‘Nix on Hypnotricks’ — Popeye the Sailor

[http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033956/]

Descrip­tion: Sin­is­ter hyp­no­tist Pro­fes­sor I. Stare (Hyp­no­tist “10¢ a Trance”) is prac­tic­ing his hyp­no­tism on a gold­fish but the gold­fish isn’t coop­er­at­ing. Instead, he fumes, he wants a human sub­ject. Going to the phone book, he picks a name at ran­dom and dials Olive Oyl, whom he entrances with a ges­ture (and light­ing bolts com­ing out of his fin­gers through the tele­phone toward Olive) and gives her a sim­ple com­mand: “Come to me!” Entranced, Olive march­es out, arms out­stretched like a sleep­walk­er, and nar­row­ly avoids any num­ber of dan­gers on the way and has to be con­tin­u­ous­ly res­cued by Pop­eye. Final­ly frus­trat­ed with all of the obsta­cles he faced, Pop­eye pulls out his can of spinach and trans­forms into Super-Pop­eye (com­plete with “S” from the spinach can on his chest) and puts an end to the sin­is­ter hyp­no­tist’s plot, but at the expense of Olive’s anger: once she is awak­ened from her trance, she has no mem­o­ry of what hap­pened, know­ing only that Pop­eye slapped her. The beat­ing he takes from an indig­nant Olive is worse than any­thing he ever takes from his old ene­my Blu­to, espe­cial­ly because he refus­es to defend himself.

His­to­ry: ‘Nix on Hyp­notricks’ was the 101st Pop­eye car­toon released by Fleis­ch­er Stu­dios. It came at a time of grow­ing dis­sent between the Fleis­ch­er broth­ers and the Fleis­ch­er Stu­dios was bought by Para­mount Stu­dios. All of the Fleis­ch­er Pop­eye car­toons have been released through Warn­er Home Video’s Pop­eye the Sailor DVD box set series: this episode can be found on Pop­eye the Sailor: 1941–1943, Vol­ume 3.

Com­men­tary: This car­toon was one of my very first exam­ples of hyp­no­sis in the media that I can remem­ber. The image of Olive, entranced and sleep­walk­ing, stayed with me for decades and I only recent­ly dis­cov­ered a copy on YouTube. It is a very stereo­typ­i­cal view of hyp­no­sis, not sur­pris­ing giv­en that it was released in 1941. You have the stereo­typ­i­cal swa­mi (tur­ban, mus­tache and pointy beard) using hyp­not­ic ges­tures and light­ning bolts from his hands that hyp­no­tize, the blank stare of his hyp­no­tized vic­tim who pro­ceeds to walk in the hyp­no­tized / sleep­walk­er pose with her arms firm­ly out­stretched before her: all it needs is a few “Yes, master“s thrown in to have the com­plete set.

Triv­ia:

  • This was the sec­ond Pop­eye car­toon involv­ing hyp­no­sis: the first was the 1935 car­toon ‘The Hyp-Nut-Tist’ with Blu­to as a smarmy swa­mi stage hyp­no­tist. This B&W episode would be remade in col­or as ‘The Balmy Swa­mi’.
  • The Super­man motif is because the Fleis­ch­er Stu­dios were also pro­duc­ing the excel­lent “Super­man” car­toons at the same time.

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