Popeye’s Island Adventures has dark, stormy night

One of those questions you never think to ask until you look hard at the record: is Popeye a good sailor? And the reflexive answer is, of course he is. But if you go looking at all the classic cartoons, and many of the comic strip adventures … he ends up adrift at sea a lot. That isn’t by itself a sign of being a bad sailor. After all, I have a perfect record so far of never being adrift at sea. But I live in Lansing, Michigan. The most sailing I do is pedaling a swan boat at an amusement park and reading books about the history of longitude. THere’s lints to how much trouble I can get in. Maybe Popeye ends up adrift at sea because he does so much more, and in such challenging circumstances, than even the normal sailor would.

This week’s Popeye’s Island Adventures is After The Big Storm. I think it’s the first one not to have Olive Oyl appear. Despite that, it’s a long cartoon, going 2:22 before it finishes.

We start in the big storm, making the title a forgivable lie. I’d wondered whether we needed Swee’Pea in the cartoon. But he serves a role. If Swee’Pea weren’t trying to fly a kite in the storm, Popeye wouldn’t have reasons to board up the windows. And then Popeye couldn’t have the clumsy accident that knocks him out. Popeye’s always a bit of a klutz in these Island Adventures stories, but that would be a bit much. Accidentally nailing himself to the wall, and dropping a can of spinach on his head, makes sense if he’s focusing on keeping Swee’Pea from kite-flying in the thunderstorm.

Come morning, Popeye’s house is out at sea. And I guess I’d assumed his house was a functional boat that happened to be on land. It’s not so functional as that. This makes me realize that back in X Marks The Spot he had a separate boat. Popeye’s house, meanwhile, has laundry to dry on the sailing mast. He’s got fishing poles and boards and shovels and all that can be strapped together to make an oar. But not a good oar. Bit of a fix.

48 seconds in Bluto finally emerges into the cartoon. He’s got this week’s contraption to go over and mess with Popeye’s house. I like the conceit that of course Bluto just keeps putting together these gadgets to mess with Popeye. It’s villainous but not mean-spirited somehow. This week’s contraption, which looks to me like a cheap version of the robots from The Incredibles, got wrecked in the storm anyway. Bluto can rebuild the legs of it, and shrugs and accepts he just has to push it into place.

Swee’Pea reenters the plot, and also assures us that nothing untoward happened after he went kite-flying in a thunderstorm. He drifts by, held aloft by his kite. So Popeye takes the hint, and weaves all his dirty clothes that he never wears into a giant kite. Then eats his spinach to tether the kite to his mast. Bit surprising to see Popeye turn into a Plastic Man-like extendable figure, but, that’ll happen. And it works brilliantly, lifting his boat out of the water. He’s able to guide it, too, so his home lands right back on its normal base. Have to say that is astounding navigation. Apparently he really is that good a sailor, and he just ends up in fixes a lot because he dares a lot.

Bluto gets to Popeye’s house’s base first. I like Bluto’s disappointment that the house is gone. It’s a funny reaction. The house lands right in front of him, though, and he can go back to work. The contraption sucks up Popeye’s Unused Clothing Kite, and it explodes, showering him with dirty laundry. Swee’Pea falls in Popeye’s arms, and Swee’Pea’s kite hits Popeye in the face. Decent ending.

Still, I feel disappointed in the short overall. It’s a good premise. Popeye lost at sea and having to improvise some solution is a good setup, and it can be done in pantomime. But there’s not much storyline. There’s a few steps toward Popeye trying to get out of his fix and failing, with the laundry on the mast, the failure of an oar. But there’s not enough ingenuity in this. I like this characterization of Bluto as just this guy trying to mess with Popeye ’cause. But here, it doesn’t add anything to the story. It’s just time spent on something that never makes Popeye’s life any harder, and that gets resolved without Popeye specifically doing anything. I’d rather they have dropped that, and given the time over to Popeye trying to sail his house more.

So the short’s competent enough. It’s just a good idea for a story rather than a well-executed one.

I’m doing my best to review all these Popeye’s Island Adventures. Essays about them should be at this link.


Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

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