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Author Topic: Popeye (1980) WITH SPOILERS!!!!  (Read 1050 times)

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Offline Edward J Grug III

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Popeye (1980) WITH SPOILERS!!!!
« on: March 16, 2019, 12:32:39 AM »
I've cut the majority of the Popeye talk from the LOC. What follows is the conversation around the Popeye film that sprang up after Robert Altman was mentioned (Nashville) around a misunderstood gem of a film.
_____________________________________

I think Popeye's biggest 'problem' is it really adapts Thimble Theater and not the Popeye that people were used to by the 80s. The script is by Jules Feiffer and I can't imagine a better adaptation of the source material into a live action film. It's a meeting of so many great talents, and I think makes a tremendous film.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2019, 09:48:48 PM by Edward J Grug III »
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Offline stethacantus

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Re: Re: List of Crap #115: Top 50 Movies of the 70s Countdown!
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2019, 11:49:43 AM »
Actually, the Popeye film adapted more from the Fleischer cartoons than the original strip. The climax of the film has Popeye discovering Spinach makes him strong, which allows him to defeat the sea monster ( or was it an octopus/squid? ) And Bluto, followed by the music and theme from the Popeye animated cartoons. Also, Blotu was mostly from the animated cartoons. The character only appeared in a couple of comic strips. But he just happened to be in the strip the week Fleischer was adapting it to cartoon and used him as a villain, then went overboard and used him as the villain in almost every one of the animated cartoons. This is also why the characters name was later changed to Brutis when Popeye was animated by another studio. Paramount owned the copyright to the character, not King's Features. The film adapted elements from both the comic strip and the animated cartoons. I think it's biggest problem was that you had to wait until the end of the film for Popeye to finally act like Popeye, as if it was a long drawn out origin story.

Speak of poor Altman adaptions, did anyone see O.C. and Stiggs? What made the original source material funny was that OC and Stiggs were unredeemable delinquents, and Altman had them neutered into just mischievous yuppies.


Offline Edward J Grug III

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Re: Re: List of Crap #115: Top 50 Movies of the 70s Countdown!
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2019, 04:11:48 PM »
Actually, the Popeye film adapted more from the Fleischer cartoons than the original strip. The climax of the film has Popeye discovering Spinach makes him strong, which allows him to defeat the sea monster ( or was it an octopus/squid? ) And Bluto, followed by the music and theme from the Popeye animated cartoons. Also, Blotu was mostly from the animated cartoons. The character only appeared in a couple of comic strips. But he just happened to be in the strip the week Fleischer was adapting it to cartoon and used him as a villain, then went overboard and used him as the villain in almost every one of the animated cartoons. This is also why the characters name was later changed to Brutis when Popeye was animated by another studio. Paramount owned the copyright to the character, not King's Features. The film adapted elements from both the comic strip and the animated cartoons. I think it's biggest problem was that you had to wait until the end of the film for Popeye to finally act like Popeye, as if it was a long drawn out origin story.

Certainly Bluto was made famous by the cartoons, but he still appeared first in the comics, as did other characters who played only small or no roles in the cartoons that were in the movies - Caster Oyl, for example was the lead in the Thimble Theatre comics before Popeye was even introduced, has a prominent role in the film and not in the cartoons. Wimpy was only a minor character in the cartoons, but was one of the main characters in the film and comic strips. Geezil is far more prominent in the comics. I don't think Hamgravy ever appeared in the cartoons?

Famous cartoonist and Popeye scriptwriter, Jules Feiffer, talks endlessly about what an inspiration Segar was to him. Yeah, Spinach had become a famous part of Popeye's character by then, but the film even subverts that by having him hate it.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2019, 11:22:30 PM by Edward J Grug III »
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Offline stethacantus

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Re: Re: List of Crap #115: Top 50 Movies of the 70s Countdown!
« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2019, 11:49:11 AM »

Certainlyly Bluto was made famous by the cartoons, but he still appeared first in the comics, as did other characters who played only small or no roles in the cartoons that were in the movies - Caster Oyl, for example was the lead in the Thimble Theatre comics before Popeye was even introduced, has a prominent role in the film and not in the cartoons. Wimpy was only a minor character in the cartoons, but was one of the main characters in the film and comic strips. Geezil is far more prominent in the comics. I don't think Hamgravy ever appeared in the cartoons?

Famous cartoonist and Popeye scriptwriter, Jules Feiffer, talks endlessly about what an inspiration Segar was to him. Yeah, Spinach had become a famous part of Popeye's character by then, but the film even subverts that by having him hate it.

Bluto was barely in the comic strips. When King's Features decided to animated their own Popeye cartoons for television syndication, they were told by their lawyers that since he had appeared in almost every one of the Fleischer and Famous Player cartoons that Paramount ended up owning the character. So for legal purposes,  Brutis is a different character.

The strips had so many better villains ( many, such as The Sea Hag and Alice the Goon were brought back for the King's Features animated cartoons, ) that Altman didn't need to have Bluto in the movie, let alone make him the film's main villain. Nor did they need the actors to sound exactly the same as the vocal actors in the animated cartoons. It was nice that Altman dug deep into the strip for the script, but ultimately based most of the film on the animated cartoons. And as such, shouldn't have held back on Popeye being the spinach eating hero we all knew until the end of the movie. ( Also, wasn't the Popeye in the strip a lot older? )

As for the spinach, I think the cartoons well established that spinach tasted like shit. ( At least it did back in the 30s and 40s. ) No one wanted to eat it. There was one cartoon where Popeye was force feeding the stuff to some children, and they were crying. The only reason Popeye ate it was as a super PED whenever he needed a temporary boost of strength. But I doubted he actually liked the taste.


Offline Edward J Grug III

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Re: Re: List of Crap #115: Top 50 Movies of the 70s Countdown!
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2019, 04:12:55 PM »

Certainlyly Bluto was made famous by the cartoons, but he still appeared first in the comics, as did other characters who played only small or no roles in the cartoons that were in the movies - Caster Oyl, for example was the lead in the Thimble Theatre comics before Popeye was even introduced, has a prominent role in the film and not in the cartoons. Wimpy was only a minor character in the cartoons, but was one of the main characters in the film and comic strips. Geezil is far more prominent in the comics. I don't think Hamgravy ever appeared in the cartoons?

Famous cartoonist and Popeye scriptwriter, Jules Feiffer, talks endlessly about what an inspiration Segar was to him. Yeah, Spinach had become a famous part of Popeye's character by then, but the film even subverts that by having him hate it.

Bluto was barely in the comic strips. When King's Features decided to animated their own Popeye cartoons for television syndication, they were told by their lawyers that since he had appeared in almost every one of the Fleischer and Famous Player cartoons that Paramount ended up owning the character. So for legal purposes,  Brutis is a different character.

The strips had so many better villains ( many, such as The Sea Hag and Alice the Goon were brought back for the King's Features animated cartoons, ) that Altman didn't need to have Bluto in the movie, let alone make him the film's main villain. Nor did they need the actors to sound exactly the same as the vocal actors in the animated cartoons. It was nice that Altman dug deep into the strip for the script, but ultimately based most of the film on the animated cartoons. And as such, shouldn't have held back on Popeye being the spinach eating hero we all knew until the end of the movie. ( Also, wasn't the Popeye in the strip a lot older? )

As for the spinach, I think the cartoons well established that spinach tasted like shit. ( At least it did back in the 30s and 40s. ) No one wanted to eat it. There was one cartoon where Popeye was force feeding the stuff to some children, and they were crying. The only reason Popeye ate it was as a super PED whenever he needed a temporary boost of strength. But I doubted he actually liked the taste.

Sorry everyone, this is a real 'someone is wrong on the internet' moment, and I hope it wraps up Popeye talk in this thread:

Bluto was more famously associated with Popeye because of the cartoons, it's true - it doesn't change the fact that the movie is more closely modelled on the comics than the cartoons. Altman didn't dig into the comic strip for the characters - Script writer Jules Feiffer did, who again, was heavily influenced by the comics. The tone of the movie, the characters, all follow more closely to the comics. It even directly quotes from it.

Here's Jules Feiffer himself:

Quote
JF: Sure. I could talk about Popeye longly. Richard Sylbert was the production designer on Carnal Knowledge. We were good friends. When Bob Evans originally approached Sylbert to be the producer of Popeye and asked them who could write it, he said "Feiffer is the only one who can make these characters real." So Evans called me up—I think I might've met him once years or you know, briefly in Hollywood, but I did, I didn't know him—and said he wanted to write Popeye and would I? I said, it depends on which Popeye you mean. If you want the Max Fleischer Popeye, the animated Popeyes—I hated them and I wasn't interested in it. If you want to do the E.C. Segar Popeye—Segar was the original author of Popeye in the newspapers. I said, I'm your guy because I think they're works of genius. He said, I want to do whatever Popeye you want to do. So we were in business. And from that time on, everything and anything I had to do with Evans was terrific. I mean, he was totally supportive from the beginning until the end, and through all the difficulties I had on the film, that included Dustin Hoffman and other things. He was in my corner all the way to the point where he made some stupid decisions because they were my decisions and I was all wrong.

https://www.screenslate.com/articles/83

Now you have the word of the writer himself, I hope we are done. If you would like to keep discussing Popeye, we can start a dedicated Popeye thread?
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Offline stethacantus

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Re: Re: List of Crap #115: Top 50 Movies of the 70s Countdown!
« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2019, 04:38:20 PM »

Now you have the word of the writer himself, I hope we are done. If you would like to keep discussing Popeye, we can start a dedicated Popeye thread?

 It doesn't matter that the writer attempted to adapt the original source material. What ended up on screen was mostly an adaption of the animated cartoons. For example, Robin Williams copied the vocal performances of William Costello and Jack Mercer from the cartoon. Shelly Duval copied the vocal performance of Mae Questel, who in turn based her vocal performance on comedian ZaSu Pitts.  Altman could have had Williams and Duval use their own voices, but instead had them immitat the cartoon voices.

Bluto was elevated to lead villain even though he was barely in the strip, and the strip had way better villains to choose from. As far as I know, the spinach thing was not in the strip when Segar wrote it and originated with the animated cartoons. The two themes from the animated cartoons were used at the end of the film after Popeye eats the spinach. And most of the characters brought over from Thimble Theater have minor roles in the film, while characters used in the Fleischer/Paramount cartoons have major roles.  If you were to dissect the film you would find it had more elements unique to the animated cartoons than it does elements unique to the comic strip. I am sure Paramount insisted it be more like the more familiar animated cartoons, especially since the elements from the Fleischer cartoons were their [ stolen ] property, and the less elements owned by King's Features, the less royalties they would need to pay.

BTW, don't think that King's Features and Paramount were friendly to each other. The deal with King's Features was that once the theatrical run of the cartoons ended, Paramount was supposed to turn over all prints of the films to be destroyed. Paramount not only reneged on that part of the deal with a loophole, but held on to the theatrical rights preventing King's Features from releasing their Popeye shorts in theaters, and when KF syndicated their shorts to television, Paramount sold their animated cartoons they were supposed to have destroyed to Associate Artists Productions, who in turn syndicated the catalog to television against the cheaper King's Features cartoons. This is why most television stations never aired the King's Features cartoons, because they had the option for the superior Max Fleischer cartoons. Paramount even claimed ownership of the character Bluto, forcing KF to use the alternative spelling of Brutis for the same character. So yeah, it probably wasn't pleasant for Paramount to negotiate for the rights to use Castor Oyl or any of the other KF characters. Altman was lucky he got as much of the original strip into the film as he did.

Sorry about hijacking the thread.  Now back to the 70s where there should be no further mention of Popeye...... unless The French Connection makes it into the countdown.


Offline Pak-Man

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Re: Popeye (1980) WITH SPOILERS!!!!
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2019, 11:04:38 PM »
So now that this thread is here, is there a good way to catch up on Popeye's vast comic strip history? I checked out "Popeye: The First 50 Years" from a library when I was a kid and loved the rich backstory, but never really had a way to get more.


Offline Russoguru

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Re: Popeye (1980) WITH SPOILERS!!!!
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2019, 11:06:17 PM »
At the end of the movie, I loved it that
Spoiler (click to show/hide)


Offline Edward J Grug III

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Re: Popeye (1980) WITH SPOILERS!!!!
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2019, 11:52:38 PM »
This seems like a pointless exercise since you somehow insist you know better than the person who wrote the movie, but I do love to talk Popeye, so...

Yeah, by the time the movie was made the voice of Popeye had been well and truly established, but the cartoons also clearly based on the way the character was written in the comics.

And you keep circling the same point, that Bluto was made the main villain in the film despite being a minor character in the comics - But I still have the same answer for you - At that point the franchise was 60 years old and the character was made more famous after the fact, but he was still taken from the comics. He was made famous by the cartoons, but still not created for the cartoons. I don't see how this supports your argument any more than all of the characters I listed that were either more prominent or ONLY in the comics supports mine. Even Bluto in the film works for Poopdeck Pappy, a big character from the comics.

Here's Robert Altman on Popeye: "Altman said his intention was to recreate the artistic style and philosophical approach of the original Segar comic strip. "

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/675533/A-look-back-Popeye-comes-out-of-can-for-91-festival-retrospective.html

Which i think is paraphrasing him from here (page 19 middle paragraph): https://books.google.com.au/books?id=TIj12IGUmkYC&pg=PA17&lpg=PA17&dq=robert+altman+interview+popeye&source=bl&ots=9wjhNkAxJ9&sig=ACfU3U2dLyCl2_pR8CNNyEN4hNThPxPZMw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwieuvf_zpLhAhU2_XMBHaFKDqk4FBDoATAHegQIBxAB#v=onepage&q=robert%20altman%20interview%20popeye&f=false (

So now you have the director AND the writer saying what it is based one.

Here's every essay I can find that talks about the source of the film - I didn't omit any:

Quote
Owing more to E.C. Segar’s original Thimble Theatre strip than the more widely known Fleischer Studios cartoons that followed

https://thedissolve.com/features/departures/503-how-robert-altman-turned-popeye-into-an-altman-mov/

Quote
For anyone who'd grown up on the King Features Popeye cartoons, the movie's approach was probably confusing. (Who were all these townspeople? Does Olive really have a brother named Castor?) That's because 'Popeye' owes far more to E.C. Segar's 'Thimble Theatre' funny-pages origin and the amazingly clever (even by modern standards) Max Fleischer animated theatrical shorts -- many of which were also musicals -- from the '30s. But as if Altman was anticipating his audience's misplaced notions of what was to follow, the movie begins with the black-and-white animated intro from the Fleischer cartoons in which the cartoon Popeye cuts things short. "What's dis? One of Bluto's tricks? I'm in the wrong picture!"

https://diffuser.fm/popeye-movie/

Quote
With the story based more on Popeye’s original source material – E.G. Segar’s “Thimble Theatre” comic strip from the 1920s –  and not on the more recognized fiction created by the Fleischer Brothers for their Popeye cartoons in the 1930s and beyond, misplaced dismay was to be expected.

https://hollywoodsuite.ca/connect/popeye/

Quote
Written by Jules Feiffer, Popeye is at once warmly faithful to Segar’s original Thimble Theatre strip, more so than the popular cartoon—eg. this Popeye hates spinach—but the script is also laden with political parody and social satire. It wouldn’t be an Altman film without it. And if there’s one thing this quirky picture is, it’s a Robert Altman film.

https://screenmayhem.com/another-look-jeremy-carr-on-robert-altmans-popeye/

Quote
The audience isn’t allowed the gratification of the climactic moments in the Fleischers’ Popeye animated cartoon series; Altman seems almost embarrassed by the conventions. He’s trying to do this literal version of the Popeye comic strip and at the same time he doesn’t want it to add up to Popeye.

https://scrapsfromtheloft.com/2018/03/07/popeye-1980-pauline-kael/

Quote
His run as a big-time, big-studio filmmaker effectively ended in 1980 with the comic-strip adaptation Popeye, a holiday family film that was actually a substantial box-office hit at home and worldwide, but acquired a reputation as a bomb because it wasn’t what anyone expected in the age of the blockbuster. Altman shackled frenetic stand-up sensation Robin Williams in a role that required him to freeze his face and mutter, while Jules Feiffer’s screenplay hewed closer to the eccentric seaside adventures of E.C. Segar’s Thimble Theatre strip than the boisterousness of the well-loved Fleischer Studios cartoons...

https://film.avclub.com/robert-altman-1798226806

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Offline Edward J Grug III

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Re: Popeye (1980) WITH SPOILERS!!!!
« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2019, 11:54:54 PM »
So now that this thread is here, is there a good way to catch up on Popeye's vast comic strip history? I checked out "Popeye: The First 50 Years" from a library when I was a kid and loved the rich backstory, but never really had a way to get more.

Sadly, the best books are (mostly) out of print currently. If your library has the recentish Fantagraphics reprints, those are the way to go: http://www.fantagraphics.com/series/popeye/

The first book is a little slow to get started as Popeye was not intended to be the star of the strip and turns up later, but it picks up.
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Offline Edward J Grug III

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Re: Popeye (1980) WITH SPOILERS!!!!
« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2019, 11:57:48 PM »
I will also say, if you want to give the music a try - It IS better outside of the film. Altman really pushes things and pushes a lot of the songs tot he background. If you have access to the actual album on Spotify or whatever (not sure where it will appear to stream outside of Aus, and I own a copy anyway) I think it is extremely worth a listen, especially if you enjoy the work of Harry Nilsson, which I mostly do.
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Offline stethacantus

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Re: Popeye (1980) WITH SPOILERS!!!!
« Reply #12 on: March 21, 2019, 10:01:38 PM »
Once again, the script is irrelevant. They used the Fleischer characters in the film. They tagged on an ending where everything is solved by Popeye eating spinach. They end the movie with Popeye and the cast singing the theme song from the Fleischer cartoons. Even if they did mine Thimble Theater for the plot, Bluto replaced whatever villain was in the original strip.

Sure they sourced the strip for characters, setting and plot, something rarely done in the Paramount animated shorts, and barely done for the King's Feature animated shorts. But the lead characters were modeled after the animated characters. On balance the movie was far more like the Animated cartoons than Thimble Theater. Altman and everyone associated with the movie may be patting themselves on the back for sourcing the comic strip rather than sourcing the animated cartoons. But then they then had the lead actors look, sound and act like the characters in the animated cartoon. And that goes on for the entire film.



Offline Edward J Grug III

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Re: Popeye (1980) WITH SPOILERS!!!!
« Reply #13 on: March 21, 2019, 10:21:44 PM »
The script is irrelevant to the point that I made that you jumped in and 'well actuallyed':

Quote
I think Popeye's biggest 'problem' is it really adapts Thimble Theater and not the Popeye that people were used to by the 80s.

How do you figure that one?

By the way, here's Popeye's first time eating spinach a full year before the first cartoon debuted:



Also predating the cartoons:



Quote
But the lead characters were modeled after the animated characters.
No, the characters in the cartoons were modeled after the comic strip.

And you ignore literally every other critic that I could find that has written about the film. Can you find one person who backs up your claim?
« Last Edit: March 21, 2019, 10:28:43 PM by Edward J Grug III »
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Offline stethacantus

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Re: Popeye (1980) WITH SPOILERS!!!!
« Reply #14 on: March 22, 2019, 10:15:02 PM »
I'll take your word for it that those Thimble Theater strips with Popeye eating spinach predated Fleischer, but it is a fact that Fleischer included it via request from a government official. They needed Americans to start eating canned spinach during the Great Depression. I forget exactly why, but most likely because it was cheaper to grow and harvest being that you eat the leaves of the plant rather than waiting for it to grow a fruit or nut. I don't know if Fleischer got some sort of payment or tax break for including spinach in the cartoons, but the agriculture department talked him into it, rather than it being something he was already lifting from the strip. I have little doubt that the agriculture department made their rounds to all the cartoonists and animators with the same request.

According to my parents, canned spinach in the 30s and 40s was gross. It was the entire plant and was usually covered with grit and sand. Kids hated it. So the agriculture department needed popular cartoon characters and pulp heroes to endorse it. The examples you have shown were typical of how spinach was promoted. It was supposed to make you grow big and strong. It was Fleischer that came up with the gag that eating it instantly gave you super powers. And it was Fleischer who made spinach crucial to the climax of every Popeye cartoon.

Of course Fleischer the modeled the animated  characters after the strip characters. But the characters in the movie were modeled after the animated characters. Put it this way. Tim Burton modeled his Batman after the comic book, but most of the Batman that followed modeled themselves after Keaton's performance. With the Popeye movie, Robin William's performance was based on the vocal performance and mannerisms originated in the Fleischer cartoons, instead of his normal manic performance. Shelley Duval could have easily just acted like herself as Olive Oil and it would have worked, instead of doing a ZaSu Pitts imitation. No one was allowed to give an original performance. Using Batman again as an example, each time an actor played The Joker on screen, he gave a unique performance instead of copping Caeser Romero or any of the previous Jokers.

I Am going to give up arguing that Bluto was only a major character in the animated cartoons, and instead point out that if this really was supposed to be based on the strip then how come no Sea Hag or her army of Goons?  That would have been an awesome film.