TNB Night Owl–Popeye Meets The Man Who Hated Laughter

Macaroni and Cheese. Photo by Naotake Murayama

1972 was the year THE SATURDAY SUPERSTAR MOVIE premiered. The concept was a movie-of-the-week for kids. All animated, all recognizable characters. It saw a movie version of The Banana Splits, Gidget, Yogi Bear, and every kid’s favorite, LOVE, AMERICAN STYLE. Tonight’s Night Owl features a movie that joined a huge number of King Syndicate properties from the era into the epic that was POPEYE MEETS THE MAN WHO HATED LAUGHTER (1972).

Professor Morbid Grimsby has swept the Meanie Awards for the past six years. He devises a devious plan to ensure his seventh award–kidnap all the Sunday Funnies characters and leave them on a boat, thus eliminating all the laughter in the world. That should be a giant signal to eliminate all rational thought. But I digress. In order to lure the comic characters away, he hires Popeye on to captain his yacht and invite them all for a free pleasure cruise. Blondie and Dagwood, Beetle Bailey, Little Iodine and a bunch from other King Syndicate funnies jump at the chance. Once they are all aboard and safely away they discover his dastardly plan.

Meanwhile, their disappearance has come to the attention of The President. Without the funny pages to keep the populace laughing, they’ll laugh at politicians instead. To keep Americas political system healthy, they must be found and returned to their rightful place in the newspapers. He calls together King Sydicate’s line of heroic characters (Flash Gordon, The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, among others) to help save the day.

Most of the movie is made up of one-liners and references to things that make the characters famous. Wimpy makes burger jokes. Dagwood has sandwich jokes…you get the picture. Then there’s general strangeness: Bluto is clad in a turban and is Grimby’s assistant. Olive Oyl does a burlesque number about her bikini. Prince Valliant rides in and…does nothing that advances the plot in any way.

Eventually everything is solved in a purely illogical but kid-friendly way. Let’s face it, though, you’re not watching this for the story line. You’re watching it for appearances by Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, Blondie, Beetle Bailey, Bringing Up Father, Flash Gordon, Henry, Hi and Lois, The Katzenjammer Kids, Little Iodine, The Little King, Mandrake the Magician, The Phantom, Popeye, Prince Valiant, Quincy, Steve Canyon, Tiger, and Tim Tyler’s Luck.

It’s weird. It’s somewhat devoid of plot. It’s not-so-strangely unavailable in the traditional home market. Thankfully, a kind (or sadistic, depending on how you want to look at it) soul has posted it to YouTube.

Question of the night: how did you spend your Saturday mornings when you were a kid?

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