As I feel it is one of the most absurdly brilliant comedies ever made, I routinely quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail. On one hand, I enjoy the self-indulgence of it all. On another, I get nothing but dirty and confused looks when I say, “Bring me a shrubbery”, “We are the knights who say ‘Ni!'”, “What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?”, “I’m not dead”, “It’s just a flesh wound”…etc. I sat on an airplane recently as I watched two comedies back-to-back. The first, Raising Arizona, was very funny, but I remained courteous to those around me and tried to laugh internally as much as possible. With the next movie (this) doing so would be physically impossible. Laughing wildly and like a total idiot is simply an involuntary reaction.
Bottom Line: Weigh this film against a duck and the humor’s weight will shoot the duck sky high.
Directed by: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Monty Python: Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Also Featuring: Carol Cleveland, Connie Booth
Lo! Monty Python and the Holy Grail hast spake unto thee of King Arthur and ye olde Knights of the Round Table, amidst ye olde low budget! Okay, I won’t write my whole review like that. My Old English is a bit rusty, and I hesitate to say you actually understood what I was saying. The same goes for the film itself, however. British comic troupe Monty Python debuted on television in the late 1960s with Flying Circus. Three years after compiling some skits from that series into a 1971 film, the gang released this film, arguably their first true feature-length work, whilst still faithful to the offbeat, farcical, often nonsensical taste that popularized them.
Holy Grail centers on “Arthur, King of the Britains”. After recruiting several knights to accompany him at Camelot, and explaining their separate back stories (save for that of “Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Film”), he leads a quest to seek the Holy Grail. What makes the film so unpredictable is not an unconventional plot, but one that is propelled by whim. Starting up, we expect a spoof of medieval time periods, but by the end, only the characters bear that resemblance–and on an ever so loose level. Here’s the story of King Arthur. Hmm, no, that sounds too commonplace. Here’s the story of Arthur, King of the Britains. Let’s pit him first against…the French. Scratch that. Pit him against the cow-throwing French. Not enough chutzpah? How about a Trojan bunny? Because the Trojan horse tale has gotten a bit old.
When I hear the word “guilty pleasure”, I think of the generic “so bad it’s good” archetype. Although Monty Python and the Holy Grail is in no right bad, I can’t help but think of it as the rare example of a sophisticated “guilty pleasure”. There are very well some who are deeply disturbed by the outrageously quirky humor, and therefore believe the film bombs like the Holy Handgrenade of Antioch. (Count to five–I mean three!–before reading my final thoughts.) If you happen to be one of those who doesn’t see the film’s brilliance, I pity you. Ni! Ni! Ni!
NOTE: Some home video versions of the film contain an additional prologue. Although it’s not necessary viewing, I’d recommend it. The scene is briefly referenced later in the film, and it provided the “Fish-Slapping Song” in Monty Python’s Tony-winning Broadway musical, Spamalot. Also, if you are prone to epileptic seizures, I’d advise watching the (particularly møøsey) opening credits up until the title overlay that informs of a change in how the credits were designed.