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I Yam What I Yam

Original release date: Sept. 29, 1933

To show what a ladies' man Popeye is, this cartoon starts off with Popeye standing at the edge of a dinky lifeboat, bleating his theme song while Olive Oyl furiously rows the boat by herself in the middle of a storm, and fellow passenger Wimpy (in his screen debut) is improvising a meal out of unsuspecting nearby fish. Really gallant, these guys. (Wimpy makes himself an even more useless boat passenger in the later Sindbad the Sailor color short.)

Soon the trio run ashore. Popeye pummels some trees into an instant log cabin, and that's the last clever gag we get for a while as Popeye runs afoul of some stereotypical Indians who have nothing better to do than shoot arrows at total strangers. (Seen in [admittedly] politically correct hindsight, the movie's final "gag" is almost enough to make you blanch.) Popeye fends off the Indians in some unique ways, but the best gag is the least elaborate: In the middle of a hailstorm of arrows, Popeye turns to the Indians and says, "Ya oughta stop doing that on account o’ somebody might get hurt!")

The cartoon is clever in spots, and as with the all of the Fleischer cartoons, the fluid animation is a pleasure to take in. But these days, this cartoon is less funny than it is enlightening on the racist atmosphere that eventually caused cartoons like this one to get banned from TV screens across America.

My rating:

© 2007, Steve Bailey.

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