Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bluto's Ferry's Day Off

Once again, I should probably recuse myself from our next Popeye cartoon, Bridge Ahoy!  After repeated viewings, it became a childhood favourite, but ... and it's more psychologist couch time here... I did find it a bit traumatic when I saw one particular scene, and probably for the same reason you did.  So let's face our demons and dive right in to another four-star Popeye cartoon.


Still tired of the conventions of the first ten or so Popeye cartoons, it's time for another different song up front... well, the Internet still doesn't have everything!  Nothing on the Yahoo, nor on Lycos... geez, Lycos is still in biz?  Anyway, no information about the song that Bluto sings up front... except for this page, maybe.  Ironic, because it's a very bridge that will put his ferry business out of business in the show.
First scene: a nice river background.  We can see the New York City skyline in the distance, and in the foreground is a sign for Bluto's ferry business.  ("Bluto's Ferry")  Cars are piling into it and... gee, but that's a small ferry!  There must be a bottleneck behind that, and Olive and Popeye are about to get squeezed by it.  There's a capital letter 'B' on the smokestack of the ferry, lol.  Nice background noises as well: there's ambient sounds of a ferry's horn and general traffic.  We've just been watching some Taxi Boys shorts, where not as much care was put into the sound editing, to say the least.
Next scene: Olive's car pulls up and squeaks to a stop.  It finds itself lodged between two trucks.  There's a meat truck behind Olive, and the dorky driver with big buck teeth starts pumping his bulb horn.  "Aw, keep your shirt on!" mumbles Olive.  Now, I know egg-zactly what you're thinking: there's a nice truck-sized space next to Olive's car, but you're totally, totally missing the point.  Right, screenwriters past, present and future?
Bluto comes over to micro-manage the ferry traffic.  "Hey, Skinny!  Drive that junk heap up so that truck can get in!" he barks at Popeye... or is it Olive he's talking to?  Good Lord!  She seems to be driving a European car; the steering wheel's on the right side!!!  "I have no room!" says Olive politely.  "Oh, you have no room, huh?" sneers Bluto.  Popeye says "No!" without moving his lips, lol.  Bluto's solution: he lifts Olive and Popeye out of their car, and pushes the meat truck into the ferry, thereby squishing Olive's car and making enough room.  I wonder how many cars just splashed into the river on the other side of the ferry.  That reminds me!  The meat wagon hasn't stopped by our house lately.  I think they finally figured it out: we get our meat from the gas station like normal Americans.
Needles to say, Popeye protests Bluto's actions.  "You can't do that!" says Popeye.  Bluto doubles down on Tripoli, of course, and he gives Popeye's ugly mug a mighty shove.  Not only that, he winds up first like a pinball machine, then shoves Popeye's face.  We see Popeye's hands hanging on the side of the boat, and only his hands.  I think the animators cut some corners!  Soon enough, Popeye's hands and arms are back together again.  Popeye regains consciousness and trills and twirls his pipe.  "Give it to 'im, Popeye!" says Olive.  Popeye's about to... but then he stops.  Well, first of all, it's awful early in the proceedings, but there's another reason closer to Popeye's heart as a sailor.  He looks at Bluto and says "You're lucky a sailor ain't never allowed to hit a Cap'n on his ship!"  Damn, almost got it the first time.  I forgot the 'never.'  Bluto just laughs, the big fat jerk he is.  "All aboard!" says Bluto as he closes the ferry's gate.  Well!  Bluto follows at least one safety regulation.
Next scene: the series' most notable glutton, J. Wellington Wimpy, is sitting at yon local hamburger stand.  There's a big plate of hamburgers in front of him.  Geez!  It's a pretty huge pile!  Anyway, the ferry sounds a nice falsetto note a couple times.  They're playing Wimpy's second song.  He needs to take the ferry for whatever reason.  Now, here's a crucial plot point I feel like discussing, maybe because I'm kinda hungry.  But it is 11:30pm and I'm trying to cut back on the Taco Bell.  Too much sugar.  Anyway, like Newman and his aversion to broccoli, Wimpy starts to run for the ferry, but he doubles back to grab some more hamburgers.  I think that means he didn't pay for the plate of burgers at the counter.  If he did, wouldn't he make every effort to take all of them with him?  And if Wimpy didn't pay, well, what kind of fool leaves Wimpy alone with such a large pile of burgers?  The kind that won't stay in business very long... thanks to the likes of Wimpy.
And so, his coat pockets stuffed with burgers, Wimpy just barely makes it to the ferry.  Bluto saves Wimpy from falling into the water... but at a price.  "The fare is two bucks!" says Bluto, as he holds Wimpy by the neck of his coat.  Wimpy, he's not... he's not going to do the "gladly pay you Tuesday" bit is he?  For a ferry ride?  He is!  Well, nuts to that.  Bluto tosses Wimpy into the water, sneering "Why you little... BAH!"  I'm with Bluto on that one.  Alas, Wimpy doesn't drown so easy, and he's left in the water repeatedly yelling "ASSISTANCE!  ASSISTANCE!"  Lol.  The nerdy burger glutton.  Popeye saves his sorry ass, of course, using the ferry gate.
Wimpy shakes the water off of himself like a dog.  He sees Bluto, says "Oh!" and starts to run away, lol.  Bluto grabs Wimpy by his actual neck this time, not just his coat neck.  "I said the fare is two bucks!" says Bluto.  Is Wimpy dead?  Maybe he's just scared to death.  And so... it's right then and there that Popeye takes a stand for socialism versus Bluto's mob-backed capitalism.  Ick, I know.  Alas, the fascist dreams of toll roads in America will have to be deferred a little more.  Bluto laughs, and Popeye mutters "Laugh while you can!"


Scene: the bridge proper.  Triumphant music plays because the project has been started.  Now, I'm no engineer, but the bridge is far from finished, and there only seem to be three employees on the job: Popeye, Olive and Wimpy.  I'll leave it to a bridge maker to describe the nightmare that is this bridge.  I mean, only half of the arch is finished!  There's barely enough of the bridge's girders laid out, and they're not even connected to the other side.  Good Lourdes!  Despite all this, we zoom in on the happy workers, hard at work.  They may not be building the bridge as efficiently as possible, but they're doing it in style and having fun.  Olive's on hamburger cooking duty.  She hits the cooked patties tennis style down to Wimpy, who's on rivet cooking duty.  "Thirty Love!" says Olive as the first patty goes down.  Wimpy eats, throws a rivet up to Popeye, who tapdances it into place, rather than using a jackhammer like everyone else does.
"Forty Love!" is the second burger, and "Deuce!" for the third.  However, the gears of the machinery hit a snag, and for once, Popeye screws up his part!  He misses the rivet, but Wimpy catches it in his mouth.  Now, I'm torn on this part.  The humanitarian in me says Jesus!  Wimpy's burning the... heck out of his mouth.  But the sadist in me says, wow.  Twenty-four frames a second on that animation.  Bob Clampett would've made Wimpy too elastic.  But it is just a cartoon, and Wimpy spits out the rivet and cools his mouth with a hand-held bellows.  The humanitarian in me says Jesus!  JUST a bellows?  He needs to go to the emergency room!  Oh, right... cartoon character.  Perfect health in the next scene, unless there's a joke to be had.  Example: that time when Jerry Mouse sawed Tom in half, and in the next scene Tom's got big bandages around his torso.  Huge laughs.
Next scene: Bluto doesn't like all this fancy bridge stuff.  He strokes his chin and decides to go check out the construction site.  There's one ladder up to it and tiny Bluto makes the climb.  Next scene: Popeye's got a jackhammer now!  The hamburgers have apparently run out, but Wimpy's back to normal and throwing rivets faster than ever.  Maybe they should heat the rivets on the level they're at... ah, skip it.  Logic has little place in a cartoon.  Next scene: time for Bluto to throw a monkey wrench into the midst of these three scabs... I mean, hard-working bridge makers.  Bluto picks up a whole girder and sneaks quickly up on Popeye.  Bluto raises the girder and... cool!  Looks like it's in 3-D!  Anyway, back to the action.  Olive sees Bluto and says "Oh Popeye!"  And, once again, it's too late.  Bluto hits Popeye with the girder, and the girder coils around Popeye like a giant Popeye-sized python.  It's either a testament to Popeye's strength or the girder's weakness.  Hope they're not using cheap materials like that French tool that masterminded the destruction of the first Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
Bluto laughs heartily at his handiwork, but Olive's had it with him.  She runs over and puts the rivet catcher over Bluto's head and says "Ha Ha Ha yourself!"
"Crown me with a bucket, eh?" says Bluto, as he starts to violate Olive's personal space.  Olive slowly backs away, and Bluto slowly advances on her.  Next scene: kewl!  An actual 3-D Fleischer background of the bridge!  Now, sure, I could nitpick and point out that the section of bridge that they're on is the curved arch, and that this part is straight... but never mind.  I know Pixar can do it much better, but that's beside the point.  And so... we come to the childhood trauma part.  Olive reaches the end of the bridge and falls, but her smart foot catches her at the last possible second.  And so, she's dangling there by her shoe.  Let's see... what can Bluto do to torture her a little more?  Why, tickle her foot, of course!  Olive laughs, then beats herself up for laughing.  Arguably, it's a rather unusual position to find yourself in.
Popeye's sense of outrage is touched by all this.  His pipe twirls, and he finally finds a reason to get himself out of that twisted girder that has him trapped.  He still has to untwirl himself after dis-girdering, lol.  And then, Popeye gets on his pogo stick, the jackhammer, and he wails.  Time to use that 3D background again!  Popeye ain't even had spinach yet, but he's able to turn the tables on Bluto by flipping the whole girder he's on.  Ah, cartoons.  Anything's possible.
And so, Bluto's now the one hanging on for dear life.  Olive gets some revenge by trying to step on Bluto's fingers.  Popeye does the Fleischer jiggle as he watches.  Olive eventually figures out that she can't get Bluto by stepping on his fingers with one foot, so she tries both at the same time.  Bluto plummets to Earth, but doesn't quite land in the river.  He grabs onto a rope and quickly climbs back up.  Damn, but he must have arms stronger than most people's legs!
Bluto's back on the bridge and he breaks off the rope.  I like the music when he pulls the rope up.  Good flourish!  Meanwhile, Popeye and Olive have made the mistake of not keeping an eye on Bluto.  "Well, I guess we took care of him!" Popeye mumbles.  Suddenly... now, things often have the habit of assembling themselves in Fleischer cartoons, and cartoons in general sometimes suspend the normal rules of entropy.  In this case, Bluto uses his bit of rope on Popeye, and the rope wraps itself around Popeye, tying him to a vertical girder of the bridge.  Time for Bluto to have a little fun with Popeye, mostly using his head as a punching bag.  Wimpy sees this and gets outraged... well, outraged about something, anyway.
And so, after giving Popeye about as severe a concussion as he can, Bluto stands there stroking his chin, trying to think of the next deviltry.  Bluto doesn't have to wait long for inspiration, however, as Popeye soon provides it.  Popeye is helpless when he's tied up, so he has to break off the whole girder instead.  Bluto starts walking away, and Popeye beans him with the girder.


Bluto plummets to the ground, but quickly shakes it off.  He's resting at the bridge's foundation.  Now, Popeye's pretty strong when it comes to these girders, but Bluto's just as strong, and soon enough, he's twisting some of the foundational girders out of shape.  And then, with one mighty lift, Bluto lifts the whole bridge, then drops it, and the whole thing crumbles into the river.  The animation is epic.
Our trio of heroes lightly splashes into the water, and they quickly dog paddle their way back to shore.  Meanwhile, Bluto's looking around for something to do, or something to hit Popeye with, more likely.  Popeye emerges from the water and climbs to the summit of the mountain of fallen girders.  "Hey!" says Bluto.  Oh, it's spinach time.  It is so spinach time.  Popeye's left arm starts spinning like a plane's propellor.  God bless him, Bluto hasn't learned his lesson yet.  He picks up one of the smaller girders and starts to go after Popeye again.  One punch from Popeye, and Bluto sails far away, taking his ferry with him as well.  The ferry flies across the river and into a building on the other side!  Such wanton destruction.  But that's the bridge business for you.
And then... wait a second!  Two helpings of spinach in the same pic?  Oh, this is unprecedented... or is it?  Ah, it's probably happened already.  Gee, too bad I didn't keep better track of such things!  Anyway, Popeye's no Luddite, and he bends a girder into the shape of a giant magnet.  A second helping of spinach turns the girder into said magnet, thereby inspiring the beginning of the Beatles song I Feel Fine.


And so, with one swell foop, Popeye and his magnet builds the bridge entire in about four seconds.  Again, more waterworks... you know, botched face lift and what not.  Notice how cars are already starting to use the bridge even though it hasn't been finished yet!  What a story to tell your grandkids!  Kinda like how people used to see how fast they could drive cross country when the roads were first being built.
Last scene: our three heroes are driving across the bridge.  Popeye sings "This is the berries.  You don't need the ferries with Popeye the Sailor Man!"  Who knew?  Even sailors can embrace technological change, as there are some societal problems that even the best of boats can't handle.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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