Yes. It’s coincidence. But with this I visit the last of the Gerald Ray-produced Popeye cartoons. I’ve reviewed this before, separate from the 60s Popeye project. But I’ll try to say different things here. I might also remember to update the dead embedded link in that older video, although with all the videos that King Features pulled for some reason from their 60s Popeye feed who knows when I’ll have the time or energy? I do. I will never have the time or the energy.
This cartoon, from 1960, lacks a story credit, a shame. Direction is credited to Tom McDonald. And the producer, as noted, was Gerald Ray. Here is The Last Resort.
As Fred M Grandinetti’s Popeye: An Illustrated Cultural History notes, Gerald Ray worked with Jay Ward. Ray picked up one of Jay Ward’s great insights into limited animation: it’s okay if there aren’t a lot of pictures if the pictures are funny. (As I noted back in 2014, it’s funny not just to have Sea Hag counterfeit three-dollar bills, but for the face on the three-dollar bill to be Benedict Arnold, and on top of that for his head to be in a noose.) So this cartoon manages to be funny even though, for most of it, Popeye doesn’t even know the Sea Hag is in it.
Sea Hag and Toar are counterfeiting money at the Crepe Cod Inn — the first of many small bits of silliness tucked in the corners — when Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Wimpy wander upon them for no good reason. Sea Hag and Toar try to kill Our Heroes, failing so completely tha Our Heroes don’t even know it’s happening. The Sea Hag finally loses patience, ties up Popeye and Olive Oyl and sets a bomb on their head, only for Wimpy to have a spinach burger ready for Popeye’s power-up. Popeye throws the bomb out to sea, blowing up Sea Hag and Toar.
The plot isn’t quite ramshackle. Popeye et al avoid the Sea Hag’s attempts to kill them without knowing that’s even happening, but that’s a respectable way to foil comic villains. How often does the Road Runner know the Coyote was trying a stunt? There’s no good reason for Popeye to stop at Sea Hag’s abandoned resort, but the cartoon has to have something happen, after all. It doesn’t look like Popeye knows he’s throwing the bomb out where Sea Hag and Toar are paddling away. But that adds a nice bit of the absurdity of life to her story.
Our Heroes just avoid a safe dropped on their heads, a joke also used in Where There’s A Will. (That time, with a safe dropped on Popeye’s head.) Nothing wrong with reusing a solid lucky-escape like that.
And this short features Toar! One of my favorite minor characters. He appeared a fair bit in the comic strip, where he started as a rival. Toar was a caveman who’d drunk from the magic pool of never-aging, but soon turned into one of Popeye’s faithful companions. This might be his only significant animated role, probably because there’s more room for his niche — stalwart muscle-bound not-quite-understanding-it guy — in the sprawling daily comic stories than in the six-minute shorts.
(We end with the gang heading to Yucca Flats. I, too, thought of the infamous failed movie The Beast of Yucca Flats. That’s a coincidence, all driven by the Yucca Flats atomic testing site’s existence; the movie wouldn’t come out until 1961.)
I really like this short. It’s got everything I could hope for. Story that holds together, a lot of jokes in the story, in the dialogue, and in the drawings. (I love Popeye’s melodramatic declaration “the weakest link in these chains … is me”.) Sea Hag, always a favorite. Toar, a special treat. Wimpy going off on his own and yet not being completely irrelevant to things. If all the King Features cartoons were like this, the series would have a respectable reputation.