Jabberwocky appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though the movie occasionally showed its age, it looked better than expected.
This meant sharpness usually appeared accurate and well-defined. Some light softness crept into the proceedings at times, but the movie mainly delivered nice delineation.
I saw no signs of moiré effects or jaggies, and the image lacked edge haloes. Print flaws seemed absent, and while grain could be heavy, this clearly stemmed from the original photography.
Due to the production design, colors tended to look somewhat drab and lifeless. However, that seemed intentional, and when allowed to prosper, the hues looked pretty lively.
Blacks appeared dark and dense, while shadows generally fared well. Some low-light shots could be a bit murky, but they usually seemed satisfactory. Though nothing here dazzled, the image held up nicely.
The disc omitted the film’s original monaural audio, so instead, we got only a DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix. I regard that as a disappointment on a number of levels, one of which connects to the less than natural feel of this track.
On the positive side, music showed nice stereo presence. On the negative side, the remixers created a soundscape that lacked nuance and threw the action out of balance.
When monaural material gets adapted to 5.1, it tends to work best when kept modest in scope. Jabberwocky ignored that concept and gave us a soundfield that failed to keep the material in proportion.
This mainly became an issue due to the usage of the surrounds, as they seemed excessively active. Some of these elements worked well, mainly connected to the monster itself – a few scenes with those “action material” brought out a nice sense of the menace.
However, the remixers didn’t know when to leave well enough alone, so quiet scenes used the back speakers in an overly prominent manner. Through much of the film, extraneous, unnecessary information came from the surrounds, and those moments made the mix an unbalanced and distracting affair.
Audio quality fared better, though even there, imbalance reigned. That was because parts of the track “felt old” while others “felt new”, and the two sides failed to mesh.
I strongly suspect the remix actually used re-recorded stems for a lot of the effects, as they came with a robust feel not typical for material from 1977. I don’t mind the more “modern” fidelity on its own, but I do dislike the unnatural way in which these components connected to other parts of the track.
Speech remained intelligible and concise, though some edginess interfered at times. Music became the best part of the mix, as the score offered fairly nice range and clarity.
Those effects just didn’t work for me, though. They tended to seem too loud and “canned”, so they didn’t deliver convincing material. The track’s superficial charms seemed enough for me to give this a “C”, but I didn’t much like it.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD from 2001? Audio was similar, though the lossless DTS-HD MA track offered more heft and range. Still, both came with the same out of kilter soundscape and unnatural feel, as the DVD lacked the original monaural as well.
At least visuals showed considerable improvements, as the Blu-ray seemed much tighter, smoother and cleaner. I’m still disappointed the disc failed to restore the 1977 audio, but the picture quality made this one superior to the DVD.
The Blu-ray mixes old and new extras, and we start with the same audio commentary found on the 2001 DVD. From writer/director Terry Gilliam and actor Michael Palin, the two men sit together for a running, screen-specific look at story/characters, sets and locations, cast and performances, production elements and related material.
Not surprisingly, Gilliam dominates, and the track usually progresses in an entertaining manner. As always, Gilliam provides a frank appraisal of the work and he gives us a good overview.
A bit too much of the piece devotes to comments about who’s who among the onscreen talent, but in between, Gilliam and Palin add lots of solid facts about the movie along with many fun anecdotes. It can be hard to tell if they love or hate Jabberwocky, but the commentary delivers an interesting piece nonetheless.
Another repeat from the DVD, Sketch to Screen Comparisons provides a neat variation on the usual storyboard presentations. Here we find many drawings from Gilliam’s pad, and corresponding shots from the final film follow. The piece lasts six minutes and 55 seconds and offers a good look at Gilliam’s preparatory work.
A 2017 documentary, Jabberwocky: Good Nonsense runs 40 minutes, 49 seconds and includes comments from Gilliam, Palin, producer Sandy Lieberson, and actor Annette Badland. “Nonsense” looks at the source text and Gilliam’s take on it as well as the film’s development, story/characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, cinematography and visual design, and the movie’s reception.
Inevitably, “Nonsense” repeats some of the information from the commentary. Nonetheless, it includes a good array of new notes, so it deserves a look.
Another 2017 piece, Valerie Charlton: The Making of a Monster lasts 14 minutes, 45 seconds and discusses the creation of the movie’s title character. Charlton proves frank and lively as she goes over her work.
A 1998 audio interview with cinematographer Terry Bedford fills 22 minutes, 29 seconds. He discusses his work on Holy Grail and Jabberwocky in this informative conversation.
Under Original Opening, we get a three-minute, 16-second clip. Presented 1.33:1, the main difference comes from the absence of the paintings/prologue found in the final film. It’s a minor curiosity.
With Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, we find a short reading of the source text. It goes for one minute, 27 seconds, as Palin and Badland recite the source poem to us. I don’t think it adds much, but it gives us a decent segment.
In addition to the film’s clever trailer, we get a booklet. It mixes credits, photos and an essay from critic Scott Tobias to finish the set on a good note.
Though sporadically interesting, Jabberwocky seems like a disappointment as a whole. I like some parts of it but it never coalesces into a compelling or entertaining whole. The Blu-ray provides pretty good picture and useful supplements but the remixed audio disappoints. Despite the iffy soundtrack, this becomes the best rendition of the film.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of JABBERWOCKY