Jabberwocky (1977)

jabberwocky poster 1977 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

A lot of Monty Python moments

Needed to be tightened up

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Jabberwocky

Studio:  Python Films

Genre(s):  Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure/Comedy

Release Date(s): March 28, 1977 (UK)/April 15, 1977 (US)

MPAA Rating:  PG

jabberwocky dead man creature

Someone needs to finish his supper…

Beware of the Jabberwocky, my son! Dennis Cooper (Michael Palin) is an apprentice with the hopes of winning the hand of his love Griselda Fishfinger (Annette Badland). When his fortune turns south, Dennis finds himself headed to the city in the hopes of gaining enough status to win the hand of Griselda by gaining the permission of her father Mr. Fishfinger (Warren Mitchell). Unfortunately, the land is being ravished by famine and a beast known as the Jabberwocky. King Bruno the Questionable (Max Wall) hopes to wed the princess (Deborah Fallender) to a prince…and he who slays the Jabberwocky might be the winner!

Written (with co-writing by Charles Alverson) and directed by Terry Gilliam, Jabberwocky is a fantasy adventure comedy. The film uses the poem “Jabberwocky” from the 1871 Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll as the inspiration. The film was released to mixed reviews but gained a cult following over the years. The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #903).

jabberwocky jousting blood king bruno the questionable max wall

A glorious day of battle

The Jabberwocky always scared me when I was little. The classic illustration by John Tenniel had this boney winged dragon-esque monster facing off against a small man with a giant sword…when combined with the nonsense of the poem, it kind of freaked me out as a kid. Jabberwocky was Gilliam’s first solo attempt at directing and I was initiated to his films rather early (I saw Time Bandits in the theater and loved/feared it). Gilliam is the perfect choice to get the tone and ideas of the poem into film form, but I do think that the film could have been smoothed out a bit.

The movie (like the poem) deals with a lot of nonsense. Dennis is dim. He desperately grasps a rotten potato as a sign of love from the woman that obviously doesn’t love him. He’s a complete antihero who fails at everything he does, yet he manages to end up on top…and still isn’t happy. There is a lot of stuff about class and the role of government (the Jabberwocky is actually good for the city’s economy by putting fear in the citizens who rush to churches, etc.). Unfortunately, the movie kind of drags in the path to the final confrontation with the Jabberwocky. The wordplay is fun, but I felt it needed a bit more get-up-and-go.

Michael Palin is always fun. As a member of Monty Python, he and Gilliam got the timing down needed to make the illogical logical. He bumbles his way through the movie with multiple chance encounters but his natural innocence and belief in his love carries the character a long way through is interactions with the various cast members. I also like Max Wall as the irritable and temperamental king who (accidentally) finds Palin could be his only hope.

jabberwocky creature monster

The Jabberwocky really needs to learn how to fight better

The movie has the strange Monty Python look. Stunts are unrealistic with characters flying across the screen and violence is over the top with people being split in half and buckets of blood coating people. It fits the tone of the film. The final Jabberwocky monster is interesting, but I wish that there had been a bit clearer look at the monster since its design was rather interesting.

Jabberwocky is a fun movie that isn’t quite Monty Python, but also isn’t quite fantasy adventure. The comedy sometimes feels a bit off and the action and adventure always feels light. It doesn’t necessary work on all fronts in that case but usually the two factors work together well in the movie. I wish the movie had been a bit closer to Time Bandits in its style and feel and think that it could have been the extra boost it needed to get over the hump. Until then, beware the Jubjub bird, and shun the frumious Bandersnatch and enjoy an odd, twisted film.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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