The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 68.0°F | Fair

Claymation in Tom Thumb excels at being revolting

The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb

Produced by Bolex Brothers, Lumen Films, Manga Entertainment.

Starring Nick Upton, Deborah Collard, Frank Passingham, John Schofield, and a variety of other voices.

Available on videocassette.

By Teresa Esser
Staff Reporter

The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb is a claymation piece that goes out of its way to be revolting. The protagonist is a Smurf-sized blob of clay whose ill-fated life was begun when the corpse of a black fly fertilized a human egg and was implanted inside a hapless human mother (Deborah Collard). In Tom Thumb everything that can go wrong does.

Although Tom's parents take kindly to their mutant baby, Tom's childhood is interrupted when evil men in black coats raid Tom's plastic dollhouse and take him to a factory of doom. It is extremely difficult to follow the plot in Tom Thumb. However, the ubiquitous presence of tiny creatures and odd details makes the film moderately viewable and wide open to symbolic interpretation. For example, Tom's father (Nick Upton) keeps a pet mouse in a little cage, strung up by its feet. But that's not the strangest part: the tiny ball of gray fur is wearing purple high heels. If one were to link the high-heeled mouse with unusual lack of women and the purple-caped drag queen who comfort's Tom's father after his son's abduction and his wife's death, it would be possible to make a case that The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb is really about the horrors of keeping homosexuality in the closet.

The factory that young Tom is abducted into is crawling with cage after cage of half-dead, screaming creatures (or parts of thereof) that are sustained in vats of colored nutrient solutions and upon whom cruel experiments are being performed. In one cage an eyeball dangles from its tendrils; in another a blue "human" hand taps incessantly against the side of its glass cage. "Kill me," it whispers.

Little Tom wreaks havoc on the lab by bumping a lever and putting an end to the creature's suffering. Frightened by his actions and fearing for his life, he escapes down a chute into the murk of a toxic waste dump. After Tom escapes from the awful laboratory into the swamps of the "real world," his obviously different raptor friend is promptly stoned to death by the insecure, Tom-sized residents of the local medieval-type village.

Tom himself bears a striking resemblance to Yoda. Completely bald and with eyes shaped like fish eggs, he contrasts sharply with the other miniature people, his grieving father, the raptor, the "thing," the flies and every other character in the movie. Still, young Tom is no more unusual than the world that he inhabits, filled as it is with toxic substances, crucified Santa Clauses, and the earth-shaking footsteps of human-sized "giants." More often than not, Tom's only source of comfort is his own thumb.

Every wall and every table, every surface shown in the film has some sort of insect crawling across it. Large winged insects flutter in front of every light, only to be smashed or ingested by the humanoid giants. Do not watch this movie immediately after eating a meal. In fact, don't watch this movie at all unless you have a deep and profound interest in (or tolerance of) the foul and grotesque.