Jack and the Beanstalk (1988 TVM)

US / 20 minutes (plus about three minutes’ ancillary material) / color / DIC, Alien Dir: Dan Riba Animation dir: Kazumi Fukushima Pr: Richard Raynis Scr: David Cohen, Roger S.H. Schulman Voice cast: Paul Fusco, Paulina Gillis (i.e., Tabitha St. Germain), Peggy Mahon, Thick Wilson, Dan Hennessey, Rob Cowan, Noam Zylbarman.

ALF Tales was an animated series that ran on NBC for two seasons, totaling 21 episodes, in 1988–89. In each episode the series character ALF, aka Gordon Shumway, played by the series’ co-creator, Paul Fusco, introduced and starred in a parody of a classic tale. It was a spinoff of another Saturday morning kids’ TV show, ALF: The Animated Series (26 episodes, 1987–90).

In this instance it’s easy to guess the framework within which the ALF Tales parody is couched: this version of “Jack and the Beanstalk” is done in the style of Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO (1960).

(None of the voice roles are specifically credited, alas.)

Jack Bates—i.e., ALF—is sent into town from the family motel to sell the cow/bellhop, Wally. A fugitive stranger dragoons him into exchanging the cow for three beans—magic beans, of course. Climbing the ensuing beanstalk next day, Jack finds a giant called (and sounding quite creditably like) James Mason, plus a vast chicken, that lays eggs of 24ct gold, and two of the giant’s ordinary-sized thugs, Martin and Landau. With the help of the chicken and a beautiful but enigmatic stranger—the first guest to check into the motel for 26 years!—Jack *SPOILER ALERT* defeats the giant, saves the chicken and the day, and gets the gal.

Jack (aka ALF). Note the eyes . . .

There are countless references to Hitchcock movies. During a rainstorm Jack remarks, “It’s awful to get stuck in a shower,” and moments later he observes, “You’d gotta be psycho not to love a babe like that.” Although he climbs the beanstalk, Jack suffers from . . . the weakness that dare not speak its name: a morbid fear of heights. Which is why mention of the steps—you can guess their number—leading up to the bell tower strikes dread into his heart. Watching the outside world through the bell tower’s rear window is James Stewart . . . or is it!!!???


The giant, James Mason.

My favorite Hitchcockian exchange was this:

Mason: “I’m afraid you’ve become a problem. You see, you’re a man who knows too much.”
Jack: “I’ve never been accused of that.”

Not so long ago I covered on this site the Warner Bros./Loony Tunes parody of CASABLANCA (1942), Carrotblanca (1995), of which I’d anticipated a great deal and which I found rather disappointingly unfocused. This Hitchcockian lampoon from the ALF team quite visibly had a far tinier budget, yet it’s sharp enough to merit repeated viewing.

5 thoughts on “Jack and the Beanstalk (1988 TVM)

  1. Oh, how wonderful! I’m really hoping this might be available to view on YouTube. Re: Psycho, have you seen Alexandre O Philippe’s 78/52 documentary about the film? If not, it’s worth a look. Not perfect by any means, but still, it contains some interesting insights.

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