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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Jabberwocky [Blu-ray]


(Terry Gilliam, 1977)



Coming to Blu-ray in the UK by Criterion one day earlier:


Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Python Films

Video: Criterion Collection Spine #903



Region: 'A' + 'B' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:46:02.356 

Disc Size: 47,645,888,272 bytes

Feature Size: 33,385,482,240 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.28 Mbps

Chapters: 14

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: November 20th-21st, 2017



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 4365 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 4365 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps



English (SDH), none



• Audio commentary from 2001 featuring Gilliam and actor Michael Palin
New documentary on the making of the film, featuring Gilliam, producer Sandy Lieberson, Palin and actor Annette Badland (40:49)
New interview with Valerie Charlton, designer of the Jabberwock, featuring her collection of rare behind-the-scenes photographs (14:45)

Original opening (3:16)

Terry Bedford (20:29 - audio only)
Selection of Gilliam’s storyboards and sketches

Trailer (1:27)

Lewis Carrol's Jabberwocky poem as read by Eric Idle (1:28)
PLUS: An essay by critic Scott Tobias






Description: Amid the filth and muck of England in the Dark Ages, a fearsome dragon stalks the land, casting a shadow of terror upon the kingdom of Bruno the Questionable. Who should emerge as the town’s only possible saviour but Dennis Cooper (Life of Brian’s MICHAEL PALIN), an endearingly witless bumpkin who stumbles onto the scene and is flung into the role of brave knight? The first outing as a solo director by TERRY GILLIAM (Brazil)—inspired by Lewis Carroll’s poem “Jabberwocky” and made on the heels of Gilliam’s success as a member of the iconic comedy troupe Monty Python—showcases his delight in comic nonsense, with a cast chock-full of beloved British character actors. A giddy romp through blood and excrement, this fantasy remains one of the filmmaker’s most uproarious visions of society run amok.



The Film:

An innocent country farmer experiences a number of improbable misadventures that culminate in a battle against the titular beast in this broadly comic fantasy. The first solo outing of director Terry Gilliam, who served as animator and co-director on Monty Python and the Holy Grail, returns to the medieval setting that had previously served him so well, and brings along fellow Pythonite Michael Palin for the ride as reluctant hero Dennis Cooper. Cooper's journey to defeat the fearsome Jabberwock is filled with a similar combination of traditional fairy-tale narrative and irreverent humor, which at times aims to be even raunchier than classic Python fare. But while the film is too awkward and repetitive to succeed, it does boast impressively grungy medieval sets and costumes, and flashes of the visual brilliance that would characterize Gilliam's more mature works.

Excerpt from B+N located HERE

The time is the mythic long-ago, a period after the eclipse of Camelot, but not yet the time of recorded history. The place is the kingdom of Bruno The Questionable, who is not a bad tyrant under the circumstances. Bruno's realm is being ravaged by a monster so terrible that the sight of it once turned an old peasant's teeth snow-white over night.

Who will slay the monster to restore law and disorder, thus to win half of the Princess's hand and all of the kingdom (or perhaps it's the other way around)? From the opening sequence of "Jabberwocky," there's no doubt but that it must be Dennis-the-cooper's-son. Dennis (Michael Palin), disowned by his father in an embarrassing deathbed speech (his father was out of sorts), is the quintessential naif. Being profoundly and cheerfully stupid, slavishly faithful to the obese Griselda, polite in all situations, and ever optimistic, Dennis is fate's triumphant plaything.

Excerpt from NYTimes located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Jabberwocky on Blu-ray from Criterion is advertised as from a "New 4K digital transfer from a restoration by the BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation, approved by director Terry Gilliam".  It is heavily grain-rich and looks magnificent in-motion. Colors are lush and the image reeks of a strong film-like presentation. You couldn't ask for more.


















Audio :

The audio is in a robust DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround track. There are plenty of effects and some jump-inducing separations. The music in Jabberwocky ranges from Mussorgsky's Night on a Bald Mountain to uncredited Hector Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' disc, although also available in Region 'B' (UK).


Extras :

Criterion include the 2001 audio commentary featuring Gilliam and actor Michael Palin. It's as rewarding, fun and revealing as you might expect. There is a new, 41-minute, documentary on the making of the film - produced by Criterion in 2017, featuring Gilliam, producer Sandy Lieberson, Palin and actor Annette Badland. There is a new 1/4 hour interview with Valerie Charlton, designer of the Jabberwock, featuring her collection of rare behind-the-scenes photographs. She discusses the creation of the Jabberwock. A 20-minute audio only piece is included with excerpts of cinematographer Terry Bedford talking with David Bedford about his experiences shooting Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Jabberwocky. Director Terry Gilliam trimmed Jabberwocky slightly for its initial US release in 1977. The US version has a new title treatment and the addition of some painted images with voice-over narration, Gilliam's preferred version of the film, restored for this Blu-ray release, combines the longer UK cut with the American title sequences. The supplement presents it here for comparison to the UK opening sequence. From 2001 are a selection of Gilliam’s storyboards and sketches - and there is also a trailer. Lastly, Michael Palin reads 1.5 minutes of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky poetry. The package has a liner notes booklet with an essay by critic Scott Tobias.




Wow - what an great package -  such an amazing 4K-restored a/v presentation and I warm to the film as it reminds me so much of Monty Python and The Holy Grail! How can you not love dialogue like this:

Religious Fanatic #1: Look! It's a nun in the guise of the Devil!
Religious Fanatic #2: No! It's the Devil in the guise of a nun!
Religious Fanatic #3: Get her!
Religious Fanatic #4: Get him!
Religious Fanatic #5: GET THEM BOTH!

The Criterion Blu-ray has raised the film to a level far beyond what it might deserve... but it has made me love this Pythonian film - even as a lesser effort when looking at the entire selection. I recommend it to fans who may not have appreciated Jabberwocky the first few times they saw it. This Blu-ray breathes new life into this less-acknowledged Gilliam effort. 

Gary Tooze

October 11th, 2017


Coming to Blu-ray in the UK by Criterion one day earlier:




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