Jack & The Beanstalk

      Comments Off on Jack & The Beanstalk

Jack and the Beanstalk (1952) was Bud Abbott and Lou Costello’s passion project. The comedy duo produced this family classic themselves with original songs by Lester Lee and Bob Russell. Abbott and Costello retained their frequent collaborator Jean Yarbrough as director.

Despite the lavish color cinematography Jack and the Beanstalk is hardly more than a B-movie. The sets and costumes are either cheaply made or imported from another production while the songs by Lee and Russell are hardly catchy at all. Jack and the Beanstalk is as uncreative a riff on The Wizard Of Oz (1939) as one is likely to ever see.

But what’s really befuddling about Abbott and Costello’s Jack and the Beanstalk is its very premise. Unlike their best pictures the story of Jack and the Beanstalk has but one protagonist so a second part for straight man Bud Abbott has to be shoehorned in. Why they opted to create the character of Mr. Dinklepuss instead of selecting a fairytale with two leads I simply cannot imagine.

It also rarely happened that the supporting players were more memorable than Abbott and Costello. Buddy Baer’s Giant definitely makes an impression, as does the creepy talking harp with a tiny human face. But it’s James Alexander as the Prince that is the most memorable. Alexander’s manner combined with his dialogue makes the Prince one of the most obviously queer coded characters in any Abbott and Costello feature. His campy take on the “prince charming” type is terrific.

Jack and the Beanstalk, while not Abbott and Costello’s best by a long shot, may still be one of their most seen feature films. Since Jack and the Beanstalk is in the public domain one used to always see it on really cheap DVDs, usually as a double feature with Africa Screams (1949). Nowadays Jack and the Beanstalk is a mainstay on youtube in various aspect ratios and of varying picture quality.