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(YouTube) Video Saturday Cinema, Popeye 1980 - Robin Williams's first film was a children's fantasy musical about the world's most famous spinach-eating sailor. Shelley Duval stars as Olive Oyl, his sweetheart   (youtube.com) divider line 36
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1577 clicks; posted to Video » on 23 Aug 2014 at 12:34 PM (17 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-08-23 09:51:33 AM  
www.movieposterdb.com

Robin Williams had a short career doing bit roles in television before his break out sitcom about a frenetic but well-intentioned alien, Mork and Mindy.

His first film was a children's musical Popeye the Sailor Man. Unlike a lot of children's movies that require copious amounts of alcohol and insulin to be tolerable for adults, this film's not bad.

Studios can only finance a few big films a year and why they chose to back a comic strip from the 1940s to be a big summer film is the sort mysterious thing that seems bizarre to outsiders.
Paramount green-lit this film after losing a bidding war with Columbia for the screen rights to the musical Annie. So, they snapped up Popeye and commissioned a script. After casting ideas such as Dustin Hoffman and Lilly Tomlin were kicked around, the production eventually was shot with Robin Williams as the muscle-man sailor and Shelly Duval as Olive Oyl, his love interest.
The $20 million film earned $60 despite mixed reviews. The studio had banked on it being a massive hit however and thus, on the books, wrote it off as a flop according to Wikipedia.

It's uneven and I suspect the lovely set is the reason:  The set's godamned beautiful.

The Sweet Haven town set was built in a small cove in Malta, a British possession in the med.

One hundred and sixty five carpenters worked seven months to build the town. Tree trunk logs were driven across the European continent from the Netherlands, wood shingles from Canada, 7,257 kilograms of nails and 7,571 liters of paint were used. When they finished, the fictional village of Sweet Haven had 19 buildings, including a hotel, a schoolhouse, a store, a post office, a church and a tavern.

The producers then bought a bunch of ships, pulled out the seacocks and sunk them around the set. Finally, a 250 foot breakwater was also constructed at the mouth of the harbour to prevent the set from getting smashed.

In other words, the bulk of the film's budget went into the set. In fact the set was so well built it became a tourist attraction once the production left. This left less of the pie for shooting and editing never mind the giant octopus at the end. A lot of the film seems poorly staged and isn't shot or edited in a way that's particularly stellar. This even though many of the extras were recruited from circuses.

For example, this initial confrontation between the bully Bluto and Popeye has lots of amazing stuff in it but somehow doesn't sew together.

(The extras are really, really great BTW and really flesh out the scenes. Notice how much energy is in the background bit players. Also, having acrobats was useful as it gave the producers someone to cut away to when Williams needed to do backflips. Unfortunately, there's also a tendency to re-use footage of the crowds.)

The musical numbers also suffer from weak staging. Here's Popye's I Yam what I Yam number. Not only does it need a redub to make Williams intelligible but as a musical number it's visually dull.  Bluto's I'm Mean number is frankly weird. It's as though so they shot a pile of stuff without a storyboard or a choreographer and just strung together footage until the song ended. In comparison, here's one scene from 1982's Annie.

Even the big climax where Popeye finally eats his spinach, saves Olive from a silly celephapod and banishes Bluto doesn't quite come together in the one might expect from director Robert Altman. (Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, MASH, Quintet).

It was nominated for best Fantasy Film in the 1980 Saturn Awards despite everything.

Last week's Saturday Cinema
Next week's Saturday Cinema is a fan. Your biggest. I would do anything for you. Even kill.

img4.wikia.nocookie.net
 
2014-08-23 10:15:14 AM  
If a ModMin could kindly kill that dead image link, that'd be great. Sorry!
 
2014-08-23 10:39:06 AM  
I remember seeibg as a kid and thought it was great. Sadly, it was widely panned because Williams wasn't Mork in this, it conformed more to the comic strip than the cartoons, and it was a musical.
But it's a damn solid film
 
ZAZ [TotalFark]
2014-08-23 11:05:58 AM  
gaslight

Modmins can't edit posts, only delete them. You can repost with the correct link and use the notify mods link at the bottom of the page to ask them to time warp your corrected post back to the top then delete your original.
 
2014-08-23 11:21:46 AM  
It's weird to think that Robert Altman directed this until you remember that Altman also made Brewster McCloud.
 
2014-08-23 11:24:26 AM  
From an aesthetic standpoint, I don't think any film has done a better job of adapting something from the comic pages. It doesn't look too cartoony or too realistic. The sets, characters, costumes, make-up are just perfect.
 
2014-08-23 11:37:16 AM  
I was sooooo excited to see this when it came out and soooooo disappointed when I saw it.

I had no idea about all the set business though. Thanks for that, gaslight! Very interesting.
 
2014-08-23 12:38:23 PM  
That'll be 10 cents posting on Fark tax
 
2014-08-23 12:41:03 PM  
This is one of my guilty pleasures. I love Nilsson's songs (cute on the surface, a little dirty and/or subversive when you dig a little deeper), I love the attention to detail for Popeye fans, I love Bill Irwin as Harold Hamgravy. I love how absolutely perfect Shelly DuVall is for the role of Olive Oyl. I love the quietly-mumbled, slightly off-color comments Popeye makes. I love Ray Walston as Poopdeck Pappy (a perfect casting choice). I love how completely bonkers and strangeballs this movie is.

And yes, that is a truly amazing, wonderful set.

I saw it in the theater in 1980. I was all of 9 years old at the time. It was bizarre to me then, but I "got it" to some extent. As I got older, more and more of the background detail made sense. As an adult, I like it just because it's the kind of movie you can't see anymore. Nobody makes movies like this now.

And of course, Robin Williams did an admirable job as Popeye. I just rewatched it last week, and I feel no shame about keeping this one in my video collection.
 
2014-08-23 12:41:09 PM  
The art direction and the casting were  wonderful. Absolutely perfect. Where it fell flat was the story.
 
2014-08-23 12:41:59 PM  
Also, it would be impossible to pick a better Olive Oyl than Shelley Duvall. She was born to play that part.
 
2014-08-23 12:42:36 PM  

WilderKWight: This is one of my guilty pleasures. I love Nilsson's songs (cute on the surface, a little dirty and/or subversive when you dig a little deeper)



I also want to add... I used to have the soundtrack (on cassette) and I loved that the soundtrack versions of all the songs were different-- cleaned up, better sounding, not as rough-around-the-edges, and with extra verses. It was a great soundtrack cassette to have as a kid.
 
2014-08-23 12:49:35 PM  

cretinbob: I remember seeibg as a kid and thought it was great. Sadly, it was widely panned because Williams wasn't Mork in this, it conformed more to the comic strip than the cartoons, and it was a musical.
But it's a damn solid film


It's really underrated, but I think Altman was a poor choice as director.
 
2014-08-23 12:57:42 PM  
Back in the day, I found it mildly amusing. I did laugh at an intro to an episode of Mork and Mindy that came out at that time where Mork entered the house with some neighborhood kids in tow, and excitedly told them "And if you kids are really good, I'll take you to see Popeye again!"
 
2014-08-23 01:00:11 PM  

El Freak: Also, it would be impossible to pick a better Olive Oyl than Shelley Duvall. She was born to play that part.


Yes, she was. Poor Shelley.

I was always mystified as to why Popeye and Bluto were fighting over Olive Oyl when I was a little boy. She didn't seem pretty enough to justify it.
 
2014-08-23 01:11:41 PM  
oi57.tinypic.com
 
2014-08-23 01:39:03 PM  
I remember watching it as a kid and being bored for most of it. For one thing, I hated musicals, and secondly, the only part I liked -- where he eats spinach and becomes Super Popeye -- doesn't happen until the end. So he spent most of the film farting around and avoiding spinach because he hated it.

I should check it out again with adult eyes. There seems to be a labor of love poured into it, especially in set design and costumes, that can be appreciated. And it seems to be one of those quirky films with a crazy premise (like Bugsy Malone) that only seemed to be made in the late 70s, and I like quirky films like that. I like it when studios take risks. I mean, they could have modernized it to all hell, but instead they made a live action adaptation that stayed as close to the source material as possible. That's hard to do.
 
2014-08-23 01:43:19 PM  

MFAWG: cretinbob: I remember seeibg as a kid and thought it was great. Sadly, it was widely panned because Williams wasn't Mork in this, it conformed more to the comic strip than the cartoons, and it was a musical.
But it's a damn solid film

It's really underrated, but I think Altman was a poor choice as director.


..It could have been better, but it certainly isn't the horrible pile of shiat that it's been portrayed
 
2014-08-23 01:50:21 PM  

cretinbob: MFAWG: cretinbob: I remember seeibg as a kid and thought it was great. Sadly, it was widely panned because Williams wasn't Mork in this, it conformed more to the comic strip than the cartoons, and it was a musical.
But it's a damn solid film

It's really underrated, but I think Altman was a poor choice as director.

..It could have been better, but it certainly isn't the horrible pile of shiat that it's been portrayed


People were expecting a Broadway style musical, like Annie. That's decidedly not what this film is.
 
2014-08-23 01:54:39 PM  

gaslight: [www.movieposterdb.com image 200x284]

Robin Williams had a short career doing bit roles in television before his break out sitcom about a frenetic but well-intentioned alien, Mork and Mindy.

His first film was a children's musical Popeye the Sailor Man.....


Nice post.  Thanks for the examples.
 
2014-08-23 01:57:07 PM  
Would have been interesting to see the 1982 Annie with everyone wearing Salem's Lot contacts on their eyeballs.
 
2014-08-23 02:10:25 PM  

El Freak: Also, it would be impossible to pick a better Olive Oyl than Shelley Duvall. She was born to play that part.


All the characters in this film freak me out. It's too cartoonish. Especially Shelley Duvall. Now I know why Jack Nicholson went crazy in The Shining -- he was locked in a hotel with Shelley Duvall.
 
2014-08-23 02:28:40 PM  

El Freak: Also, it would be impossible to pick a better Olive Oyl than Shelley Duvall. She was born to play that part.


Agreed.  what became of her?
 
2014-08-23 04:25:56 PM  

WilderKWight: WilderKWight: This is one of my guilty pleasures. I love Nilsson's songs (cute on the surface, a little dirty and/or subversive when you dig a little deeper)


I also want to add... I used to have the soundtrack (on cassette) and I loved that the soundtrack versions of all the songs were different-- cleaned up, better sounding, not as rough-around-the-edges, and with extra verses. It was a great soundtrack cassette to have as a kid.


You just reminded me... I think I still have that on vinyl. That has now been added to the list of things to get out of storage when I get over that way.

Great choice as always gaslight. I liked this one as a kid because my parents could put up with it and wouldn't leave the room, or shut it off and tell me to go play in traffic.
 
2014-08-23 05:59:07 PM  
To ze netflix! where the movie is currently
 
2014-08-23 08:14:18 PM  

ecmoRandomNumbers: El Freak: Also, it would be impossible to pick a better Olive Oyl than Shelley Duvall. She was born to play that part.

All the characters in this film freak me out. It's too cartoonish. Especially Shelley Duvall. Now I know why Jack Nicholson went crazy in The Shining -- he was locked in a hotel with Shelley Duvall.


To be fair, in many ways she was perfect as Wendy. Between Popeye and The Shining 1980 was a good year for her.
 
2014-08-23 09:21:05 PM  

MFAWG: cretinbob: I remember seeibg as a kid and thought it was great. Sadly, it was widely panned because Williams wasn't Mork in this, it conformed more to the comic strip than the cartoons, and it was a musical.
But it's a damn solid film

It's really underrated, but I think Altman was a poor choice as director.


I agree with you there but I can't think of any director who was active in 1980 who could've successfully translated the style and attitude of the Fleischer Studios' version of Popeye to a live-action movie.  Tim Burton (whose work was heavily influenced the the surreal oddness of the pre-Code Fleisher cartoons) could've but I believe he was just an anonymous young animator for Disney at the time.
 
2014-08-24 12:31:54 AM  

NDP2: MFAWG: cretinbob: I remember seeibg as a kid and thought it was great. Sadly, it was widely panned because Williams wasn't Mork in this, it conformed more to the comic strip than the cartoons, and it was a musical.
But it's a damn solid film

It's really underrated, but I think Altman was a poor choice as director.

I agree with you there but I can't think of any director who was active in 1980 who could've successfully translated the style and attitude of the Fleischer Studios' version of Popeye to a live-action movie.  Tim Burton (whose work was heavily influenced the the surreal oddness of the pre-Code Fleisher cartoons) could've but I believe he was just an anonymous young animator for Disney at the time.


His version would have put Popeye, Olive, and Bluto in black & white stripes, and all the music would be by the self-plagiarizing Danny Elfman (BOOM BWA BOOM BWA lalalalala DeedleDeedle DeedleDeedle). Sweethaven would have been filled with stripey poles and twisty things.

His Popeye would have had much deeper daddy issues, and we'd get a half-hour flashback to Poopdeck Pappy raising Popeye, trying to feed him spinach, but getting frustrated and eventually abandoning Popeye in a sewer because Popeye only wants to eat candy and olives.

No. Please spare me from a Tim Burton Popeye. I'd almost rather have a Michael Bay Popeye.
 
2014-08-24 01:13:45 AM  

WilderKWight: NDP2: MFAWG: cretinbob: I remember seeibg as a kid and thought it was great. Sadly, it was widely panned because Williams wasn't Mork in this, it conformed more to the comic strip than the cartoons, and it was a musical.
But it's a damn solid film

It's really underrated, but I think Altman was a poor choice as director.

I agree with you there but I can't think of any director who was active in 1980 who could've successfully translated the style and attitude of the Fleischer Studios' version of Popeye to a live-action movie.  Tim Burton (whose work was heavily influenced the the surreal oddness of the pre-Code Fleisher cartoons) could've but I believe he was just an anonymous young animator for Disney at the time.

His version would have put Popeye, Olive, and Bluto in black & white stripes, and all the music would be by the self-plagiarizing Danny Elfman (BOOM BWA BOOM BWA lalalalala DeedleDeedle DeedleDeedle). Sweethaven would have been filled with stripey poles and twisty things.

His Popeye would have had much deeper daddy issues, and we'd get a half-hour flashback to Poopdeck Pappy raising Popeye, trying to feed him spinach, but getting frustrated and eventually abandoning Popeye in a sewer because Popeye only wants to eat candy and olives.

No. Please spare me from a Tim Burton Popeye. I'd almost rather have a Michael Bay Popeye.


Okay.  Do you think a Terry Gilliam Popeye would've worked?
 
2014-08-24 01:50:43 AM  

NDP2: Okay.  Do you think a Terry Gilliam Popeye would've worked?


In that era? The TIME BANDITS era?

It would have worked, but it would have been completely ridiculous. I also can't imagine Terry Gilliam going for a kid-friendly musical at that point in time.
 
2014-08-24 02:30:18 AM  
For me Bill Irwin made the film for me. He's a genius in his own right and I've always admired his skills as a performer.
 
2014-08-24 02:46:01 AM  

gaslight: In comparison, here's one scene from 1982's Annie.


Miss Hannigan should have sold some of those kids to the circus.
 
2014-08-24 09:07:45 AM  

WilderKWight: NDP2: MFAWG: cretinbob: I remember seeibg as a kid and thought it was great. Sadly, it was widely panned because Williams wasn't Mork in this, it conformed more to the comic strip than the cartoons, and it was a musical.
But it's a damn solid film

It's really underrated, but I think Altman was a poor choice as director.

I agree with you there but I can't think of any director who was active in 1980 who could've successfully translated the style and attitude of the Fleischer Studios' version of Popeye to a live-action movie.  Tim Burton (whose work was heavily influenced the the surreal oddness of the pre-Code Fleisher cartoons) could've but I believe he was just an anonymous young animator for Disney at the time.

His version would have put Popeye, Olive, and Bluto in black & white stripes, and all the music would be by the self-plagiarizing Danny Elfman (BOOM BWA BOOM BWA lalalalala DeedleDeedle DeedleDeedle). Sweethaven would have been filled with stripey poles and twisty things.

His Popeye would have had much deeper daddy issues, and we'd get a half-hour flashback to Poopdeck Pappy raising Popeye, trying to feed him spinach, but getting frustrated and eventually abandoning Popeye in a sewer because Popeye only wants to eat candy and olives.

No. Please spare me from a Tim Burton Popeye. I'd almost rather have a Michael Bay Popeye.


A Michael Bay Popeye, you say?

TRANSFOREARMS!
 
2014-08-24 09:50:47 AM  
Imagine a Bob Fosse Popeye.
 
2014-08-24 09:55:04 AM  
Oh, the set is still a functioning tourism spot today. Here's a Wiki page about it.
 
2014-08-24 05:40:06 PM  

gaslight: Imagine a Bob Fosse Popeye.


Rob Riener
 
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