Jack the Giant Killer (1962 film)

Jack the Giant Killer is a 1962 heroic fantasy adventure film starring Kerwin Mathews in a fairy tale story about a young man who defends a princess against a sorcerer's giants and demons.[1]

Jack the Giant Killer
Original theatrical poster
Directed byNathan H. Juran
Produced byEdward Small
Robert E. Kent
Written byOrville H. Hampton
Nathan H. Juran
Based onJack the Giant Killer
StarringKerwin Mathews
Judi Meredith
and Torin Thatcher
Music byPaul Sawtell
Bert Shefter
CinematographyDavid S. Horsley
Edited byGrant Whytock
Zenith Pictures
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
May 18, 1962 (West Germany)
June 13, 1962 (United States)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited States

The film was loosely based on the traditional tale "Jack the Giant Killer" and features extensive use of stop-motion animation. The film was directed by Nathan H. Juran and later re-edited and re-released as a musical by producer Edward Small. The reason for this change was on the grounds that Columbia Pictures, which released The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, threatened to sue Small. The original print without the music got released 30 years later with no protest from Columbia Pictures, while United Artists continues to own the rights to the musical version of the film. The film brought together Mathews, Juran, Small, and actor Torin Thatcher, all four of whom worked on 7th Voyage.


In the Duchy of Cornwall of fairy tale days, an evil sorcerer named Pendragon is the ruler of giants, witches, hobgoblins and all other evil creatures. Eventually, he is defeated by a wizard named Herla, who exiles him and his followers to an uncharted, unknown island. Pendragon, however, vows revenge and Herla later dies, meaning there is no longer a defense against Pendragon.

Years later, the kingdom celebrates the crowning of Princess Elaine, the daughter of King Mark. During the reception, Pendragon arrives disguised as a foreign lord; as a birthday gift, he gives Elaine a music box with a small anthropomorphic jester inside that walks and dances. When Elaine is asleep later that night, Pendragon spies in on her and realizes that if he can get her to marry him, he can inherit the Throne of Cornwall. He then uses his magic to turn the music box jester into a hideous giant named Cormoran, who captures Elaine. The castle guards try to stop the giant, but he fights them off and escapes. Cormoran takes Elaine to a ship run by Pendragon's sidekick Garna, but before it can sail, a brave farmer named Jack rescues Elaine. Jack then fights Cormoran and slays the giant; in gratitude, King Mark knights Jack and appoints him as Elaine's protector. While Jack and Elaine are spending time together, King Mark and his chancellor discuss the potential danger Pendragon now poses. The King then assigns Jack to safely guide the princess to a convent across the sea. What he does not know, however, is that Elaine's waiting-maid, Lady Constance, is actually a witch in league with Pendragon, who reveals the king's plan to him.

Enraged at having his plan foiled, Pendragon makes up another one determined to stop Jack. While Elaine and Jack are falling in love during the journey, Pendragon sends his demonic witches to intercept their ship. In the chaos, the ship's captain is murdered by one of the witches and Elaine is captured. Jack then attempts to take over the ship and follow the kidnappers, but the crew, spooked by the creatures, mutiny and cast Jack and Peter, the captain's young son, overboard. At his castle, Pendragon uses his magic to transform Elaine into an evil witch so that she will side with him; he then returns to Cornwall and confronts King Mark, telling him he has one week to renounce the throne and let Elaine rule alongside Pendragon, or else he will kill Elaine. After Pendragon vanishes, King Mark realizes Lady Constance has betrayed him, and when she stands before a mirror, she appears in her witch form. King Mark then breaks the mirror, thereby freeing Lady Constance from Pendragon's power.

At sea, a friendly Viking named Sigurd rescues Jack and Peter and introduces them to the Imp, a leprechaun who was imprisoned in a bottle by the king of the elves for crafting seven-league boots from his pot of gold. The Imp (who only speaks in rhyming sentences) explains that his three remaining gold coins can each grant a wish to an honest man (the fact that Sigurd has possessed the bottle for some time without being granted any wishes demonstrates that he does not qualify) on the condition that Jack break open the bottle to free him once all three are used up. Jack agrees, and the Imp guides them to Pendragon's island.

With the use of the Imp's first two wishes, Jack approaches Pendragon and coerces him into giving Elaine back, unaware that she has been transformed and now holds allegiance with Pendragon. Upon their return journey, Elaine disables Jack with a sleeping potion, but when she touches the Imp's bottle, it grows hot because of her evil nature, causing her to accidentally cast it into the sea. Pendragon then captures Jack and his friends and attempts to make Jack tell him the whereabouts of the Imp by turning Peter and Sigurd into a chimpanzee and a dog, respectively. When Pendragon still cannot force Jack's compliance (because Jack genuinely does not know where the Imp is at the moment), he leaves him with Elaine, who finally reveals her witch form to him. With Peter and Sigurd's aid, Jack manages to break free and smash Elaine's mirror reflection, restoring her to normal.

As the friends flee the castle, Pendragon conjures up a giant similar to Cormoran (but this time with two heads) to finish them off. As they retreat, they find the Imp washed ashore who grants Jack's final wish by summoning a sea monster that kills the two-headed giant. As a final resort, Pendragon turns himself into a dog-like dragon and attacks the ship, but Jack kills him after a fierce battle. In effect, Pendragon's death causes the destruction of his castle, crushing Garna and the witches in the process, and Sigurd and Peter are restored to human form. Jack then honors his promise and frees the Imp from his bottle, and the leprechaun uses his boots to return to Ireland while giving Jack and his friends a lead for their triumphant return to Cornwall.



The fairy tale had been previously filmed by Hollywood in 1917, 1924 (a short), 1931 (a cartoon), and 1952.[1]

Edward Small announced the film in 1959, saying he had developed the special effects over two years. Filming was originally meant to be started in September 1959, in 70-mm and widescreen, but was delayed several more years.[2]

Small hired the star (Kerwin Mathews), director (Nathan Juran) and villain (Torin Thatcher) of The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. "Eddie Small was smart," said Juran. "He wanted to make some money. He tried to get as close to Seventh Voyage as he could. He thought he could cash in by doing another picture like it. Unfortunately he couldn't get the same special effects."[3]

The film was partly shot on Catalina Island and at Goldwyn Studios.[4][5] Shooting ended in August 1960. Juran divided the special effects duties between two companies. The Howard A. Anderson Company handled the photographic effects. Project Unlimited, who had just won an Oscar for The Time Machine, supervised the stop motion animation. Their team included Jim Danforth, doing one of his first jobs. Post-production took ten months, meaning the film was not released until 1962.[3]

The film wound up in a lawsuit. A musicalised version of the story was released.[4]


Reviews were generally positive.[6][7]

2013 film

A film directed by Bryan Singer and starring Nicholas Hoult was released on March 1, 2013, titled Jack the Giant Slayer.[8] It had previously been announced as titled Jack the Giant Killer, but it is not a remake of the 1962 film, but a reworking of the traditional story Jack and the Beanstalk with elements from other stories such as Jack the Giant Killer.

See also


  1. "FAIRY TALE LISTED BY UNITED ARTISTS: Edward Small Will Produce 'Jack the Giant Killer' -- 3 Films Open Here Today" By HOWARD THOMPSON. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 08 July 1959: 26.
  2. 'Jack, Giant Killer' Planned by Small: Dieterle, Fritz Lang Active in Germany; Another 'Golem' Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 08 July 1959: B7.
  3. Swires, Steve (May 1989). "Nathan Juran: The Fantasy Voyages of Jerry the Giant Killer Part Two". Starlog Magazine. No. 142. p. 57.
  4. Swires, Steve (July 1987). "Kerwin Mathews: Confessions of a Giant Killer Part Two". Starlog. No. 120. pp. 67–70.
  5. Of Local Origin New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 05 July 1960: 35.
  6. 'Jack the Giant Killer' Is Good Fun for Kiddies Harford, Margaret. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 15 June 1962: D14.
  7. 'Jack the Giant Killer' and 'The Mighty Ursus' on Twin Bill New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 26 July 1962: 17.
  8. Flemming, Kit (2010-02-11). "Nicholas Hoult To Star In 'Jack The Giant Killer'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2011-03-02.
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