Jack and the Beanstalk (review)

Trippy! There’s a lot of cult love for this 1974 Japanese animated production of the classic fairy tale, and no wonder. It starts off pretty straightforward, sticking to the story we all know about the boy who sells his cow for a couple of magic beans and telling it through rather bland, simplistic animation. But when Jack gets to the top of that magic vine stretching into the wild blue yonder, it goes all freaky and not a little psychedelic. See, it’s not just the mean old giant living up in that castle in the sky: there’s a wicked witch, Mother Hecuba, all pointy and pale and clad in black, who cackles over the arrival of “a human child” *gulp*; there’s her dimbulb ogre of a son, Prince Tulip (yes, I said Tulip), who’s more of an Igor type; there’s a strange little family of mice dressed in medieval clothing who communicate in high-pitched mousy warbles; and there’s Margaret, a proto-anime princess with eyes that are well on their way to being the kind of unusual enormous we’ve come to expect from the Japanese, and she literally floats around on clouds and sings of her magically induced love for the hideous and preverbal Tulip. Did I mention this is a musical? The lyrics are fairly insipid, but some of the tunes are kinda groovy — I kept expecting Barry White to start crooning. The castle in the sky turns out to be enchanted in a way that won’t surprise kids raised on Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, so this one may be strictly for grownup nostalgia buffs. The image and sound are rather flat, hardly surprising, considering its age, and there are no bonuses beyond the original theatrical trailer. But the disc does contain both English- and Japanese-language versions of the film, with optional English subtitles.

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