Jabberwocky: A catalogue of the inception, by Michael Palin
A sultry August afternoon in Wardour Street. Lew Grade sat alone in the
Sandwich Scene gazing into the middle distance. He'd had a hard morning
altering the posters for "Can Muhammed Keep It Up Downstairs?", and
despite his plans to make a life of Buddah with Mike and Bernie Winters as the
One Indivisible Being, something was wrong… there must be a better religion
around - one with excitement, adventure, glamour, spills and a good chase at
the end. Was there a chase at the end of Shintoism?
Michael Palin as Dennis
Across the road a group of film executives had just clinched a million-dollar
deal to pay for their lunch, and were staggering triumphantly towards Dean
Street to announce the good news to film critics and screenwriters, assembled
for the 3.10 performance of Strip City.
Suddenly a small bearded figure in a stained mackintosh approached me as I was
coughing blood outside the old Associated-British Pathe building, and thrust
into my hand a crumpled piece of paper which bore the single word
"Jabberwocky". I looked up, but the figure was gone… lost in the
swirling mass of Film Producers thronging the Golden Mile, or the Golden
Twelve and a Half Yards as it is now.
"Jabberwocky"…what did it mean?
Later that day in the toilets at Blackhorse Road Underground Station, I heard
the word "Jabberwocky" again. It came unmistakeably clearly, from
behind the third door from the end, marked "For Film Producers
Only". Within days the whole of Wardour Street was buzzing with talk of
Jabberwocky - it was a new board game, a kebab with remarkable aphrodisiac
properties, a skin irritation associated with drought…
The mystery appeared insoluble until a report came in that the Jabberwocky had
been sighted! It was alive and frightening people in South West London. I
dashed to Waterloo, and reached South West London within days.
The Jabberwocky, as it turns out, is a creature too awful to describe. Even
Lewis Carroll, who invented it (and Alice in Wonderland) couldn't describe it.
Yet in the leafy suburbia of Shepperton, Jabberwocky is taking horrendous
shape. I managed to track down some of those responsible as they writhed
around on the ground after lunch.
Co-writer and Director, Terry Gilliam, from Monty Python - "most
brilliant and disturbing graphic artist of our time" - as he described
himself in "Exchange and Mart". Charles Alverson, co-writer, hippie
and American "novelist", The Producers - Sandy Lieberson, who had
first approached me in the gutter outside Pathe House, and John Goldstone with
whom he shares a beard. Michael White whose own life is shortly to be filmed
as "Carry on up The Confessions of An Impresario", is a shameless
party to the creation of this Jabberwocky.
Actors of the calibre of Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Denis Compton could
only watch helplessly as the Jabberwocky lured dozens of their fellow artists
into its clutches. Max Wall as King Bruno the Questionable, whose palace and
body are falling around him, John Le Mesurier is his sexy helpmate, Passelewe
and Michael Palin has been lured in by his Python chum Terry Gilliam to play
Dennis the Peasant, the role which Charles Laughton would have turned down had
he been alive. The list of actors who have succumbed to the Jabberwocky is
endless… Warren Mitchell. Harry H. Corbett, Rodney Bewes, Simon Williams,
John Bird, Terry Jones, Graham Crowden, Annette Badland, Bryan Pringle,
Christopher Logue, Deborah Fallender, Bernard Bresslaw… all should have
But is was getting late, and the monsters head was about to appear so, pausing
only to take a few car numbers for the local police, I turned and rushed away
from Shepperton as fast as I could, and behind me as the Jabberwocky began to
assume its fearful form, all I could hear was…laughter….
home] [Dreams home]