Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Posted: October 12, 2013 in Favorite Films
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5. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Directors: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones

Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin

Critics of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” would have you believe that you are required to come in already a fan of the Monty Python troupe in order to enjoy this movie. This is simply not the case. I speak from experience, as “Holy Grail” was my introduction to this irreverent band of British comedians. Name one other movie that has you guffawing during the opening credits! I’m talking about simple words on a black screen, not superimposed on top of action. Anyone who can do this deserves your undivided attention.

The film was produced on a decidedly low budget, but rather than let this be the thing that would sink the movie, as happens often, the Python gang used this to their advantage. Take the opening scene, when we are first introduced to Arthur, King of the Britains (Graham Chapman). We hear what sounds like the footsteps of a horse, but that can’t be, because the film crew couldn’t afford horses. Instead, we find Arthur galloping over the hill with his arm outstretched and his squire Patsy (Terry Gilliam) by his side banging two coconut shell halves together. In a later scene,Terry Gilliam’s distinctive artwork is put to good use when it’s time for the reveal of a certain multiple-eyed monster chasing our heroes.

A brilliant spoof of the Arthurian legend, each of the six Python members gets his moment (or moments) to shine, as they all play multiple roles much as they did on the “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” TV show. Graham Chapman is at his best as Arthur. John Cleese excels as the violence-prone Sir Lancelot, Tim the Enchanter, the French Taunter, and of course the Black Knight. In addition to Patsy, Giliam is also notable for playing the Bridgekeeper “from Scene 24.” Eric Idle is hilarious as the cowardly Sir Robin and the Confused Guard at Swamp Castle, and he also has other great appearances like Brother Maynard and Roger the Shrubber. Michael Palin’s main role is that of Sir Galahad, but his best contributions to “Holy Grail” come in the forms of the King of Swamp Castle and the leader of the Knights who say “Ni.” Terry Jones, too, has many roles, but his finest two are the not-so-smart Sir Bedevere and Prince Herbert of Swamp Castle.

It is difficult to single out one specific moment from the movie as the most uproarious of all, the same as with “Flying Circus.” Both offer some of the most highly quotable comedic moments of all-time. Just try and keep a straight face during the Dead Parrot sketch from “Flying Circus.” Likewise, I guarantee you’ll be repeating whole scenes of dialogue from “Holy Grail” with friends who are also familiar with the movie. Just don’t go into it looking for a conventional ending. When it comes to Monty Python, there are two things you never expect, one being a conventional ending, and the other being the Spanish Inquisition.

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