Forgotten Films: Jack the Giant Killer (1962)
This is the 28th in my series of Forgotten Obscure or Neglected Films
I first heard about this film when I was in college and several folks had remarked on it, so, in the late 1970‘s I finally saw it and thought it was pretty good. The story is fairly simple. The evil sorcerer Pendragon (Torin Thatcher) wants to be King of Cornwall. To achieve this end, he has given the Crown Princess Elaine (Judi Meredith) a windup castle with a dancing jester. At night, that jester is revealed to be a goat legged horned monster that grows into giant size and kidnaps the princess. The monster takes Elaine to a waiting boat and would have escaped except that he runs into Jack (Kerwin Matthews), a farmer. Jack quickly assesses the situation and fights the monster, eventually killing it and saving the princess.
Pendragon threatens the land so it is decided that the princess should be sent to a convent in France where she will be safe. Jack is to accompany her on her journey, but, of course, this does not work. Elaine is kidnapped (again) and taken to a mystic island where Pendragon changes her into a beautiful but evil witch (who bears a strong resemblance to Anne Francis in those scenes).
Jack has been thrown into the sea and is rescued by Sigurd (Barry Kelly) a restless Viking and Peter (Roger Mobley) a plucky young lad. They have a secret weapon which they allow Jack to use against the evil Pendragon. They have a leprechaun (Don Beddoe) imprisoned in a bottle. The imp can provide assistance to Jack three times during his battles and, at the end, Jack must free him. Unfortunately, the leprechaun can only speak in bad rhyming quatrains.
There are battles, deceptions, transformations, and more in the ensuing battles. Good eventually triumphs, the princess is changes back to the good Elaine and she and Jack are to together ruling Cornwall in the near future.
Nice fairy tale story. There are some good to great stop action sequences in this film, which was part of its original appeal. This is four years after SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD which had really raised the bar on stop motion and it was only a year later that JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS blew that bar out of sight. Still, Gene Warren and Tim Barr (who had both won an Academy award for Special effects the year before for THE TIME MACHINE) and their crew (which included future superstar stop motion hero Jim Danforth) did a pretty good job.
Where the film falls down is in the makeup area. Costumes are bright and very colorful, particularly in the court of Cornwall. But on Pendragon’s island, the witches and demons look to be wearing dime store latex masks. They are just bad and that tends to be distracting in what is otherwise a pretty fun film.
Stars Kerwin Matthews (who had done Sinbad for SEVENTH VOYAGE) and Judi Meredith looked good together. IMDB indicates that Judi Meredith was a figure skater with the Ice Follies who recovered from a broken ankle to go back to skating but could not then recover from a broken kneecap. She did a lot of TV work, getting her first big break from George Burns and Gracie Allen on their weekly TV show. She did a handful of movies but stayed on TV until the mid 1970’s. She did play the female love interest in DARK INTRUDER which was the first film reviewed by me as a part of the Forgotten Films for Missions Unknown about six months ago..
While researching the film I found out that the producers went back and released this film as a musical, dubbing in musical numbers and using some special effects to make it seem as if the actors were singing instead of speaking their lines. That must be truly horrible to see.
The serendipity that I mentioned about this film. Last weekend when I watched the film again in preparation for writing this column I also went to see CAPTAIN AMERICA the next day. At the theater I saw a flyer for an upcoming Fathom Theater event. It appears that this week, the Mystery Science Theater crew of Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett will be doing a live action Rifftrax thrashing of JACK THE GIANT KILLER on screens across the country. Several theaters in San Antonio will be offering this event tomorrow (Wednesday) night if you are interested.
Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.