It's a lonely life...that of the necromancer, er freelancer

A blog by a designer and illustrator, for designers and illustrators which may contain musings on art, movies and random weirdness.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Terry Gilliam's Jabberwocky

I was intending to make posts about movies here on my blog, but realized I have only mentioned them in passing. Although I love movies, I rarely see any that are good enough (or bad enough) to be post-worthy. However, I received a DVD of Terry Gilliam's Jabberwocky for Christmas, and I just had to post about it, since it is a movie that I haven't seen in over 30 years. Jabberwocky came out in 1977. I was a junior in high school and working part-time at the Strand Theater in Ipswich, MA, as an usher. Jabberwocky was one of the movies that played at the theater while I was working there, and like many of the films I saw that year, including Star Wars, made a huge impact on me.

This often neglected first solo directing effort of Gilliam's is certainly much better than its maligned reputation would have you believe. It is strange little movie, loosely inspired by Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky" . It has 2 other Monty Python alum ( Terry Jones and Michael Palin) appearing in it besides Terry Gilliam, who appears in a cameo, however although it is Python-esque it is not a Python movie.

It concerns the medieval adventures of one Dennis Cooper who, disowned by his father and seeking to make his fortune, travels to the nearby kingdom of Bruno the Questionable and through a series of misfortunes, becomes squire to a knight being sent out to fight the legendary monster (the Jabberwock) that is threatening the entire kingdom. The movie is dark, dirty, satirical and funny. It was the first movie I saw about the middle ages, that actually looked like the middle ages.Visually it seems inspired by Heironymous Bosch. There is garbage, dirt, excrement, blood, nudity, casual mutilation, and lots of bad teeth. You can practically smell the movie. This movie introduced me to the comic sensibilities and visual style of Terry Gilliam.

It was interesting seeing the film again. I hadn't seen it since I worked at the theater,( it took forever to find a copy on DVD). It was pretty much as I remembered it, although I definitely appreciate the humor even more now. The things I remembered and were happy to re-connect with were Dennis's unpleasant girlfriend, a cheeky squire who gets crushed under the bed of his mistress, a cheerful beggar with a severed foot, a beautiful but delusional princess, the Jaws-like attacks of the Jabberwock and the gysers of blood from jousting knights, that cover the king and the princess as they watch. The cast is littered with a veritable whos who of British comedians and character actors, including some who show up in other Gilliam films such as Time Bandits, and Brazil. I realize that this film, which did not get a wide release, and was pretty much panned outside of Europe, is probably not everyone's cup of tea, but I loved it, and recommend it to anyone who likes the Middle Ages, Monty Python and Terry Gilliam.

1 comment:

  1. This film was a masterpiece of British comedy