Reviews

Monty Python And The Holy Grail

4

The daft knights rise on Blu-ray

It's nigh-on impossible to have a conversation about the second, and greatest, Python film (never mind review it) without rapidly descending into a quote-a-thon.

Yet it’s worth resisting the impulse, because there’s much more to Holy Grail than a collection of one-liners – there’s a reason why elderberries/flesh wound/migrating coconuts/(insert your gag of choice here) have become such enduring classics, and that reason has more to do with narrative context than isolated laugh value.

While the film’s undeniably episodic – essentially a collection of sketches in the vein of the Pythons’ first film And Now For Something Completely Different – its apparent randomness is deceptive, a distraction from what’s actually an impeccably disciplined script.

In case there’s anyone left who doesn’t know the basics, King Arthur (Graham Chapman) sets out to recruit knights for his Round Table, and along the way finds himself confronted variously with mythical foes (John Cleese’s Black Knight and the Killer Rabbit being highlights) and a series of Britons who’d rather engage in pedantic debates than bow down to their King.

It’s this combination of big and small  comedy that gives Holy Grail its enduring, cross-generational appeal. For every outlandishly surreal foe like the Knights Who Say “Ni” there’s a deadpan exchange along the lines of Arthur’s encounter with the anarcho-syndicalist commune and their leader Dennis (Michael Palin), who take issue with all that “Lady In The Lake business”.

Whether you’re up on your Arthurian legends or not, you just can’t argue with lines like, “Strange women lying in ponds, distributing swords, is no basis for a system of government.” (Damn. Told you – it’s nigh-on impossible.)

From literary  pastiche to musical gags (the gradual dismantling of Brave Sir Robin never gets old) to an extended opening credits gag based around moose and a pseudo-Nordic language, there’s no denying that the Pythons throw just about everything at the wall here.

But again, it’s thrown with precise, sly precision; as a result, just about all of it sticks. The transfer to Blu’s a fair bit better than you’d expect given the low-budget source, and while this arguably wasn’t a film in need of another Special Edition there’s enough genuine value in the Blu exclusives to justify it.

The best of the bunch are Terry Jones’ and Terry Gilliam’s respective intros to the outtakes and a previously lost animation reel, while the chattracks from them and the cast remain wry, enlightening gems.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • stephenperry

      Dec 24th 2012, 17:57

      4

      I Laughed So Hard I Soiled My Armor: A Review of Monty Python and the Holy Grail The lady at the movie store, her arms clad in the purest shimmering samite, pulls Monty Python and The Holy Grail from the bosom of the shelf, signifying by divine providence, that you, the reader, should be watching this movie, right now. In this brilliant burlesque tale of King Arthur, King Arthur (Graham Chapman) quests in the name of God himself, to search for the Holy Grail. Along the way he gathers many sarcastically named knights to join him, such as Sir Robin The-Not-Quite-So-As-Brave-As-Sir-Lancelot (Eric Idol) and the Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Film. The knights, with help from their aids, scour the land in search for the holy relic. Hilarity ensues from scenes a involving a Trojan Rabbit, the unbalanced scales of justice, to the accidental slaughtering of an entire wedding party. I have one, two, five, three sir, three reasons this movie rocks. Every character, sarcastic or not, truly received the depth it deserved. The Monty Python crew maintained very eccentric performances that made the characters. Even though it was a bit silly, Tim the Enchanter (John Cleese) instilled fear in your heart as he warns of the terrible creature awaiting King Arthur and the knights. You know the feeling when Galahad the Chaste (Michael Palin) is tempted by dozens of beautiful women. The settings and scenery stayed on point. It took a decent amount of research to exploit everything Monty Python parodied. There was this beautifully morose undertone synonymous to the Middle Ages throughout the film. Even in the midst of satire there was certain desperation about most scenes. The plot flowed very well even though the knights split up on their own endeavors. There was always some joke, character, or something hidden in the background to enjoy. This movie has huge… tracks of goodness all about it. Well done, Monty Python, well done. I honestly cannot say many bad things about this movie. If you do not enjoy satire and grown men acting silly, then maybe you should pass this one up. If you have epilepsy, you might not want to watch the opening credits. The first historian bit brought the flow to a brief halt, but in the end they bring it all back together. Even in the “worst” of it they still succeed. For the sole purpose that I could have more to watch, I wish the movie had about twenty more minutes of content. Monty Python truly captures the essence of personalities from King Arthur the gallant leader of the Knights of the Round Table to the slightly creepy and decrepit Old Man in Scene 24/Bridge Keeper (Terry Gilliam), and from the unyielding Black Knight (Cleese) to the mysterious Tim the Enchanter (Cleese). You probably will not catch all of the 42 different characters the Monty Python crew takes on during your first watch through. On the second go around, and yes, you should watch it a second time, it will bring even more laughs when you discern between the members and each of their vastly different roles. You must start looking from the very beginning. The first scene completely sets the tone for the entire movie. The film begins after a series of credits that were thrown together very quickly at a great expense. With a fade and an epic boom of brass instruments, we arrive at our destination: England 932 A.D. A dark, cold, and gloomy mist tears over an open moor. On the top of a hill rests a dead man, suspended on what looks like a raised wheel. A buzzard cries intermittently in the distance. A horse’s gallop starts from far away and gets closer. The camera zooms in ever so slowly to rendezvous with the mysterious rider. A flag appears followed by a crown. This man looks like royalty. He gets closer and closer. Until, “But.. wait.. no.. seriously? He does not even have a horse! Who’s that other guy?! Why does he have coconuts?” A valiant King Arthur halts himself and his servant, Patsy (Gilliam), for a brief moment before continuing to gallop on foot, with the aid of clacking coconuts, to a nearby castle. King Arthur attempts to ask a guard for the presence of his master. The surprisingly intellectual guard (Palin) criticizes Arthur for not riding a horse. He then undermines Arthur’s intentions by starting a debate questioning where they got the coconut. Answering with a riddle, Arthur implies the coconut might have been carried by a migratory swallow. The debate continues until another guard (Cleese) shows up arguing the case of an African swallow over a European. The guards completely divert every question Arthur has back to swallowing the issue at hand. Arthur, perturbed, gallops off ignoring the two guards. If you like to find little Easter eggs of funniness and enjoy a good wit, then I beseech you to take a Ni and watch. It brings joy to see all the vastly different characters portrayed by so few. You can and should bring your entire family. Even though they cannot yet grasp the full depth of the parodies, the lighter comedic elements will still entertain the young ones. This film will not change your life, but it will provide solid comedy for a fraction of your day.

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