Release Date(s)1952 (July 26, 2022)
Studio(s)Exclusive Productions/Warner Bros (ClassicFlix)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A+
Jack and the Beanstalk was Bud Abbott and Lou Costello’s third independently-produced film and their twenty-ninth overall. Wanting to ditch many of their older routines and make a film that was aimed more at children, they brought in many of the people responsible for producing their TV show, including director Jean Yarbrough and cinematographer George Robinson. They also chose to shoot the film using the relatively new SuperCineColor process. The result was a comically lighthearted and colorful musical adventure featuring the additional talents of co-stars Buddy Baer as the imposing giant, James Alexander as the handsome prince Arthur, and Shaye Cogan as the beautiful princess Eloise.
Though the story of Jack and the Beanstalk is brought to life vividly with enjoyable songs and patented Abbott and Costello antics, critics were mixed on it at the time of its original release. In the years since, it unfortunately fell into the public domain. As such, longer versions of the film in poorer quality presentations were seen ad infinitum on home video and on TV for decades. To this day, many consider it to be lower tier Abbott and Costello. To add insult to injury, a proper release of Lou Costello’s approved theatrical cut of the film has never been made available. 70 years after its initial release, massive restorative efforts taken by the technical wizards at 3-D Film Archive have breathed new life into the film, presenting it as it was originally intended.
Jack and the Beanstalk was shot by George Robinson on 35 mm Eastman color 5247 film stock with Mitchell BNCR cameras and spherical lenses, processed and printed using the SuperCineColor 3 color process, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.37:1. Though this Blu-ray is being released by ClassicFlix, it’s the product of 3-D Film Archive’s extensive 4K scan and restoration of Lou Costello’s approved 1952 theatrical cut of the film, which includes sepia-toned opening and closing footage, as well as the original studio logos. The original camera negative and color separation masters went missing when the rights were sold to Sterling television in New York in 1959. Several 35 mm SuperCineColor prints of the film were sourced for this restoration, and the only surviving clip from the negative is a brief shot of the villagers' reaction to the beanstalk (which is a deleted scene). According to 3-D Film Archive's Bob Furmanek, he discovered it in a New York stock footage house in 1980 after the negative had already been horrifyingly cut up and used as fill leader.
Keeping in mind that prints often have a higher yield of grain and considerable wear and tear, 3-D Film Archive’s restoration is astonishing. The color palette is lush with beautiful shades of red, green, and blue, while also allowing for surprisingly bold swatches of purple and orange—all of which bring the costumes and sets to radiant storybook life. The sepia-toned footage contains less overt grain than the color footage, but the transitions back and forth is never abrupt as the two are married together effortlessly. Mild speckling and color breathing, as well as light ringing and occasional faint lines running through the frame are visible, but considering the amount of damage that was likely on the prints used for this restoration, it’s remarkably clean with amazing clarity. It’s also stable with good contrast, baked-in flaws aside. In short, it’s the definitive presentation of the film going forward.
Audio is included in a newly-restored English 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH. Aside from minor hiss, it’s a healthy single channel-sourced track with good support for dialogue and sound effects, and even better support for the score and songs.
The ClassicFlix 70th Anniversary Limited Edition of Jack and the Beanstalk on Blu-ray sits in a clear amaray case with an insert featuring new artwork by Stewart McKissick on the front and promotional stills on the inner sleeve. Certain Kickstarter backers of this project were also treated to a lenticular insert of the new artrwork as well (which was an optional bonus). The massive extras package includes the following:
- Optional Introduction by Chris Costello (HD – 1:12)
- Audio Commentary with Ron Palumbo and David Stollery
- Who’s on First? – December 1940 (HD – 4:05)
- Imperfect Spectrum: A Brief History of CineColor (HD – 13:21)
- Climbing the Scales: The Music of Jack and the Beanstalk (HD – 9:18)
- Beanstalk Ballyhoo (HD – 13:43)
- Cutting Down the Beanstalk (HD – 18:30)
- Abbott and Costello Meet the Creature (Upscaled HD – 15:01)
- Rudy Vallee Radio Sketch with Photo Gallery (HD – 6:16)
- Restoration Demo (HD – 3:10)
- Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery with 1952 Children’s Recording (HD – 61 in all – 7:02)
- Publicity Materials Photo Gallery (HD – 139 in all – 12:15)
- Abbott and Costello Trailer Rarities (HD and Upscaled SD – 41:04)
- Fireman Save My Child Trailer with Optional Commentary by Mike Ballew or Ron Palumbo (HD – 2:10)
- A Night in Casablanca Trailer (HD – 2:18)
- The Abbott and Costello Show: Season 1 – Mustard Trailer (HD – 2:47)
- The Little Rascals: Volume 4 Trailer (HD – 2:52)
- Merrily We Live Trailer (HD – 2:16)
- Zenobia Trailer (HD – 3:52)
In the optional introduction by Chris Costello, she talks about her father and how Jack and the Beanstalk is one of her favorite of his features. Abbott and Costello expert Ron Palumbo then provides an excellent audio commentary with brief additional comments from actor David Stollery and Chris Costello. Palumbo discusses the careers of the cast and crew, the production of the film, facts about the locations and studios used to shoot the film, deleted and alternate scenes, where the idea to make the film came from, future independent films that were never made, comparisons to European folk tales, the music and songs in the film, critical reviews of the film, some of the script revisions, other filmed versions of the story, the stunts in the film, and the film’s success.
Who’s on First? features newsreel footage of the duo performing their famous routine during their vaudeville tour after the release of their first film in 1940. Imperfect Spectrum is an essay on the CineColor and SuperCineColor processes by 3-D Film Archive’s Jack Theakston, which goes into extreme detail about how the format came into being, its creation, and using clips, the films that utilized it. Climbing the Scales features film score restorationist Ray Faiola speaking on the musical numbers and score in the film. In Beanstalk Ballyhoo, Ron Palumbo (with a brief appearance by Chris Costello) uses footage and photographs to detail the film’s month-long promotional tour of the film. Cutting Down the Beanstalk sees Ron Palumbo return once more to talk about and showcase scenes and moments deleted from the final film using clips and still photographs. Abbott and Costello Meet the Creature features Bud and Lou on the Colgate Comedy Hour on February 21, 1954 performing a sketch in which they once again meet Frankenstein’s Monster, played by Glenn Strange, but also the Creature form the Black Lagoon, played by Ben Chapman. Next is a Rudy Vallee radio sketch from February 15, 1945 with the three acting out the story of Jack and the Beanstalk alongside a photo gallery by Shane Fleming. A Restoration Demo demonstrates some of the work that went into restoring the film.
The Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery by Chip Ordway features 61 stills set to the 1952 children’s recording of the boys reading the story of the film. The Publicity Materials Photo Gallery, also by Chip Ordway, features 139 publicity photos, pressbook stills, lobby cards, production artwork stills, newspaper clippings of the film’s premiere, and various other ads and ephemera. Abbott and Costello Trailer Rarities features 18 rare previews for several of their films, including a couple of trailer reconstructions. They include One Night in the Tropics, Keep ‘Em Flying, Pardon My Sarong, It Ain’t Hay, The Naughty Nineties, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Mexican Hayride, Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff, Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion, Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, Comin’ Round the Mountain, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Giant, Lost in Alaska, Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd, Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Abbott and Costello and the Keystone Cops, and Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.(In addition, there’s also a Christmas Seals message featuring the boys and Charles Laughton.) Next is a trailer for the film Fireman Save My Child with optional commentary by 3D expert Mike Ballew, who discusses the proposed 3D films that the boys were meant to appear in, and Ron Palumbo, who details why they didn’t star in the film. Last is a series of previews for other ClassicFlix releases.
Although Jack and the Beanstalk has been released on Blu-ray recently by VCI Entertainment, it doesn’t compare to the quality offered on this release. It’s a stunning restoration by 3-D Film Archive’s Bob Furmanek, Jack Theakston, and their dedicated team with a mountain of incredible bonus materials to go with it. Indeed, no stone is left unturned, and one can get absolutely stuffed on not just the history of the film itself, but on many other unrelated surprises. It’s a bona fide treasure trove and an essential purchase for Abbott and Costello fans. In other words, highly recommended!
- Tim Salmons