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Film / Jabberwocky

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Jabberwocky is a 1977 British fantasy comedy film co-written and directed by Terry Gilliam.

Set in Dark Age Britain, the film stars Michael Palin as a young cooper who is forced through clumsy, often slapstick misfortunes to hunt a terrible dragon after the death of his father. The name is taken from the nonsense poem "Jabberwocky" in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass.

When the film was first released, it was promoted in some territories as Monty Python's Jabberwocky, due to the fact its director and star were both, at the time, best known for their work with the Monty Python troupe, not helped by a prominent comedic use of The Dung Ages much like in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Gilliam did not support this, and such promotions were short-lived. However, the film is occasionally still found listed in some Monty Python filmographies.

The movie contains examples of:

  • Accidental Hero: Dennis ends up killing the Jabberwock by inadvertently stabbing it through the head while trying to hide.
  • Ax-Crazy: The guy with the "diamonds", aka a bunch of rocks.
  • Black Comedy: Well, it is a Terry Gilliam film after all so expect plentiful helpings of this.
  • Black Knight: The city merchants hire one to ambush the king's champion. He winds up fighting the monster himself.
  • Bloody Hilarious:
    • The jousting scene. We never see the impact of the combatants, only the royal box and its inhabitants (the King, his chancellor, and the princess) getting increasingly splattered with gore.
    • Also the monster's method of killing people which leaves just a horribly grimacing head attached to a skeleton, exactly like the remains of a fish eaten by a human.
    • ...The whole film, really.
  • The Cameo: Terry Gilliam himself shows up as an Ax-Crazy guy who thinks he's found a diamond mine (really, he's just found a pile of rocks). Terry Jones turns up as a trapper who's the first on-screen victim of the Jabberwock.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Mr. Fishfinger and his family are very rude to Dennis after he saves them from bandits
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The merchants of the city think the monster is the best thing to happen for business, so they'd rather it not be killed.
  • Covers Always Lie: The Jabberwock in the movie bears little resemblance to the one on the cover.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: Played for Laughs. Dennis kills the Jabberwock, is hailed as a hero, and is married to the princess by the king as a reward for his actions...only none of these are what he actually wanted. He's lead past a weeping Griselda on the way to the marriage, one that he is forced to go through with at spearpoint, and the last shot is of him staring forlornly out of the back of his wedding carriage as it rides away.
  • Dolled-Up Installment: It was released in some areas as Monty Python's Jabberwocky, despite half of the group having no involvement. Although Neil Innes, sometimes called the seventh Python, does appear.
  • The Dung Ages
  • Dying Declaration of Hate: On his deathbed, Dennis's father takes the time to tell him how much of a disappointment he is and how he regrets ever having him.
  • Fanservice: When the princess first sets eyes on Dennis, she's being given a bath, and rather than cover herself up, she steps out of the bath, ignoring her panicking ladies-in-waiting, and walks right over to Dennis telling him how long she's waited for a handsome prince like him.
  • Funny Background Event: While the princess is fawning over Dennis, thinking he's a prince come to rescue her, an actual prince tries to climb up to her tower, only to fall to his death as soon as he gets to the top
  • Jerkass: Griselda, Mr. Fishfinger, and the merchants most definitely fit this trope.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The abhorrent Fishfingers loathe Dennis until he gains fame and fortune from defeating the monster. Before he can marry the family daughter Griselda, however, he is carted away by an adoring princess as an unwanted "reward", much to the Fishfingers' dismay.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The title monster is never seen until the very end.
  • Recursive Canon: A man in the city puts on a puppet show while reciting the original Jabberwock poem.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: One of the king's heralds doesn't use overly complicated words, but does use something like 20 words when five would suffice. The king eventually has him summarily executed out of pure annoyance.
  • Skewed Priorities. Mild-mannered Dennis allows himself to be sent off to defeat the monster and succeeds, winning the hand of the beautiful princess who adores him, but he does it all for the love of ugly, greedy, unpleasant Griselda who is barely aware that he exists and who only notices him when it's too late.
  • Toilet Humor: Dennis gets pissed on several times over the course of the movie.
  • Too Dumb to Live: When the king discovers that his land is threatened by the Jabberwock, he holds a contest to find the strongest knight in the land, by having all the knights battle each other to the death. Simply putting all his knights together into a single army, with all of them alive, apparently just wasn't done back then.
  • Visual Pun: The knight selected as the King's champion who is killed by the Black Knight before he can fight the Jabberwock has a red fish on his helmet. In other words, he's the Knight of the Red Herring.
  • Water Wake-up: King Bruno the Questionable is the recipient of having a basin of water dumped on him to wake him up in the very first scene he's in.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Dennis's dad takes the opportunity of being on his deathbed to tell Dennis how much he despises him.
    Dennis: Dad's delirious, I'm afraid.
    Neighbour: No he's not!
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: One of the princess' nuns is apparently a man in disguise. No explanation is given for this.