Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Sailor and The Pauper

Our next Popeye short takes another brief break from the Navy and the war effort, and addresses soldiers issues in a slightly more family friendly way than, say, Warner Brothers' Private Snafu series.  It's called Many Tanks... ugh.  I know, I know, but there was a war on, and there was a shortage of good puns as well.


...oh yeah, almost forgot.  Did you see the "K" in the title card?  Boy!  The influence of the S.S. was widespread already!  Anyway, we see our old friend Bluto just positively languishing away in boot camp.  I tell you, all this service for your country can really cut into a guy's social life!  I seem to recall that he was a sailor too, but never mind.  It is what it is now.  Bluto's switched sides and is a landlubber now.  There's just no two ways about it.
Anyway, he tries sneaking out through the open gates and... no dice.  He gets caught.  His punishment this time is a simple "HEY!!!"  Not bad!  Most guys would get thrown in stockade for that!  And so... time for a second attempt, a bit more clever than the first... but arguably, not by much.  He tries taking the whole guard shack with him this time and... yup, still gets caught.  Go figure.  But he pretends to use the phone anyway.  Honesty in all dealings, that's his motto.  And why look!  We get a real sound of a coin clinking when he hangs up the fake phone!  Bluto must be missing out on something.  Well, he should of studied his Bible a little harder, I suppose.  New Testament, of course.
Speaking of which, after standing there by the fence, angrily looking out at the world going on about its business without him, Bluto's prayers are answered.  A rube to do the old switcheroo with!  I mean, his old pal Popeye!  Popeye wants to stop in and say hi, but he's got a date with Olive.  Bluto escorts Popeye to what appears to be a tent and states his case to Popeye, getting all emotional and stuff.  And then... time for Plan B, or the brute force approach.  Alas, it's early in the pic, so Popeye can't beat up on Bluto yet.  Bluto eventually makes the switch, and emerges from the tent, wearing Popeye's sailor outfit.  For some reason, Bluto was able to make it fit, even though the pant legs are of course way way too short.  Looks like Bluto's wearing shorts!  Lol.  Frankly, he's just one giant lolly away from looking like Baby Huey.
Meanwhile, Popeye emerges from the tent in Bluto's oversized soldier outfit, looking like Munro.  Popeye tries to run up to the confidently strutting Bluto to rectify the situation, but fate intervenes... in the form of a bunch of soldiers running the other way.  And so, the switcheroo is complete.  Popeye's now a square peg in the round Army.  Well, that's a little different, right?


Boy, Bluto was right!  The army really puts a crimp in the old social life.  See, Popeye and Bluto don't realize that they're about to make some real, lifelong friends!  Army buddies!  Who's chummier than that?  Oh no.  It's Olive or nothin', so it would seem.  Anyway, and so... Popeye's standing there at attention, in Bluto's giant soldier uniform, trying to follow orders.  Unfortunately, Popeye has joined a tank regimen, and he doesn't know the first thing about these oversized "cement mixers."  Kinda strange, really, when you think about it.  You'd think that Bluto would love being in a tank regimen!  Tanks are cool, right?  I guess he never played with toy tanks as a lad.  Oh well.  Toy horse-drawn carriages for him, probably.
Is it just me, or do I think of everything in terms of Full Metal Jacket?  Well, the Drill Sergeant here's a little less salty, I give him that, but he's got similar attitude.  And so, he orders his men to board their tanks, which they do.  Popeye, of course, is still thinking about Olive, but the Army will soon beat that notion out of his head.  Into the tank he jumps.  But before the war games begin, it's time to test the combat readiness of our boys.  Are they able to stick their heads up out of the tanks okay?  Apparently, that's the crucial test.  Of course, Popeye, ever the square peg, zigs when the rest of them zag.  Same thing happened to the Stooges in Boobs in Arms / Dizzy Pilots.  And, like the Stooges, this Popeye short is apparently going to rely on a lot of time fillers.  Could be worse, I guess.
Will no one stand up for Popeye?  After the flip top tank shenanigans are over, it's time for the tanks to take off.  Popeye's left in the lurch, of course.  Maybe he's got a bum tank, because it has a little bit of trouble getting started.  Didja notice?  More time killers.  I just love that kinda stuff.  Sounds like Elmer's car in Wabbit Twouble a little bit... love it!  This YouTuber's as nutty as I am!  And so, after the explosion heard so often on Rocky and Bullwinkle... the TV show, not the 2000 movie... Popeye's off to the races... or is he?  He tries to escape, but the treads of the tank conspire against him... hmm!  That's a little odd.  Well, these things didn't have to make much sense back then, in the era before we became swamped in all this highly portable technology.  Plus, it's just a kid's cartoon, for God's sake!  Still... did you notice the direction Popeye was running in?  He should've been practically kicked off of that tank!  Now, if he was running in the direction that the tank is going in, then sure!  He'd be like a gerbil on a hamster wheel... anyway, Popeye's back in the tank again.  That's the main thing.
Next time stretcher: Popeye's tank crashes into a house.  The house shakes around like it's made of Jell-O.  And yet, it's sturdy enough so that the tank just doesn't drive through it!  Popeye finds himself going to all the various windows of said house, if only for our benefit... I think he does it just for our benefit.  Take that, Tati!  That being said, the tank does eventually wear down the foundation of the house and... spoiler alert... I know, too late for that, right?  The house crumbles down behind him, leaving just the door, of course, possibly inspiring a similar scene in Spielberg's 1941.  Popeye ends up in the tank once again, and we see a couple of out-of-focus trees pass by.  Why do filmmakers like to put trees between the camera and their subjects so much?  If only there was a blog dedicated to that...
Next scene: here's kind of a strange part.  A rare lack of professionalism on the Fleischers' part, I'm afraid.  The tank is so far down below the bottom of the screen that we can barely see it.  The freakin' land also isn't visible, but as you can see from the splash, Popeye tries to go through some water.  He's about to make it out of the water and start climbing back up the hill when he gets run over by all the other tanks coming the other way.  And then... FINALLY!  We pan down to find Popeye in a small but deep lake, so deep in fact that his tank is no longer visible, save for the trap door on the top.  The tanks start coming from the other direction now, and Popeye quickly puts up a "Men at Work" type deal to try and keep from getting his ass runneth over.  Surprisingly, the idea works.  Then the Drill Sergeant's whistle blows again, and a single tank runs over the top of Popeye's tank.  Popeye's "Men at Woik" dealybopper is gone, and the trap door to his tank is now shut.  Time to fire up the tank again!  Bubbles start to rise from the teensy weensy lake.  One large creaky bubble takes four seconds to rise from the lake and pop.  Longest four seconds ever... sorry, I mean Longest.  Four.  Seconds.  Ever.  Boy, K-12 English teachers must be shaking their heads at the culture at large.  Just what is going on with that English out there?  Are we all this nice?
But it ain't over til the black explosion bubble pops.  There we go.  And once again, Popeye is playing catch-up!  At least this time, he's got a little extra water to show for it.  Popeye dries himself off like a cartoon dog, or like Wimpy in Bridge Ahoy! and catches up to a couple of the other tanks.  Popeye challenges the tanks to a little old-fashioned fisticuffs.  Somewhere out there, Daniel Goleman is holding his head in his hands.
And in that grand tradition of masculinity, the other two tanks turn around when they hear a whistle... as though Popeye didn't even exist!  Cold-blooded, I tells ya.  Popeye keeps going straight, he knows not where, but his comic timing couldn't be better.  "You ain't seen the last of me!" Popeye sez.  You'll never guess what happens next.  Never in a million years.  Go on!  Guess... give up?  Well, Popeye falls off a very high cliff, that's what happens.  A crow watches and waits for the impact.  More blatant stretching of time.  The crow has a jolly laugh on impact, but Popeye is hurled up to the crow's level.  "Lovely flying weather, isn't it?" Popeye asks the crow.  The crow is stunned, apparently because it won't be able to eat some nice, freshly killed Popeye meat.  Oh well.  C'est la vie, as someone says.


Popeye's earlier reference to his tank as a "cement mixer" now comes to fruition once he falls back inside it at the bottom of the cliff.  Boy!  He's very very good at falling back inside that tank!  Maybe he missed his calling in life.  I guess the tradition of sailors is deeper and more interesting than the shorter history of tank operators.  And so, after Popeye lands back inside the tank, the body of the tank starts spinning around like some kind of lottery ball cage, or some weird-looking drink shaker... hmm.  Gotta think about that one.  And so, to the tune of "You're In the Army Now," the tank spins around, then spits out Popeye and a bunch of gears 'n stuff.  Oh, it's spinach time, no question.
But just as Popeye's raising the spinach can aloft, boom!  He gets run over by his own tank!  Well, this isn't The Beast (of War) we're talking about here.  Popeye and his spinach can get flattened, but they pull themselves together soon enough.  It's a lot cleaner than, say, the big finale of Ants in the Pantry, for example.  Still, I haven't seen Popeye this depressed in a long while.  It's an unusual sight and ... I'll admit it!  It makes me uncomfortable.  Why, his flattened can of spinach is a mere shell of its former self.  Look at the veritable pile of spinach dust that Popeye pours into his hand.  WILL IT STILL DO THE TRICK????  Spoiler alert...
And so, with Hollywood and American audiences in general still in its lusty grip, the conga is now the beat to which spinach dances.  Rather than gazing into the crystal ball of his spinach-heightened arm muscles, we get the proverbial cartoon comedy X-ray view into all of Popeye's internals... well, above the waist, anyway, thank God.  And I'm happy to report that it's a Swiss ... a Swiss watch, as the Dude once quipped... is that a steel pipe ribcage?  Niiiiiiice.  And so, into the tank with Popeye... voluntarily this time, not falling in by accident like all the others.  The tank starts doing the conga now too!  Oh, the mojo is back, and it's all thanks to that dark, leafy vegetable of supernatural powers.  Popeye was once trapped in this narrow valley, boxed in as any two dimensional cartoon character would be, but he and his tank are about to climb back up, kinda like Michael Douglas in Romancing the Stone.
And so, Popeye's headed back towards the tank squadron he so desperately wants to either get away from, or be the lieutenant of... oh, geez, I totally forgot to mention.  When Popeye gulps his spinach, IT'S THE SAME DAMN GULPING SOUND!!!!  I didn't sign on for this!
Anyway, Popeye makes the C.O. of the tank squadron spin round like a top as Popeye zings past.  His date with Olive's the thing now.  But, Movie Hooligan, you're probably asking yourself.  Sure, Olive's the primary goal... but what about revenge against the hated Bluto?  You know, amid all the excitement, I damn near forgot about that my own damn self.  But I've seen ahead and already know the answer.  Sucks 2 B U!!!  So back to the current scene at hand.  "GET THAT GUY!!!" orders the Head Tank Dude.  Boy, the Army's got it pretty soft in comparison to the Navy in these things.  Don't they get to attack crude racial stereotypes of Nazis and/or the Japanese, too?
Next scene: Popeye circles round the giant water tank before leaving, and the other tanks follow in hot pursuit.  Then again, how hot can it be when it's only in 12 fps instead of 24?  I guess it's more dramatic that way.  Also, it makes the animation look smoother.  If it's in 24, the characters all look like they're in the desert or something.
Next scene: a hapless motorist is slowly tooling along the road.  Audio buffs, take note of the sound of the car, as every rickety car in the Famous Studios Popeye cartoons sound exactly the same as this.  Sigh.  No more creativity in the audio department.  When suddenly, the driver's world is rocked as he sees Popeye's tank approaching.  The driver stops on a bridge.  Screenwriters take note: Popeye's still the movie hero and, thanks to that old Fleischer ingenuity, Popeye's tank rides over the top of the bridge, thereby avoiding the motorist.  The motorist breathes a sigh of relief... then turns around to see another tank coming.  Surely this one will also ride over the top of the bridge, right?
...right?  Anyway, next scene: a rather ordinary shot of the countryside with the tanks going by.  If you look quickly, you can see Popeye's head sticking out of the top of his tank.  A few seconds go by, and we see the other tanks in hot pursuit.  Next scene after that: the city proper, where Popeye's taking the streets by storm... actually, there's no one around to witness this one-tank rampage.  Let's hope he doesn't get court martialed.  But he does get boxed in by a semicircle of tanks.  Popeye makes a quick left and takes a tank-sized service elevator to the top of a building.  Parking garage, perhaps?  Who knows?  All I know is the landlords are going to get a visit from Truman and his committee on corruption amongst defense contractors.  Boy!  Even back then, huh?  Anyway, Popeye's spinach mojo is still going strong, and he and his tank jump off the roof and land onto a smokestack two buildings over.  Audiophiles take note, as the bashing sound... I'm pretty sure that that's reused a lot, at least in the Famous Studios Popeye shorts.
Next scene: FINALLY!!!!  It's Bluto and Olive.  Bluto's about to take Olive out in his car and... at long last.  Revenge is complete.  Apparently, the tank develops a magical side door for a brief second, in order to match where Bluto's car door used to be, but it self-seals back up again, and a mighty beating ensues.  Popeye pulls Bluto through the tank's gun at one point, and it sounds like someone's hocking a loogie.  Ewwwww!!!


I've never thought of Popeye as a strategist before, as he usually lets the spinach do the thinking for him, but screenwriters take note as Popeye sets the world back in its place.  After the beating, Popeye gets his sailor uniform back and leaves Bluto in the tank for the M.P.'s to find.  GINIUS!!!!  Unabashed ginius.
Come to think of it, even Olive seems a little freaked out by this move by Popeye.  I mean, she's rowing the boat and all, but she doesn't seem to be happy!  Actually, why should she be happy about that?  Isn't Popeye supposed to row?  What a douche!  No, he's sitting there, all big as ya please, with his arms behind his head.  Why, even the lyrics for his ending song are just as lazy.  Check this out: "Although I am late with me goil for a date, I'm still Popeye the Sailor Man."  Ugh.  Terrible.  The twosome's boat goes behind a very dark set of bushes.  James Foley must've directed that.  I wonder if there are any more of these tank battles to look forward to.  If not, I guess this is the best one.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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