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  Jabberwocky O Frabjous Day!
Year: 1977
Director: Terry Gilliam
Stars: Michael Palin, Harry H. Corbett, John Le Mesurier, Warren Mitchell, Max Wall, Rodney Bewes, John Bird, Bernard Bresslaw, Peter Cellier, Deborah Fallender, Terry Gilliam, Neil Innes, Terry Jones, Graham Crowden, Annette Badland, Brian Glover, David Prowse
Genre: Comedy, Historical, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: The time is the Dark Ages, which were darker than anyone expected, and there is a man-eating monster stalking the land. This has led to a crisis in the community, and the peasants beg to be allowed into the walled city, but only a select few are granted entrance. Meanwhile, some distance from the city, there are regions that have not known the terror of the monster, and that is where Dennis Cooper (Michael Palin) lives with his barrelmaker father (Paul Curran). Dennis is keen to learn the tricks of the trade, but keener to conduct stocktaking, that is until local merchant Mr Fishfinger (Warren Mitchell) happens along looking for barrels. Little does Dennis know he is heading for an encounter with the creature that Mr Fishfinger describes to him in hushed tones...

Jabberwocky had the distinction of being the first non-Monty Python film directed by Terry Gilliam, who scripted with comics writer Charles Alverson, but the reaction it received at the time was muted at best, as if people hadn't quite grasped Gilliam's vision, a style that he would hone in future projects. That and the film is also relentlessly grimy, a perfect creation of the olden days which understandably turned a lot of viewers away from the finer jokes, but can now be admired for such an authentic atmosphere that you can almost smell it. Whether you'd want to smell it at all is another matter entirely.

Loosely based on Lewis Carroll's nonsense poem, which turns up as part of a puppet show in the film, Jabberwocky takes its own sweet (or not so sweet, actually) time in reaching what is essentially a fairy tale along the lines of the St George and the Dragon legend. The city itself is more something out of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast than Carroll, a crumbling, wheezing construction that matches its King in its overall health and robustness. The King is played by Max Wall, and his pronunciations of the dialogue are a joy to hear, as are the talents of the other actors, either venerable comic performers like John Le Mesurier (as the King's right hand man) or Harry H. Corbett (as a squire named Ethel) or reliable character types like Graham Crowden (as a leader of religious fanatics). Relative newcomer Palin fits right in with this esteemed company.

Dennis has to leave home when his father dies, after pointing out Dennis's weaknesses on his deathbed, and decides to take his skills to the city. But not before paying one last visit to his sweetheart Griselda (Annette Badland), Mr Fishfinger's uninterested daughter, catching a mouldy potato she carelessly flings out of the window during dinner and mistaking it for an token of love. Then it's off seek his fortune, but he has trouble getting in as he has nothing to offer, meaning he has to sneak in through a back door. Once inside, things aren't much better for him, and he is carried along by the denizens he meets, hooking up with the squire to a knight who has been called to fight the monster. Him and quite a few others, as there is a tournament held to whittle down the assembled heroes to the best knight around for the job. Many laugh out loud moments ensue, such as Wall calling Le Mesurier darling by mistake, or the dangers of hiding under a cuckolded husband's bed, but this parade of consistently idiotic characters does grow exhausting before the end.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Terry Gilliam  (1940 - )

Endlessly imaginative American director and animator who gained fame as one of the Monty Python team. He co-directed the Pythons' films Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python's Life of Brian and Monty Python's Meaning of Life, but also helmed his own projects, starting with Jabberwocky and Time Bandits.

The brilliant Brazil was beset with production problems, and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen was nearly a complete disaster. After that, Gilliam directed other people's stories: The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Brothers Grimm. 2006's controversial Tideland returned Gilliam to independent filmmaking, while his failed attempt to bring Don Quixote to the screen was documented in the painful Lost in La Mancha. His next, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, survived the death of its lead actor, and The Zero Theorem was a melancholy sci-fi which proved he could work quickly and efficiently after all.

 
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