Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

UK movie (1977). Umbrella/Michael White. Pr Sandy Lieberson. Exec pr John Goldstone. Dir Terry Gilliam. Spfx John F Brown, Effects Associates. Monster creation Clinton Cavers, Valerie Charlton, Jen Effects. Screenplay Charles Alverson, Gilliam. Novelization Jabberwocky * (1977) by Ralph Hoover. Starring Annette Badland (Griselda Fishfinger), Deborah Fallender (Princess), Derek Francis (Bishop), John Le Mesurier (Chamberlain), Michael Palin (Dennis Cooper), Max Wall (King Bruno the Questionable), Simon Williams (Prince). 101 mins. Colour.

Gilliam returns to the territory of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). A medieval kingdom is plagued by the Jabberwock, a hideous man-eating Monster. Dennis, disowned by his dying father, travels to the City in search of glory. There he finds the (literally) disintegrating court of the aged King Bruno. Bruno holds a tournament to find a champion who will slay the Jabberwock and gain half the kingdom and the Princess's hand in marriage – although some courtiers argue the monster should be preserved since Legends are all the kingdom has left (i.e., the Jabberwock is the sole counter to perceived Thinning). After various rather turgid adventures Dennis defeats the monster (or is seen to) and wins the Princess, while ever faithful to his ghastly first love Griselda.

J can be viewed as a marriage between the Monty Python and Carry On traditions. Perhaps fittingly, its Parody is crippled by lack of focus; Gilliam was to acquire greater finesse when he learnt to create fantasy. Although often visually splendid – and although the final struggle with the monster is exceptionally well staged – J defaults rather too easily into tired jokes. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.