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4.0 out of 5 stars Cinematic Brueghel, 12 Jun 2010
This review is from: Jabberwocky [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
"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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Nicholas Casley
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Location: Plymouth, Devon, UK

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