I watched a lot of Popeye cartoons when I was little, and to the best of my memory, the only ones worth re-watching are the ones made by the Fleischer Brothers, who also made some excellent Superman cartoons, as well.

1)Popeye the Sailor (1933):  This is presented a "A Betty Boop Cartoon". It comes across as sort of like a "pilot" for the series.  It starts with a song, "Strike Up the Band (For Popeye the Sailor)". We are informed that Popeye (Billy Costello) has signed a movie deal.  We then see him on board ship, singing the now-familiar "I'm Popeye the Sailor Man".  There are several visual gags showing how strong Popeye is. (For example, he punches a mast, which disintegrates into a pile of clothes pins.  In general, there are many surreal visual gags in this.)  Popeye takes Olve Oyl (Bonnie Poe) to a carnival, pursued by Bluto (William Pennell).  Popeye shows Bluto up at various carnival games, then dances on-stage with Betty Boop (Poe, again). As an aside, Betty's wearing a pretty risque outfit here, essentially topless, except for a strategically-placed (and apparently glued on) lei.  Bluto takes his opportunity to abduct Olive (saying "Marry me!"), eventually tying her to some railroad tracks. (Did anyone ever do that in real life?)  Popeye races to the rescue. Bluto pummels him, but Popeye eats some spinach (the Spinach-Eating Moment is much less dramatic here than it will become in later cartoons) and then rescues Olive by smashing the train that was about to hit her (and presumably killing hundreds).  

Overall: An amusing little cartoon with lots of sight gags.  It sets what will be the template for most subsequent Popeye cartoons:  Bluto forces his attentions on Olive, Popeye takes a beating trying to save her, Popeye eats some spinach, Popeye beats the snot out of Bluto.  I'll be interested to see just what percentage of these cartoons follow this template.

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9)The Man on the Flying Trapeze (1934):  Popeye sails a ship right up to Olive's doorstep.  He is informed by Nana Oyl - Olive's mother - that Olive has gone off with a trapeze artist.  A sorrowful Popeye sings "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze", and then goes to the circus, where Wimpy is the ringmaster.  Olive is performing with the trapeze artist, who seems to be deliberately frightening her. Popeye goes to the rescue, eats his spinach, and hits the trapeze artist until he turns into a light fixture.  He gets distracted by his young fans, and drops Olive when she jumps.  

Overall: An interesting one, with a non-Bluto antagonist.

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The man on the flying trapeze was pretty bizarre looking and that is saying something when you look at the characters that populate the Popeye-verse. He had those weird doll-like eyes - very creepy.



doc photo said:

The man on the flying trapeze was pretty bizarre looking and that is saying something when you look at the characters that populate the Popeye-verse. He had those weird doll-like eyes - very creepy.

Yeah, he was kinda odd-looking.

10)Can You Take It (1934):  Popeye accompanies Olive to her job at the Bruiser Boys Club, where she works in the hospital.   Intrigued, Popeye goes into the club, where guys are hurting each other to prove how tough they are.   Bluto, the president, scoffs when Popeye declares his intention to join.   Bluto puts him though a sor tof initiation rite, with various trap and hazards. (One almost wonders if Professor X was watching this cartoon when he got the idea for the Danger Room!) Popeye ends up in the hospital, tended by Olive. He eats his spinach, and we have the first Spinach Eating Moment that is like what I think of as the "classic" SEM, with his theme music blaring.  Popeye then beats up the entire club membership and wrecks the building, declaring himself president.  

Note:  One of Popeye's victims calls him "You nasty man!", which I'm guessing may be a reference to this.

Overall:  An amusing outing. Bluto takes no interest in Olive, here, but otherwise it follows the standard storyline. 

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Popeye’s Physical Afflictions: I grew up watching those horrible limited animation Popeye cartoons (which had “Brutus” instead of “Bluto”). In those, I think Popeye had both his eyes and merely squinted in his right. (I seem to recall a cartoon in which both eyeballs were shown when he opened them wide in surprise.) I’ve been waiting for “Can You Take It” (although I didn’t remember exactly which one it was from my first time through) because, I thought, it showed him blowing smoke through his eye socket. Actually he blew smoke through his good eye (which I know is possible), but Segar clearly intended for him to have one eye literally popped out.

I never really noticed before, but these early Fleisher cartoons clearly show Popye’s gums… he has no teeth! (Maybe that’s why he eats so much spinach.)

The eye-smoke thing kinda weirded me out a bit.

Can You Take It may be the most violent of the Popeye series - a non stop slug fest. Didn't Jack Kirby briefly work on the Fleischer Popeye cartoons?  His roll there was a minor one if I remember correctly but you can see how the action in the Popeye series may have inspired his comic book work.

Kirby worked as an "in-betweener" at Fleisher, meaning that he drew the "interstitial" movements between the main frames done by the primary animators.

11)Shoein' Hosses (1934):  Olive Oyl is running a blacksmith's shop (!), but fires her assistant, Wimpy. Popeye and Bluto compte for the job opening, performing various feats of strength. Popeye shows Bluto up, so Bluto hods an anvil at him.  Bluto then threatens Olive, and pummels a recovered Popeye. Popeye eats his spinach, beats up Bluto, and accepts Olive's gratitude.

Overall:  An OK episode. Olive as a blacksmith is an odd idea to me.

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I think Olive had some strange jobs.  I've also often thought that she was somehow related to Lois Lane.

12)Strong to the Finich (1934):  We start at Olive Oyl's Health Farm for Children, where she is feeding her charges spinach, which they reject vociferously.  Popeye brings them more spinach, and then sets out to prove its worth to them by feeding some to a tree and a chicken.  A boxer just happens by, and Popeye begins fighting him.The kids feed some to some cows, who morph into angry bulls and chase the children up a tree. Popeye beats up the bulls, and the kids race to eat the spinach, using their new-fund super-strength to wreck stuff.

Overall: Kind of an odd one. for some reason, the fact that a boxer just happens to be wandering by strikes me as more than a little odd. Popeye eats spinach twice in this, but there's no fanfare either time.

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  We haven't seen Popeye's nephews yet have we?  They always reminded me of Donald Duck's nephews.

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