Peter’s Retro Rewind: Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974)

June 10, 2013

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974) Movie Posterby Peter Nielsen

It’s been a while since I last watched this one.  So, after a little reminiscence with my good friend Kevin Spencer about Monty Python a week or so ago, I decided it was time for a re-watch! And although I know it’s not all that “forgotten,” I thought I’d give you my ten cents worth about it anyway.

As young teens, my kid brother and I used to love this movie and we still do! I’ve seen this friggin’ movie more times than I care to remember and subsequently know it almost by heart. But, you know what? I still find it funny and laugh out loud every damn time I watch it.

Monty Python is an acquired taste and you either like them or you don’t. It’s as simple as that. Their humor is as far from political correctness as you can possibly get, and I know that’s not to everyone’s liking. However, if you’re like my pal Kevin, my brother, or me, and you love this type of humor, you’re in for hours and hours of fun.

Six original members, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and the late Graham Chapman, started the sketch-show Monty Python’s Flying Circus in 1969. It ran for four seasons and ended in 1974. It was extremely innovative, breaking new ground in comedy on television. You never knew what you’d get when watching a Monty Python sketch. Sometimes they didn’t even finish them!

'Tis but a flesh-wound!

‘Tis but a flesh-wound!

Funny, bizarre, and silly are all words that spring to mind when thinking about Monty Python. Mix that with the awesome animations done by Terry Gilliam and you have a show that was very influential to the world of comedy. In fact, many comedians and shows might never have been were it not for the brilliance of Monty Python.

In 1974, the comedians had reached road’s end with what they could do with Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and they were beginning to tire of it. So, they turned their attention to movies instead.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is where this week’s movie-choice comes in. Monty Python and the Holy Grail was their first, proper feature film and… Oh, dear… where do I start with this one?

Skipping around the countryside.

Skipping around the countryside.

It’s basically about King Arthur riding around the countryside looking for brave knights to join him at his court at the castle Camelot. And when I say “riding around,” I don’t mean riding as in on actual horses, oh, no, no, no… I mean it like “skip-jumping” around (sans horses) with servants following, banging two coconut-halves together to create the sound of a horse’s hooves.

Yup, that’s the level we’re at here. This absurdity is actually addressed in the movie, but they all just keep on doing it anyway.

The first knight King Arthur encounters is the Black Knight. He’s engaged in a violent skirmish with another knight. After the Black Knight is victorious, King Arthur approaches and asks him to join the court at Camelot. The Black Knight is silent, stubborn, and ultimately a loony. The scene ends in a bloody, and hilariously funny, fight between the two.

So, after King Arthur is done “recruiting” his knights, they all set out for Camelot. When they finally arrive at the castle, we get to see a quick song and dance routine, after which, King Arthur turns to the knights and exclaims, “On second thought, let’s NOT go to Camelot. It is a silly place” All of a sudden, God appears before them in a vision and tells them to go looking for the Holy Grail! The good knights decide to split up so they can search for it in several places at the same time.

The knights who say... NI!

The knights who say… NI!

This movie is filled with a series of funny scenes. French soldiers taunting Arthur and his knights, the knights who say “NI,” and King Arthur getting into an argument with a couple of peasants at the start of the movie, are all classic examples.

We also have the vicious killer rabbit, the Holy Hand-Grenade, the story of Sir Galahad at the castle Anthrax, the story of Sir Lancelot, the castle Aaargh… Ah, hell! Who am I trying to kid here? ALL of the scenes in Monty Python and the Holy Grail are funny! Did I mention that I love this movie!? Huh? Did I?

I own Holy Grail as part of a box-set called “Monty’s Enzyklo Pythonia,” which also includes Life of Brian, and The Meaning of Life. All three films are different from each other, but brilliant in their own way!

Among the extras for the Holy Grail is a great featurette where Terry Jones and Michael Palin return to Scotland to re-visit the filming locations nearly 26 years later. I love the fact that when they’re at Doune Castle, located near the village of Doune, they actually buy a copy of the script (with pictures) in the souvenir shop. This delights Michael Palin, since he apparently lost his copy many years ago. The souvenir shop even has coconut halves for hire, you know, to help get you into the authentic feel of the movie! How cool is that?

The killer rabbit attacks.

The killer rabbit attacks.

Doune Castle is where they shot most of the castle-scenes for Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It was interesting to see how they managed to use it for so many different shots. Both Mr. Jones and Mr. Palin seemed to enjoy themselves tremendously as they talked with many of the locals who helped them back then. They even have a little chat with some of the kids whose parents were extras in a couple of scenes. This is the kind of featurette I love watching as extra-material from my favorite movies, and it’s a perfect complement to a perfect movie.

So, my friends, those were my thoughts on Monty Python and the Holy Grail. What are yours? Are you a fan of the movie or Monty Python in general?

Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

Until next time…

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