Wednesday, February 3, 2010
The Magic of 'Popeye' Lives On
Speaking of Robert Altman, the biggest budget he ever had for a movie, by far, was for 1980's Popeye, a property that producer Dino de Laurentiis had been trying to get off the ground for a long time before Altman signed on. I'm not sure whose idea it was to film on the island of Malta, but crew members worked for seven months building the town of Sweethaven for the movie - one problem is that there is no indigenous wood on Malta, so timber had to be shipped in all the way from Holland in the course of constructing the hotel, tavern, post office, and a dozen or so other buildings.
If you've seen the movie, the sets look fantastic, and you'd almost say they were worth the expense, except that toward the end of filming, Altman ran out of money. Screenwriter Jules Feiffer had written all sorts of exciting, expensive concluding scenes, such as one with Popeye and Bluto sword-fighting on a boat, breaking off planks of wood from the ship to battle with as it slowly sank into the ocean. They couldn't afford that, so instead, in the climactic chase, we're treated to shots of Popeye on a boat, followed by Bluto on a boat, followed by Olive Oyl on a boat, and you're never sure where they are in relation to one another, or even if they're on the same boat. Altman is not exactly a skilled director of action anyway. The first hour and a half or so of the movie is quite good, but if you fall asleep at that point, you won't miss anything.
After filming concluded, the nation of Malta decided to leave all those fantastic wooden buildings as a tourist attraction. I can't imagine who would go to Malta in search of Popeye memorabilia, but then again, I can't imagine who would go to Malta in the first place - other than my fellow Debris Slider Eric Banks, who has actually been to not just Malta but Sweethaven and describes it as "the most depressing and deserted roadside attraction I've ever had the pleasure of spending an afternoon at."
But hey, you can judge for yourself right here, wherein you can discover that Popeye Village boasts a nine-hole minigolf course - because who wants to play a full 18 holes of minigolf? Nine is plenty!