Jabberwocky (Terry Gilliam / United Kingdom, 1977):

"The frumious Bandersnatch" has a telling introduction: The poaching of a poacher (Terry Jones) by an ominously descending camera (it attaches itself to the victim's shrieking face before leaving a steaming, chewed-up skeleton), or rather the declaration of visual spirals over Pythonesque wordplay by which Terry Gilliam kills off his Holy Grail co-director. Carroll and Pasolini preside over the medieval pigsty-jamboree, the grinning halfwit (Michael Palin) is a compulsive stock-taker who visits his rotund beloved (Annette Badland) to find rumps hanging out of outhouses. "It seems that my subjects are becoming a pain in the arse," grumbles King Bruno the Questionable (Max Wall) as peasants are gobbled up by the marauding beast, a tournament should find a savior. (Front row at the jousts is a nice view that gets you sprayed with a drop or two of blood.) Mud and rats and knockabout British comics dot the Brueghel canvas, a tumultuous profusion of jests (out of Duck Soup, The Seventh Seal, Shoot the Piano Player and Chimes at Midnight) and a continuous frisson between pictorial majesty and beastly slapstick. Fractured or not, fairy-tales here exist only in the mind of the twitty maiden (Deborah Fallender) who blissfully mistakes the oaf for her hero while the real prince plunges to his death in the background. The rotten potato of romance and the amputated foot of opportunity, the parrot-dragon glimpsed at last through the armor's rusty visor. "I could get blood poisoning! Was that sword sterilized?" Assuredly Sokurov's model for Faust, though not before Gilliam transports it to Manhattan (The Fisher King). With Harry Corbett, Neil Innes, John Le Mesurier, John Bird, Bernard Bresslaw, Rodney Bewes, Gordon Kaye, and Brian Glover.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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