(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)
The cartoon begins with Bluto running a ferry-boat and not exactly endearing himself to his customers. When Popeye and Olive’s car takes up the last of the space on the ferry, Bluto gets another car on board by ramming it into Popeye’s vehicle and squishing it like an accordion. When Wimpy tries to mooch a ferry ride, Bluto throws him into the water, and Popeye has to save him. Popeye vows to build a bridge across the river so he won’t have to endure Bluto’s high fare and obnoxious behavior.
Popeye’s is one slick bridge-building operation. High atop the uncompleted bridge, Olive cooks hamburgers and sends them one story down to Wimpy, who responds by sending up a hot rivet, which Popeye tap-dances into the proper beam. Who needs government workers?
Bluto sees Popeye’s success and of course has to thwart it. He climbs a ladder to the top of the bridge (now, how tall would a ladder like that have to be, anyway?) and sends Olive dangling from a girder, until Popeye uses a jackhammer as a pogo stick to reach Bluto and stop him.
Bluto ends up laying waste to the entire bridge, until Popeye pulls out his can of you-know-what. He sends Bluto and his ferry crashing into a building, eats a second can of spinach (watch that digestion, Popeye!) to give him strength enough to turn a girder into a huge magnet, and then, in twenty seconds, rebuilds the entire bridge and has city-wide traffic flowing onto it.
Okay, I gotta address this, ’cause I’ve had all I can stands and I can’t stands no more. For decades, the main theme of these cartoons is that Popeye is downtrodden by Bluto until he eats his spinach and saves the day. But if you knew that spinach could give you enough power to build a bridge across a river in twenty seconds, wouldn’t you be inclined to skip the formalities and just swallow the stuff right at the start? On one level, Popeye is a national hero, but let’s face it — on another level, he and Bluto were just macho members of their own Fight Club long before Brad Pitt was even in diapers.
That said, the cartoon is another triumph of skewed perspective for the Fleischers, who get their characters nonchalantly duking it out just a misstep away from certain death. Watching this one and A Dream Walking back-to-back makes you never want to go above the second story of any building ever again.