Jack the Giant Killer was a 1962 Sword & Sorcery film, directed by Nathan H. Juran and starring Kerwin Mathews (of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad fame) as the title character. The film was loosely based on the fairy tale of the same name, and when we mean loosely, we mean very loosely.
The film follows the eponymous character, whom, after a failed attempt by main villain the warlock Pendragon to capture the princess Elaine via giant-disguised-as-a-toy, is escorting her across the sea to a convent. Sure enough, they're attacked by a gang of witches, and the princess is captured... again. Jack tries to take command and go after them, but is promptly thrown overboard by the now-mutinous crew, and the (dead) captain's son goes in after him. They are saved by a viking boat, after somehow floating on a bench for what could be days, and it only gets weirder from there...
The film was an attempt to replicate the success of the Ray Harryhausen films of the time, especially the previously mentioned Sinbad film, to the point that they got both the director and star of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad into the project. They even tried to replicate the then-revolutionary stop motion special effects. It got to the point that Columbia Pictures threatened to sue United Artists, the film's distributor, over plagiarism. Their solution? It was re-edited as a musical.
Generally, the original cut is considered to be So Bad, It's Good, for the over-the-top acting, low-rent special effects, and the cookie-cutter story that doesn't even carry a passing resemblance to the story it's based off of. The musical cut, on the other hand...
It became the subject for a live MST by RiffTrax, which premiered in theaters August 17th, 2011, bringing a much-needed riff on such a hilariously-terrible film.
Not to be confused with the 2013 Warner Bros. film Jack the Giant Slayer (which was originally titled Jack the Giant Killer as well).
Tropes in Jack the Giant Killer include:
- Beard of Evil: Pendragon.
- Big Bad: Again, Pendragon.
- Captain Ersatz: The giant near the beginning looks almost identical to the Cyclops, only it has two eyes instead of one.
- It's a bi-cyclops!
- Damsel in Distress
- Demonic Possession: Pendragon uses his evil magic to turn women into witches to act as his agents who mostly retain their human appearance until a mirror reveals them for what they are and breaking the mirror exorcises them.
- Everything's Better with Princesses: Elaine.
- Evil Costume Switch: When someone is revealed to be a witch, they are shown with pale green skin, reptilian eyes, and a ridiculously elaborate dress.
- Evil Is Hammy: Pendragon. Dear god, Pendragon...
- Pendragon's minion Garna is also pretty hammy.
- Possessed Princess Elaine also has one or two scenes where she cackles in the typical witch fashion, chewing the scenery.
- Evil Sorcerer: Pendragon.
- The Igor: Garna fits this to a T (abducting women, calling Pendragon "Master."), the only thing he lacks is the characteristic hunchback. However, he makes up for it by being short and hideous.
- Kid Sidekick: Peter.
- Leprechaun: The "Imp in the Bottle" who Rhymes on a Dime.
- Load-Bearing Boss: The magical energies released by Pendragon's death destroy his castle.
- Meaningful Name: Pendragon.
- The Mirror Shows Your True Self: Mirrors shows which women are possessed and are "witches".
- The Mole: Lady Constance, temporarily. It turns out she was bewitched by Pendragon, though it's never explained how she got that way.
- Mood-Swinger: Immediately after the witches abduct Elaine from the ship and fly away with her, the boatswain and the rest of the crew are suddenly laughing merrily about the prospect of sailing back home to England. They don't seem the least bit upset that their captain and at least one other crewman is dead, and they don't hesitate to sail away and leave the captain's young son clinging to a piece of flotsam with Jack.
- Never Recycle Your Schemes: Pendragon, is known as the Prince of Witches and he surrounds himself with them, hideous monsters with amazing powers. The one time he sends them out to do his bidding in the entire film, they completely and easily overpower our hero and the entire crew of a ship to carry off Pendragon's evil plans with complete success, the only time in the film any of his plans actually works. So, naturally, he never uses them again. They just hang around looking evil and hideous while Pendragon sends easily defeated monsters after Jack. The witches are eventually destroyed when the castle blows up, having done not one other thing. It might have something do with finding the Imp in the bottle by that point and displaying magical powers, but still...
- Obviously Evil: Pendragon's malevolent appearance is very over-the-top, even when he's pretending to be a foreign prince in the beginning of the film.Mike Nelson (as Pendragon): I'm not evil!
- One-Winged Angel: In the final battle, Pendragon turns into a dragon.
- Re-Cut: It was recut as a Rankin Bass-like Musical, with predictable results.
- Say My Name: I wonder if the giant at the start was named Cormoran?
- Standard Royal Court: The king's throne room, as opposed to the Deadly Decadent Court of Pendragon's throne room.
- Trojan Horse: Pendragon (in disguise) gives the princess, as a birthday gift, a music box containing a dancing mannequin which turns out to be a miniaturized giant in disguise.