Tuesday, December 02, 2014

In the Navy Again, Pt. III: Braddock's Pre-venge

Ran out of time again.  Welp, I'm fresh from bombing my final, so time to get back to work.  Our next Popeye short is called Fleets of Stren'th... just wanted to make sure I was misspelling that right.


It's a clash of icons as we find Popeye swabbing the deck and reading the "funny papers."  Why, I'd hardly call Superman the funny papers, and I'm not even a frothing-at-the-mouth comic book nerd!  No, even though the Fleischers did both Popeye and Superman cartoons, Superman is nothing to joke about.  Just ask Seinfeld, the Superman of stand-up comedy!  Anyway, the upper brass interrupt Popeye's work, and Popeye stands at attention after folding up the funny papers with his shoe'd feet.  Boy, you wanna talk about yer Mumblecore!  Popeye invented mumblecore, I tells ya!
And so, once again we find Popeye trying to fit in as just another cog in the giant machinery of the Navy.  But for now, gravity is on Popeye's side.  He's ordered to put a bomb into a "mosquito boat"... let's see if Wikipedia's got it... meh, close enough.  Dayamn, that's a long-ass link!  Hope it woiks.  For now, gravity is on Popeye's side, as he does that thing again where he drops the bomb onto the boat, then runs down to catch it.  Probably won't be the last time.  The time he ran down several flights of stairs to catch a piano was used once in one of them compilation cartoons, so he's done this at least twice before.  Kind of a cartoon tradition, actually.  Popeye's commanding officer is more horrified than anything.  The gravity of the sea helps Popeye try to lighten up the mood of that cranky old sea salt.  But that Bolshy great burly bastid can't help but lecture Popeye about "discipline."  This guy don't know Popeye very well, do he?  He'll probably end up pinning medals on Popeye's uniform by the end of this thing.  Gut feeling, mind you.  I don't actually know yet.
Now, as the commentary might tell you... oh wait, this one doesn't have any.  Big surprise.  But for fans of these Popeye cartoons, especially the ones from the 1950s, there's an important part in our instant case, Fleets of Stren'th, and it happens at about 1:43.  Popeye, in a rare state of nervousness, makes a gulping noise.  Make a note of this gulping noise, because I think it's the same gulping noise that is used in every '50s-era Popeye cartoon... and I mean, literally, every '50s-era Popeye cartoon.  No more time or budget for artistical touches in these things anymore.  This is the television era, where maniacs like Rod Daniel and Gene Deitch flourish and multiply.  Kinda like what YouTube's doing now!  I swear, they get away with more murder than Napster or Kazaa ever did.


Worse than that, Popeye's now eating the Stooges' dust!  Popeye's C.O. gives a string of orders reminiscent of a scene from Boobs in Arms and its remake, Dizzy Pilots.  And then... boy!  That was quick!  The enemy's already attacking by air!  The filmmakers have more fun with implied obscenity.  "Blow that ..... out of the sky!" screams the C.O.  See, bombs explode when the guy swears.  So, plot-wise, this looks to be the same old thing, but I think there's maybe just enough to merit this some attention.  After all, check out this wicked visual here... is this not the inspiration for the big action sequence in Hitchcock's North by Northwest?  I think so... even though I'm probably alone on that.  That the plane makes Popeye rock back and forth is just icing on the cake... or is it?  Has the Navy finally turned Popeye into an automaton drone?
Popeye keeps standing at attention and gets rattled around some more, but in a perfect circle at least, and then... after surviving a direct hit, Popeye ends on the very tip-top of the ship's highest sail... I thought this was a battleship!  Do battleships have sails too?  Anyway, now that the deck's all chewed up, Popeye's given some room to swing a few cats.  "GET THAT PLANE!" the C.O. cries, and Popeye gets a spring in his step after that.  "Aye aye, sir!  He's as good as got!" quips Popeye, then springs into action, commandeering the skeeter boat from earlier.  Apparently, Popeye's reputation from the earlier two navy cartoons persists after all. 
At this point, the waves start to turn on Popeye.  Don't want to end this picture too quickly, now!  To make matters worse, Popeye's aim at the planes is about as good as the square-jawed supermen already firing guns on the battleship proper.  Not hitting a damn thing.  The one plane was apparently the reconnaissance plane, so it heads back to its mother carrier and waves for the other planes to attack.  They end up physically harrassing Popeye in various insulting ways.  That's right, folks... this has turned into an Adam Sandler picture.  The planes hit Popeye upon his head with their tails, they flap their rudders in Popeye's face, and the one plane uses its propellors to twist Popeye all up!  Could be worse, I suppose.  After all, there's that dude in Raiders of the Lost Ark who got ground up by that plane propellor.
And then... one of the planes scoops up Popeye's boat, just like the time that giant bird picked him up in Sindbad the Sailor.  The plane grinds up the boat with its hands... I mean, landing gear... it's a visual gag... and then, Popeye and his rubble drop into the ocean. 


Popeye must be stuck in the two dimensions again.  He's stuck between a rock and a hard place, and by that I mean he's got two bombs cruising along the top of the water at him: the first one from Stage Right, the second from Stage Left.  The bombs are leaving little curly-cue trails in the water behind them that look like the frosting on Hostess cup cakes... dang, I must be hungry.  Oh, it's so spinach time... but Popeye can't open the can!  Popeye drops below the water level just before the two bombs hit each other.  After the massive ensuing explosion,... well, there's a damn good reason that we're looking at the sky and traveling upwards.  After the flying water disappears, we see Popeye flying up into the air as he does on occasion... correction: we see Popeye's pipe first, then Popeye catches up to it.  The poor guy's on the plane's turf now!  A plane starts shooting its machine gun at him... I'm surprised we haven't seen any racist caricatures of any Axis players yet.  Nope, apparently the enemy has planes that fly themselves.  Now, you could probably guess this one, but Popeye lets the machine gun fire open up this pesky spinach can, and open it does.  A quick gulp of spinach and... damn!  That same noise!  I'm telling you, darling... once they had that gulping sound, there was no turning back.  They'll probably use it on the rest of this DVD, too.  Also, there's no more peering into the crystal ball of Popeye's giant arm muscles to see the strength within.  Now Popeye morphs into the different objects himself, as spinach has given him the stren'th of twenty planes.  It's Popeye's turn to beat up the planes.  Take that, O'Doyles of the world!  ...okay, there's one pilot.  Popeye hands the enemy pilot his own damn propellor just before that Nazi bastid plummets into the ocean.
But wait!  There's a fresh crop of planes flying off that emeny carrier!  Well, after doing some fancy bomb juggling, Popeye just threw three bombs back at the planes dropping them, and now he's got one left.  What better way to end than with a bowling gag?  Popeye winds up and chucks that bomb at the oncoming planes, and they just happen to be lined up in bowling pin form.  You'll never guess what happens.  Never in a million years.


Rather than the pomp and circumcision of... circumstance of a medal ceremony, ever the populist and symbol of American interventionism, Popeye ends up sailing the beaten enemy carrier back towards land.  And yes, those are makeshift tears coming out of the "eyes" of the broken battleship, which I think are supposed to be the eyelets for the ship's anchors?  Maybe just the sweet windows to have, probably for the C.O.'s.  You're still strong to the finich, you crazy, one-eyed bastid.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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