Today, I’m reviewing the Warner Archive release of “tom thumb”. The film is George Pal’s classic take on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale. The lower case letters in the title are correct, as that is how Pal wanted it.
NOTE – ALL screen captures are UNMODIFIED
A lonely woodcutter, called Honest Jonathan (Bernard Miles), heeds the wishes of the magical Forest Queen (June Thorburn), and spares the oldest tree in the woods. As a reward, he and his wife, Anna (Jessie Matthews), are granted three wishes, which they quickly use up, by mistake, during an argument. After they make up, Anna wishes they’d wished for a child, and that she wouldn’t mind at all if he were no bigger than her thumb.
The wish is granted, and Tom Thumb (Russ Tamblyn) comes knocking on the door after midnight. He is like no other son, as he indeed not much taller than his mother’s thumb. After a welcome/birthday cake, they tuck him into his new bed in the nursery. The next morning, he is welcomed to the nursery by the toys (The Puppetoons), who have magically come to life for him.
Some time later, while Tom & his father are out chopping wood, they’re spied upon by two unseemly rogues, Ivan (Terry-Thomas) and his strongman crony, Antony (Peter Sellers) who have designs for utilizing Tom’s size to rob the village treasury. They try to buy Tom, but Jonathan quickly sends them on their way.
Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, the Forest Queen meets with Woody (Alan Young), a young musician, trying to be a success to be worthy of her love. She feels he already is, but he feels he can do better.
Later that day, Woody brings Tom with him to the village faire, where he’s playing in the town band. Across the square, a cobbler is selling ‘Talented Shoes’ that grant their wearer the ability to dance. Woody leaves the bandstand with Tom to get a pair of shoes for Queeny (as he calls her). Putting on a tiny pair of shoes, Tom gets caught up in the shoes’ spell and dances away, getting tangled on a child’s balloon and flies away, much to Woody’s worry.
Tom inadvertently flies over the Treasury Tower, where the rogues are on the roof, trying to break in. They spot him and pop the balloon, catching him. They then lie to Tom, saying that the mayor is a crook and keeps money stolen from orphans within. He helps them get a bag of gold and they give him a coin for his trouble. To make sure he doesn’t talk, they strand him in the Black Swamp, a horrible place that his father had warned him to avoid. Queeny finds him after dark, and directs Woody to his side, who then takes him home, to face the anger of his parents for being out so late. While sneaking in, he drops the coin into the stewpot. Jonathan catches Tom and sends him to bed. Shortly after, soldiers come to the cottage, looking for any clues to the robbery. Jonathan and Anna offer them food, and one bites into the coin. Thinking they’re involved in the crime, the old couple is arrested and taken away. Frantically, Tom begins searching for them, and comes across Woody. They track the villains to their hideout, and after knocking woody out they try to make their getaway on horseback. Tom has stowed away in the horse’s ear and tells him where to go, bringing the villains to the town square JUST before his parents are whipped for the crime they did not commit. Woody catches up and helps apprehend them, and is rewarded with a kiss from Queeny. This turns her mortal, as she wanted, and soon they are wed. At the reception, in Jonathan and Anna’s cottage, Tom, dressed as a groom on the wedding cake kisses the bride doll who comes to life and dances with him to end the story with a happy ending for all.
This was George Pal’s first time directing a feature film, and it is well loved. With a screenplay by Ladislas Fodor (the 1960s Dr. Mabuse films), cinematography by Georges Périnal (THE FOUR FEATHERS (1939)), animators Wah Chang (7 FACES OF DR. LAO (1964)) and Gene Warren (THE TIME MACHINE (1960)), art director Elliot Scott (WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT (1988)) and music & lyrics by Ken Jones and Peggy Lee, and Fred Spielman, Janice Torre and Kermit Goell, Pal had a winning team. Wonderful performances by the cast completed the package. Tom Thumb actually appeared once more in a Pal film – THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM (1962), portrayed once more by Tamblyn, as part of a fever-induced dream with the yet to be created characters begging the elder brother to not give up as they are waiting to be ‘born’. The film won the 1958 Academy Award® for Best Special Effects. The fact that Pal included his beloved Puppetoons added to the magic of the film. He’d made many fairy tales in the 1930s and 1940s using them in stop motion cartoons. The two standout Puppetoon characters in the film are Con-Fu-Shon (a Chinese stacking doll, voiced by veteran voice artist Dal McKennon) who is the leader of the toys, and The Yawning Man, whose song causes people (and toys) to fall asleep (voiced by legendary voice artist Stan Freberg).
Until earlier this year, tom thumb was out of print. Warner Archive has released it as part of its highly successful video made-on-demand program. Unlike earlier releases under the Archive Collection banner, re-releases are being made from the previous version’s source disc, and have the full features of a normal release. I have yet to view a ‘generic’ Archive Collection title, but from my research, they had generic blue screens and almost no bonus features. More recent releases sport a “Cinema Marquee’ theme with the film title on the marquee and a picture of the box cover.
I liked that they utilized the original poster artwork in the cover, depicting Tom in the palm of a human-sized hand. They also used the logo and the tagline, ‘He’s only 5 1/2 inches high but he’s terrific!‘
At first, I thought the images on the back were from lobby cards or still sets, but they seem to be standard screen captures. The rest of the back of the package is (from what I was told) the standard blue Archive Collection design, with a brief summary of the plot & description of the feature itself. There is also a reproduction (in text, not appearance) of the poster text of cast & crew.
The menus are easy to navigate, and bright & cheerful, like the pages in a storybook. There are menus for scene selection, special features and languages.
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES:
There aren’t many, but as stated earlier, it retained them from the earlier release. They include a list of cast & crew, including several cards talking about George Pal, a card for the Oscar win and the theatrical trailer. The trailer would seem to be from a re-release as it opens with the words “MGM Children’s Matinee” in the font the studio utilized during the 1970s.
The film is presented in widescreen format, in the 16×9 1.85:1 aspect, in Dolby Digital Sound. It played with no problem on both my 5 year old DVD player and my HP Pavillion G Notebook*. The picture was slightly grainy, but not badly, or distracting, considering (as far as I know) it has never received the ‘full’ restoration treatment. The sound was perfect. The languages are English and French with subtitles in English, French and Spanish as well as closed captions. The disc is a DVD-R (as are all Archive Collection made-on-demand program releases), with the art from the previous release utilized upon it.
All in all, I enjoyed the film in and of itself, and I liked the presentation and design of the DVD. I would’ve loved more extra features, but then I love ANY extra features.
I give Warner Archive’s re-release of tom thumb 4 out of 5 ‘Jaggies’!
I’m looking forward to viewing (AND reviewing) more releases from Warner Archive in the near future.
Make sure to visit their site at http://www.warnerarchives.com
and to follow them on Twitter – @WarnerArchive
*- There is a note on the back which states that the disc is designed to work in ‘play only’ devices and may not work in DVD recorders or PC drives.
As an ‘extra’ of my own, below are images of the Insert Card and the Stills and Lobby Card sets.