With a childlike sense of imagination, Nathan Juran reteams with leading man Kerwin Mathews and stalwart baddie Torin Thatcher on another magical adventure with Jack The Giant Killer. It's not as sharp or as polished as their previous adventure, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, but Jack is a heck of a lot of fun despite its shortcomings. While absolutely meant for the younger audiences, adults should still get a kick out of things. Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings Jack The Giant Killer to Blu-ray in terrific order featuring the original theatrical cut, the recut musical version, with a strong A/V presentation and a few solid bonus features. Fans will want to pick it up and newcomers should definitely give it a spin. Recommended.
"Seize the bone!"
When a studio captures lightning in a bottle once, it's perfectly understandable that they'd want to try again. When Nathan Juran partnered up with Ray Harryhausen for The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, they made movie magic. With Kerwin Mathews as the titular sea-faring adventurer and Torin Thatcher as the diabolical evil wizard coupled with some truly legendary creature effects, the movie was a massive hit in 1958. Four years later, Juran reassembled Matthews and Thatcher to bring the tall tale Jack The Giant Killer to life. With its heart in the right place and an adventurous spirit, but the creatures lack the punch and pizazz of Harryhausen's creations. It's a silly affair that offers up some good family-friendly entertainment value.
The Kingdom of Cornwall wall has enjoyed a time of peace and prosperity after the evil wizard Pendragon (Torin Thatcher) was banished. But Pendragon has a plan for revenge. By kidnapping and marrying Princess Elaine (Judi Meredith), he aims to force the king to abdicate the throne and turn over control of the entire kingdom. Through the dark arts and enlisting the help of witches, demons, ghosts, and a giant, Pendragon sets about his evil schemes. The one thing Pendragon didn't count on was the brave determination of a young farmer named Jack (Kerwin Mathews) to save the day.
In a nutshell, we have producer Edward Small to thank for Jack The Giant Killer. He had an opportunity to get in on The 7th Voyage of Sinbad with Harryhausen but passed on it. He felt the sting of that decision once the big box office receipts were counted. In an effort to undo a bad decision, Small cooked up the scheme to bring in Sinbad director Nathan Juran, hire on principal leads Mathews and Thatcher, and get genre veteran Orville Hampton to craft the script. While some of the ingredients are the same, this stew is very different.
Certainly, you can't fault Small for wanting to craft his own Sinbad after missing out on a huge opportunity, but in his quest to copy the success of another film, he merely created an imitation. A good imitation at that, but an imitation none the less. Where 7th Voyage of Sinbad looked and felt like an epic adventure, there is a chintzy cheapness that percolates throughout Jack The Giant Killer. Without Harryhausen, the stop-motion creatures are pretty rough and unmemorable. The optical effects are half-baked and don't always line up with the action in the scene. Costuming looks like it came from a rent-a-center and the set design looks to have been borrowed from a high school drama club. But through it all, there is a hell of a lot of charm in the film and the film's shortcomings actually become endearing.
Jack only works because of the professionalism of the cast. Kerwin Mathews and Torin Thatcher give it their all through any number of ridiculous scenarios, costumes, and plot contrivances. When a Leprechaun played by Don Beddoe arrives, it's not at all surprising. Sinbad had a genie; why shouldn't this film have a Leprechaun? The rampant silliness plays to the notion that this magical adventure is much more kid-friendly. Danger is never threatening and you're always certain that Mathews' Jack will find a way to make it out of any tough situation - but that's all part of the fun. The shorter musical cut is a bit odd and doesn't really work. One could call it a Hail Mary pass to scratch out a couple more dollars at the box office as the songs were pushed into scenes that don't really support them with lyrics that barely match up to mouths or the situation. Kudos to Kino Lorber for including it because it's a fun companion.
Jack The Giant Killer is a silly fun time. It certainly isn't the best of the genre, but considering all things, it's not the worst either. It's bright, colorful, and entertaining. Which is all it needs to be to succeed. If you've missed out on this one, now's a good time to give it a spin.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Jack The Giant Killer arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber and their Studio Classics Label. Pressed onto a Region A BD-50 disc, the disc is housed in a standard Blu-ray case with reversible cover artwork. The disc loads to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
Jack The Giant Killer makes its Blu-ray debut with a well-detailed and colorful 1.66:1 1080p transfer. Details in costuming and facial features are strong, almost maybe a tad too strong as makeup lines in creature effects and the silly applications Thatcher wears are pretty obvious. Details are a little softer and rougher around the edges during the optical effects - especially during the stop-motion creature effects shots and the witch attack midway through the film, but that's indicative of the process and the elements and not a fault in the transfer. Colors are bright and bold with some great primary presence. Lavender/Purple colors get a lot of play here. Flesh tones also appear healthy and accurate. Black levels are nice and inky giving he image a respectable amount of depth. The transfer source is in pretty great shape with only some slight speckling here and there and some small scratches. Grain is present but stable, things only thicken around effects shots. Considering all things, this is a pretty great looking transfer.
Jack The Giant Killer enjoys a nice DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix. As this is simply a rebalanced mono mix, the dialogue is clean and clear throughout without any telltale age-related issues. The adventurous music cues from composers Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter keep things lively and fun. Sound effects are on point. Screams and roars from the creatures are impressive and give that wonderful guttural punch. There are a couple pops in the mix, but not anything to get too worried about as the audio track is in great shape.
Jack The Giant Killer comes with a nice little audio commentary and Kino's usual batch of related movie trailers. Considering the age and stature of the film, I'm sure there's not a lot of behind the scenes material out there. That said, it would have been cool if Kino had been able to get a hold of the Rifftrax commentary, that was a good one!
Audio Commentary featuring Film Historian Tim Lucas, this commentary does a nice job of detailing the film's history and production. Well worth a listen.
Theatrical Trailer (SD 3:19)
War Gods of the Deep Trailer (SD 2:21)
Sinbad of the Seven Seas Trailer (HD 1:09)
Flesh + Blood Trailer (SD 2:35)
The Vikings Trailer (SD 3:26)
OSS 117: Panic in Bangkok Trailer (HD 3:45)
Jack The Giant Killer is just good clean fun. Plain and simple. It may be an attempt to cash in on the success of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and it may be a bit cheap and silly, but its heart is in the right place. Returning stars Kerwin Mathews and Torin Thatcher milk their ample screentime and show is a good time. Adventure film fans of all ages should get a kick out of it. Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings Jack The Giant Killer to Blu-ray in great order with a solid video transfer and an effective audio track to match. Extras may be a bit slim, but the commentary track makes up for it. At the end of the day, this Blu-ray release of Jack The Giant Killer is an easy one to call Recommended.