Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Diaper Elite

Welp, school season starts anew for me, so once again I won't be able to devote the kind of quality time to my... homework that it deserves.  Kinduva shame, really, as we're getting into the really juicy Popeye cartoons now, ones whose titles I won't fully type out.  But for now, we're stuck with a boring old one with Popeye and Olive and the triumphant return of Li'l Swee'pea.  Why, I can't even remember the last time he was in a Popeye short!  If only there was a blog................................

ACT ONE

As you can probably divine from the title, Baby Wants a Bottleship, we're still stuck in the naval shipyards with Popeye guarding the coast once again, and the enemies aren't generic anymore, not like in The Mighty NaVy.  Oh, they're all too real now, and turned into inhuman caricatures.  Why, Hitler is even mentioned by name in this one! ... sorry, I watched ahead again.  And now the hard part of picking up the pieces begins.  On a side note, we're binge-watching Homeland right now.  We're up to season 3 already!  It'll be interesting to see how it all gets pieced together by the time we get to Season 4... which we've watched already.  Well, that's how it works sometimes.  And this time.  Anyway, we get an opening segment with a display of Popeye's non-spinach prowess.  Using only his mighty pocketknife, he takes a big cube of wood and whittles it down into a tiny toy ship for Swee'pea... thereby wasting about 99.5% of the rest of the wooden block.  Ancient cartoon tradition.  You know, like that time the Warner Brothers Chip and Dale equivalents went into a factory, and we got a demonstration of how the toothpick machine creates a toothpick out of a whole sequoia.  Olive thanks Popeye for the gift, then immediately sets off to go shopping, leaving Popeye to care for Swee'pea all by his stony lonesome.  The parents' nightmare scenario comes back to life.  Like George Romero's zombies, it never really dies; it just goes behind the barn and lays eggs... oh, wait, that was Critters 1.  Hard to believe that Stephen Herek used to have panache!

ACT TWO

And so, as all kids know, the world's one big gyp.  I mean, a toy ship will only take you so far in this life.  And there he is!  In the naval yards, with a giant ship in front of him!  Swee'pea puts two and two together, and realizes the giant boat is nothing but a large version of his lame toy boat.  He'd rather have the big one!  Kinda like how a slug will pick the pile of sugar over the pile of salt every time, as long as the slug hasn't ingested too much of the salt.
...sorry, gotta cut this short.  But one thing's clear: somehow these episodes seem stretched a little thin to me.  Maybe they've always been that way, but the Fleischer imagination used to be able to mask that.  But Swee'pea does manage to eventually get aboard that battleship, and almost instantly atop the tallest mast.  Notice that the music is the Jeep's new theme!  Popeye runs up the mast to save Swee'pea, but only makes things worse, of course.  Swee'pea ends up falling through the air, and Popeye's shoe gets caught on a wire.  Every parents' nightmare made celluloid.  There's one shot of Swee'pea flying in a parabolic path that should be especially troubling to parents.
Swee'pea ends up on one of the ship's larger guns.  Popeye tries to help, but seems to end up worse than Swee'pea.  Popeye ends up getting bounced around like a pinball, with the gun acting as flipper.  Then Popeye ends up getting caught in the uncovered gears of the guns, ending up worse than Chaplin in Modern Times by far.  Much time and treasure is expended afterward getting excess gun parts out of Popeye's full head.  The spinach gulping sound is made when Popeye coughs up a very very wide gear.  But isn't that the joy of cartoons?  So much for Kliban's old maxim of never eating anything larger than your own head!  In cartoons, all is possible!
There's a sequence with the ship's anchor ("This should only happen to Hitler!" quips Popeye), and then Popeye falls into the ship's largest steam pipe.  But the big sequence is where Popeye runs afoul of the ship's gun again, but circumstances have arranged themselves so that he gets fired out of the gun and into one of the ship's topmost vents.  The sequence thereafter clearly spared the animators some heartache, but taxed the sound effects department, the background department and... most noticeably, the camera department.  All those readjustments of the camera must've been a big pain in the ass.

ACT THREE

That last big fall through the ship was so great, in a bad way, that it ends up dislodging Popeye's spinach can.  Meanwhile, Olive returns from shopping and is horrified to find that Popeye failed at the modest task that was his charge.  Olive runs aboard the ship.  Meanwhile, Swee'pea managed to find himself a torpedo on wheels, which he promptly fires up and rides around the ship... thereby inspiring the finale of Conrad the Sailor... or did Conrad come first?  According to the IMDb, Conrad beat Bottleship by five months!  RIPOFF!!  Oh well.  Not as blatant as Rhapsody Rabbit / The Cat Concerto.
Olive tries to stop Swee'pea, but eventually ends up at Popeye's unconscious side.  Olive force feeds Popeye the spinach, and Popeye slowly wakes up.  When Popeye puts two and two together, and sees that Swee'pea's heading straight for a room marked "Explosives"... where would cartoons be without those?  Popeye's parenting instincts kick in and he wolfs down the spinach much faster.  Popeye turns into a freak and saves the day... or does he?  He gets Swee'pea and the room of explosives out of harm's way, but the torpedo on wheels ends up exploding anyway!  And so, Popeye eats several cans of spinach, flies into the stratosphere and spins the world backwards, thereby reversing the flow of time...

EPILOGUE

And so, after the court martial and trial for the premature usage of one torpedo on wheels, we find the principals all back at square one again.  Popeye tries to appease the angry Swee'pea with more mere toy boats.  He gets one larger boat after another, but to no use.  Eventually, once again we're all swallowed whole by the angry crying maw of Swee'pea.  When we come out the other side, so to speak, we find a content Swee'pea happily steering a ship's wheel.  Dream coming true!  He's commanding the Pennsyltucky after all!  However, we find that Popeye's just pulling it along the ground.  Somehow this just doesn't feel right.  I mean, is this not the punishment of Bluto in Be Kind to Aminals and at the end of Popeye Meets Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves?  And isn't Popeye going to slip a disc or two?  Oh, the things we do for kids.

***
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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