There have been a lot of adaptations of Jack and the Beanstalk over the years, though few have been feature-length films; admittedly, at 1 hour, 17 minutes, the 1952 version is only just feature-length, but it counts nevertheless. The tale is familiar to pretty much anybody who grew up in western civilization, so the question of how entertaining a film based on the fairy tale is comes down to its production values, and who is cast in the important roles. Traditionally, Jack is portrayed as a classical fool in the story — naive, but good-hearted and ultimately heroic — and for this film the role is filled by one of the biggest fools available in the 1950s: Lou Costello. Bud Abbott, of course, is tagging along as the greedy butcher who traded the magic beans for Jack’s cow, and follows Jack up the beanstalk in hopes of finding riches in the Giant’s castle (in particular, the hen that lays the golden egg, which had been Jack’s mother’s until the Giant stole it.)
Like a lot of people today, I’m familiar with Abbott & Costello more by reference than by direct experience. We’ve grown up with caricatures of the two comedians in cartoons (particularly Looney Tunes and other cartoons that were contemporary to the duo but have aired in syndication in perpetuity), and periodic attempts to riff on their famous “Who’s on First?” routine (often in commercials, and usually done poorly.) But few of my generation could truthfully state that we’ve seen an actual Abbott and Costello movie. Naturally, I felt I had to rectify this situation.
1948′s The Noose Hangs High stars Bud Abbott and Lou Costello as Ted Higgins and Tommy Hinchcliffe, respectively. Ted and Tommy are window washers, operating under the company name of Speedy Service. When Nick Craig (Joseph Calleia), a bookie, is waiting for the similarly-named Speedy Messenger Service, he mistakes the two window washers for his messengers, and conscripts them into picking up a delivery of fifty thousand dollars for him, promising each $50 upon delivery. Hijinks ensue.