Jack the Giant Killer (1962 film)

Jack the Giant Killer

Original theatrical poster
Directed by Nathan H. Juran
Produced by Edward Small
Robert E. Kent
Written by Orville H. Hampton
Nathan H. Juran
Based on Jack the Giant Killer
Starring Kerwin Mathews
Judi Meredith
and Torin Thatcher
Music by Paul Sawtell
Bert Shefter
Cinematography David S. Horsley
Edited by Grant Whytock
Zenith Pictures
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • June 13, 1962 (1962-06-13)
Running time
94 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Jack the Giant Killer is a 1962 United Artists 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]

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 the change to music 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, the malevolent sorcerer Pendragon, ruler of giants, witches and all creatures evil, was defeated by the wizard, Herla, and along with his disciples exiled to an uncharted, unknown island. Pendragon however vows revenge and Herla dies, meaning there is no longer a threat against Pendragon. Years later the kingdom celebrates the crowning of Princess Elaine (Judi Meredith). The reception goes well until Pendragon (Torin Thatcher) arrives disguised as a foreign lord. He gives her a magic toy that is actually Cormoran the giant, and which is given to the Princess. When Elaine is asleep, Pendragon uses his magic to make the giant grow to full size and capture Elaine. The castle guards are too late to stop the giant. Cormoran takes Elaine to a ship, but before it can sail a brave farm lad named Jack (Kerwin Mathews) rescues Elaine. Jack then fights the giant and kills it. In gratitude, King Mark (Dayton Lummis) makes Jack her protector and entrusts him to safely guide her to a convent across the sea. However he does not know that Elaine's waiting-maid, Lady Constance (Anna Lee), is a witch in league with Pendragon and reveals the King's plan to him.

Enraged at having his plan fouled, Pendragon makes up another one, determined to stop Jack. While Jack and Elaine are planning their trip, Mark and his servants discuss the potential danger that is now Pendragon. While Jack and Elaine are falling in love during their journey, Pendragon sends his demonic witches to intercept Jack's ship. The captain (Robert Gist) is killed and Elaine captured, and when Jack attempts to follow the kidnappers, the crew, spooked by the creatures, mutiny and cast Jack and his friend Peter (Roger Mobley), the captain's young son, overboard. At Pendragon's castle, Pendragon uses his powers to turn Elaine into an evil witch, 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 she will die. After he vanishes, Mark realizes Constance has betrayed him, and when she stands before a mirror, she appears as a witch. The King breaks the mirror and frees Constance from Pendragon's power.

In the sea, an old Viking, Sigurd (Barry Kelley), rescues Jack and Peter and introduces them to Diaboltin (Don Beddoe), a leprechaun imprisoned in a bottle by the King of the Elves for crafting Seven-league boots from his pot of gold. Diaboltin explains his three remaining gold coins can each grant a wishes to one with a pure-heart while requesting Jack to free him once all three are used up. With Diaboltin's two wishes, Jack manages to approach Pendragon and coerce him into giving Elaine back, unaware that she has been turned. Upon their return journey, Elaine disables Jack with a sleep poison, but when she touches Diaboltin's bottle, it grows hot because of her evil nature, causing Elaine to accidentally cast it into the sea. Pendragon captures Jack and his friends and attempts to make him tell the whereabouts of the leprachaun by turning Peter and Sigurd into a chimp and a dog. When Pendragon cannot force Jack's compliance, he leaves him with Elaine, who finally reveals her witch's 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 sends a two-headed giant called Galligantua to block their path. As they retreat, they find Diaboltin washed ashore, who grants Jack's last wish by summoning a monster from the sea, which slays Galligantua. As a last resort, Pendragon transforms himself into a wyvern and attacks the ship, but Jack slays him in a fierce battle. Pendragon's death causes the destruction of his castle, crushing his evil servants, while Sigurd and Peter are restored to human form. Jack honors his promise and frees Diaboltin from his bottle. The leprechaun uses his boots to return to Ireland while giving Jack and his friends a lead for their triumphant return to Cornwall.



The fairytale 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]

The film was partly shot on Catalina Island.[3]

Stop motion effects were done by Jim Danforth.


Reviews were generally positive.[4][5]

2013 film

Main article: Jack the Giant Slayer

A film directed by Bryan Singer and starring Nicholas Hoult was released on March 1, 2013, titled Jack the Giant Slayer.[6] It had previously been announced as titled Jack the Giant Killer, however 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. 1 2 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. Of Local Origin New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 05 July 1960: 35.
  4. 'Jack the Giant Killer' Is Good Fun for Kiddies Harford, Margaret. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 15 June 1962: D14.
  5. '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.
  6. Flemming, Kit (2010-02-11). "Nicholas Hoult To Star In 'Jack The Giant Killer'". Deadline.com. Retrieved 2011-03-02.
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