Tom Thumb (1958)


The Forest Queen (June Thorburn, The 3 Worlds of Gulliver) grants three wishes to a woodcutter (Bernard Miles, Great Expectations) after he agrees not to cut down the forest’s oldest tree. After the woodcutter and his wife waste their wishes, the Forest Queen feels bad and gives them a tiny boy named Tom (Russ Tamblyn, West Side Story).

Reaction & Thoughts:

“There are two crooks here – and both of them are you!”

Jolly and sweet-natured dramatization of the popular character in English folklore who would later be re-imagined by the Grimm Brothers for their famous 1812 book of fairy tales. Visually winsome, yet lacking a strong narrative (the plot is nearly identical to Walt Disney’s 1940 classic Pinocchio), Tom Thumb wins you over with its arsenal of fun tricks courtesy of the Hollywood dream factory.

Tom Thumb marked the directorial film debut of famed producer George Pal. Producers rarely become great filmmakers, but I have no complaints about Pal’s work — he does a more than adequate good job as a first-time filmmaker. The screenplay is by Hungarian expatriate Ladislas Fodor. The vibrant cinematography is by Georges Périnal. Production design and costumes are of the highest quality.

Russ Tamblyn is a bundle of enthusiasm as the title character. Tamblyn’s seemingly endless bouts of energy are very contagious. He also shows off his skills as a dancer. Terry-Thomas (School for Scoundrels) and Peter Sellers (The Pink Panther) offer fine comic relief as a pair of bumbling thieves who get Tom and his parents into big trouble. Alan Young (Wilbur in TV’s Mister Ed) plays tiny Tom’s best friend.

The Oscar-winning visual effects are endearingly primitive. Some effects look better than others, a natural result of rapid technological developments in the film industry. Best of all is the stop-motion animation. There is a great sequence with toys coming to life — Pal’s “puppetoons” — and this is by far my favorite section of the movie.

Tom Thumb also contains a handful of musical interludes. In fact, Tthere is enough music here for the film to be considered a musical. “Tom Thumb’s Tune” (music and lyrics by Peggy Lee, sung by Tamblyn and the Puppetoons), is a delightfully whimsical tune. The hilarious “Yawning Song” (music by Fred Spielman, lyrics by Kermit Goell, sung by Stan Freberg) is my favorite song, though.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Tom Thumb has all the ingredients for a solid family movie. It has a great cast, charming visual effects and lively music. It also has a series of important, timeless moral lessons — be yourself, accept others as they are, etc. — for kids and kids at heart. P.S. Tamblyn reprised his role as Tom Thumb in Pal’s 1962 super-production The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. Color, 108 minutes, Rated G.


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