You Don’t Know Jack
Jack the Giant Killer: 8 out of 10: is a 1962 American fantasy film directed by Nathan Juran. The film is known for its adventure, fantasy, and special effects, and it draws inspiration from traditional English folklore and the “Jack and the Beanstalk” tale. Here’s a plot synopsis for the film:
Jack the Giant Killer is set in medieval England and follows the young hero Jack (played by Kerwin Mathews), a humble farm boy who becomes embroiled in a grand adventure when a malevolent sorcerer named Pendragon (played by Torin Thatcher) uses his dark powers to unleash a horde of menacing giants upon the land. These giants, led by a fearsome giant named Cormoran, threaten to wreak havoc and destruction on the kingdom.
With the kingdom in peril and the princess (played by Judi Meredith) kidnapped by Pendragon’s evil magic, Jack takes it upon himself to rescue her and put an end to the giant menace.
She has other ideas, however, and under the sorcerer’s spell, sets a trap for Jack. Much bondage, leprechaun magic and claymation monster fights ensue.
As Jack faces enormous odds and magical challenges, he must summon his bravery, wits, and resourcefulness to rescue the princess, defeat the monsters, and put an end to Pendragon’s dark reign once and for all.
Jack the Giant Killer is a family-friendly adventure that combines elements of folklore, fantasy, and action, creating a classic tale of good versus evil, with Jack standing as the unlikely hero who rises to the occasion to save his home and the princess he recently met.
The Good: Jack the Giant Killer cost 3 million to make. That is in 1962 3 million dollars. To put that is perspective Dr. No that came out the same year only cost 1.1 million to make. Well, to the movies credit the money is on the screen.
Leaving aside the claymation monsters for a moment. There is a lot to like about Jack. It is a luscious looking medieval fantasy film with excellent sets and costumes. It has plenty of action. Likable and attractive leads. An over the top campy villain. Lovecraftian horrors abound in the shape of fish-men and ghosts. And a pretty decent story.
While the initial claymation monsters are well done, they fail to impress until our friend, the cutest green octopus ever, shows up. I fell in love and I felt eight years old again.
I was not born when Jack the Giant Killer was released and I had never seen it before. Yet here I was feeling like a child staring in wonder at the adventure. Sometimes movies are just fun. If you are the right age and in the right state of mind, you might find Jack the Giant Killer as comfortable as an old Godzilla film or disaster movie. Sometimes it is good to go home again.
The Bad: Some people, the ones that read Fangoria and Movie Monsters magazine and took them both way too seriously, will be happy to point out that the special effects are not up to the standards of the producers previous film The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. That Jack the Giant Killer is more of a kids’ film than a serious film for adults like Sinbad was. They may also note that the villain was dressed by Cher’s costumer designer. And the battle is really decided not by the titular Jack but by a bloody leprechaun.
These accusations are all very true. But these are the same people trying to tell me that Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, is the superior film to Jason X. Because the latter is too cartoonish and didn’t have Tom Savini do the special effects. Lighten up and enjoy the movie. Sometimes I just want to see Jason attack the topless coeds and sometimes I want to see a claymation octopus.
The Ugly: Normally I would be talking about the bloody leprechaun in this space. I would go on some long diatribe about how this racist nonsense has no place in a children’s film, etc. But in reality, I enjoyed Jack the Giant Killer too much to let the leprechaun bother me.
In Conclusion: Jack the Giant Killer is a very fun film for children of all ages. Perfect for a Saturday afternoon, it offers grand adventure, a likable cast and special effects that sometimes impress and otherwise put a smile on my face. A good fun film.
RiffTrax Live: Jack the Giant Killer (2011)
RiffTrax Live: Jack the Giant Killer (2011): 8 out of 10: When RiffTrax chooses a film to feature for thier live shows, they have some things in common. The print is usually pretty good; they tend to be family friendly (Though there have been exceptions such as Starship Troopers) and tend not to be very good films so there is plenty to mock. You won’t see a RiffTrax live of The Godfather, for example.
Jack the Giant Killer is a solid choice for the live show. At first I thought could they not get a real film? I figured Jack the Giant Killer was thier backup. But in reality, it is a very solid choice. There is a ton of crazy on the screen which gives the boys plenty to work with. Jack is family friendly, and it moves a good pace, which is important when you are riffing a movie live. There are plenty of laughs in Jack and the Giant Killer, but there were few home runs. The audience didn’t seem as into it as they have in other live shows. Perhaps they were as puzzled or maybe suspicious of the film choice as I was.
Of course, they could have simply been put to sleep by the short. What Is Nothing? is a 1973 educational short that takes 9 minutes of your life and never gives it back. The boys have turned educational shorts into gold in the past. 1970’s At Your Fingertips: Grasses is still one of the funniest RiffTrax shorts I have ever seen where the underlying short was ten minutes of nothing (Literally soft focus pictures of children and grass with a narrator who clearly partook in a bit too much grass himself.)
The boys do not weave such gold with What is Nothing? Nor do the subsequent films made by someone’s six-year-old help either. Once the movie proper film starts, however, we are in for a good time. It is a well-written script with songs and callbacks. It unfortunately is not that memorable. Fun while you watch it seems to be the keyword here. A good meal, but nothing that sticks to the ribs like some live shows of the past. thre is no equivelant of Bill asking with increased desperation if corn is grass.
RiffTrax: Jack the Giant Killer (2014)
RiffTrax: Jack the Giant Killer (2014): 6 out of 10: If I was a betting man, I would have guessed that this standalone riffing was done a few years before the live show. But no, it was done a few years after. It appears to be the same script that the live show uses. (I did not do a side-by-side analysis but I would be surprised if there was more than a ten percent deviation. ) So why does this exist?
I don’t know. Separate riffs for live shows that have rights issues (See Starship Troopers above) make perfect sense. A show with an original script could be fun, like when the boys take on a movie they riffed on MST3K (Though not always a winner cough Space Mutiny Live Show cough). And it is not as if Jack the Giant Killer had to be cut for the live show due to content.
I am not sure why this exists. Sure you get to skip the rather dull shorts at the beginning of the show, but the live performance is simply more fun to watch. Even with a decent and workable riffing script, the live audience adds just enough to easily make it the preferred viewing method.