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

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