Monty Python and the Holy Grail


1h 29m 1975

Brief Synopsis

We follow King Arthur and his knights in their search for the Holy Grail. Thisisn't your average medieval knights and horses story - for a start, due to a shortage in the kingdom, all the horses have been replaced by servants clopping coconuts together !

Film Details

Also Known As
Monty Python, sacré graal, Monty Pythons galna värld
MPAA Rating
Release Date
1975
Distribution Company
Almi Cinema 5/Rainbow Pictures; Lauren Films; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Location
England, United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 29m
Sound
Dolby Digital (2001 re-release), Mono (original release)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

An absurdist send-up of the legend of King Arthur and his knight's quest for the Holy Grail.

Film Details

Also Known As
Monty Python, sacré graal, Monty Pythons galna värld
MPAA Rating
Release Date
1975
Distribution Company
Almi Cinema 5/Rainbow Pictures; Lauren Films; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Location
England, United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 29m
Sound
Dolby Digital (2001 re-release), Mono (original release)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Articles

Monty Python and the Holy Grail Blu-Ray - MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL on BLU-Ray


Believe it or not, the American premiere of the smash Brit TV comedy series Monty Python's Flying Circus came a full five years after the show's BBC debut. By that time news of the Pythons had reached our shores, but the only evidence we had to go by was a theatrical re-staging of hit skits from the TV show, the poorly-distributed 1971 feature And Now for Something Completely Different. Conceptual English comedy had its American fans but movie and TV executives had plenty of grim box office precedents on their books. From Spike Milligan and the Goon Show to the hilarious Peter Cook and Dudley Moore feature Bedazzled, the accepted wisdom was that dry English humor wouldn't sell here.

Talk about a reason to endorse Public Broadcasting in America ... after the commercial networks passed, courageous PBS TV stations were the first to try out Monty Python. 1974 was the year that the Pythons took America by storm, starting with the college crowd. The original writer-performers John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin described their brand of comedy as unrestrained silliness. In actuality the group had tapped onto a perfect formula for British skit humor. Concept comedy skits often began brilliantly but frequently had difficulty finding funny endings. When a skit offered no appropriate punch line the Pythons would simply let the next skit knock the first off the screen. One of the Pythons would imitate a dry BBC announcer changing the subject, or a character from the next skit would intervene, or American Python Terry Gilliam would bridge two skits with an amusing (and usually violent) animated cartoon segue. The content of one sketch might bleed into another, producing a bizarre running gag situation. More often than not, an episode's central joke just ends on an odd note, a joke at the expense of tidy conclusions.

The Python's first original movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail was put together as the TV series was winding down. As it represented a new frontier for their comedy, disaffected member John Cleese returned to the fold. Python ringleader Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam shared directing chores. Although the intensely creative Gilliam contributed visual talents possessed by none of the other comedians, he wouldn't be asked to direct subsequent Python pictures. The comics preferred to be directed by Jones, who put more emphasis on performances and didn't obsess over technical issues.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail is of course an uproarious and irreverent pastiche of Arthurian legend, Music Hall foolishness and outrageous play with film and stage conventions for historical dramas and costume fantasies. As in the TV show, the actors play multiple roles, often in the same scene. The knights are pompous and vain, and the miserable peasants live in mud, ignorance and superstition -- good fodder for drop-dead funny comedy material. Typical Python word games and semantic sinkholes appear with regularity. The silly-ass crusaders are confronted with The Knights that Say "Ni", an insulting French invader occupying an English castle, a magical bridge-keeper with a deadly quizola, and the monumentally stubborn Black Knight, who refuses to surrender even after Arthur hacks off his arms and legs. The knights are guided by a seer who hails by the prosaic name Tim the Enchanter. Sir Galahad the Pure (Eric Idle) stumbles upon a castle filled with women hungry for sex, and is irked to be "rescued" by his fellow knight Sir Lancelot the Brave (John Cleese).

Clever minimalist special effects allow the knights to do battle with the fearsome Rabbit of Caerbannog (don't forget your Holy Hand Grenades) and a horrible, indescribable and minimally animated monster called the Black Beast of Aaarrrgghh, due to the fact that nobody encountering it lives long enough to finish saying its name. But the film's simple exchanges remain some of its funniest, as when a pair of idiotic guards persist in misinterpreting their instructions to block entry to a castle room. A vacant-brained prince persists in wailing out melodies like, "Lo-ove has found me!" as if trying to turn the film into an operetta.

The show withstands the weight of its own jolly pointlessness by virtue of a series of self-reflexive jokes aimed at deflating the pomposity of the epic movie format. As if admitting that the budget can't even afford horses, the knights galumph along on foot, while Arthur's squire Patsy (Gilliam) produces clip & clop noises with a pair of coconuts. Bombastic music stings accompany the most trivial of statements. A troubadour skilled at impromptu lyrics dogs Sir Robin's heels, describing the knight's craven cowardice in song. An extended title sequence lets Terry Gilliam flex his talent for graphic absurdity -- the 'standard' title credits are interrupted, infiltrated and usurped by foolish faux-Norwegian subtitles: "Moose bites can be very nasty". Not long into the tale, a modern detective and two policemen arrive to investigate the death of a historian-narrator, slain at random by one of the knights. The anachronistic gumshoes stay on Arthur's trail, gathering clues at later gruesome killings. Perhaps the best format-based gag injects a fake Intermission card into this fast-paced 92-minute movie. It's a false alarm: just few seconds later, the show starts up again.

The success of this feature led to two more major productions starring all the key Python talent. Refusing to stay in place or repeat themselves, the features edged into more daring territory. 1979's The Life of Brian attracted criticism with its irreverent (but sympathetic) portrayal of a Christ-like would-be Messiah. 1983's The Meaning of Life leaped happily into wholesale gross-out humor, accompanied by a consistently pessimistic outlook. In terms of the group's broad appeal, Holy Grail is perhaps the high point of the Monty Python mirth machine.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment's Blu-ray of Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a fine widescreen encoding of this handsomely photographed comedy classic. The Scottish hills and glades are always attractive. At one point in his commentary, co-director Terry Gilliam tells us that the picture-perfect clouds in one shot aren't faked -- the Scottish skies are almost always breathtakingly beautiful.

The one Blu-ray disc contains most of the extras from earlier special editions. Present from a 2001 Special Edition are three real commentaries with Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones and John Cleese, Eric Idle & Michael Palin, plus a couple of gag tracks.

A favorite older extra addresses the way comedy does or doesn't travel to foreign lands, in two scenes dubbed into Japanese and translated back in English subtitles. Also included from older discs is a feature in which Lego figures sing the "Camelot Song", a featurette in which two Pythons tour various Holy Grail locations, some sing-along songs and a mock- educational piece called "How to Use Your Coconuts".

Promoted for the BD release is an extra called the "Holy Book of Days", apparently an adapted trivia track experience in which a second window appears during playback. To be activated it requires the downloading of an app on an iOS device. The dedicated Python faithful will also be interested in some newly discovered animation sequences, as well as a selection of outtakes and extended scenes.

For more information about Monty Python and the Holy Grail, visit Sony Pictures. To order Monty Python and the Holy Grail, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson
Monty Python And The Holy Grail Blu-Ray - Monty Python And The Holy Grail On Blu-Ray

Monty Python and the Holy Grail Blu-Ray - MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL on BLU-Ray

Believe it or not, the American premiere of the smash Brit TV comedy series Monty Python's Flying Circus came a full five years after the show's BBC debut. By that time news of the Pythons had reached our shores, but the only evidence we had to go by was a theatrical re-staging of hit skits from the TV show, the poorly-distributed 1971 feature And Now for Something Completely Different. Conceptual English comedy had its American fans but movie and TV executives had plenty of grim box office precedents on their books. From Spike Milligan and the Goon Show to the hilarious Peter Cook and Dudley Moore feature Bedazzled, the accepted wisdom was that dry English humor wouldn't sell here. Talk about a reason to endorse Public Broadcasting in America ... after the commercial networks passed, courageous PBS TV stations were the first to try out Monty Python. 1974 was the year that the Pythons took America by storm, starting with the college crowd. The original writer-performers John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin described their brand of comedy as unrestrained silliness. In actuality the group had tapped onto a perfect formula for British skit humor. Concept comedy skits often began brilliantly but frequently had difficulty finding funny endings. When a skit offered no appropriate punch line the Pythons would simply let the next skit knock the first off the screen. One of the Pythons would imitate a dry BBC announcer changing the subject, or a character from the next skit would intervene, or American Python Terry Gilliam would bridge two skits with an amusing (and usually violent) animated cartoon segue. The content of one sketch might bleed into another, producing a bizarre running gag situation. More often than not, an episode's central joke just ends on an odd note, a joke at the expense of tidy conclusions. The Python's first original movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail was put together as the TV series was winding down. As it represented a new frontier for their comedy, disaffected member John Cleese returned to the fold. Python ringleader Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam shared directing chores. Although the intensely creative Gilliam contributed visual talents possessed by none of the other comedians, he wouldn't be asked to direct subsequent Python pictures. The comics preferred to be directed by Jones, who put more emphasis on performances and didn't obsess over technical issues. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is of course an uproarious and irreverent pastiche of Arthurian legend, Music Hall foolishness and outrageous play with film and stage conventions for historical dramas and costume fantasies. As in the TV show, the actors play multiple roles, often in the same scene. The knights are pompous and vain, and the miserable peasants live in mud, ignorance and superstition -- good fodder for drop-dead funny comedy material. Typical Python word games and semantic sinkholes appear with regularity. The silly-ass crusaders are confronted with The Knights that Say "Ni", an insulting French invader occupying an English castle, a magical bridge-keeper with a deadly quizola, and the monumentally stubborn Black Knight, who refuses to surrender even after Arthur hacks off his arms and legs. The knights are guided by a seer who hails by the prosaic name Tim the Enchanter. Sir Galahad the Pure (Eric Idle) stumbles upon a castle filled with women hungry for sex, and is irked to be "rescued" by his fellow knight Sir Lancelot the Brave (John Cleese). Clever minimalist special effects allow the knights to do battle with the fearsome Rabbit of Caerbannog (don't forget your Holy Hand Grenades) and a horrible, indescribable and minimally animated monster called the Black Beast of Aaarrrgghh, due to the fact that nobody encountering it lives long enough to finish saying its name. But the film's simple exchanges remain some of its funniest, as when a pair of idiotic guards persist in misinterpreting their instructions to block entry to a castle room. A vacant-brained prince persists in wailing out melodies like, "Lo-ove has found me!" as if trying to turn the film into an operetta. The show withstands the weight of its own jolly pointlessness by virtue of a series of self-reflexive jokes aimed at deflating the pomposity of the epic movie format. As if admitting that the budget can't even afford horses, the knights galumph along on foot, while Arthur's squire Patsy (Gilliam) produces clip & clop noises with a pair of coconuts. Bombastic music stings accompany the most trivial of statements. A troubadour skilled at impromptu lyrics dogs Sir Robin's heels, describing the knight's craven cowardice in song. An extended title sequence lets Terry Gilliam flex his talent for graphic absurdity -- the 'standard' title credits are interrupted, infiltrated and usurped by foolish faux-Norwegian subtitles: "Moose bites can be very nasty". Not long into the tale, a modern detective and two policemen arrive to investigate the death of a historian-narrator, slain at random by one of the knights. The anachronistic gumshoes stay on Arthur's trail, gathering clues at later gruesome killings. Perhaps the best format-based gag injects a fake Intermission card into this fast-paced 92-minute movie. It's a false alarm: just few seconds later, the show starts up again. The success of this feature led to two more major productions starring all the key Python talent. Refusing to stay in place or repeat themselves, the features edged into more daring territory. 1979's The Life of Brian attracted criticism with its irreverent (but sympathetic) portrayal of a Christ-like would-be Messiah. 1983's The Meaning of Life leaped happily into wholesale gross-out humor, accompanied by a consistently pessimistic outlook. In terms of the group's broad appeal, Holy Grail is perhaps the high point of the Monty Python mirth machine. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment's Blu-ray of Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a fine widescreen encoding of this handsomely photographed comedy classic. The Scottish hills and glades are always attractive. At one point in his commentary, co-director Terry Gilliam tells us that the picture-perfect clouds in one shot aren't faked -- the Scottish skies are almost always breathtakingly beautiful. The one Blu-ray disc contains most of the extras from earlier special editions. Present from a 2001 Special Edition are three real commentaries with Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones and John Cleese, Eric Idle & Michael Palin, plus a couple of gag tracks. A favorite older extra addresses the way comedy does or doesn't travel to foreign lands, in two scenes dubbed into Japanese and translated back in English subtitles. Also included from older discs is a feature in which Lego figures sing the "Camelot Song", a featurette in which two Pythons tour various Holy Grail locations, some sing-along songs and a mock- educational piece called "How to Use Your Coconuts". Promoted for the BD release is an extra called the "Holy Book of Days", apparently an adapted trivia track experience in which a second window appears during playback. To be activated it requires the downloading of an app on an iOS device. The dedicated Python faithful will also be interested in some newly discovered animation sequences, as well as a selection of outtakes and extended scenes. For more information about Monty Python and the Holy Grail, visit Sony Pictures. To order Monty Python and the Holy Grail, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Quotes

We're knights of the Round Table, we dance whene'er we're able. We do routines and chorus scenes with footwork impec-cable, We dine well here in Camelot, we eat ham and jam and Spam a lot. / We're knights of the Round Table, our shows are for-mi-dable. But many times we're given rhymes that are quite un-sing-able, We're opera mad in Camelot, we sing from the diaphragm a lot. / In war we're tough and able, Quite in-de-fa-ti-gable. Between our quests we sequin vests and impersonate Clark Gable / It's a busy life in Camelot
- Knights of Camelot
I have to push the pram a lot.
- Knights of Camelot
Listen, Alice...
- King of Swamp Castle
Herbert.
- Prince Herbert
Herbert...
- King of Swamp Castle
Bravely bold Sir Robin rode forth from Camelot. He was not afraid to die, oh brave Sir Robin. He was not at all afraid to be killed in nasty ways, brave, brave, brave, brave Sir Robin. He was not in the least bit scared to be mashed into a pulp, or to have his eyes gouged out, and his elbows broken. To have his kneecap split, and his body burned away, and his limbs all hacked and mangled, brave Sir Robin. His head smashed in and heart cut out, and his liver removed, and his bowels unplugged, and his nostrils raped and his bottom burned off and his penis...
- Minstrel
That's enough singing for now, lads... looks like there's dirty work afoot.
- Sir Robin
Brave Sir Robin ran away, bravely ran away away. When danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled. Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about, and valiantly, he chickened out. Bravely taking to his feet, he beat a very brave retreat. A brave retreat by brave Sir Robin.
- Minstrel
What are you doing now?
- God
Averting our eyes, oh Lord.
- King Arthur
Well, don't. It's just like those miserable psalms, always so depressing.
- God

Trivia

The Pythons were barred from filming in most castles in Scotland for various reasons and the external shot of Camelot is a model (the trailer shows a cardboard cutout of a castle falling over). The interiors of Camelot and Swamp Castle, and exteriors of Castle Anthrax, French castle and opening castle were all shot at Doune Castle (many rooms were reused many times). The Castle Aarg was Stalker castle. Both of these were privately owned and could be used.

The Black Knight was first played by John Cleese, but when Arthur cuts off his leg; a real one-legged actor (a local silversmith) was used. When the Black Knight looses his last limb, Cleese is actually standing in a hole with his arms wrapped behind him.

Many scenes were filmed in a city park beside one of London's busiest junctions.

Graham Chapman's alcoholism caused problems during the shoot. He forgot his lines constantly and Co-Director Terry Gilliam says that Chapman was so drunk that he couldn't make it across the bridge for the Bridge of Death sequence at the end of the shoot and had to be doubled by the first assistant director.

When Arthur rides into the village where the "witch" is about to be burnt, Bedivere is holding a coconut slung from a swallow.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 2015 (Special Screening)

Released in United States Spring April 1975

Limited re-release in United States June 15, 2001

Re-released in United States July 21, 2006

Released in United States March 1980

Released in United States January 1996

Released in United States 2015

Formerly distributed in USA on video/laserdisk by Voyager Company (Criterion Collection).

2006 re-release includes a restored 24 seconds of footage.

Released in United States Spring April 1975

Limited re-release in United States June 15, 2001

Re-released in United States July 21, 2006 (Los Angeles)

Released in United States March 1980 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (The Epic: A Monumental Movie Marathon) March 4-21, 1980.)

Released in United States January 1996 (Shown in New York City (American Museum of the Moving Image) as part of program "Fairy Tales For Adults: A Terry Gilliam Retrospective" January 6-21, 1996.)

Re-released in Madrid October 1990.