Sunday, July 14, 2013

Next Popeye: Brotherly Love

See, this is what happens when Bluto's not there to provide counterpoint.


Oh, the opening music's getting too slick.  But they do stop playing when the doors close!  Gotta like that, I suppose.
Anyway, Olive's moving up in the world.  Her newfound stardom has entitled her to certain perks, one of which she's enjoying at the beginning of our next Popeye cartoon, Brotherly Love.  She's the President of a confusing organization called the WBLS, or the Women's Brotherly Love Society.  They're interrupting a perfectly good fight at Patterson Square Garden, no less!  That's clout.  Brought to you by Klout, a Facebook lamprey of a web site.  And even though we're never told what this organization does, audiences of the time must've known what this was a play on.  All we know for sure is two things: 1) they've got a very, very large membership, and 2) they've got a taste for showbiz.  Olive sings a song called "Brotherly Love" over the radio.  Blah.  At one point, she says "Are ya listening, Popeye?"  I'd link directly to it, but you know... the powers that be are cracking down on that feature.
Next scene: Popeye's sitting in a café, doing the Fleischer jiggle, I believe it's called, as he sits there listening to the radio.  Olive finishes the song, and the crackle from the radio stops as well.  "That's a swell idea!" exclaims Popeye.  And so, the seed of a bold new paradigm is planted, and it didn't even require the services of a Mr. Fix-It with dream-hacking technology or anything!  And so, Popeye goes out into the world a new man... or does he?


Popeye asks the buck-toothed waiter for the check, which comes to fifty cents.  Ah, those were the days.  Popeye's mumbling the Brotherly Love song to himself.  "Here you are, handsome!" he mumbles as he pays the fifty cents, when suddenly... could this be a brotherly love moment?  I believe so!  And even though there's a very specific sign behind Popeye's head that says "No Tipping" on it, Popeye gives the waiter a very, very generous tip, singing "Cuz what we need is brotherly love!!!"  The buck-toothed waiter giggles.  I guess the policy will just have to be ignored this time.
Popeye marches out into the world with a new spring in his step.  You know, I've heard this Popeye marching theme before, but I'll get to it again soon enough, I suppose.  I know there was one time he was walking Olive's tiny dog; I think that was it.  Anyway, he's got the orchestral accompaniment as he walks, but there's an extra instrument in the mix: a dippy sounding pennywhistle.  Love it!!!  Off to his next conquest.
Next episode: there's two guys trying to hoist up a safe: a big tall fat guy and a short skinny guy with a mustache who looks like Nintendo's beloved Mario.  And God bless them, they just can't lift that safe up very far.  And then, along comes a Popeye, and there's a change in the air that they're breathing tonight... sorry, I got that damn tape in my car.  Even without spinach, Popeye's still got the strength and talent of ten men, and God bless him for not focusing any of his energies into something lucrative or for the benefit of mankind as a whole.  A one-at-a-timer, that's what he is!  Why, the safe's a mere trifle for him.  All in the name of brotherly love.
(Nitpicking note: Every once in a while, animators make mistakes.  Anything can go wrong somewhere along the line, and sometimes it's more interesting than the film itself.  In this case, check out at 2:16, when the fat dude steps away from the safe.  The rope coiled on the ground is in front of him for a split second!  For shame, Fleischers.  For shame.  See, this is exactly why people love Disney cartoons so much more.)
Next episode: a baseball park (I'm sorry... base-ball park!), where two kids can't afford to get in.  And on top of that, they've only got one hole in the wooden fence to look through!  The fat kid's got a rope for a belt, no less!  "Dude, he's raggin' on your cord."  See also: the Fleischers' The Kids in the Shoe for more cute animated kids.
Popeye sees what the kids are up to.  The fat kid's apparently about to slap the skinny kid, but he sees Popeye and thinks it's the watchman.  They try to run away, but he grabs those two "skiddily-wags."  Then, after giving it some thought, he punches the fence and turns it into some makeshift bleachers.  Popeye stands there majestically holding his pipe a little too long, then hoists the kids into the seats himself.
Next episode: a truly sad case, sitting next to his completely flattened wreck of a car.  The "Brotherly Love" background music switches to a minor key, no less!  Couldn't be worse.  Even Popeye stops to take notice from his prideful stride.  I think he mutters to himself, "Nice job!"  Oh, Popeye.  But spoiler alert: he's able to flick new life into the car much like you or I get dust off a carpet by giving it a good thwack.  You know, where you pick it up with both hands and snap it back down?  Whaddaya call that?  That's what Popeye does to the car.  Oh, and it makes a gee-tar noise much like the ones you always hear in the Warner Brothers cartoons, especially before 1940.
"Thanks, Pap!" says the grateful driver as he drives off.  I guess he couldn't stick around to have Popeye fix his disheveled clothes.


Popeye continues his march at two beats per second, and a vibraphone joins in the orchestral accompaniment.  Damn, they're getting slick.  When suddenly... Popeye comes across a situation that even he alone can't handle.  It's two warring factions of big burly alpha males that have taken to the street to settle a dispute.  That's right... it's the Gas House Boys versus the Boilermakers, a rivalry as old as black ants versus red.  The ugly spectre of photovoltaics wasn't yet on the horizon, as you might know.  Popeye steps just in front of the wriggling angry bodies and says "Gentlemen!  What we need is a little brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrotherly love!"  Something like that.  Popeye gets punched, and a Bluto-ish voice says "THERE'S your brotherly love!"  Oh, snap!  New York audiences must've gotten a kick out of that.  Popeye tries again, and this time he starts singing the "Brotherly Love" song himself.  He ends up standing on the shoulders of the fighting men, and they start punching Popeye.  Popeye starts floating in the air, and he gets punched before he can land!  Lol.  He's kept aloft like a balloon that's not supposed to hit the ground, or your team loses... isn't there a game like that?  Maybe it's more like badminton.  Yes, Popeye's flying around like... like the thing you use in badminton.
Just then... along comes Olive!  She's leading a march of the WBLS.  And much like Popeye earlier, she's marching proudly with her eyes closed.  But when she opens them, she stops to look at the horrors that the two warring factions have unleashed on their quiet little New York community.  She sees Popeye passing out on the sidewalk, but he manages to get in one last loopy round of the "Brotherly Love" chorus.  Two guys fight over which one of them will get to beat the unconscious Popeye with a club.  Fortunately, Popeye wakes up in time and splits the club in two.  You know, like that Bible story!  Popeye ends up getting hit by two clubs.  Ouch.
"I'LL TEACH THEM BROTHERLY LOVE!" says Olive, and tries to take on the warring males by herself.  Unfortunately, she's only got one wooden sign.  She breaks that over someone's head.  Left with only the sign handle, she starts to swing that into the tangled mass of bodies, but someone grabs it from her.  Olive gets punched and flies far away, getting wrapped around a street lamp.  Meanwhile, Popeye's recovered from his double clubbing, but he slowly rises to his feet.  One of the big guys lifts up Popeye's chin to pose him, and Popeye holds still for it.  WHAM!!  Right in Popeye's suggestively shaped chin.  Popeye hits the lamp post, which Olive got off of in time.  The glass part of the post gently tumbles and falls over Popeye's head.  We hear some of the fighting men laughing about it!  Oh, it's spinach time.  This'll give us a good thirty seconds or so of whoop-ass.  Any more than that and... well, Popeye would just look like a bully then.
The dry-looking loose clumps of spinach having been engulfed, Popeye's in full fighting mode.  He's got the light of the lamp post on his closed left eye and he says "Now I teaches them MY way!!!"  So much for this Brotherly Love crap.
Popeye heads straight into the tangled mass of bodies and... poof!  Much like Neo in the second Matrix movie, Popeye scatters the big burly guys and makes a nice clean circle for himself in the street.  All the big burly guys are just sitting there, while Popeye flails his arms wildly about.  Then he slows down to about half that speed and, just as it looks like there's about to be no more fighting, the big guys start stepping up, one by one.  Bad strategic move on their part.  Obviously they didn't watch Can You Take It.  Popeye sends bodies flying, but not too far.  If he killed all the guys, they wouldn't learn the valuable lesson he's trying to teach!  Unconscious guys end up in each other's arms, and one guy has his hands in a prayer pose with a halo over his head.  Aw, how sweet.  Two guys named Clarence and Percival (pronounced "Poicival") end up flying very, very high into the air.  If it weren't a cartoon, they might not make it.


Well, it's some eighty years on, and we can still use some brotherly love!  But I think it's like that one Beatles song that goes "Life is very short, and there's no time for fussing and fighting, my friend."  They were being far too optimistic.  Life is indeed very short, but pretty much all that time is spent fussing and fighting.  Lord of War is probably the most urgent example of that.  But with enough books and films, and enough people to spread their messages, maybe we will slowly win the fight against our worser natures.  As for this particular Popeye cartoon, well, it doesn't bode well for the Battle of the Sexes, I'm afraid.  Popeye's still in a punching frenzy, yet not quite bringing it up to the Fist Tornado that he and Bluto always seem to produce.  In his frenzied state, he mistakenly punches Olive, and right in the face, no less!  But unlike Wild Elephinks, he realizes what he's done and instantly regrets it.  See, in Elephinks, Olive ends up with a gorilla fur coat on, complete with face!  So Popeye punches the gorilla'd-up Olive and laughs.  Here, in the instant case, Popeye ends up hugging the black-eyed Olive and sings one last chorus of "Brotherly Love."  Now, some may say that this glorifies violence against women, but I say IT'S JUST A STUPID CARTOON FROM THE 30S!!!!!  Plenty of contemporary examples to worry about.  I'll give this three stars... it has no 3-D background, for one.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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