Whilst this film is 103 on the top 1000 films of all time, the reason why I watched it is because after one of my housemates said that he hadn’t seen Monty Python, the rest of us decided to introduce him to the series through this 1975 film.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a silly, zany and highly irreverent parody of King Arthur’s quest to find the Holy Grail. It stars all six of the Pythons in a number of roles, as they encounter a number of obstables in their quest to find the Holy Grail, including troublesome French Knights, the Knights who say Ni and the Legendary black beast of Aaaaaarggggggghhhhhh.
This is film is funny. I remember laughing my head off when I first watched it as a kid and it is just as funny watching it again now. Some moments in this film have become the most quotable in movie history from the “Knights who say Ni,” to the “your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries” to the “tis, but a scratch.” The reason this film works so well as a comedy is how it encompasses so many genres of comedy from the ridiculous Black Knight who refuses to give up fighting even when he has lost two arms and one leg, which I found hilarious as a kid, to the peasant Dennis complaining about how the current political system is repressing him and the rest of the peasantry to the intertextual references to scene 24 which has some “smashing acting.”
Furthermore, the film demonstrates all of the Pythons’ versatility as actors. Just like in Monty Pyhton’s Flying Circus, all of the Pythons take on a variety of roles: Graham Chapman takes the lead as King Arthur, whilst John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle and Terry Jones play the four knights Lancelot, Galahad, Robin and Bedevere. However, the actors then take on a number of other roles such as Tim the Enchanter (John Cleese) Prince Herbert (Terry Jones) Roger the Shrubber (Eric Idle) and Dennis (Michael Palin.) Terry Gilliam’s contributions as animator and a few small roles such as the Bridge Keeper are not to be overlooked. The zaniness of some of his animations, such as the animation preceding the Tale of Sir Lancelot were hilarious.
The musical numbers were great too and also contributed well to the film’s humour, even if some of them were very random e.g the monks chanting a hymn and then hitting themselves in the head with their hymn books. I also enjoyed, how, unlike its successor, Life of Brian, this film is much more reminiscent of the scatalogical, sketch based humour of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Whilst the film has a continous narrative and also running gags, such as the swallows and coconuts, it still reminded me of its TV predecessor. Due to its use of animation and, mostly, self-contained, scatalogical sketch-based humour and the abrupt ending of the film, it hearkened back to Flying Cirus, which helped to create a connection between it and Monty Python’s loyal fanbase.
Conversely, whilst how the film hearkens back to Flying Circus is good for diehard fans who are looking for a continuation of their favourite TV series, I feel that the scatalogical nature of the film can be off-putting to new viewers. When I watched this film with my ex-girlfriend, who was completely unfamiliar with Monty Python, she had trouble understanding some of the random humour or the relevance of Terry Gilliam’s animations. For example, she became very confused in
the scene where “A Famous Historian” is stabbed in the neck by a knight.
Whilst this film’s scatalogical humour might alienate new viewers, I still find it hilarious and I think it’s a great homage to Monty Python’s Flying Circus.