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4.2 out of 5 stars76
4.2 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 6 January 2003
Based on Lewis Carrol's 'The Jabberwock', Terry Gilliam unleashes the full force of his creative talents in this brilliant film.
We follow the adventures of Dennis Cooper, besotted with love for the gruesome Griselda Fishfinger, as he is disowned by his dying father and goes off to seek his fortune in the city. The city is however besieged by the eponymous monster, so the king (played to wonderful effect by Max Wall) arranges a tourney to select the best knight to kill the beast. Of course, Dennis is carried along and wins the day.
Doresn't sound much of a story, does it? - but the intricately detailed sets, the wonderful staged humour and brilliant direction make this a cut and a half above anything else in the genre. It knocks the Monty Python films into a cocked hat - and they are GOOD! Not for nothing did this film win the best comedy at Montreux. Particularly good performances from Max Wall, John leMesurier, Harry H Corbett and of course, Michael Palin, who just IS Dennis.
I don't understand how a great film like this has been allowed to fall out of circulation. I'd give it 10 stars if I could.
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"It is the middle of the Dark Ages, darker than anyone ever expected..."

This was Gilliam's first movie as a director independent of the Python team, although it possesses many Python influences. Filmed at Chepstow and Pembroke castles, as well as in a Welsh quarry for the battle scenes against the monster, one cannot help but make immediate associations with `Monty Python and the Holy Grail', which Gilliam co-directed with Terry Jones two years before. We have the same medieval setting, the same bad teeth and bodily functions, the same mud and grime. (Gilliam says in the accompanying commentary that the film is so textured that you can smell it.) There are also the same witty names: Dennis Cooper, Griselda Fishfinger, King Bruno the Questionable (son of Olaf the Loud), the Blessed Sisters of Misery, and Saint Tallulah's Day. The main difference from `Grail', though is that this time there is a through-story to be told rather than a collection of sketches cobbled together to make a film. And there is also political and economic symbolism aplenty.

In the commentary, which he shares with the lead Michael Palin, Gilliam references Tarkovsky's `Andrei Rublev', Scott's `Alien', Boorman's `Excalibur', and even Lucas's `Star Wars' as influences or stylistic equivalents. He describes his film in terms of a cinematic Brueghel, and goes on to reference other artistic influences including Bosch and Caravaggio. He adds that he deliberately kept half the screen often in darkness so as to allow the imagination to flourish, at least for those with imaginations. (Really, of course, the reason is lack of finance for anything more fanciful: Gilliam always fills the screen if he has the resources to do so.)

Although Michael Palin plays the lead role in `Jabberwocky', and Terry Jones plays a brilliant walk-on part as a trapper of animals in the forest and one of the monster's grisly victims (dig the trapper's medieval equivalent of the baseball hat), these are the only fellow-Pythons; the rest of the cast comprise some of the greatest names of English comedy at the time: Max Wall, John le Mesurier, Harry H Corbett, Warren Mitchell. (In the commentary we learn that even Dudley Moore was due to play a role.) Minor parts are played by the likes of John Bird, Gordon Kaye, Graham Crowden, Rodney Bewes, Brian Glover, and Bernard Bresslaw.

Other very good extras on this disc include a selection of the different posters for the film, and sketch-to-screen comparisons.
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on 26 September 2006
Don't write this off as failed Python. In the entertaining commentary on this disk, TG and Michael Palin not only state that they were trying to get away from the Python style with this film, but even that they think there are too many gags in it. I wouldn't go so far as that; Lewis Carroll's eerie source poem doesn't really have a great bearing on this story, but what they share is an ambiguous tone somewhere between epic, comic and surreal. All Gilliam's early films are about the relationship between real and fantasy worlds, and this is really no exception: Palin is the modern-minded mediocrity unwittingly (and unwillingly) caught up in a fairy tale.

Visually there's a certain similarity to `Holy Grail' (this is far more accomplished); in comedy terms, the closest thing is Palin's quirky, understated `Ripping Yarns' - but that doesn't have the same deep, ineluctable strangeness. In all honesty there's no other film like this. Just see the `you might also like' films trailed on the disc - `First Knight' and `Knight's Tale'! Good grief.

I'm also indebted to the commentary for the following fascinating trivia: TG's `diamond mine' character was originally to have been played by Dudley Moore; both the Black Knight and Palin's master are played by David Prowse (of Darth Vader fame), voices by Max Wall (King Bruno); and John Boorman apparently showed the film a dozen times to his crew before making Excalibur. How's that for a recommendation?
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on 25 October 2014
This film is now out of print so buy it whilst you can. Its another nonsense film a kind of send up of a fairy story but I absolutely love it. Michael Palin is lead actor as Dennis Cooper who is a coopers son (wheelmaker to you). He is in love with Mr Fishfingers, daughter Grizelda and when his father dies suddenly having told him what a waster he is he leaves her and his home to seek his fortune about half a mile away. The story is all about his antics, causing havoc and ending up the unlikely hero when by sheer fluke he ends up killing the jabberwocky which is a fearsome monster terrorising the town nearby. In the process his heroics bring him the hand of the princess just like in the fairy stories. Except Dennis does not want that or her. I cant tell you more it will spoil it. Save to say if you like Monty Python and wacky hunour then this is for you. If you don't then pass it by.
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on 2 June 2014
You really need to be a Python Gruppie, to really like this movie at its best? Jabberwocky, goes on to play part in, Alice in Wonderland? Good humoured film.
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on 26 April 2014
on the theme of Monty Python, so many jokes to tap into and so many other things...too many to mention but a lovely film for all the family and a great tale.
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Some 38 years since I last saw this film as a teenager and it has lost none of it's magic! It could be sheer nostalgia, and some of the effects can seem dated, but this is a clever film that has influenced many other films since it was released. Excellent characters underpinned by terrific acting. An exceedingly funny film with a brilliantly seedy atmosphere and some genuinely scary moments. New fans of Monty Python will love it - old fans will love it for its roots. The Jaberwock itself is a hoot.
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on 30 March 2014
Not as good as I thought it would be, but there were a few funny bits in it, and as it was a good price I am satisfied
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on 2 November 2014
There are some good bits in this film but on the whole it's too disjointed and slow to work as a feature length film.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 April 2012
Having just seen and reviewed the TV movie "Jabberwock", made by and for the sci fi satellite channel Sy-fy, I thought it high time I re-investigate the only other film made about the Lewis Carroll based winged monster, this Terry Gilliam "Jabberwocky".

That was sci-fi fantasy nonsense, this is of course, a precursor to The Holy Grail and largely, shows no Jabberwocky. Medieval mayhem, in the Pythonesque manner, with Michael Palin being the idiotic Dennis Cooper. Stereotypes firmly in place, there's missing tooth old crones and beautiful princesses to rescue, plus a who-who's of post Carry On comic actors.

I was born too late to be held under the spell of Monty Python and have learned to like and enjoy them in retrospect, where it is easy to pick and choose the best bits. Therefore, I am not of the school that says "everything Python is brilliant", because, frankly, it is not. It can't be, really - they did so much stuff from a variety of fertile imaginations that there's always going to poorer material.

Therefore, some parts of Jabberwocky drag and are a little tedious; others, such as the charging knights, where we see the onlooker's faces and bodies getting covered by more and more splattered blood as each knight falls, whilst they chat inanely, is brilliantly and darkly done.

Since my previous viewing, many years prior, I have seen all the Python films and thousands of others and my appreciation of this debut from Gilliam has increased enormously. You have to be of a certain mind and in a certain frame of mind to fully appreciate a Python film.

It says in listings and on the DVD box that it is rated as PG. I'm not sure how they came up with that one - though there's no strong swearing, there's full frontal nudity and a surprising amount of blood - inc. slo-mo's. Fine if you're an adult but if you think that it's suitable for the under 15's, it isn't.
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