Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. United Kingdom/USA, 1958. Galaxy Pictures Limited. Screenplay by Ladislas Fodor, based on the story by Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm. Cinematography by Georges Perinal. Produced by George Pal. Music by Douglas Gamley, Ken Jones. Production Design by Elliot Scott. Costume Design by Olga Lehmann. Film Editing by Frank Clarke. Academy Awards 1958. Golden Globe Awards 1958.
George Pal brings the Grimm Brother’s fairy tale to delightful life in this colourful comedic fantasy. A woodsman is about to cut down the biggest and oldest tree in the forest when the fairy queen of the wood (played by a lovely June Thorburn) appears and begs him to spare it. In return for his kindness, she grants the man three wishes, which he accidentally wastes on a breakfast sausage to the great dismay of his wife, who would have wished for a child to improve their lonely lives. Hearing the woman say that she would love a child even if it were “no bigger than her thumb”, the forest queen sends them pint-sized Russ Tamblyn as Tom Thumb, a young man full of mischief and tiny as can be. He immediately makes friends with his toys, who come to vivid life when the adults are out of sight, then accidentally gets mixed up with two nefarious thieves (Terry-Thomas, Peter Sellers) who get him to help them rob the village treasury. Simple but not simplistic, this one’s special effects are still impressive and it will still work for kids (though the problematic Chinese doll with the pidgin English dialogue won’t work for everyone), featuring a bright and fun performance in the lead by the impressively athletic Tamblyn and a song score by Peggy Lee. Pal brought the film in under budget and ahead of schedule, impressing his bosses at MGM so much that they gave him carte blanche on his next project, which resulted in The Time Machine.