Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a crazy and outlandish, yet timeless Comedy classic. Released in April 1975, it was written and performed by the collective genius of Monty Python. Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Pailin managed to create a wonderful example of British slapstick comedy surrounding the legend of King Arthur. By Gilliam and Jones, its runs for a mere 92 minutes.
The film itself is a strange and absurd take on the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as they embark on the journey to find the Holy Grail, a mission bequeathed to them by ‘God’ himself. The Six pythons take on many different roles throughout the film, sometimes even appearing in the same scene as two separate characters. It is full of comedy gold and is today considered as a cult classic. It is not just the British that love this film, as Americans selected this film is the second best comedy of all time in the ABC special Best in film: the greatest movies of our time. Meanwhile the UK readers of total film magazine Frank is it the fifth greatest comedy film of all time.
It is clear to see why it is loved so dearly when it is full of wit, one-liners and modern-day jokes adapted two fit within the theory and time period. They even manage to juxtaposition many of their scenes with a little bit of 2D animation, which only seems to add to the films overall charm. The silliness of the Holy Grail is second to none and is still enjoyed today by all generations.
Throughout the film, we are treated to many moments that have the power to reduce us to laughing wrecks. From the moment the film begins, this silliness does not stop. The comedy comes at us from all angles, from bad jokes and satirical moments, to non stop gags, it all helps to drive this monumental anti-plot. We’re not even allowed a complete ending as the Knights are arrested for killing the ‘famous historian’.
Even the opening sequence and the subtitles before the film has begun, is given the Monty Python creative flair. To have King Arthur mimic riding a horse followed by his squire Patsy, who is artfully using two coconut halves to simulate the sound of horses galloping. From a Trojan Rabbit, to the Knights who say Ni, the action and comedy is non stop.
Of course the real names of the knights are often forgotten and the Pythons pay homage to this by changing the names of the knights. Sir Bedivere, Sir Lancelot the Brave, Sir Galahad the Pure are true names of the knights but Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave-As-Sir-Lancelot and the “aptly named Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Film” bring cheap laughs.
We’re even treated to a musical number in a cutaway scene but Arthur decides not to enter as it “tis a silly place”. The lyrics to this song is littered with jokes which sometimes are missed by the audience as they wipes away tears at the on screen choreography. “We're Knights of the Round Table, we dance when ere we're able. We do routines and chorus scenes with footwork impeccable.” Once you realise the songwriters were in fact none other than John Cleese and Graham Chapman you begin to understand why.
Personally, Monty Pythons and The Holy Grail, is one of my all time favourites. As I’ve grown up, I’ve come to realise that there are more and more jokes than I first thought. Watching this several years ago, I did not realise quite how many jokes there actually are. From realising doves that have coconuts tied to their feet, I’ve since come to realise that the line “I fart in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.” was an age appropriate version of saying your mother is a fast breeding rodent - take the insult from there and the fact that wine was commonly made with elderberries in the time of King Arthur. In essence, he is calling his father a drunk! Many more of their jokes originally went in one ear and out the other but I still found myself laughing at the insanity of the film.
As I’ve grown up, I’ve come to realise the sheer extent of ingenious writing that was undertaken, and come to appreciate that some of the comedy was added last minute. It’s only recently that I found out that they added the coconut horse effects as a method of saving time, when they realised that using real horses would take them over their allotted filming time, meaning that this joke was originally not even included in the script! Since this, I’ve loved hearing more trivia about the film and it only makes me love the film even more. To find that The Enchanter’s name is Tim simply because John Cleese forgot the characters original name and instead ad-libbed the line “There are some who call me…Tim”. Without their quick thinking and witty come-backs, this film would have been totally different. It is a joy to watch every time and can make even the most serious of people laugh wholehearted from start to finish.