Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Title:  Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Directors:  Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones
Date:  1975
Studio:  Columbia Tristar
Genre:  Comedy
Cast:  Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Connie Booth
Format:  Color, Widescreen
DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government.”  — Peasant

“Let me go back in there and face the peril.”  — Sir Galahad
“No, it’s too perilous.”  — Sir Lancelot

Monty Python’s Holy Grail film is very silly — but I mean that in a good way.  The film is full of very funny, and very quotable lines (I’m delibrately avoiding listing all of them) and it’s episodic.  However, it does have a plot — it’s not a collection of random sketches, like the Monty Python’s Flying Circus TV series.

The film begins, well, before even the plot of the film gets started we’re treated to the irrelevant humor of  the Pythons as the film is subtitled, for no apparent reason, in Swedish – then the subtitles break down into an invitation to visit Sweden and a discussion of moose bites.  A title card then informs us that those responsible for the titles have been sacked (fired).  The new titles are alternating red and green flashing, with lots of mentions of llamas.  Needless to say – this is no better.  But it is an example of the clever Python humor.

The film, proper, begins with Arthur, king of the Britons, looking to collect the bravest knights in the land to join his court at Camelot.  But no one has heard of  him.  Eventually he finds Sir Bedevere, the clever, scholarly knight.  The film then breaks to “The Book of the Film” to briefly introduce Arthur’s crew of knights (including “The aptly named ‘Sir not appearing in this film’ “) — which is one of my favorite lines. Arthur and company encounter the French taunters, then each knight gets a tale from Sir Robin’s encounter with the three-headed knight, to Sir Galadhad’s bravely facing the women of Castle Anthrax, only to be “rescued” by Sir Lancelot.  Sir Lancelot himself gets his own tale, to rescue the person in Swamp Castle about to be forced into marriage — he is very surprised to learn the person is a prince not a princess!

Arthur and Sir Bedevere encounter the Knights who say “Ni”.  Finally the group meet Tim the Enchanter who gives them a clue.  They proceed to the cave and encounter the Killer Rabbit, before getting another clue leading to the bridge of death.  There, each knight must answer three questions:  “What … is your name?”, “What … is your quest?”  and either “What is your favorite color?” or an actual question.  This task manages to whittle down Arthur’s knights, ’til it’s only Arthur and one page who reach the castle where the Grail is hidden – only to again run into the French taunters.  Arthur, however, is about to seize the castle with an impressive group of Ren-faire knights when the police show up and the film ends.  (Throughout the film we see clips of this – an old historian is cut down by one of Arthur’s knights, he’s found dead by his wife, the police arrive, the body’s taken away, the police start to investigate, etc — all of  this is silent drama for the most part).

Terry Gilliam’s drawings and animations, made famous in the Monty Python TV series, then later in films, break the episodes of the film apart, and act as transitions.  They are quirky and surreal but add little to the plot (except for the sequence with the Black Beast in the cave; and Arthur’s crew somehow being stranded in the snow in Iceland or some such place for no reason whatsoever).

Again, the film is very funny, and very silly.  There really isn’t any logic too it, but it’s Monty Python — logic is the last thing one expects.  It’s also intentionally low-budget looking.  For example, no one rides a horse, but the sound of  Arthur’s horse is provided by two coconuts.   ‘Course, other characters actually notice this!  Again, it’s a fun, enjoyable film.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 of  5 Stars
Next Film:  Moulin Rouge

A Fish Called Wanda

  • Title:  A Fish Called Wanda
  • Director:  Charles Crichton
  • Date:  1988
  • Studio:  MGM
  • Genre:  Comedy
  • Cast:  John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Geoffrey Palmer, Stephen Fry
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“I offer a complete and utter retraction.  The implication was totally without basis in fact.  And was in no way fair comment and was motivated purely by malice.  And I deeply regret any distress that my comments may have caused you, or your family.  And I hereby undertake not to repeat any such slander at any time in the future.”  — Archie, apologizing to Otto, who is holding him upside-down outside a window

“Oh, right to call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people.”  — Wanda, to Otto

“Apes don’t read philosophy.” — Otto
“Yes they do, Otto, they just don’t understand it!  Now let me correct you on a couple of things, ok?  Aristotle was not Belgian.  The central message of Buddhism is not every man for himself!  And the London Underground is not a political movement!  Those are all mistakes, Otto, I looked them up.”  — Wanda

A Fish Called Wanda is an extremely funny movie, with a brilliant cast.  But it is extremely difficult to explain why it is so funny.  The film opens with a armed robbery of a jewelry exchange in London.  The four thieves get away with twenty million in diamonds.  However, after Otto calls the cops to arrest George, one of  the co-conspirators, and the guy who planned the whole thing, as he and Wanda planned, they discover George was too clever for them and he’s hidden the gems somewhere else.  The question is where?

Thus begins a great farce and character comedy.  Ken, the stuttering, animal-loving, assassin, get’s the key to a safe-deposit box, but doesn’t know where the box is.  Wanda, unbeknownst to Ken, steals the key and hides it in her locket.  Then Wanda decides to cosy up to Archie, George’s barrister, in hopes that he will tell her where the loot is.  Meanwhile, Wanda and Otto have been having a relationship, but Wanda’s only interested in Otto until the caper is done and she has the diamonds.  Wanda’s also holding Ken close to the vest.

The film snowballs, as any good farce does.  The characters are larger-than-life, yet still sympathetic.  As the film progresses, Archie, especially, becomes the put-upon good English husband who needs excitement in his life.  And that excitement arrives, in the form of Wanda, who initially simply wants to find out where George hid the jewels, but later falls for Archie anyway.

This is a very, very funny film, that needs to be seen to be understood and appreciated.  But overall, it’s extremely enjoyable and a good-time film.  Moreover, it is laugh-out-loud funny.

Trivia:  Cleese’s character is named Archie Leach.  Archibald Leach is the given or birth name of Cary Grant.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Flying Down to Rio