Saturday, December 12, 2020

Jack the Giant Killer (1962) Directed by Nathan H. Huran

 At first glance you might think you were about the see "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad" as this film uses the talents of Kerwin Mathews and Torin Thatcher in the main roles. It also extensively uses stop motion animation for the special effects. Because of these similarities, as a kid I was DYING to see this movie and always seemed to miss it as the local theatre where it played at least once a year, we didn't have TV back then so if it was on TV a lot I would not have known. 

The reusing of cast and techniques is where the similarities end for the most part... at least terms of quality. The story is a mess, but a fun mess with Mathews as the handsome farmer saving the process from the evil over the top Thatcher from second rate stop motion monsters, bad matte paintings and sub-par animations. Mathews has a lot of charisma and does his best to sell it all but it's not enough to get thorough some of the slow parts of the story. The time and place is some fairytale old England but it might as well be the Arabian nights worlds of Sinbad, so much so they turned this film into a musical(!) on release to avoid being sued. Luckily the version I saw on Tubi was a later release with no music. 

Jim Danforth is credited with he stop motion animations and this is pretty obviously one of his first attempts at the process - he did get much better later on. The first effects scene with the princess dancing with a tiny figure from a dollhouse is well done and choreographed but after that... well each following monster looks more and more like a stuff dog's toy.

Was it worth the 46 year wait to see it? Sure. Why Not. It's not good but it is amusing in points with the weird-ass rhyming leprechaun character in a bottle and the villain over acting and chewing all the scenery. There is a certain lost charm to the animated puppets, at least for me that kept me watching until the very end. 

* a side note* Torin Thatcher seemed to be limping throughout the entire filming of this movie - what was up with that? 


Jimmie T. Murakami said...

This is one of THE most ludicrously under-rated fantasy films of all-time!. OK, maybe Jim Danforth didn`t quite have the same levels of skill as Harryhausen but i thought all the creatures in this movie were really well done, the story also has incredible charm and genuine magic to it as well. Judy Meredith was such a gorgeous little darlin` 60 years ago and when Torin Thatcher turned her into a witch the bird looked even more stunningly beautiful. The ONLY thing i didn`t like in the entire movie was when that slightly irritating Irish imp said: "Opportunity knocks, but never twice", that line always got on my nerves. But, otherwise, like i said, a perfect fantasy movie of the highest calibre. BTW, just to put things into perspective even more, i`ve seen "Jack the Giant Killer" over a hundred times and i never get tired of watching it, where-as, for instance, to make an obvious comparison with a relatively recent series of fantasy movies, Peter Jacksons "Lord of the Rings" movies are admittedly quite stunning (both the original release versions and the extended cuts) but, for me, one viewing was enough, and i doubt if i`ll ever watch them again, but, like i said, "Jack the Giant Killer" will always have an astonishing re-watchability factor to it that keeps me watching it again and again.

NB. The remake of "Jack the Giant Killer" from a few years ago was, once again, ludicrously under-rated on its initial release and only did so-so box-office, but it really is an absolutely superb film, better than the original i would say!.

Behemoth media said...

I have to say I rewatched this a couple times now... it does have it's pwn charm. I wonder if we will ever see more film in this genre again, maybe even bringing back th4 stop motion effects.

Jimmie T. Murakami said...

I doubt it, we just have to accept that Stop-motion animation is the past and CGI is very much the future (for better or worse), The recent remake of JTGK was better specifically because the special effects were in a different league from from what they`d been able to achieve in 1961, but that still wont stop me from re-watching "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad" (1957) and "Clash of the Titans" (the original 1981 version) over and over again!.

Behemoth media said...

I guess you are right, though stoop motion has found a place in full length animation, just not as an effects technique now. The LAIKA films for example. Still it wouldn't surprise me if someday someone revives stop motion effects just for the novelty of it. Right before CGI came into use they had added some interesting stop motion techniques like go-motion in "DragonSlayer" that looks amazing. In a couple sets it's as good as CGI, in my opinion.