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  • Terry Gilliam's fantasy satire (looks like a spoof, but it's a satire) is halfway between "Holy Grail" and "Time Bandits", and about half as good (which ain't bad). The wit is sardonic, and the story pretty well reverses every rule of the fantasy genre -- a dimwitted "champion", out to secure the hand of his 300+ lb. "princess" by killing the evil Jabberwocky that is making life tough for the local peasantry (but very pleasant for the merchants).

    Great photography, decent production values. The direction is very good, and although the script's wit is shining, there are not enough really funny jokes (mostly it's stuff you'd have to think about to laugh at). I particularly like, though, how a lot of the good jokes come out of how the value of something is relative -- Palin carrying around a rotten potato discarded by "Griselda", which he prizes for sentiment, but which the townspeople want for food.

    Superior medieval satire shows Gilliam was on the right track towards his masterpieces.
  • Terry Gilliam, in 1976, did something similar to a member of a rock band going off (while the 'band' not having yet broken up but on hiatus) and recording a solo album with his film adaptation of Lewis Carroll's poem Jabberwocky. However, like a solo effort, one expecting a full-on presentation of how the actual band plays together, might be disappointed. As it is with Jabberwocky, as Gilliam has said of it on the commentary on the DVD, "(Jabberwocky) was a transitional film, from Holy Grail to the other projects." This comes with pros and cons for certain viewers, some with more cons than pros.

    The story is expanded upon from the original, surreal battle hymn of sorts from Carroll. The naturally funny Michael Palin stars (in only one role, following the narrative structure instead of the episodes of Python) as a son of a barrel-maker, who has to live on his own, wandering around for food. Meanwhile, a monster of demented, horrible proportions terrifies and slays the citizens, and the King (running his minions in a shamble), gets a tournament to decide who will kill the beast and marry the Princess. These two stories go side by side until the inevitable climax, when the silliness builds up to something very, very bizarre, but fun.

    The thing about Jabberwocky is that there are so many jokes going on, visual puns, basic physical gags, trademark 'British' innuendo and irony, and the awesome, brash, curious style of Terry Gilliam (director, co-writer, and bit-player). Sometimes the biggest laughs come from unexpected places, sometimes not. And, unfortunately, a good number of jokes either fall flat or are not exactly laugh-out-loud funny. But one thing that is pulled-off well is a sort of cartoon-like approach to the film as a whole; one could imagine this same material, more or less, being translated to the kind of animation that came in The Hobbit. For its low budget, Gilliam and his cinematographer (who also implied a similar visual look on Holy Grail) make this world seem extremely real, and go for being appropriately stylish with many of the moves. In fact, it's a very serious-looking film, and that it's a comedy is almost an after-thought.

    Jabberwocky at times is a mess, some of the story gets un-even in parts, and if you have any real taste in films it holds a facet akin to Monty Python in that it doesn't hold any real value intellectually. But it is also a medieval-fantasy-comedy, and it's also a display of a director testing the waters on his own. However, on some sort of gut level one was really struck by how the film moves, how it goes through its gags to the next best one even when a dud comes by or when Dennis is completely aloof. Even the monster is an inspired feat. And like Gilliam's other films, one may find more comic worth on a repeat viewing. B+
  • I've seen Jabberwocky a few times now over the years and I still can't say that I know where director/co-writer Terry Gilliam intended to go with the film. Without a doubt it's interesting. It has a good premise and varied interpretations can make the film intriguing as different kinds of satire. Unfortunately, it's not consistently entertaining or rewarding to watch, it has some technical, directing and editing problems, and it easily invites unfavorable comparisons to Monty Python. In the end, I had to give Jabberwocky a "C", or a 7 this time around, although I found myself continually wishing that I could give it a higher score.

    Jabberwocky is really the story of Dennis Cooper (Michael Palin), a lovable dolt who is in love with Griselda Fishfinger (Annette Badland), the obese daughter of a local fisherman. It is set in the Middle Ages in England, probably around the 13th or 14th Century (partially based on a character identifying plaster as possibly being from the 12th Century). After Dennis' father dies, Dennis decides to head off to the "grand city" to find a job and make his fortune, so he can head back to his village in a state worthy to marry Griselda. However, things aren't going so swell in the city, either. Unknown to Dennis' village, there is a monster called the Jabberwock that has been terrorizing the countryside not far from the city. The city has been closed off and there's tight control over who gets in or out. People in and just outside of the city are starving; there is no work, and so on. Dennis finally sneaks into the city one morning and discovers the dire truth. The bulk of the film is a series of misadventures, focused on Dennis, as he tries to adjust to life within the city.

    Because Jabberwocky's release date was only two years removed from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), because it was directed by Python member Terry Gilliam, who also co-directed Holy Grail, and because it has a similar setting, some similar characters, some similar scenarios, and some almost identical costumes, it easily invites comparison to its better-known brother. That's Jabberwocky's first major hurdle for anyone who has seen Holy Grail, which is likely to be a large percentage of the audience who would seek out and/or bother watching this film. The problem is that Jabberwocky isn't anywhere near as funny as Holy Grail, and I don't think that Gilliam intended it to be.

    For me, the most favorable reading of Jabberwocky has it as a fairly serious satire (so "satire" in the more academic sense) not of the Middle Ages, but of the popular 20th Century conceptions of what the Middle Ages (or the "Dark Ages") must have been like. This is further enforced by Gilliam and Terry Jones' remarks on the Holy Grail DVD commentary (and maybe better enforced on the Jabberwocky commentary, which I haven't had a chance to listen to yet) during the scene when King Arthur encounters the peasants who get into a political structure debate. There, they explicitly state that they tried to exaggerate the popular misconceptions of how such peasants would have been, and acknowledge that more academic research has shown those ideas to be false. In Jabberwocky, Gilliam has his entire population as filthy, stupid gits with deplorable personal hygiene who can barely figure out how to survive. They resort to eating rats, scams that involve hacking off their own limbs so they can beg as a cripple, and so on.

    Monty Pythonesque humor of the less intellectual variety does enter occasionally, especially with the bits involving bodily functions or violating the "sanctity" of the body. That's not to say that Jabberwocky is not an intellectual film in any sense. But the intellect here comes with the interpretation above--in the skewering of our "progress"-oriented misconceptions about the past.

    As promising as some of that might sound, and as promising as it might sound to make concrete Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky poem from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), the film has a load of problems. Even though the focus is ostensibly on Dennis, he always feels like something of a bystander in the film, making any desired focus, and the viewer's attention, drift. Gilliam has problems making scenes flow smoothly. His pacing seems off. The sets and the cinematography are not very attractive. In fact, at least on the DVD release, much of the film looks extremely murky (oddly, I thought the color on the included trailer looked better). None of the auxiliary characters quite click, and it's often difficult to decipher what they're saying/talking about. Some scenes are almost repeated in the film, and other scenes, such as those involving the princess in her tower, or Gilliam's cameo as he's talking to castle guards, seem like rejected drafts of similar scenes in Holy Grail. In fact, all of this is in sharp contrast to the excellence of Holy Grail.

    So despite all of the good points, including the opening, with its hilarious point-of-view of a Jabberwock attack, the fantastic extended final sequence, the more bloody scenes from the tournament, the sly jokes that work (such as accusing the innkeeper of cannibalism after Dennis disappears), and so on, I find my score gradually sinking throughout most of the film. Gilliam and Python fanatics will definitely want to check out Jabberwocky if they haven't seen it yet, but be prepared for a bit of a disappointment.
  • Chris Bright16 February 2004
    I think the mistake a lot of people make is to see this as another Python film. It isn't, and one of the reasons it improves with each viewing is that you come to realise that. In contrast to "Holy Grail" which is essentially a series of sketches, this is a proper film with its own rules and a style which is based much more on gentle whimsy and sly satire than in-your-face Pythonesque clowning.

    High points are the cast of veteran British comedy and music hall actors - what a lovely swansong this is for the likes of Max Wall, Harry H Corbett and John le Measurier - the attention to detail, which is quite remarkable, and the constant reversal of expectations. And I love the deadpan little touches like John le Measurier addressing the King as "Darling".

    This and "Time Bandits" are my favourite Gilliam movies, I always feel he works better on a small budget where his imagination has to do the work, rather than the somewhat overblown likes of "Brazil"
  • A hit-and-miss post-Python affair, directed by Terry Gilliam and featuring former teammates Terry Jones (briefly) and Michael Palin (throughout), alongside a Who's Who of British comedy including Max Wall, Bernard Bresslaw, Harry H Corbett, John Bird, Neil Innes, John Le Mesurier, Warren Mitchell, Graham Crowden, and others.

    Jabberwocky starts off in a promising way, using the Lewis Carroll poem plus gory visuals as the monster claims its first victim. After that it meanders along with the story of Dennis the cooper (a caricature very like Python's Arthur Pewtey) as he goes to the big city in search of fame and fortune. Max Wall is delightfully funny as King Bruno the Questionable, but several of the gags fall flat and are just too silly to be funny.

    All this aside, it was a fine idea, done on a shoe-string budget, and has a lot of good amongst the dross. Remembered with affection.
  • This film makes me laugh with every viewing. The extreme attention to detail of hygene and costumes is excellent. I have it on DVD and it's the only way to see it. Listen to Terry Gilliam's commentary with Michael Palin and it gives you a whole new outlook to the hardships of making these kinds of movies. And it tells you about some of the short cuts they used and they still are displeased with to this day. Gilliam's "Diamond Man" steals both scenes he's in. This is a forgotten movie. I don't know too many people who remember it, but everyone I've told to rent it, have told me they really liked it. It's not a Python movie, but it's got the Python humour and a couple of Python cameos. Look for them. It's a very funny movie and it's a blast to watch. A real gem from Gilliam and company.
  • This often neglected first solo directing effort of Gilliam's is certainly much better than its maligned reputation would have you believe. While it is though sledding the first time through, it gains appreciably with repeated viewings, but does demand you pay attention. Amongst all the excrement, garbage and filth, Gilliam and his co-writer actually have a little something to say about big business, but mainly JABBERWOCKY is very, very funny. Strong stomachs are required, however.
  • A Python spin-off, owing much to the earlier 'Monty Python and The Holy Grail', Jabberwocky is a fine film in its own right, featuring a tremendous cast of British stalwarts, a regrettably high percentage of whom have since died. Harry H Corbett, John Le Mesurier, Max Wall, Bernard Bresslaw and Brian Glover all feature and none is still with us.

    Disinherited by his father and therefore unable to win the hand of the appalling Griselda Fishfinger, who snacks on raw potatoes, gormless but optimistic Dennis Cooper (Michael Palin) sets off for the city to make his fortune. The city is somewhat under siege by the vicious Jabberwock(y), a beast influenced by Lewis Carrol's doggerel poem of the same name. Dennis, in the time-honoured tradition, is ultimately required to rid the city of the threat and accordingly claim half of King Bruno the Questionable's creaking kingdom and the hand in marriage of his beautiful daughter, notwithstanding the dubious but apparently lingering attractions of 'Greasy' Griselda.

    The riotous succession of eccentric characters encountered along the way is what it's all about, of course, with a memorable string of ridiculous situations and occurrences and liberal spattering of mud and gore to be undergone. This film rewards repeated viewing, when previously unappreciated subtleties emerge. The Fishfinger family's changing attitude to Dennis, according to his perceived fortunes, Dennis narrowly escaping death or serious injury on a regular basis, Gordon Kaye appearing briefly, dressed inexplicably as a nun, the kingdom by degrees collapsing, there's a beggar who attracts charity by means of auto-amputation, street-racing merchants, the King displaying only intermittent episodes of lucidity, characters who step out of line are suddenly and brutally eliminated - it's all great fun.

    Jabberwocky is less well known than the pure Python films, but none the worse for that.
  • jzappa30 April 2007
    Jabberwocky has more gore and mayhem than a mace fight, and that is its theme, purely and simply. It's an ode to carnivorous, vicious, rampaging monsters, exploding people, dismemberment, impalement, et cetera. The climax is met after what seems like endless rising action, loaded to the brim with blood and guts. That is its charm.

    The cinematography is grainy and bad, almost on purpose, but it's definitely not charming. What Terry Gilliam gives this film that works so well is a great intensity in its pace. It begins fairly slowly, but it sneaks up on you and accosts you.

    Its sense of humor is one of the most morbid I've ever experienced, and it's very funny, I must say. All of the things I said this film is an ode to are at some point played for laughs at least a handful of times in Jabberwocky.

    I suppose the verdict on Jabberwocky is that it's not a great film and it's not one that I care to see again, b ut during the time I was watching it, I was laughing and I was successfully bashed by its intense outpour of action, violence, and excitement, all in wonderfully bad taste.
  • mlevans17 July 2003
    Warning: Spoilers
    One of my fondest memories of my undergraduate college days is going with my frat brothers and various female friends to the `Midnight Movies' in the nearest civilized town (35 miles away). Of course this was usually during the school week, which somehow made it even more desirable. The trip was nearly always made to see Monty Python films.

    For years I have lamented that few seem to remember Jabberwocky from the Python canon. It was not until I scanned the IMDb site this week that I discovered that it officially was NOT one of the Monty Python movies. This is a pity, since it perfectly maintains the flavor and feel of their other movies-although it may lack some of the frantic pace and rapid-fire gags.

    I have just viewed Jabberwocky for the first time in several years and still find it to be an extremely enjoyable film. I still consider it a Monty Python film, whatever they say, and still consider it second in their canon, only to The Holy Grail. Like other Python films, Jabberwocky catches the essence of its time period. In these films, excrement, hunger, death and eminent danger are always close at hand-and well as some clever anachronisms. I'm not sure whether or not parodying the unrealistic romance of medieval times, as portrayed in movies, was one of the group's main goals. This certainly seems to have been a key point, though.

    In Jabberwocky, Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin continue their fine work from the Holy Grail-minus the rest of the gang, of course, just two years later. They tackle one of my favorite poems, Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky. The film actually combines slapstick comedy, historic adventure and horror. We don't see the hideous Jabberwock until the very end.and then it is quite in keeping with Sir John Tennial's rendition of it. Borrowing John Williams' Jaws score as the monster approaches, just two years after the movie, adds a nice comic touch.

    To briefly summarize, Palin is Dennis Cooper, named so for being an apprentice to his father, a master cooper or barrel-maker (Paul Curran). Rather than his father, though, Dennis looks up to a neighbor and merchant, Mr. Fishfinger (Warren Mitchell). This finally leads to Dennis' father disowning him on his deathbed. Dennis bids good-bye to his true love, Fishfinger's fat, rude and uninterested daughter, Griselda (Annette Balland), before heading off to the big city to make his own way.

    Meanwhile, the Jabberwock has been terrorizing the entire kingdom, destroying whole villages and forcing panic-stricken peasants to flee to the giant walled city. The wonderfully named King Bruno the Questionable (Max Wall) is being pressured by his chief chamberlain (Jon Le Mesurier) to rid the country of the monster, while leading merchants urge him NOT to do so. (Business has never been better than during the panicked migration to the city!)

    Without giving out spoilers, let us say that Dennis finds more trouble than he had imagined in and out of the big city, including a jousting tournament to determine a champion to fight the Jabberwock (and a DELIGHTFUL means of finally choosing the champion after 2/3 of the nation's nights are killed or maimed in the competition) and several narrow escapes.

    The movie has wonderful absurdities, such as Dennis' unrequited love for the obnoxious and unattractive Griselda, compared to the amorous advances of the lovely princess (Deborah Fallender), the king's first long-winded herald (John Bird), and a cult of masochistic religious fanatics. Anachronisms like `rush hour' in the city, `rats on a stick' and Dennis' constant efficiency-expert suggestions ring out delightfully among the muck and mire of ye olden times.

    This film deserves neither to be forgotten nor to be trashed. It still provides laughs, chills and a somewhat thoughtful look (as in the true Python films) at history. Even the climactic scenes with the Jabberwock look pretty darn good for a fairly low-budget 1975 film! Check it out and enjoy.just beware the jubjub bird and shun the frumious bandersnatch!
  • I was flicking through the stations looking for my favourite type of film - low budget comedies and b movies. Lucky me to find Jabberwocky!

    I missed the beginning but soon realised I had strayed upon a gem of a film. Michael Palin in a ridiculous outfit in a filthy wretched medieval city! The scenery is perfect and on one level is quite realistic. Starving people, outside 'toilets' and general squalor - but this is a comedy and the characters are hilarious!!!

    I noticed Warren Mitchel (Alf Garnet) and Bernard Bresslaw (from the Carry On's) in there too making for a very funny film

    There are many memorable scenes and the humour is in a monty python style with plenty of slapstick and toilet humour

    The low budget wasn't really noticable, and I thought overall had a more produced feel than the holy grail which really was low budget film!

    I would definately recommend this film to anyone who likes crazy off beat comedies

    Its not exactly a kids film because its gory in places and the princess at one point seems to lose her clothes, but older kids will probably love it... a bit like how the Goonies was almost too scary to be a kids film

    I give it 5 turnips out of 5
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A word of warning: spoilers within.

    I first saw Jabberwocky about five years ago. At the time I was not watching closely, and it rather passed me by: I found there to be too few jokes, and not enough overt fun. Looking back I can see why I felt this, but there's no denying that many people, myself included, have seriously under-rated this film.

    The plot is simple, loosely based around Lewis Carroll's strange poem, quoted at intervals by a punch-and-judy man. A young, idiotic everyman, Dennis Cooper (Michael Palin), is disinherited by his father, rejected by the obnoxious fat girl that he inexplicably adores, and wanders to a squalid medieval city to find his fortune. Here, through a series of absurd adventures, he ends up meeting a dreadful monster that has plagued the countryside, the Jabberwock.

    With Gillian directing and Palin in the lead role, this would first seem like a spin-off from the Holy Grail. It is, however, subtler and more serious than Monty Python, and lacks much of the levity of the Grail. Personally, I find John Cleese vain and excessive, and Eric Idle simply too chirpy for Arthurian legend, so I don't miss the absence of the usual Python team, especially since they are replaced by the likes of Warren Mitchell, John Bird, Max Wall and John le Mesurier.

    This probably gives the impression that the film is somehow weighty and meaningful - it isn't. It is incredibly silly, and deeply crude. People wee off the battlements and eat rats on a stick. Deaths are frequent and ridiculously bloody. Many characters are consistently lecherous, and there is even a brief flash of total nudity from the gorgeous but crippling stupid Princess. Jokes aside, the squalor and baseness seems rather a feasible portrait of what life really was like in the middle ages. Goodness knows how it got a PG certificate!

    The humour is difficult to categorise. On one hand, it is silly and childishly base - on the other, a lot of jokes are easily missed if you aren't watching closely enough. Added to this, the film is well-directed but not beautiful - the world is drab, muddy, and swathed in mist, and I can think of people who would find the visuals alone a depressing experience. And the Jabberwock itself looks hilarious.

    All in all, Jabberwocky is a film that is very nearly a total success, and if it fails at all, that is only because there is so little like it that it doesn't fit easily into a slot. It feels as though a very silly don, or a rather scholarly child put it together, and it achieves that neat combination of the high and low that is rare in modern films. Overall, highly recommended and very unusual - and, if you watch carefully, at times very funny. 7.5/10.
  • Let's make one thing clear. This, as most critics are quick to jump to, is NOT simply Gilliam trying to recapture Holy Grail. I take it as more of Gilliam simply liking the mediaeval theme and elaborating on it a bit, this time with a more plot-driven tail.

    Palin stars as a kind-hearted bumbling son of a barrel maker. After being denounced by his own father on his death bed and ousted by his love, he decided to leave his comfortable country existence for city life. Only problem is that recently the city has been under storm by a very large and frightening monster. Plain makes it to the city, where he struggles a bit before meeting a squire who gives him food, room, and a job. The king stages a tournament to see which of his knights is to fight the monster, and Palin eventually ends up chasing after it.

    The plot, sort of like BRAZIL, is presented in a bunch of confusing images. It's easy to get lost while watching this film, added to the confusing editing it the fact that most copies of it aren't of very good quality.

    Some of the humour falls flat, and the editing is a bit too confusing, but the harsh, overly-realistic set and costume design and the great Gilliam cinematography more than make up for it. For once, a medieval odyssey as it would have actually looked.
  • I first see this movie when I was 12 years old. I didn't understand anything. From then, I've seen it for 10 or 15 times. Now I love it. It has a very interesting point of view about medieval age. I think Gilliam made an excellent work creating a ridiculous, cruel, funny and really discussing atmosphere. Visual effects are amazing for that time (1977), especially the opening scene and everything about the monster. The story is full of love, historical review, action, humor and mystery. Also, I would like to note that casting is perfect, as much as the magnificent art design (poor and discussing, but unsurpassable).
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I had no idea for the longest time that this was not a Monty Python effort. I thought it was the next movie following Holy Grail. It was different but to my mind that was a good thing. I didn't want Holy Grail - The Sequel.

    I really like the sets and the costumes. I don't know if they were all authentic or not, but the coracle, the round boat made from skins stretched over a wooden frame is very authentic. I loved the cap the trapper wore which was made from a pelt - stretched and dried into form.

    I really like the dreary skies and decrepit buildings - the dirt and filth seen everywhere; the poverty and the desperation of the beggars. I don't think life was a piece of cake then - I'm really surprised that we made it where we are today.

    I loved the silliness and the sly wit heard and seen throughout the movie. I laugh my guts out when the loud mouthed obnoxious herald gets beheaded for his continuous interruption of the king.

    This is a great movie, every bit as good as the other Monty Python flicks, just different.
  • UkWizard9 August 2002
    What can i say about this movie, absolutely classic ! I must have seen this film around 50 times now, after a couple of beers and settling down after a night out with my brother we would watch this every time. Personally i prefer it to most of the python stuff ( except the holy grail ) because there cartoony bits get on my nerves.

    Yes this file was made on a budget, dodgy camera work, but wow, so stupidly funny and the sets and costumes are truly ... err gritty.

    The more you see this film, the better it gets. I have just dug this out of my tape archive, after not seeing it for over 5 years. And its still excellent ( grinning ).

    Time to buy the DVD i think ...
  • Anyone condoning this film is being really generous. Say what you want about who is in it or who did or how accurately it captures the middle ages. But at the end of the day the film is excruciatingly boring and entirely unmemorable. I saw the movie once and could not describe a single scene from the movie a week after viewing it. I can't imagine a more definitive way of recognizing a bad movie. It would be one thing if it evoked anything within me. I love Python and I know this isn't Python so this is not even a comparison. Forget who directed it or who's in it. Take it on its own merit and it becomes clear that it has none.
  • Even for a fan of oddball British comedy it is difficult to imagine a worse waste of time and money than this misguided and misdirected film. 95% of the jokes fall flat, the story is often incomprehensible and it is boring. The astonishing thing is that all this must have been obvious during production. The whole mess should have been left in the can.
  • adog1 October 2000
    This movie is dreadful. I was very dissapointed, being a big Pailin/Python fan I really expected much more than this. This movie was obviously made on a shoestring budget. The lighting and camera work are painful to watch. It's not very funny - and there's absolutely no point to the whole film. It's pythonesque, but is more like a cheap talentless Python copy.

    Do yourself a favour and give it a miss.
  • This is in retrospect a far more substantial work than HOLY GRAIL, the film it most closely(superficially) resembles(because both films show the ugly, muddy, crap-filled medieval world one sees in Pasolini's CANTERBURY TALES, which heavily influenced the look of both films). I feel it gets short shrift because it's subtler and quieter. Don't watch this film if you're looking for quick, easy laughs.

    The film is about the way capitalism profits from panic. A monster who savagely devours people is terrifying the countryside; everybody wants to get into the city--the effect this has on things like agriculture & so forth is obvious. Prices go up, famine reigns, & the merchants & church couldn't be happier at having a captive market--so much so that when the king decides to find a champion to kill the monster the merchants hire an assassin to kill him. Does this sound at all like the world we live in now?

    Plus which it's a good insight into the medieval mind; substitute the Black Death for the monster and you have the situation in England throughout the 14th century. The presence of Palin is misleading. This is not a Python film and should not be seen as such. It's an original vision of Alverson & Gilliam's and well worth watching, several times.
  • Jabberwocky is Terry Gilliam's first feature film where he has sole credit as director. Gilliam had up to this point made a career as an animator, actor and occasional co-director for the Monty Python comedy team. Co-writing the screenplay with another python, Michael Palin, who also stars, this marks the humble beginning of what was to be an impressive career as director in his own right.

    First off it's strange that Gilliam and Palin decided to have their first non-Python venture in a medieval setting, seeing as Monty Python's first and at the time only film (Monty Python and the Holy Grail) was also set in that period. Jabberwocky is a very different film, but there's still a problem with the setting because it looks unoriginal and invites comparisons with Holy Grail.

    Perhaps surprisingly the biggest deviation from Monty Python is the style of the comedy. The Pythons mostly relied upon long drawn out comedy dialogues - the African Swallow routine, the anarcho-syndicalist peasants etc. In Jabberwocky each joke is a stand-alone – one-liners, visual gags and most of all surreal and inventive ideas.

    The real trouble with the comedy in Jabberwocky is that it simply isn't very funny. Some jokes are nice but not laugh-out-loud funny, others are just cringeworthy. The actual attempts to be witty are appalling. The neat little ideas and odd ways of portraying things, while never hilarious are the only things that really sparkle comedy-wise. The knights, for example, are cumbersome, inhuman looking things that, after a duel, have to be serviced like cars.

    Jabberwocky's cast is a real treasury of British comedy acting, and not just the big names of the era either. There are a few older, respected figures like Max Wall and John Le Mesurier, alongside several rising stars such as John Bird and Gordon Kaye. Predictably, it is these supporting players who give us some of the best moments – Max Wall's king in particular practically steals the whole show.

    One of Jabberwocky's greatest strengths is in the way it looks. The cinematography is stunning. Using mostly natural light and candle light Gilliam works wonders, with scenes at one moment reminiscent of Renaissance painting, the next fully conjuring up the atmosphere of the English countryside on a damp and foggy morning (an effect achieved largely by filming in Wales, which is damp and foggy all the time). For a first time director (albeit one with plenty of "here-and-there" directing experience) Gilliam shows a good eye for shot composition and detail. This also has to be one of the grittiest portrayals of peasantry ever seen on film, with far more dirt, dung and ugliness than in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

    Jabberwocky is a film with plenty of good elements. It's just a pity the humour isn't one of them. It's a good thing that, after this, Gilliam's films were more driven by his unleashed imagination rather than trying to be out-and-out comedy – his later pictures are much stronger as a result. The DVD release comes with a lovely, conversational commentary track from Gilliam and Michael Palin, and ironically this is actually far more entertaining than playing the film with its own dialogue.
  • There's been lots said about this film in relation to Python on IMDb already, so I won't bother making comparisons. Jabberwocky is a messy, but extremely entertaining film, full of sly satire and crass scatological slapstick. It's an extremely grotty movie - everything is squalid and grotesque. Even the King's palace is falling to bits, and all the characters are either stupid, violent, or both. The film spends a long time farting about, exploring various daft notions and barely-related events, before getting down to its titular business in the last 20 minutes or so. But there are some sublime jokes in there and it's an interesting Gilliam "period piece". You can see the twinkle that later grew into the likes of Time Bandits, Brazil, Baron Munchausen etc.

    Watch out for Terry Jones doing a ludicrous cameo as a poacher, pulling some of the most ridiculous faces ever seen on screen.
  • Big-Charles20 August 2003
    Do not watch this film expecting to see a python film. It is not and is better for it. Gilliam used this film as a testing ground for later ideas and much has been copied by other directors. The characters are amazing and are acted very intelligently. If you watch this film you will enjoy it. Just dont expect to see a python film, although Micheal Palin is fantastic as usual.
  • I'll bet you didn't like your first beer or maybe your first sexual encounter wasn't all it was cracked up to be but you probably found that with practice they got better and now you can't imagine life without them. I have seen Jabberwocky perhaps 20 times and it has gotten funnier with each viewing. I find that for most films repeated viewing just brings out the flaws. The opposite is true for Jabberwocky, the countless sight gags and humorous asides that you didn't notice the first time will gradually reveal themselves upon repeated viewing and pretty soon you will be laughing your head off!
  • musickna22 December 2014
    Warning: Spoilers
    A lot of people come to this film expecting "Monty Python and The Holy Grail 2", and leave perplexed and disappointed. Understandably so. Come to this from "Brazil", however, and it makes a lot more sense.

    For much of the same preoccupations that underlie "Brazil" underpin this film too, even if it is by no means as bleak and disturbing. Dennis, our hero, is a socially inept individual easily swayed by the attractions of materialism, albeit Dark Ages materialism - best symbolized by a rotting tuber gifted without care by his unappreciative muse.

    The society he blunders through is an incompetent bureaucracy, complete with venal merchants and a delightfully distracted king, played wonderfully by Max Wall. Despite the literally tumbledown state of his kingdom, King Bruno is more caught up in the romance of medieval adventuring than any practical measures to either renovate his decaying castle or, indeed, to fight the monster that provides the film's title.

    The world Gilliam creates for us, dirty, dusty, impoverished for most, echoes that of "Holy Grail", but is altogether less lightly humorous and much darker in tone. The humor is black and often only really sinks in after repeated viewing. But it is there once the veneer is scrubbed away. Curiously veneer is very much a subject of the film, from the rotten vegetable treated as a precious gift to the character, played by Gilliam himself, who wanders around under the delusion that the ordinary rocks he has picked off the ground are diamonds. Shallowness and lack of perception permeate almost all the characters, so much so that when the monster is killed, essentially by accident, one almost feels a twinge of sympathy for the Jabberwock stopped forever in its quest to rid King Bruno's kingdom of its inhabitants. It, at least, knows what it really wants.

    It's not a perfect film. The pacing slows in places. Some scenes could have been cut or trimmed. Nonetheless, it is memorable and thought-provoking and well worth viewing.
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