Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 31 min.

Release Date: March 14th, 1975 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones Actors: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Connie Booth, Carol Cleveland

 


 

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t famously begins in England, 932 A.D. with King Arthur of the Britons (Graham Chapman) and his trusty servant Patsy (Terry Gilliam) pretending to ride on horses (no real horses ever make an appearance) to the gates of a mighty castle, in search of worthy members to join him at the round table in the court of Camelot. This leads to a rather lengthy conversation with a guard about the natural migration of coconuts – before Arthur disappointedly continues onward. His epic journey takes him through heavily wooded areas and straight into a duel between knights. The Black Knight (John Cleese) is the victor, and refuses to let the king pass, leading to yet another swordfighting contest, this time notably ending in mere “flesh wounds” of severed limbs. “Look you stupid bastard, you’ve got no arms left!”

At a nearby village, Arthur recruits Sir Bedevere (Terry Jones), Sir Lancelot the Brave (John Cleese), Sir Galahad the Pure (Michael Palin), Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave-as-Sir Lancelot (Eric Idle), and the aptly named Sir Not-appearing-in-this-film, to found the Knights of the Round Table. The group returns to Camelot where, at the last minute, they decide not to enter, instead choosing to seek out the Holy Grail in a fresh quest, as recommended by God himself. When they’re taunted by French soldiers who catapult livestock at them, they decide to split up. Sir Robin and his minstrels ride north, where he confronts a confused, three-headed warrior. Sir Galahad (the Chaste) wanders into a fog-laden, bramble-filled thicket before coming upon Castle Anthrax, full of nun-like young women (between 16 and 19 ½), all blondes and brunettes who grow tiresome of grooming and bathing. Fortunately, the other knights show up just in the nick of time to rescue him from certain temptation, forcing him to continue the crusade.

Like Mel Brooks’ comedies (and lending to the likes of “Airplane!”), Monty Python’s feature is a nonstop barrage of outrageous jokes – of the verbal, visual, and situational kind. Written gags appear in the opening titles, with silly subtitles and an abundance of moose credits (including moose trainers, moose costuming, and moose posing), followed by plenty of argumentative exchanges and ludicrous conversations based on nonsensical reasoning. Several scenes are nothing more than talkative routines, some of which are repeated to hysterical success. The actors lampoon religion, witch-hunting, systems of government, historical figures, the Trojan Horse, death, and violence, while also presenting uproariously arbitrary concepts such as the holy hand grenade, a filthy bridgekeeper and his unpredictable riddles, and a ruthless killer bunny. The Monty Python team clearly designed the film with disregard to the notion that “less is more.”

Humorous editing is also employed, with singing and dancing sequences interspersed (a few scenes start to deviate into a musical number but are swiftly suppressed), animation, colorful intertitles, hilarious camera tricks, characters speaking directly to the audience, commentary on self-aware inconsistencies, and randomly inserted footage of unrelated parts (such as a famous historian to narrate). Most of the film is divided into skits that are loosely based on medieval elements, a few of which would be unrecognizable from the time period if not for the costumes. While King Arthur’s rousing theme music (“Homeward Bound” by Jack Trombey) pricelessly and consistently contrasts with the goofiness of the shenanigans, not all of the jokes stick. Some sketches are amusing, others are funny, and a rare few are altogether side-splitting.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10