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Latest Member: JosephTor Forum  |  Movies  |  Good Movies  |  Jabberwocky (1977) « previous next »
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Author Topic: Jabberwocky (1977)  (Read 1535 times)
Frightening Fanatic of Horrible Cinema

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« on: August 08, 2013, 10:02:42 PM »

Terry Gilliam directs this tale of the titular creature terrorizing an unspecified medieval countryside.  The king decides to hold a tournament to determine which knight shall have the honor of slaying the beast.  Meanwhile, a dullard named Dennis is disinherited by his father and dumped by his fiancee (not that she ever really noticed him in the first place) on the same day.  With nothing else to do, Dennis journeys to the king's capitol in search of work.  He instead finds all the weirdness you'd expect the straight man to encounter in a Terry Gilliam film.  During the course of all this, he finds himself acting as replacement squire to the knight who wins the hide-and-seek game that marks the last challenge of the tournament.  There are those who, for various reasons, don't want the monster slain, and they enlist the terrifying Black Knight to hunt down Dennis and his knight before they can find and kill it.

Jabberwocky works best as pure satire, played so straight you might never realize it was all a joke in the first place.  There is a lot of weird stuff going on here, like a man who can't get work because he's been blacklisted by a local guild, so he cuts off his foot to be a pitiful beggar, instead -- and ends up making way more money than his real profession ever would have brought him.  There's a knight servicing center where the knights are hoisted up on hooks and conveyed around to various stations so their armor can be cleaned, polished, and repaired without them having to take it off.  There's the princess who, for no readily comprehensible reason, takes one look at Dennis and decides that he's a prince come to win her heart.  The fact that he's unwashed, disheveled, and wearing rags is just further evidence of his nobility, of course.  Plus, he's carrying a rotten potato!  That clinches it, he must be a prince!

Jabberwocky falters when it strays into outright farce, like the scene of the king's head man trying to explain to him what the phrase "not really" means, while they are doused with buckets of blood from the jousting competition taking place a few feet away.  The hide-and-seek game is a bit much, as well.  These scenes don't really fit with the rest of the movie and seem shoehorned in simply because people who saw Monty Python and The Holy Grail would probably be expecting them.

Speaking of expectations, mine were blown right out of the water when the movie finally got around to showing off the Jabberwocky.  I was half expecting that there wouldn't actually be a monster at all.  (Maybe it would turn out to be a guy with a crane who collected human skins to make economically priced leather?)  The other half was expecting that it would be the cheapest, silliest thing they thought they could get away with.  (Maybe it would be a stuntman in a burlap sack with little wings and bat ears glued to it?)  Nope.  The Jabberwocky is, hands down, one of the best movie monsters of the whole 1970s, maybe of all time.  The best shorthand description I can think of is to say that it looks like The Giant Claw done wonderfully right.  Even the fact that it has yellow blood is fantastic and adds an extremely cool element of mystery and ickiness to the thing.  Seriously, what the hell kind of vertebrate on this planet ever had yellow blood?  Terry Gilliam must have known what he had because the battle with the beast is played completely straight.

This movie gets my strongest recommendation because of the monster alone.  Just be aware that you'll have to sit though a lot of very odd, possibly not even humorously-intended comedy before you see it.

As a parting thought, I'm not sure how this got a PG rating, even in 1977.  It's chock full of gore and some full-frontal nudity.

Kneel before Dr. Hell, the ruler of this world!
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« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2013, 11:05:57 AM »

Now I want to see this movie!

"Carpe diem!" - Seize the day!  "Carpe per diem!" - Seize the daily living allowance! "Carpe carp!" - Seize the fish!
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