Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Fleischer Popeyes: Shoein' Hosses!

popeye011-01Well, it's been a year and a few weeks since the last installment of this feature, and it's high time I returned to it, isn't it? So here we are with the 11th of the Fleischer Popeye cartoons, which opens with the familiar instrumental of the Popeye theme, going into a song about a village smithy as the cartoon title appears between the sliding doors. As with other Popeyes, the singer of the song sounds like the same person who voiced Bluto.

We open on "Ye Blacksmith Shoppe," run by Olive Oyl, and barely helped by Wimpy. As Olive tries to hammer a horseshoe Wimpy is holding with tongs, he keeps reaching over to bite his hamburger, drawing the horseshoe away. This continues until Olive has a tantrum, and throws the white-hot horseshoe at Wimpy (it falls into the back of his pants burning his buns, if you will) and tells him to get out. As Wimpy runs out, smoke coming from his pants, Olive puts up a sign advertising for a new blacksmith.

popeye011-02Then, here comes Popeye, walking down the street, singing his song, and doing a few warm-up exercises as he walks. He sees the sign, and decides he's the man for the job. Across the street, Bluto emerges from a salon, and pulls down a lampost (with a burning candle in it) to light his cigar. He also sees the sign, and intends to get that job himself.  This is unusual, as we usually see some demonstration of Popeye's strength before Bluto makes the scene. The two force their way side-by-side into Olive's shoppe, bending the doors as they do so.

popeye011-03They approach Olive, both saying they want the job, which of course makes Olive all nervous, and she asks them to show her what they can do. They each approach an anvil, and Bluto is first, taking a red-hot piece of metal from the fire and bending it with one hand around his other arm, then he tosses it to Popeye, who straightens it out using just two fingers. Then Bluto picks up a large block of metal, and hits it with a hammer until it breaks in two. Popeye responds by not only breaking his own block in two, but the anvil beneath it as well! Then Bluto grabs a wooden wagon wheel, plus a length of metal strip, and pulls the strip around the wheel with his hands, riveting it together with his teeth! Popeye throws his own strip onto his own wagon wheel, forcing it around as well as rolling it up to and on to a waiting wagon, and even bolting it into place!

popeye011-04Bluto doesn't take this well, and grabs four horseshoes, walks up to a horse, and grabs its hooves, pounding the shoes onto the hooves with his fist. Popeye just lays his own horseshoes out, and flips the horse onto them! Popeye laughs, and Bluto gets angry! He grabs an anvil and throws it at Popeye, where it breaks in half over our favorite sailor man, and makes Popeye somewhat woozy. Popeye falls as Bluto grabs Olive by the shoulders and roughly asks if he gets the job.

Popeye recovers, and goes up to Bluto, saying, "Don't you know the female sex is a weakling?" Popeye was never much for women's lib, was he? Bluto punches Popeye down, but Popeye bounces back and hits Bluto in return! This happens one more time before Bluto hits Popeye away from him, and Popeye lands in the stove, breaking it up and leaving his head white-hot. Bluto grabs Popeye and throws him on another anvil (how many anvils does Olive have around there, anyway?) and starts punching at Popeye! Has Popeye at last been defeated by Bluto? Don't bet on it!

popeye011-05Popeye, barely even noticing the pummeling he's taking, pulls out his trusty can of spinach, eats it (with the fanfare) and starts striking back, punching Bluto to a wall where about 50 already made horseshoes tumble down onto him. Bluto picks up handfuls of the horseshoes and starts throwing them at Popeye, who just collects them on each arm before throwing them back, leaving Bluto with impressions of a horseshoe on his stomach and face. Bluto throws more at Popeye (he never learns, does he?), and Popeye returns fire, so we have both men throwing horseshoes back and forth, while Olive tries to get them to stop fighting.

popeye011-06We can see that the walls of the shop aren't faring too well with all this, as there are holes in them, and to add insult to injury, some of Bluto's thrown horseshoes pin Olive to the wall! I should note that, for some odd reason, the animators on this Popeye cartoon decided to give Olive breasts, as opposed to leaving her traditionally flat-chested. Popeye starts hitting horseshoes back to Bluto, and one of them gives Bluto a large bump on the top of his head, which Popeye then rings with a bunch of other horseshoes.

Bluto recovers from this, and grabs a bellows and loads it with horseshoes, to fire them like machine guns. Popeye grabs a hammer and starts hammering the horseshoes coming at him into chain links, forging them together, and then hammering the anvil he was using into an anchor. He picks up the anchor, plants it into the floor, then throws the end of the chain at Bluto, which fastens around him. When Bluto runs at Popeye, the sailor man hits his foe first through the roof directly above, and then after he comes down, through the roof over the doorway, leaving Bluto hanging outside the door.

popeye011-07Grateful, Olive gives Popeye a kiss, and Popeye punches the wall around her into pieces, freeing her. A sign is put on Bluto reading "No more help wanted," and Popeye sings the closing stanza of his theme song as the cartoon ends.

Well... this was a good Popeye, but not a great one. There's no real transformation punch happening in this one (the closest we get is the horseshoes into chains, and that involved a hammer and not a direct punch), and you never get the feeling that Popeye was in any great danger when he decides to eat his spinach. Usually, things are much more dire before the can comes out of his shirt. It almost feels like he's toying with Bluto after that, not really getting the upper hand until it's as if he realizes the cartoon is almost over, and he needs to wrap things up. A more satisfying ending would've been if Popeye had, say, punched Bluto into the air, and when he came down, landing on four horseshoes and then being strapped to the wagon, with Popeye jumping onto the wagon with Olive, treating Bluto like a horse as they rode down the street, Bluto whinnying, and Popeye singing his song. At least, that's what I would've come up with. Earlier, when they were demonstrating what they could do, I would've liked to have seen Popeye take a strip of metal, wrapped it around his arm, and then flexed his muscles, breaking the looped strip into horseshoes.

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