Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Goat that Stares at Popeye

...is there no other goat title?  Well, when you're king of your own little mountain, the Gods look down and laugh.  And they take perverse delight in who or what they send to try to dethrone you.  In Popeye's case, it was decided that an evil, ravenous goat was just what the doctor ordered.  Why, some might even say that The Hungry Goat is the perfect title for such a tale!  There's not even a hint of Popeye in it!  ...at least, not until we get to Act Two.

ACT ONE

I think Fred "Tex" Avery's Tortoise Beats Hare came out first... yup, 1941.  In that cartoon, we immediately break the proverbial fourth wall with Bugs Bunny examining the cartoon's title card.  When he realizes what an insult to his rabbithood it is, he immediately tears it down... in three big, easy-to-animate pieces, then knocks on the turtle's door...  I mean, tortoise.  The tortoise lives in a tree, BTW, in addition to living in its shell.  Boy, some reptiles really know how to live.
The point being, maybe it's unfair to call The Hungry Goat laden with gimmicks, but the goat does ask the projectionist to rewind the film, the fourth wall is broken... I guess that's about it.  And who is this goat guy anyway?  Some have said it's Arnold Stang... at least, I thought I read that someplace.  Arnold Stang and Jack Mercer did work together, according to the IMDb's handy dandy "Credited With" function, just apparently not in a Popeye cartoon.  Here's one on YouTube called Naughty but Mice.  Even the copyright lawyers don't care about that one, as it flies well below their radar.  Go figure.  But they should leave it up since it's not scheduled to be put on a DVD until the year 2782!!!  ...where was I?  Oh, right.  The goat's voice.  Apparently, it's a fella by the name of Gilbert Mack.  So many names to learn, so little time and brain space.  Movie reviewing is hard!  I'm pushing out all my fond childhood memories and replacing them with B-listers!
Now, now, credit where credit's due.  This Gilbert Mack actor fella's working harder than he thought he would.  After seeing the title, much like Bugs Bunny in Tortoise Beats Hare, the goat takes the "hungry" part to heart and starts acting tragically.  This pain in my stomach... will nothing in this world fix it?  If only for a few hours?  Enter a pile of tin cans.  You see, films of this era often used some of the cultural notions left over from the 19th century: snakes have the power to hypnotize, goats will eat metal, certain non-white groups of people have funny, cinematic peculiarities, what have you.  The Hungry Goat goes with the second one.  Alas, fate intervenes, and the world's fastest crane grabs up the pile of cans and piles them into the back of a truck.  So, not only is this goat hungry, but it is also very easily discouraged.
I like this Wikipedia entry about "The Popeye Show."  They mention The Hungry Goat and that it wasn't shown much at first... I can't make heads nor tails out of it, but I think they're trying to say that they had a bad print of it.  That's the reason it wasn't shown a whole lot, not that the goat talks about committing suicide.  That's perfectly all right!  A nice way to kill some time, that's for sure.  The goat tries to blast out of this wicked world once and for all by jumping into the water.  Alas, the goat hits its head on a battleship, thereby causing it to get thrown back onto the pier... he's down by the water, you see.  Some more yammering, and then... boom.  The goat puts two and two together.  He may have hit his head on that battleship, but he can surely sink his teeth into it!  Why, it turns into the biggest pile of cans he's... it's ever seen.  Must be a dude goat.  A lady goat would never be so un-lady-like... and would probably never play the lead in a pic like this, anyway.  They're always relegated to the love interest roles.

ACT TWO

Oh, I've spent far, far too long on this one.  And so, the goat gets two big eye-boners and boards the battleship.  And... FINALLY!  Enter the Popeye.  And where Popeye's playing checkers, the goat's playing chess... three-dimensional, ultra-laser chess against twenty people.  The goat sets up a booby trap for Popeye, then gets to work harassing him.  The goat eventually runs off, Popeye gives chase, and BOOM... right into the trap.  One reason to hate this goat.  He really gets my... something.  I forget what.  So let's move on.
This could go on forever, so another character is brought into the mix.  An authority figure is just what the Script Doctor ordered, because clearly this asylum is being run by the inmates, currently.  It's the admiral of the battleship, and the schmoozing goat makes fast friends with him because... ugh.  It's a long story.  The admiral admonishes Popeye and says "As for myself... I'm going to the movies!  Nyaah!!!!"  Apparently, Jack Mercer voiced the admiral as well; must be why the admiral's so funny.  And so, the admiral grabs a taxi.  The driver asks "Where to, bud?"  "To the movies!" says the admiral, in much the same inflection as before.  Popeye is once again at ease, unofficially.  Good double bill with Conrad the Sailor.  Love that cartoon.
And so, this opens the door for the Fourth Wall again.  See, Popeye can't kill the goat, because the Admiral is in the audience!  Why, look!  There he is finding his seat!  Anyway, it's about time for Act Three, but where to make the break?  If only there were some clarifying event... oh, right!  The goat takes the mallet from Popeye, winds up for the pitch, and hits Popeye in the head with a mighty swing... with the mallet.

ACT THREE

You know... I hate to get all personal and all.  I know, ick.  Write a book for that kinda sentimental crap.  This is a blog, god Damn it!  Nothing but news here, folks.  But we were talking earlier about verbal ping-pong.  The example that was given to me was from an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm... a nurse with no sense of humor.  Where does he come up with this stuff?  Well, as Spock would say, it's an early 20th Century Earth phenomenon, referred to by the earthlings as "Verbal Ping Pong."  Thank God that Star Trek show dumbed down things for us humans, what with the universe being so vast and so filled with aliens with strange worlds and languages and all.  The one I thought of (not on YouTube, of course) is an exchange between Homer and Lisa, arguably much shorter in duration, in a Halloween episode the Mortals refer to as The Homega Man.  There are other examples, I'm sure... now to make it relate to The Hungry Goat.  Well, what Hungry seems to engage in at this point, after Popeye's head trauma, could quite possibly be referred to as Visual Ping Pong.  And it saved some wear and tear on the animators, which Famous Studios would be looking for from now on, it being a critical part of their business model.  It's this kind of sequence that sticks in my mental craw, but I think I've finally made my peace with it.  The music's good!
And then, more mayhem ensues.  Normally, I'd go through it point by point, but it's making me weary.  Besides, I'm too busy multi-tasking as it is.  But the major move in the Third Act is that the goat once again breaks the Fourth Wall with a note for the Admiral.  The last stroke of genius from the goat, because the Admiral's not going to want to see this part: the part where the goat starts eating the battleship.  I mentioned this before, but I finally figured out the genius of Sons of the Desert and my new fangled respect for Stan Laurel, apparently the brains behind Laurel and Hardy.  Ain't that always the way?  The stupid one's actually smart?  Well, Hungry's not quite as subversive, but close. 
Anyway, as prescribed by the Script Gods, the Admiral returns from his "phone call" none the wiser, and the kid sitting next to him has to verbally point out that the goat's eating the ship.  Well, the Admiral's fit to be tied, and about ten moments too late.  Well, he taxis his way back to the ship, calls Popeye to attention (what becomes of the plane with a bomb on it, we'll just never know) and asks "Where's that goat?"  Why, the goat's in the theater, of course, laughing his goat ass off!  And yet, he wasn't able to get his own series out of the deal.  Just a case of bad timing, I suppose.  Well, that's what you get when Vince Gilligan's not writing your scripts.

***
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

Good double bill with: ...what else?  Scrap Happy Daffy... I forget why, though

***
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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