Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

“That rabbit has a vicious streak a mile wide.”

Monty Python Holy Grail Poster

Synopsis:
In medieval England, King Arthur (Graham Chapman) and his servant (Terry Gilliam) solicit help from a group of knights — Sir Lancelot (John Cleese), Sir Robin (Eric Idle), Sir Belvedere (Terry Jones), and Sir Galahad (Michael Palin) — in finding the Holy Grail.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that this “side-splitting comedy by England’s premier comedy troupe” is, “despite a rushed ending”, the group’s “best film to date, the one that made converts out of those… who never watched their cult TV series.” He notes that “we laugh because of the crazy characters, foolish dialogue, and ridiculous incidents that occur, but also because someone… had the gall to make a historical picture with such shoddy production values that all [the] horses are invisible and the sound of galloping steeds is made by… striking coconuts together”. Indeed, given their rather severe budget limitations, it’s genuinely impressive how much of the “look” of medieval England the troupe was able to achieve — complete with “mist, mud, peasants living in squalor, forest lakes, colorful costumes, and castles”.

As Peary notes, the film satirizes, among other things, “the French, homosexuals, communists, [and] kings”, as well as “cowardice” and — most harshly — “senseless British gallantry”. Nothing about the King Arthur legend is left sacred: Sir Robin is revealed to be a cowardly ninny; Sir Lancelot rushes into a massacre without stopping to verify that he’s in the right place; the Black Knight (Cleese) refuses to stop swordfighting despite the loss of one limb after the other. Other humor — such as the infamous “killer rabbit” sequence — is more random and less historically situated, but still stupidly hilarious if you’re in the right mood. While some sequences inevitably fall flat, Monty Python the Holy Grail remains indispensable must-see viewing at least once for all film fanatics. It’s too much of a cult classic to miss.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Excellent use of low-budget costumes, props, and sets
    MPHG Comedy
  • Peasants complaining to King Arthur about being “repressed”
    MPHG Peasants
  • An irreverent look at disposal of bodies (both dead and alive) during the Black Death
    MPHG Dead Bodies
  • King Arthur chopping off the Black Night’s limbs, one by one (“It’s only a flesh wound.”)
    MPHG Black Knight
  • Sir Galahad ignoring the requests of nubile girls — between the ages of 16 and 19 — at Castle Anthrax
    MPHG Anthrax
  • Sir Lancelot nobly but wrong-headedly murdering members of a wedding party in an attempt to save a “damsel” in distress
    MPHG Lancelot
  • The “killer rabbit” sequence
    MPHG Killer Rabbit
  • Terry Gilliam’s animated interludes
    MPHG Animation
  • The incredibly silly opening credits
    MPHG Credits

Must See?
Yes, as a comedic classic and cult favorite. Nominated by Peary as one of the best films of the year in his Alternate Oscars book.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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2 Responses to “Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)”

  1. A no-brainer cult must!

    OMG, I forgot how F-ing Funny this is! What can I really say when it more than speaks volumes for itself?!

    Can’t even single out a fave scene – it’s *that* consistently clever! There’s bloody frickin’ wit to spare here, there is!

    I will say…it does have a rather odd final minute. But, then again, not really – when you think about it.

    Jolly good show!

    And with that…Happy 2011!!!

  2. The soundtrack album (which has a ton of original material on it and not much of the film because as it keeps saying “that was a mainly visual joke”) is also a hoot.

    I saw the two Italian Brancaleone films recently (‘L’Armata Brancaleone’ [1966] and ‘Brancaleone alle Crociate’ [1970]) and was surprised how closely they resembled MPATHG. I’m sure some of the team must have seen them!

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