|Popeye Meets Hercules|
A Wolf in Sheik's Clothing
Popeye Meets Hercules is Popeye's 155th theatrical cartoon, released by Famous Studios on June 18, 1948. It features Popeye as the main protagonist, Olive Oyl as the love interest, a Bluto-like Hercules as the main antagonist and, in order of appearance, Father Time, a number of centaurs, a troop of satyrs, a 'fresh frosh', the gods Zeus, Hermes, and Ares; a stadium announcer, a bevy of lovely maidens, a winged heart, a pair of wild elephants, three lions, and "Spinachia", the goddess of spinach. As in How Green Is My Spinach, there is also a narrator for portions of the action. The cartoon playfully combines ancient Greek and Roman mythology with tongue-in-cheek snippets of postwar American life.
The cartoon begins with a depiction of Father Time marching backwards from the present (1948) to ancient Greece, where the Ancient Olympic Games are taking place. We watch a collection of Greek citizens in togas and comical hairstyles, the 'horsey set' (an aristocratic-looking pair of centaurs), and the band comprised of a group of satyrs (members of 'Local Musicians Union 123') playing conch-shell flutes, walking towards a stadium entrance. The announcer interjects, "Hey, how'd this fresh frosh get in?" as we see a Mickey Rooney-like young man in a raccoon coat and college beanie wave a banner and shout, "Shalomaleichim, shalomaleichem, rah, rah, rah!!" (Shalom aleichem, 'peace be upon you' in Hebrew, actually a common greeting among Ashkenazi Jews). And then we observe three Greek gods looking down upon the events from Mount Olympus, with Zeus snapping his fingers to produce a lightning bolt which ignites his cigar.
Inside the stadium, we witness Popeye and Olive in tunics waiting for the games to start as they share a hot dog, a soft drink, and a kiss. Suddenly, an announcement is made for "today's star contestant... the all-time champ of champions, Hercules!" A strongman resembling Bluto appears on the field driving a golden chariot pulled by nine white horses and wearing a royal blue robe. He jumps off and skids to a stop. Turning to face the crowd in the opposite direction, we are shown a close-up of his broad back upon which is written "This space reserved for advertising--reasonable rates". Facing back in our direction, Hercules extends his arms outward as a pair of satyrs unknots his robe. As his powerful physique is revealed we hear females screaming their adulation from the stands, and then see a row of maidens swooning and fainting at the sight (Olive is shown cross-eyed with her tongue hanging out). Hercules does a double-bicep pose, with one of them morphing into a set of bowling pins and the other into a bowling ball which mows them down (a scene that was re-utilized two years later in Beach Peach). Olive blows a kiss which takes wing in the form of a heart and winks suggestively at the demigod. A smitten Hercules seems to float on tiptoe over to her side and takes her hand in his. After adroitly disposing of an irate Popeye, he kisses Olive's hand and elicits a flock of goosebumps shaped like actual geese.Next Hercules stands in the center of the stadium and shouts, "I challenge anyone, no matter who, to come out and do the things I do!" As Popeye accepts the challenge, Hercules inflates his chest and employs it as a piledriver to pound the much-smaller fellow deep into the ground. A series of contests ensues: Hercules rips the skin off of a pair of elephants and turns them into mastodon skeleton exhibits from a museum of natural history; Popeye transforms three lions into basketballs and uses them to score points. Hercules's discus throw acts as a boomerang to ensnare Popeye, but Popeye somehow manages to get inside Hercules's singlet and tickles and taunts him mercilessly. Finally, Hercules's superior physical prowess comes to the fore in the javelin throw, where, with one mighty thrust, he is able to propel his opponent clear to the moon, giving the three observing gods a close shave in the process.
Now Hercules moves in on the brunette beauty who had been blowing him kisses, but Olive, apparently taken aback by what he had just done to Popeye, resists. She makes her way to the stadium megaphone and pleads for Popeye's aid. Hearing her from far out in space, Popeye falls on his knees and pleads in turn for help from Spinachia, goddess of spinach. His prayers are answered as Spinachia materializes - a female with bright red hair, Popeye's exact face, and a Mae West figure - and feeds him a can of spinach. Popeye's muscle expands in the usual fashion and encapsulates an image of an atomic-bomb mushroom cloud. He assumes the shape of a rocket and fires himself back to Olympic Stadium.
By this time Hercules has grabbed Olive and taken her aboard his chariot. Momentarily abandoning his earlier Greek/Italian accent, he declares, "I'll save ya--for meself!" But an airborne punch from Popeye knocks him off his conveyance, and a series of hammer blows to the head reduces the big man from twice Popeye's height to half of it. The miniature-Hercules then flees the scene in terror.
In the final scene Popeye and Olive ride on the back of a centaur and share a passionate kiss. Popeye places blinders on the centaur so that they can continue to kiss in private.
- Popeye Meets Hercules at the Internet Movie Database