Monty Python and the Holy Grail Review

Director(s): Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones and Michael Palin
Released: May 25, 1975

Click Here for Monty Python and the Holy Grail trailer

Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation when the other person suddenly cuts you off and says “I collect stamps.”
That’s quite random isn’t it?
Well what if we were to expand further?
What if, instead of stamps, they said holographic underwear? And it was no longer a person but a verbally adept fridge? And instead of a conversation, you were in the middle of a caber tossing contest?
Yes, we’re getting warmer.
It makes less and less sense, but it is more and more similar to the tone of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The Plot:
King Arthur (Chapman) and his knights of the round table are given a quest from God: To find the Holy Grail. On their way, they will tackle the dreaded Knights who say Ni, horrifically low-budget animated monstrosities and attempt to determine the wingspan of an unladen African swallow.

Monty Python and ridiculous simply go hand in hand. Back then, humor was generally very politically correct. It was the kind of thing you could chortle over with your granny or your boss (even if they were the same person). Then Monty Python and the Holy Grail came along and shook things up in a way that left people confused but very very happy. It took in-jokes that people kept to themselves and plastered them on to a big screen, allowing us to laugh at the idea of something random and unconnected happening for no discernible reason.

The plot pokes fun at Christianity and history in general, but with good humour. God is depicted a giant animated painting in the sky, and is irritable and disgruntled whenever he sees people grovelling before him. “Sorry this, and forgive me that, and I’m not worthy -sigh-”
King Arthur himself is a relatively straight character, one whom we can somewhat relate to, but this is often sacrificed for the sake of a well placed gag. The Knights Who Say Ni scene is a prime example of this.

As a spoof, the plot is not the main focus here. However, it is constructed with enough coherence that it doesn’t just feel like a jumble of sketches thrown lazily together. There is an over arching narrative there, and one-liners from the opening segment have relevance in the closing scenes. This is especially noticeable in relation to swallows and coconuts. That said, this isn’t your standard film with a discernible beginning, middle and end. It throws you straight into the deep end and then finishes up without really wrapping up anything. Does that matter? No.

Almost every flaw the film has appears to work in favour of the comedy. The obviously minuscule budget meant that many characters were portrayed by the same actor, and that much of the special effects are laughable. However, the cast clearly had such love and care for this project that it just works, and works well.

The fact that John Cleese is both Sir Lancelot and the Sorcerer in the same scene doesn’t matter. The fact everything looks like it was filmed in the same soggy field is all part of its charm. And the fact that the filmmakers couldn’t afford horses actually allows them to come up with one of the funniest gags in film history. What the crew lacked in finances, they more than made up for with creative genius.

Nearly every scene in the film is a winner. The confrontation with the Black Knight takes the noble tradition of a duel and puts a modern spin on it that will have any audience member in stitches. The French Knights are the absolute pinnacle of silliness,  taking racism to such a ludicrous extreme that it becomes something else entirely (No giant wooden rabbits were harmed during the filming of this scene…..just real ones). And after hearing Sir Bedevere’s explanation on how to spot a witch, you will never look at a duck the same way again.

A minor issue that may be had with the film comes in the form of the conclusion. With such a strong focus on humour, it makes sense that they would choose one last gag over a satisfying wrap-up. The problem with this is that the final joke, while set-up very well, isn’t as hilarious as the those that preceded it. If it were possible to swap it around with one of the other, more memorable, jokes, the entire package would be flawless. But then, this is an unconventional film, one that fully earns the right to bend the rules just a little bit.

Overall:
Fully deserving of its reputation, Monty Python and the Holy Grail is incredibly admirable for being different from any other film of that era, and also for remaining totally hilarious after all these years. Timeless, a project of passion, and funnier than most modern comedies, this is a farcical adventure that comedy lovers need to experience.

Rating: 10/10

I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty-headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.” – French Soldier

Shamelessly Awful Facts:

  • The gorilla hand turning the pages halfway through the film actually belongs to Terry Gilliam. The hand before that belonged to his wife.
  • The Holy Hand Grenade makes it into the Playstation game Worms Armageddon as one of the most dangerous weapons in the game.
  • The airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow is roughly 11 meters per second, or 24 miles per hour, beating its wings 7-9 times per second rather than 43. It’s true: a 5 ounce bird cannot carry a one pound coconut, but furthermore, no swallow weighs 5 ounces. The barn swallow, which is what most English people mean when they say “swallow”, weighs only 20 grams (2/3 of an ounce).
  • Funds earned by Pink Floyd’s album “The Dark Side of the Moon” went towards funding The Holy Grail. The band were such fans of the show they would halt recording sessions just to watch Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
  • When asked by the press what their next project would be, Eric Idle flippantly replied “Jesus Christ’s Lust for Glory”. A joke at first, this eventually became Monty Python and the Life of Brian.
  • In the scene where the villagers are discussing how to recognize a witch, Eric Idle is seen to bare his teeth and bite down on the blade of the scythe he is holding. This is not scripted. He did so to prevent himself from laughing.

This film is kind of like:

  • A french Jam maker challenging a blind otter trainer to a unicycle race in the middle of museum of modern yo-yos.

or

  • The Bible, as narrated by a hyperactive 3-year-old with a dirty mind
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