Wednesday, July 09, 2014

I Love You, Bluto ... or Amaranthaceae Now

Well, I certainly can't speak for Famous Studios or Gene Deitch, but I don't think they're the type to march headlong into the heart of darkness as the Fleischers do with our next Popeye short, Fightin Pals. (no apostrophe)  It's the Popeye cartoon you may have heard about, but not necessarily the one you've been waiting for.  As for me, I think I'm ready for it.  It may take me a couple days to adjust, having just seen it all the way through.  The point being, we've been through Popeye cartoons with no Bluto before, and no spinach before... but no Olive?  And Popeye actually longs for Bluto's company?  Has the world gone mad?
Let's start from the beginning.  In this particular clean slate, "Doctor" Bluto is heading out to sea on an African expedition.  I never did figure out if Bluto is a sailor like Popeye.  If so, he never seemed to be affiliated with the Navy.  If he had the means and the inclination, though, he might start his own navy, being the aggressively entrepreneurial type.  (Forgot the last 'e' in entreprenurial!)  And so, Bluto bids Popeye farewell, and they sock each other a few more times for good measure.  Bluto gets the parting shot by throwing an anchor at Popeye, which hits Popeye in the head.  Next scene: Popeye sulking at home.  He mutters to himself "I wish Bluto was here!"  We've gone through the looking glass here, people.  I'm telling you.
And then... the radio!  There's a news flash.  Doctor Bluto has gone missing!  "WHAAA?" says Popeye.  "You heard me," says the radio.  Ooh!  Good distortion.  I love a good viral-type audio hunk.  Anyway, Popeye finally has his mission in life for our current cartoon.  He will go to this distant land the mortals have named Africa, and he will find his Fight Club sponsor, Doctor Bluto!  This was in the days when cartoon characters would travel to "Darkest Africa."  Not so much anymore.  Why, Wackyland is located in Darkest Africa!  Alas, Popeye's adventure isn't as wacky.  More of the fraught with danger type.
First up: a rhino.  But Popeye soon dispatches of this large vicious beast, by turning its horn into a statue.  The rhino sulks away sadly.
From there, we get some of the beasts from Wild Elephinks.  The elephink certainly looks familiar, even if it skews a little Seuss-ish.  Before that, a lion, and this king of the jungle takes a little more time to defeat than the one in Wild Elephinks.  Go figure.  Well, Popeye's stopping to smell the fights this time.  Oh, and he finds clues of Bluto's presence.  Shyeah, right, like he's the only one in Africa with a shoe and a cigar.
And so, after many a weary mile, and imagining the worst (Was Bluto felled by a lion?  Or a happy-looking snake?  Did Bluto die playing Pitfall?), Popeye finally happens upon Bluto.  Bluto is flanked by cartoon babes catering to his every whim.  Well, fanning him and fawning over him, that kinda stuff.  Bluto runs over to the fatigued Popeye.  One of the girls pours coconut juice onto Popeye.  Bluto says "Stop that!  I know what this guy needs" and Bluto takes a can of spinach out of his own shirt pocket.  This is similar to the 1980 Popeye movie, but still different enough.  Popeye is invigorated by the infusion of spinach and, after a Tarzan yell, the situation gets a little formal, as in Learn Polikeness.  There's also another one where Popeye, like a gentleman, invites Bluto into the next room for an ass-kicking, but I forget which one that was.  The internet will surely remember for me?  Anyway, the old chums start beating each other anew, and we iris out to black.
A grand psychological experiment all around.  Where else can you go from there?  Well, there's still seven more on this one, then a whole other volume.  I'm sure the Fleischers will surprise me.  Then again, there is that Famous Studios one where Bluto poisons a spinach crop, and another one where the spinach can develops a mouth.  Whoa, bad acid trip.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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