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TOM THUMB 1957 / 1967 CHILDHOOD PRODUCTIONS MEXICAN KIDDIE MATINEE BIG BIG TREAT DVD-R!

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Tom Thumb

(aka PULGARCITO)
(1957, Mexico) color 85 minutes
Clasa Films Mundiales, S.S. / Estudios Churubusco Azteca
Story: Charles Perrault
Screenplay: Rene Cardona, Adolfo Torres Portillo
Cinematography: Jose Ortiz Ramos
Music: Raul Lavista
Songs: Enrique Jorrin, Raul Lavista
Lyrics: Rene Cardona, Jr., Alfredo Zacarias
“Orchestra from the Philharmonic section of the SIPC of the RM”
Music recording: Galdino Samperio Crucy
Production Manager: Ricardo Beltri
Assistant Director: Louis Abaddie
Editor: Jorge Bustos
Assistant Editor: Joaquin Ceballos
Special Effects Supervisor: Rene Cardona, Jr.
Special Effects: Javier Sierra, Dionisio Juarez
Special Equipment: Julio E. Gordillio, Heriberto Enters, Fernando Velazquez, Alfredo Martinez
Costumes: Bertha Mendoza Lopez
Makeup: Armando Meyer
Hairdresser: Ma. de Jesus Lepe
Sound Supervisor: James L. Fields
Set Decorator: Roberto Silva
Executive Producer: Jose Luis Bueno
Produced by Jose Luis Bueno, Armando Orive Alba
Directed by Rene Cardona

With: Maria Elena Marques (the Ogress / The Good Fairy), Jose Elias Moreno (the Ogre), “and introducing the child star” Cesareo Queazadas (Pulgarcito/Tom Thumb), Manuel Donde (Father), Nora Veryan (Mother), Rafael Banquells, Jr., Bertha Rodriguez, Eduardo Rodriguez, Rocio Rosales, Gonzalo Carmona, Martha Kendis, Francisco Fdez, Antonieta de las Nieves, Arturo Alvarez, Bertha Castillion, Pablo Jorge Nava, Irma Castilion, Teresa Rodriguez Castano

English-Language version: (called “American Version”):
(1964) American International Pictures 76 minutes (“Tales of Perrault” series)
(1967) Childhood Productions 76 minutes (November release)
National Screen Service #67-344
Re-recording by Titan Productions Inc.
Produced by Salvatore Billiteri
Lyrics: Terry Van Tel
Screenplay: Terry Van Tel
Directed by Terry Van Tel
Narrated by Paul Tripp

 

There’s something about a Mexican fairy tale, a certain melodramatic energy and gleeful artistic license that makes them unlike fairy tale movies from any other culture. TOM THUMB is no exception, a lively and whimsical adventure which continually threatens to become farcical, yet admirably remains rooted in the storybook tradition. A good deal of character development and an abundance of fetching close-ups help too.

The title sequence is quite unlike that of any other Childhood Productions release; it seems likely that CP picked up this film from American International Pictures, whose name appears on the U.S. copyright, along with a pre-title, “Tales of Perrault”, suggesting that TOM THUMB may have been the prototype for a series of Kiddie Matinee features released by AIP, a series that fell by the wayside as Childhood Productions entered the arena.

Also unusual for a CP release is the musical score, which seems to have been retained from the original version (with of course the addition of new lyrics). The songs, including “March of the Cleaners”, “We are Going to Work”, “The Fat Ogre” are pleasant, but do sound Spanish in melodic origin.

The title character is referred to by his Mexican name, Pulgarcito, even prompting narrator Tripp to apologize, “He was so small, he was called Pulgarcito, in other words, Tom Thumb!” This would suggest that the English-Language version was produced in Mexico by the original producers, yet the credits acknowledge Salvatore Billiteri and his New York-based Titan Studios with dubbing chores.

Anyway, TOM THUMB is a fine fairy tale, full of fun and wonder. The “size” f/x are quite impressive, and may have been influenced by films like THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN and ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE, which featured small humans in giant environments. Also, George Pal’s U.S. production of TOM THUMB was the next year: Influence, or simultaneous inspiration?

Cesaro Quezadas is quite effective as Tom– er, I mean Pulgarcito, conveying both pathos and bravado with ease. Quezadas reprised this pivotal career role in the marvelously deranged CAPERUCITA Y PULGARCITO CONTRA LOS MONSTROUS (TOM THUMB AND LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD VS. THE MONSTERS), released in the U.S. as LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD AND THE MONSTERS. There is also a Mexican film called JOSELITA Y PULGARICTO (1961), about which we know nothing!

Jose Elias Moreno is a familiar face in fairy tale cinema, and after this role, he played Santa Claus in the great fantasy of the same name, and an ogre in at least two other classic fairy tales. Here, his Ogre is quite imposing, duly terrifying as a ravenous, drooling beast with a monstrous red beard.

The Ogress, well played by Maria Elena Marques, is a kindly old hag with a token wart on her chin. Even cuter are the Ogre’s seven daughters, er, “Ogresses”, bizarre red-mopped imps. The scenes with the wild girls are highlights of the film, as are shots of the boys and girls sweeping up the Ogre house, accompanied by floating bubbles.

There are many other memorable scenes in the film. One rather disgusting scene shows the Ogre ripping apart and devouring a roast piglet, looking very much like a real carcass. Also unnerving is a shot of the Ogre sharpening a carving knife on a stone wheel, laughing maniacally. Death, and the brutal realities of the food chain, seem very real in these scenes.

In another uncomfortable scene, the boys and girls torment the hog-tied Ogre by tickling his giant, ugly feet. There are some startlingly fetishistic close-ups of this scene, sure to remain in memory for a long time, along with its curious lesson: involuntary pleasure = pain.

Also vivid are shots of poor Pulgarcito trapped in a bird cage, and a spooky scene in the Ogre’s attic (where it is revealed that the Ogress used to be a Good Fairy!).

The Ogress’ magic wand is a silver star with lit sparklers shooting from the tips, a prop used in subsequent Mexican Riding Hood movies by a similar “Good Fairy” character, although the actress in the Little Red Riding Hood films is not the same.

Lesson-wise, TOM THUMB illustrates a time-honored fairy tale commandment: the “smallest” person in a group might in fact have the biggest influence. Pulgarcito is a hero, of course, because despite his size he has no fear; he continually taunts the Ogre, reminding him what a jerk he is. For awhile, we are unsure if this is the wisdom or the folly of youth; as much as Pulgarcito’s jibes anger the ogre, so they also seem to disorient him.

The psycho-political dance between Pulgarcito and the Ogre also demonstrates the eternal attraction between opposites, the essential “yin-yang” of human relationships, and the formidable energy generated by the mingling of two polar opposites. Whether this energy is creative or destructive relies largely on the moral character of both participants.

Finally, little “Tom Thumb” shows us that sometimes, the best way to outwit your opponent is to improve the quality of his life! You either win him over, or distract him to fatal weakness!

Indeed, the Ogre’s transformation seems hasty and effortless, thanks to the Ogress’ spell; perhaps the Ogre was not evil, but merely a bright but lazy man, who finally learned to pay attention. That he gained help from a strong woman is significant, a refreshing turnabout of the “weak female/strong male” syndrome of fairy tale legends like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.

 

-Rob Craig

 

Special Restored edition! DVD-R comes packaged as shown, wrapped in plastic!

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