Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Bluto in THE TWO-ALARM FIRE (1934) – A cartoon that doesn’t quite spark

Popeye

Popeye and Bluto are firemen at adjoining firehouses. Olive Oyl’s house catches on fire. There’s only one way this can go, and it won’t be pretty.

It could just be me, but I have a visceral reaction to fire in cartoons. It’s one thing when the antics of the main characters are hurting only those characters. But when there’s a dangerous situation at hand and the supposed heroes are acting like idiots, you want to yell at the screen, “Get over yourselves and do something to help!” Popeye and Bluto can have their whizzing contest any old time, but not when they have a life they’re supposed to be saving.

(Walt Disney’s 1935 Mickey Mouse cartoon Mickey’s Fire Brigade has exactly the same scenario — it might well have been inspired by this Popeye cartoon — and it certainly has the same defects as its predecessor.)

And the non-Popeye gags are pretty pedestrian, as when the fire does “human” things (such as knocking Olive in the rear end and then shaking hands with itself on a job well-done). By cartoon’s end, Olive’s house is totaled, as have been our expectations.

On a rating scale of 1 to 4 spinach cans, I give this cartoon: CanCanCanHalf

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