Thursday, June 06, 2013

Rollercoaster Rascals

Sigh.  Changing of the guard.  According to Wikipedia, Jack Mercer officially takes over here as the voice of Popeye with King of the Mardi Gras.  It's undisputed, but we'll get to the disputed ones soon enough, and I will decide who does the voice.  Yeah, you heard me...........


Dayamn!  An exact replica, practically!  For those of you old timers who remember the Roger Rabbit cartoon from 1990 called Rollercoaster Rabbit.. poor Steven Spielberg, he has to peddle it for free on the YouTubes.  Anyway, these two have similar opening scenes, but I think the Fleischer version kicks more ass, don't you folks?  Check out that 3D rollercoaster, for God's sake!  ...oh, and try to ignore the racist caricature of a black guy with a balloon-like face holding a balloon with a face on it.  It might be hard to do, I know.  But isn't that a silly gag?  Guys with weird heads holding balloons that look like normal human heads in comparison... oh, never mind... oh, for God's sake!  They repeat him!  Otherwise, an epic opening scene, and I don't use the word lightly.  Let's see Disney do something that good!
Anyway, as we scroll through this festive 3D stereoscopic background, we get to the Bluto part of the fair.  Apparently, this all takes place in Louisiana... or maybe it's Coney Island, I honestly don't know.  We focus on Bluto's banner.  It says "Bluto the Great," of course.  His shtick this time is that he walks a wire, swallows twenty knives... and dives 100 feet into a thimbleful of water while shaving at the same time!  Lol.  At some point, these acts of showmanship went too far and were called off entirely.  But for now, it's the cartoons and anything's possible.
We scroll to the right over to Bluto proper.  In addition to all the other stuff, he's a song and dance man as well!  Time for a rousing rendition of "King of the Mardi Gras" courtesy of the great Gus Wickie.  I swear he's done work for the Fleischers before in other capacities.  I'm thinking of Bimbo's Initiation in particular... ah, skip it.  Anyway, back to the action.  After Bluto sings a few bars, we scroll over to the right some more, where we see Popeye's part of the fair.  Clearly, Bluto has the hearts and minds, including Olive Oyl.  Popeye sings his same old boring theme song, then wonders why nobody cares.  Poor Popeye.  You'll bring 'em back around, I'm sure.  Popeye's got Wimpy for an assistant... at least, as long as Popeye can bring home the bacon to add to Wimpy's hamburgers.  Wimpy would change loyalties in a New York heartbeat, of course.
Back to Bluto, ever the consummate showman.  He takes an egg out of his pocket, bounces it around on his biceps (take that, Michael Moschen!), and eventually cracks the damn egg over his own head!  Raw egg runs down Bluto's face and everything!  However, he does eventually wipe it away, and then he shows the audience his bitchin' chest tattoo.  It starts off as a mouse, but he's able to turn it into an elephant.  There's an irony there someplace.  Maybe the tattoo will eventually get an identity crisis and get scared of itself.
Popeye's had enough.  Time for HIM to sing "King of the Mardi Gras."  Clearly he's spoiling for a fight, and I think Bluto's probably going to give him one.  Notice that Popeye's stage seems to be an old door propped up on barrels.  Lol.  Popeye shows off the tattoo on his back of a battleship.  Back to Bluto who looks at Popeye with anger.  "Trying to steal my show, eh?" Bluto mumbles... I think.  Why, Popeye's worse than Milton Berle!  Bluto picks up a dumbbell and heaves it at Popeye's back.  Now a move like that might kill you and me, and Popeye does seem a little taken aback, but ultimately he's okay... but his tattoo unfortunately doesn't survive the impact.  Bluto has a nice laugh over it, anyway.  And if THAT ain't an Act break, why, I don't know what is.


"Look closely, folks!" says Bluto, drawing the crowd's attention back to himself and away from Popeye.  Now that's showmanship... I guess.  Bluto says "Hocus pocus!" and makes a goldfish bowl appear from thin air.  He then makes a stick appear, and he balances the goldfish bowl with the stick on the end of his nose.  Then, he juggles two sets of three balls with both hands.  The crowd erupts with applause.  Yeah, yeah, very impressive... when does he swallow the knives?
"What a man!  What a man!" says Olive.  Oh, it's time for Popeye to retaliate, no doubt about it... you know what?  What Popeye does is so lame and petty in comparison, I'm not even going to bother to describe it.  Needles to say, he sabotages Bluto's act, and the crowd starts laughing at Bluto rather than riding Popeye out of town on a rail.  That's loyalty for ya!  Sheesh!!!
The crowd goes over to Popeye.  Now it's Popeye's turn to be the entertainer.  "Uh, would you mind stepping up here, young man?" Popeye mumbles to Wimpy.  Jack Mercer seems to be saying it as though he's doing a bad ventriloquism act!  Lol.  Yeah, yeah, Popeye's great and all.  He lifts Wimpy and the chair he's sitting in with one hand, and with one corn cob pipe.  Somehow, Popeye just doesn't have the same sense of showmanship that Bluto has, but the crowd is now in Popeye's corner and they applaud, of course.
For Popeye's next trick, he requires the services of a young lady from the audience.  At this crucial juncture, Bluto tries to fight back on a level playing field.  He takes a snake out of its basket and ties a snake tie around his neck.  The snake starts strangling him, but no one cares!  Man, but Coney Island audiences are tough.  Back to Popeye, already phoning it in with Olive "floating" in the air.  He even does the same lame hoop move!  Lol.  And yet, the Fleischers aren't notorious for giving away the magician's trade secrets.  We pan slightly down to see that Olive's resting atop a platform.  First of all... ah, skip it.  Back to Bluto who uses the same snake as a lasso to steal Olive back for himself.  Time to saw a woman in half.
Back to Popeye... hmm!  His stage looks a little different... he's going to smash it, isn't he?  He IS!  I knew it.  Time to save Olive from that crazed, desperate impresario called Bluto.  Spoiler alert: Olive isn't a consummate professional like Bluto, and she ruins the illusion.  And at the crucial moment, too!  Oh well.  Bluto has a good laugh anyway.  The audience... well, this audience is a lost cause at this point, IMHO.
Popeye takes Bluto's stage and says "Gimme me goil!"  Oh, men and their turf.  Bluto punches Popeye, and Olive hits Bluto over the head with the other half of the box that was still on her.  Olive takes off running without her shoes.  Bluto gives chase, as does Popeye.  We see Olive running desperately away with no shoes like a chicken.  She eventually comes to the rollercoaster, and climbs aboard the nearest empty car in order to get away from Bluto.  Oh, it's indeed time for Act Three.


All three of the principals are now riding on the "Scenic Railway."  "Nobody's gonna take my girl for a ride!" says Popeye as he also illegally climbs aboard, right after Bluto.  Next scene: the three principals each fly past the "camera" in their coaster cars.  Next scene: we follow Olive alone for a while as she goes down a giant rollercoaster hill in agony, and with no shoes to boot.
Next scene: we see a rather rickety section of track that shimmies as each of the three principal cars passes.  Lol.  Next scene: a section of track that's arranged in such a way that Bluto's able to get in one punch at Popeye.  Lol.  He'll pay for it later, of course.  Popeye catches his pipe in midair.  Next scene: an ode to M.C. Escher's mobius strip, perhaps?  Next scene: Bluto punches Popeye AGAIN!  Oh, that's just mean.  Next scene: an homage to A Dream Walking... oh, I think you know the part I mean... but here's the link anyway.  Boy, what is it with the Fleischers and the Star of David?
Next scene: Bluto decides to play dirty.  He gets out of his car at the top of a crest and punches Popeye in his car as he approaches.  Popeye goes flying, presumably to his death, but lands in a car far below.  He might be in traction for a while at least.  Olive comes up behind Bluto and gives Bluto a good kick that sends him flying rather far!  Who knew she was so strong?  "Get lost!" she says.  But as in Axe Me Another, it's all a ruse to get Bluto and Popeye close together.  They end up in the same car, and a mild Fist Tornado breaks out as they speed downhill.  Alas, Popeye hasn't eaten his spinach yet, and Bluto gets the better of him with a solid punch.  Popeye goes flying.  Next scene: it's a little hard to describe simply, but I'll do my best.  Popeye falls, and gets lodged in a section of track with just his head sticking up.  Bluto's car rolls over him, but Popeye's able to duck his head down just in time.  Then another car swooshes past, but Popeye ducks his head down.  Hmm!  This might make it tough for him to eat some spinach!  Fortunately for Popeye, there's a space where no cars are threatening to run over his head, so out comes the spinach.  Popeye doesn't make any radical chewing noises or anything, unfortunately, but the transformation begins in proper.
Now that he's all jacked up on spinach, it's time for some red hot revenge.  But how?  Using his creativity and light fingers, Popeye takes the wheels of the chain that were once next to his head.  Hey, if the management of the place has a problem with that, where were they when Popeye could've used their help?  Screw those guys.  And so, with a mere two wheels to aid him, Popeye sticks the wheels into his shoes, turning himself into his own rollercoaster car.  Off he goes to kick Bluto's ass and save Olive's sorry ass.
Next scene: All right, enough of that "3-D" stuff; time for a long shot.  Even when all jacked-up on spinach, there's some things Popeye still can't quite do.  But he eventually gets over the one hill, then completely jumps a gap between two using all that potential energy saved up.  And then... now that's a Mobius strip!  After blowing our minds, time to catch up to Bluto and kick his ass.  And now Popeye's within range.  And it figures; he's closing in on Bluto while on an especially wavy part of the rollercoaster's track.  You know, just to make it more difficult.  And as with Wimpy in the chair, Popeye holds aloft the car with Bluto in it.  Popeye has to maintain his center of gravity during this part... here's the similar sequence from Roller Coaster Rabbit.
And then... Popeye throws Bluto's cart, and it goes falling through the atmosphere!  It lands on a track and keeps going, but still... unbecoming of a movie hero, I'm afraid.  Next scene: Popeye's at ground level now.  Bluto's approaching, so Popeye takes the piece of track that Bluto's on, rips it from its place, and flicks it like a piece of carpet.  Bluto goes flying all the way back up to the top of the crest, riding the wave that Popeye made.  Bluto loses his car and goes flying all the way back down to Popeye.  At just the right moment, Popeye punches Bluto and Bluto goes flying.  Revenge officially achieved.  Bluto lands head first on one of those damn Test Your Strength games that always seems to be in these shorts.  The dial hits the bell three times, so the vendor puts three cigars in Bluto's mouth.  I don't know if it's a testament to Popeye's strength or Bluto's bulk.  Maybe both.


So, where's Olive in the midst of all this madness, you might ask?  Well, here she comes!  She's approaching the spot where Popeye first dismounted, and Popeye has to catch her car as it goes flying off the track.  Oh, that's a violation.  A clear violation of federal and Coney Island statutes and limitations.  They gotta shut that damn place down right now and fix that.  Totally fix that... sorry, forgot to take my anti-histrionics.  But I just hate things like that that can get non-cartoon people killed.  And so, with Olive saved, Popeye sings his same old tired theme song, but this time he declares himself King of the Mardi Gras instead.
Final verdict?  Oh, I don't know.  Not bad, but not four stars.  Maybe I'm just not in the right mood or something.  Let's call it three and a half.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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