsoll line, but it was ultimately too heavy for the ship to hold it.  Unfortunately, Popeye wasn't much of a multi-tasker, and he wouldn't survive in today's job market.  He's a "First things first" kinda man.  And so, first things first.  Time to enjoy a brief break back at the surface, and time to take out the trash... nope, better rewrite that.  Popeye stands on the deck of his ship and starts twirling Bluto around like some kind of child's toy with a string on it.  Bluto's oxygen line must be pretty damn strong!  "Ibbidy-bibbidy-BAM!" says Popeye, and he sends Bluto rocketing to the sea floor.  Oh, I don't want to see him land, methinks... wow.  Have you seen the trailers for the "new" Superman movie?  There's the one part where he flies up into the air like the Space Shuttle.  Oh, the visual effects of that.  Much like Bluto plummeting to the ocean floor here: body surrounded by shock waves; the sonic boom... but under the ocean in this case.  Poor whales!  And so, Bluto gets buried in the ocean floor himself, but he hits a board before that.  On the other side of that board?  The treasure chest, of course.  And so... like that same damn "Test your Strength" game that seems to be a recurring theme of these damn Popeye cartoons, the chest flies to the surface and right into Popeye's arms.  But even in Spinach Mode, Popeye's no match for the chest.  Thank God Olive's there to keep Popeye from falling into the ocean!


The chest drops onto the deck of the S.S. Popeye and opens, revealing gold doubloons.  Probably some triploons and quadrooploons as well!  God bless Yahoo!, they've got everything.  Well, everything important to our web-based culture, anyway.  ("...he's Jack."  LOL) 
Olive and Popeye sift through the treasure, thinking of how they're going to spend the money: un-ugly clothes for Olive, and a spinach farm for Popeye.  Meanwhile, Bluto makes a very very quick recovery and starts to climb aboard Popeye's vessel.  So what's Wimpy?  Chopped hamburger?
Bluto's still clinging to the side when he cries "Hey!  We said fifty fifty!"  And so, Bluto asks for mercy and fair play where he initially showed Popeye none.  Ain't it always the way?
"Right!" says Popeye, and he splits the chest in half over his knee.  Dayamn, that's tough love.  He gives Bluto his half of the treasure, and the moral fabric of the Movie Hero universe is re-threaded anew, and a little bit stronger for it.  However, Popeye does deck Bluto, sending him into the sea, and he drops Bluto's half of the treasure on Bluto's head, so alas, all is not forgotten.  Well, Popeye was never meant to be a conventional movie hero.  Have you ever read any of those old Popeye cartoons?  Oh, they nasty!
Anyway, the last shot of the pic looks like it took more trouble than it was worth, so leave us dwell on it a second or two.  Popeye says "I always keeps me woid, 'coz I'm....."  We know, Popeye, we know...

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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