The WEIRDEST Jack and the Beanstalk
April 25, 2017
(The shortened opening)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. When you're a kid, a lot of strange stuff seems normal.
(Cut to a shot of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
NC (vo): Ninja Turtles was average...
(Cut to a shot of the tea-party-on-the-ceiling scene from Mary Poppins)
NC (vo): ...tea parties on the ceiling was mundane, and being forced to dance in a banana suit dripping goat's blood was just Tuesday.
NC: Oh! (looks around shiftily) Only my parents had me do that? I... should've asked more questions. Regardless, a lot of those things, when you get older, seem... charming. (eyes shift around again) Some of them.
(Cut to a shot of The Secret of NIMH)
NC (vo): Some you put in the "whimsical enchantment" category...
(Cut to a shot of Garbage Pail Kids)
NC (vo): ...others you put in the "what the hell was I thinking watching this" category...
(Cut to a clip of the anime film version of "Jack and the Beanstalk")
NC (vo): ...and then there's those... you don't know where to put.
NC: Japan's 1974 English dub of Jack and the Beanstalk* falls into that category of "not knowing the category".
- NOTE: 1974 was the original release year of this film in Japan; the English dub did not appear until 1976.
(Cut to a shot of the poster for this movie)
NC (vo): Like a fair amount of kids, I grew up with this bizarre adventure on VHS. It was available at a lot of rental stores at the time.
(Cut to footage of this film)
NC (vo): We watched it, it kept us quiet, and then we'd go about our everyday lives. But what we didn't know was that "what the Christ-ness" was leaving an impact on our memories that years later we'd say, "Was that really as freakin' insane as I remember it?"
NC: I'm hear to report, it freakin' is.
NC (vo): It starts off similar enough: Jack is doing his chores, skipping through the woods, usual fairy tale benign-ness. We find out his dog [Crosby] used to be part of the Grand Army... I think. He has a symbol on his collar that's similar to an army he fantasizes about in the clouds... so there's that.
NC: Trust me, that's the least of the questions you will be asking while watching this.
NC (vo): And par for the course, Jack is asked to sell the cow and comes across a mysterious man playing a... what I can only describe as a '70s machine...
(The man, wearing a cloak, is playing a tune on a weird musical synth keyboard, whose notes sound like... odd squelching noises – that's the '70s for you!)
NC: Either that, or the sound Pac-Man makes when he's jerking one off.
NC (vo): So Jack laughs... (Jack laughs in amusement at the song the man plays) And then the man laughs... (the man does so) And then he laughs again... (the man laughs some more, before taking off his hood, revealing his face, one of whose eyes has an eye patch over it) And then he– (the man laughs again, this time in a psychotic cackle)
NC: (holding up and touching his cell phone) Thus Chris Hansen's number was put on speed dial!
NC (vo): He, of course, sells him the magic beans after doing a squat dance...
(While the man does this squat dance, and laughing softly, the cow moos in confusion)
NC: (also confused) You said it, cow...
NC (vo): ...which, of course, leads to, big shock...
(Having traded Jack the cow for the beans, the man cackles again, louder than ever)
NC: He seems nice.
NC (vo): This pisses off the mother, who punishes Jack in a common, yet... still uncomfortably focused-on manner.
(The mother takes a broom while Jack gets down on his hands and knees; she then proceeds to spank him on his rear with the broom; he grimaces and grunts with each hit)
Mother: (yelling as she spanks him) You foolish dunce! You blockhead! I'll teach ya! Thanks to you, we're penniless! How will we eat?! (the dog leaves the room, jumping in the air with each hit) How will we live?! Are we to become beggars?! What will become of us?! (looks up, somewhat exhausted) I've worked up an appetite.
NC: (rubbing stomach, imitating mother) Child abuse just rumbles my tummy!
Jack: (gulps) Me, too.
NC: (as Jack's mother) That's just confusing.
NC (vo): She, of course, tosses them out the window, resulting in the beanstalk growing, in one of many weird-ass songs.
(As the beanstalk grows into the sky, the song in question is heard)
Offscreen voice #1: (singing) This isn't going to happen / You're silly if you think it might...
Offscreen voice #2: (singing) But always there must be a time when dreams come true...
Offscreen voice #1: If you believe such nonsense...
NC: (perplexed) Is the beanstalk singing? In duet?
NC (vo): Jack wakes up, seeing the incredible creation, and, of course, climbs up the beanstalk– or a mouse princess climbs down it.
NC: ...As the story goes.
NC (vo): She explains what happened to her in great detail, but there's one problem: it's told entirely in squeaks.
(Addressing Crosby, Jack's dog, the mouse pantomimes her plight with motions and squeaks)
NC: I haven't been this happy to not have subtitles since the Star Wars Holiday Special.
(Cut to a clip of said special: a Wookie roaring)
NC: (pointing at screen; sternly) We agreed never to play that again!
(Cut back to Jack and the Beanstalk)
NC (vo): Finally, Jack does climb the beanstalk and comes across a pretty, yet somehow disturbing, image.
(Upon reaching the top of the beanstalk, the image in question that Jack sees is of a pretty girl who stares at him with a glazed expression, and her eyelids slightly lowered; creepy minimalist noises are heard in the background; a cloud floats over to her, but she pushes it away, all while still gazing at Jack)
NC: She has a face that says, "I just joined a cult, and it's going great!" (gives a thumbs-up while smiling)
NC (vo): This is Princess Margaret. She literally floats on a cloud, saying... well, random things...
Margaret: My parents were destroyed by an evil witch. I don't think about it; it's been a long time. I'm happy now. (all the while, Jack, also sitting on a cloud, stares in shock and awe)
NC: Jack, you have the worst stranger danger!
Margaret: Tomorrow, I marry my wonderful Prince Tulip. (as her cloud floats through the air, she starts singing – but without her mouth moving, strangely enough) No one's happier than I / I feel like reaching up to touch the sky...
NC: (puzzled) So, is she a ventriloquist, or is this just the song she's hearing in her mind right now?
Margaret: Why don't you come into the castle with me, Jack? I know Madame Hecuba would like to meet you.
NC (vo): She says the prince's kind and beautiful mother would be happy to meet him, but discovers she's not... that...
(Madame Hecuba, who is clearly neither kind nor beautiful, appears; to the sound of a suspenseful sting, she chuckles ominously)
NC: And now, ladies and gentlemen, that uncomfortable fever dream you had two weeks ago.
Hecuba: A human child! (with a sinister chuckle, she looks herself in the mirror) Ohh, it's been a long, long time... (chuckles again)
NC: Well, the message of this movie is pretty straightforward: (beat; becomes quite nervous) fear...
NC (vo): Yeah, definitely shifted tones here, didn't we? As if Valium Girl wasn't creepy enough, we get Madame Hecuba: pretty much every Disney witch if she was stretched on a rack and fed despair.
Margaret: Mother, I'd like you to meet our visitor, Jack.
Hecuba: Hmm-hmm... (looks at Jack out of the corner of her eye)
NC (vo): No joke, this movie turns a rather creepy haunted house movie for a bit, even down to creepy singing in the hallway.
(As Hecuba escorts Jack down a castle hallway, we hear said creepy singing, which sounds suspiciously like it's warning Jack to leave the castle immediately; Jack twitches in fear, but with the wave of her hand, Hecuba commands all the doors to slam shut behind them, silencing the creepy singing)
NC: (as Hecuba) Lousy Pazuzu Tabernacle Choir!
(At a table in the dining hall, Hecuba serves Jack what looks like a bowl of soup)
Hecuba: Enjoy your meal. You'll find it delicious.
NC: (as Hecuba) It's made from the finest virgins.
(Jack reluctantly eats the soup, only to suddenly fall asleep)
NC (vo): She drugs him with plans to eat him later, because... Hansel and Gretel... but her son [Tulip] comes in, who, it turns out, is the giant, still set to wed the princess. You see, Margaret is under a spell to think he's actually a handsome prince so they can become royalty. So it's kind of like Beauty and the Beast, except ugly is bad; that's why they're ugly.
NC: That's basically the same moral, right? (a shot of Tulip and Hecuba appears in the corner) And how'd she squeeze him out?
NC (vo): But Jack wakes up, escapes, and snoops around the castle along with his dog and the castle mice. He comes across their treasury and even an amazingly annoying talking harp.
Harp: (annoyingly high-pitched, screechy voice) THIEF!! STOP THEM! STOP THEM, MASTER! THEY'RE TRYING TO STEAL THE TREASURE! HELP!!!
Jack: I must be dreaming! Harps aren't supposed to talk!
NC: (as Jack) Of all the things I've seen today, that's the weird stuff!
NC (vo): Jack hides, though, as the giant comes in and grabs a toy version of his mother...
NC: (blinks eyes) Okaaay...
NC (vo): ...winds her up so she can insult him...
Toy Hecuba: (to Tulip) You're just a lazy, good-for-nothing hunk of blah! (Tulip is amused) You look like something someone left out in the rain!
NC: (blinks eyes again) Okaaay...
NC (vo): ...and then proceeds to smash her.
(Still watching with amusement, Tulip nonchalantly raises his hand in the air and then slams it down over the toy Hecuba, smashing it; it lets out a scream as this happens)
NC: Okay, while that is kind of funny... does he have a lot of those?
NC (vo): Does he smash one every day? Am I suppose to be okay with robots existing in "Jack and the Beanstalk"?
NC: I have so many questions I know I'll never get the answer to.
NC (vo): Jack decides to steal the gold, of course, and go back home, where he shows his mom all the riches he's gathered. This looks like a song for the dog!
Crosby: (singing – no, seriously, the dog actually sings!) To find mountain flowers, you had to climb high / Don't you agree...
NC (vo): And in case you're wondering, no, the dog has never talked previous to this scene, and doesn't talk after it either. And yet, he somehow has this big musical solo. He's not even really good!
Crosby: (singing roughly) ...ALWAYS WE AGREEEEEEE, YOU AND IIIIII!!
NC: I guess I should be really harsh on that voice, but... a dog is singing! I really shouldn't be that critical!
NC (vo): And what's Jack's reaction to all this?
Jack: (surprised beyond belief) You can speak! How come you never said anything to me?
Crosby: Woof, woof!
Jack: (looking up the beanstalk toward the moon in the night sky) Or maybe... it's another miracle. A sign that I should've stayed to help.
NC: (shaking his head) Sometimes it just takes a singing dog. Yeah, there is no other explanation outside of that.
NC (vo): The dog singing was a miracle! A very, very random miracle. But Jack takes it as a sign to go back and figure out how to snap Margaret out of her trance.
(Back in the castle's treasury, the annoying talking harp tells Jack what must be done)
Harp: The princess must be kissed by someone who's truly brave and courageous. Only that will break the spell.
Jack: Someone truly brave? Gosh, I wonder if I'm brave enough to even try.
NC: (nervously) Yeah, this gets... possibly eww-y.
NC (vo): We know Jack's gotta be like nine or ten or something like that, but they never say how old Margaret is. I guess old enough to marry, but even that varies in terms of time period and location. So, while you might be feeling awkward about not really knowing if you should feel awkward about this...
NC: ...don't worry, it will quickly disappear after the STRANGEST SCENE IN THE ENTIRE MOVIE. (beat) Just watch!
(Margaret and Tulip the giant's wedding is taking place; the church is bathed in an eerie green light; creepy, ominous church music plays; all the church patrons are paper cutouts, as is the priest)
Priest: (singing; its words octave ridiculously up at the end of each couplet - for clarity, they are italicized and capitalized) Two of you stand here in front of me tonight. Are you hapPYYY? (NC watches fearfully) It's your wish to be married now, am I right? Are you hapPYYY? (NC shudders; it then cuts to alternating snippets of the song, emphasizing the high octaves) Will you help each other OUT? (the priest floats upward creepily while singing, and the patrons sway creepily) You must tell me if you have ANY doubt. / Well, then, can YOU?
(Madame Hecuba and the NC watch, the former in sinister anticipation and the latter in sheer horror, as the priest's singing becomes increasingly distorted)
Hecuba: (in her mind) Yes, they will be very happy! (Margaret stares)
Priest: (singing) ...to you...
Hecuba: (in her mind) Say that you love him!
(The scene gets as distorted as the priest's singing)
Priest: (singing) And this woman, too...
Hecuba: (in her mind) Say that you love him!!! (NC slaps himself repeatedly)
Priest: (singing starts echoing) ...you two in love? Are you?...
NC: (clearly nonplussed) More sugar-frosted nightmares, please! (a bowl of cereal pops up in front of him)
(This scene replays)
NC (vo): What the enchanted crack pipe are we watching here?! Why all the paper people? Why all the trippy animation? Why that priest that sounds like he's getting his testicles clipped to a car battery every other word?!?
Priest: Are you hapPYYY? / ...can YOU? / ...OUT? / ...he IS?
NC: NONE OF THIS is explained! It's all just pure madness!
NC (vo): To a point where when Jack comes in and finally kisses her, you've totally forgotten about the age thing!
NC: It's not even a spark in your mind; all you're thinking is "Are you hapPYYY?! Are you hapPYYY?!" NO! I'm very confused and rather afraid! What is this?!
NC (vo): The kiss, of course, breaks the spell, and the giant chases after them. Okay, you know where this is going: the giant chases after 'em, he cuts down the beanstalk, and they live happily ever after. Well, not after an out-of-nowhere, totally pointless conversation between our two heroes.
Jack: (to Margaret) Aren't you angry with me? I mean, after what I did?
Margaret: Angry? Now, why would I be angry with you, Jack?
Jack: I wouldn't blame you if you were angry, though. I know what I did was...
NC: Yeah, my kids are getting restless; can we wrap this up here?
NC (vo): They run from the giant again, only to be confronted by Hecuba.
(Hecuba proceeds to make it clear to Jack just how unhappy she is with him ruining her plans; to ominous music and bizarre sounds, the room turns into a stormy sky, with lightning strikes and all)
NC: Okay, no joke, if I saw you at the end of...
(Cut to a shot of the hallway scene from The Shining, with Hecuba substituting for the creepy twin girls)
NC (vo): ...the Shining hallway instead of the two little girls...
NC: ...I'd be more afraid of you!
NC (vo): But the giant comes in and... (becomes confused) weirdly enough, doesn't stomp our heroes, but instead goes over to stomp the mother... kind of randomly out of left field.
(Hecuba reacts in alarm as Tulip, glowering at her, stomps his foot down on her (even though she doesn't seem to actually be under there); she screams as this happens, while black smoke spews out from under his foot)
NC: It's made even stranger by the fact that she's...
NC (vo): ...not technically under there.
NC: But... the movie treats it like she's under there!
NC (vo): He's right in front of her, he says goodbye, he puts his foot down, black smoke comes out, presumably destroying her evil, I guess, (Hecuba having been supposedly destroyed, the spell is broken and the mice are turned back into humans) turning everyone else back to normal, and, in the ultimate twist, SHE WAS A ROBOT THE WHOLE TIME!
(Tulip lifts up his foot, revealing Madame Hecuba is in fact a now-demolished robot, just like the toy Hecuba that he had destroyed earlier)
NC: If you're confused by this, kids, I'm sorry, no adult can ever help you.
NC (vo): None of these ravings make any sense! You might as well put on a David Lynch film to get a dose of reality. But, okay, Margaret has to stay with her people and Jack has to go back home, now leading to him chopping down the beanstalk and killing the giant, right?
NC: (perplexed) Well, in yet another strange mood shift, it suddenly turns into a Road Runner cartoon!
(An enraged Tulip is seen chasing Jack and Crosby around the castle grounds, but like the Road Runner, boy and dog manage to elude the giant, who, like Wile E. Coyote, keeps having one physical mishap after another as he tries to catch them)
NC (vo): Yeah, with the slapstick, his head getting smacked in, railroad tracks, tunnel, the whole thing!
Jack: (singing in background) You're chicken-hearted, Tulip! / Can't you get started, Tulip? / You'll never match us, Tulip!
NC: Is... Is this like Total Mad Libs? Like, none of the scenes are supposed to connect?
NC (vo): Even when we do get the climax of Jack chopping down the beanstalk, it still has soothing music that obviously doesn't match!
(As Jack fells the beanstalk with an axe, causing the pursuing Tulip to fall to his doom, we hear a reprise of Margaret's song)
Margaret: (singing in background) No one's happier than I / I feel like reaching up to touch the sky / (a chorus joins in) Now the evening's drawing nigh...
NC: (laughs) Manslaughter is beautiful!
(A montage of clips are shown as the NC gives his summation)
NC (vo): And that was, in my opinion, the weirdest "Jack and the Beanstalk" film. Is it any good? Well, parts are. There is a lot of good animation, backgrounds, atmosphere, imagination, but... yeah, it's pretty inconsistent when it comes to story, characters, and especially the tone.
NC: But honestly, that's one of the things that makes it so interesting.
NC (vo): The lack of consistency makes it kind of hypnotizing. I can't think of any other fairy tale adaptation on the big screen with choices this... specifically odd. So in a weird way, I do kinda recommend checking it out.
NC: If you're curious to join in the madness like me, you can find it on DVD...
(He brings up a page for this DVD on Amazon, but stops short when he discovers that it costs $299.99!)
NC (vo): Oh, my God!
NC: (looks around shiftily) ...find it on YouTube!
NC (vo): Take a look and get sucked into an adventure you'll never forget, no matter how hard you try.
NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic and (imitating paper priest) are you hapPYYY?!
(As he says this, NC makes a hilariously scary face at the camera, then gets out of his chair and leaves, while the ominous church music from the movie plays)