Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Towed in a Hull

Ah, the comforting Yin and Yang of Bluto and Popeye.  How I've missed it.  They're out of their sailors' uniforms, if only briefly, and have moved higher up the corporate food chain to become industrial-grade ship builders in A Hull of a Mess.  Alas, they've also set aside the rampant racial stereotyping common in WWII-era entertainment for a bintel brief.  There's still a war to win, but for now it's time to focus on the infrastructure necessary to achieve victory.
In a premise that even Amory Lovins could like, it's a rather simple setup of conflict, when you get right down to it.  Bluto and Popeye stand before the man, and the man says that whoever builds their battleship first wins the big contract to build ships for the war effort.  It's a bit like Dizzy Pilots, except that the Stooges were competing only with themselves.  And even then, they probably had unseen outside help.  Thankfully, Bluto and Popeye still keep their roots in comedy, even though the stakes couldn't be higher, and the simple act of leaving an office can be disastrous and funny.  I got an unexpected laugh out of it, what can me say?
And so, much like My Pop, My Pop, the building of ships commences.  And much like The Two-Alarm Fire, Bluto and Popeye have their shipyards side by side.  Awwww.  Easier to inflict damage on each other that way.
Popeye has more style and panache in his process, as usual.  But Bluto's got the desire to cheat in his toolbox; even in wartime, you still gotta try to get ahead.  Bluto has a moment that seems to happen more often to Popeye: Bluto thinks he's still holding a steel panel and bends down to put it into place, but falls through the hole in the floor instead.  They spare us the resulting carnage visually, but you can tell from the sound effects that some bad stuff's going down under our eye level.  I guess the camera guy got tired of doing so much panning work.
Popeye accomplishes other feats of derring do, like spitting rivets out of his mouth, knitting a Navy-grade anchor chain, and even an episode involving invisible paint!  But the most troubling for me is the bit with an acetylene torch.  Bluto puts the torch in Popeye's pants, thereby getting Popeye to do some of Bluto's welding work for him... well, work smarter, not harder, right?  Nevertheless, I'm reminded of a similar incident from Buster Keaton's classic The Blacksmith.  Naturally, Popeye's torch work is flawless in comparison.  There's of course a similar incident in the Stooge classic, A Plumbing We Will Go, but you gotta pay for that one on the youTubes now.  Better go with Vagabond Loafers instead.
Now, bear in mind, this is World War II, and there were shortages of everything, as well as spinach!  Probably!  So far there's no Nazis or Japanese on the horizon.  Surely there's no reason to squander spinach now?  Alas, that's where Bluto comes in.  Having finished his battleship early, Popeye proudly calls out to Bluto to admire Popeye's work.  Pride goeth before a fall, but Bluto knows that it doesn't happen on a consistent enough basis.  Sometimes you just gotta make your own Armageddon... boy!  YouTube's got a lot of links that say "Armageddon - Full Movie".  And yet, the running times of these "full movies" is less than 2 hours and 20 minutes!  Who do they think we are exactly?  I guess Golan and Globus must have made a film titled Armageddon in the 80s or something, with Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland and probably some X-rated rape sequence that got an R for some inexplicable reason... where was I?  Oh, right.  As alluded to earlier, it's Bluto's time to play dirty.  And with the help of an empty champagne bottle and some full containers of nitroglycerine, the Trojan horse is bourne in Bluto's mind.  And soon enough, to cut to the chase, Popeye's battleship is a smoldering mess.  Well, sometimes you need more than one person to build a battleship.  Besides!  If it can't stand up to one little champagne bottle full of nitro, how's it going to make it in the real world?  Still, Popeye's in a tight spot, much like RoboCop in RoboCop (1987) after he gets that giant crane of metal girders dropped on him in the big finale.
Meanwhile, Bluto christens his ship and heads out for the big waters.  Seeing this, Popeye finds his motivation to engulf his can of spinach.  Making his usual new trademark gulping sound, the time for Popeye's revenge is at hand.  But even for Popeye, sometimes living well is the best revenge.  Also, it's World War II, for God's sake!  We should be fighting the Japs and the nasty Nazis, not each other!  I guess the Italian soldiers were a little less ambitious or something... Anyway, and so, Popeye turns into a veritable battleship factory, and he pushes out a baker's dozen of battleships while Bluto sits there twiddling his thumbs and going "do doo doo dooo....."... sigh.  This is where it's supposed to be.  YouTube lets me down again as well.
For those who swear by the Famous Studios Popeye cartoons of the 1950s, you might be pleased to see that these 1940s era Popeye cartoons are finally starting to start like your favourites.  However, much like when the series was first gearing up, the note that Popeye strikes with his pipe is much lower than the trademark G sharp he normally seems to hit; F sharp when his pipe's twirling in his mouth.  Also, this is another story credit for Jack Mercer, the voice of Popeye himself.  Wait a second... are these stories so easy to come up with that even a voice actor can concoct them?  Ouch!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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