Friday, July 6, 2018

Faerie Tale Theatre: Jack and the Beanstalk

Yikes, I keep forgetting to write up these posts! Can you believe that the original plan was to do one episode of Faerie Tale Theatre per month?
Well, in any case Shelley Duvall's take on Jack and the Beanstalk is pretty rote, despite how creative she's getting in her introductions:
As with most takes on the old story, Jack is a bit of a nincompoop, but one whose lack of intelligence ends up being his strongest asset when he keeps going back to the giant's house for more and more treasure despite only barely escaping death each time.
Duvall adds two new twists to the proceedings: the first that the old man who sells the magic beans to Jack for the dried-up cow is also the old woman who greets him at the top of the beanstalk, giving him some important advice on how to proceed (well, an old woman or a guy in drag – it's not actually made very clear. Heck, the story doesn't even explain why he wants to help Jack in the first place. Deeply eccentric family friend, maybe?)
The second is that the giant's castle and all its treasures were originally the property of Jack's father – he was murdered by the giant, leading to his wife (somehow) completely forgetting the circumstances of his death, something she struggles to remember throughout the course of the story.
This means of course, that Jack isn't actually stealing from the giant, just reclaiming what's already his. In cutting down the beanstalk and sending the giant to his doom, he's simply avenging his father's death.
I'm not sure how I feel about it actually. Both Once Upon a Time (second season) and the 2001 miniseries Jack and the Beanstalk: The True Story played around with the boy/giant dynamic, each one casting Jack into the role of villain, but here it feels like the story is trying to have its cake and eat it too.
Naturally, this Jack doesn't know he's reclaiming his own property till the end of the story, so when he tells his mother that he "found" the coins, harp and hen that lays golden eggs, it's a blatant lie. And an unnecessary one. Guys, there's nothing wrong with stealing stuff from a villain who admits to burning houses, pillaging villages and eating human beings! Jack doesn't have to be white-washed or retconned in order to keep him the archetypal trickster-hero/wise fool.
Am I overthinking this? Of course I am. Let's get to the funny stuff:

Most Oblivious Hero: Jack, who seemingly has no understanding that humans need food to survive, or that because he doesn't have any, he's actually starving to death.
Best Cow Outfit: Let's be honest, it's not a Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime without two people stuffed into a cow costume.
Best Ass Shot:
Best Entrance:
This cracks me up every time. It's the music that makes it:
Worst Eye Line:
Ouch. They're not even remotely looking at each other.
Most Random Set Decoration: This hanging on the wall.
It gets a reaction shot from Jack and everything.
Least Suspicious Stare:
Her husband will never suspect she's got Jack in the cupboard...
Strangest Interpretation of a Famous Prop:
Behold, the golden harp. It's comprised of a naked golden woman with her boobs thrust out with another woman who appears on the strings whenever it's played. Unsurprisingly, everyone gets weirdly sexual about it.
Best Idea:
"We'll sell dirt!"
Best Reaction to Best Idea:
Best Attempt at a Disguise:
And the Disguise He Actually Goes With:
So it's a pretty straightforward episode, which foregoes the usual bluescreen effects and/or bad matte painting backdrop for a miniature cottage that all the actors are superimposed in front of. It's an improvement, but unfortunately they didn't bother to construct an interior set either. So you end up with scenes that look like this:
Though I was all ready to criticize the plot-hole of the giant's house clearly being human-sized, the episode covered for it by revealing that it was originally Jack's father's house. However, the story doesn't explain how Jack and his mother eventually moved back in after the beanstalk was cut down.

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