Throwback Thursday – Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Monty Python and The Holy Grail
If you don’t know who British comedy troupe Monty Python is, then stop reading this article and go on YouTube, search ‘dead parrot,’ ‘argument clinic,’ and ‘ministry of silly walks.’ It’s OK, I’ll wait. Now wipe the tears of laughter from your eyes, and let’s get on with it!
The comedic quintet turns their absurdest eye on the Middle Ages and the Arthurian legend in their first film which became so popular it has spawned a Broadway show Spamalot and even its own beer Monty Python’s Holy
GrAle. Some argue that this film doesn’t have the depth of satire of Life of Brian or Meaning of Life, but it doesn’t have to. It’s already one of the funniest parodies and most quotable movies of all time. Ya know, time can be a funny thing when you think about it. This one time, I went out for a walk with my cousin, a dentist, and we too… (Editors Note: The person responsible for writing this intro, has been sacked.)
The film opens with the sound of horse hooves beating across the English moor. King Arthur rises over the crest of the hill miming riding a horse as his squire Patsy follows him, banging two coconut halves together to make the sounds. As he approaches a castle, he demands the guardsman to tell his master that King Arthur comes to seek the holy grail! Rather unimpressed, the guards get hung up instead on where they got the coconuts from, eventually arguing about whether or not the flight speed of a swallow (African or European?) could carry a coconut to England. This scene sets the tone for the whole film, nothing is sacred and no concept is too silly.
The Middle Ages is a great setting for the film, with the plague and disease (“Bring out your dead”), witch hunts (“If she weighs as much as a duck..”), and the purity and chastity of knights (“Just a little peril…”) all being sent up in hilarious fashion. The movie moves along at a great pace, with skits never overstaying their welcome.
The film never reaches the frantic laughs per minute pace of something like Airplane, but I found myself laughing out loud many times, and a smile on my face throughout the whole thing, even though I’ve seen it at least 10 times before. Even when some skits don’t completely work like the 3 headed knight, you’re immediately laughing at the next joke of Sir Robin’s band of minstrels serenading him of his failures.
Being a Monty Python film, the bizarre and absurd humor is some of the best stuff like God appearing, the historian’s documentary, or the myriad of animated sequences. Being their first film, they also get a little meta-humor in with the smashing scene with lovely acting, scene 24, and the aptly named ‘Sir Not Appearing in this Film’. Little touches like the woman beating her rug with a cat in the background or the gorilla hand taking over the narrator’s book reward multiple viewings.
All the members of the comedic sextet get at least one scene where they get to shine. Graham Chapman’s frustration as King Arthur deals with a peasant questioning his “supreme executive power just because some watery tart lobbed a sword at ya.”. Eric Idle as Sir Robin the not-quite-so-brave as Sir Lancelot. Terry Gilliam as Sir Bors fighting the killer rabbit (“Look at the bones man!”).Terry Jones as the effeminate singer Prince Herbert. Michael Palin as the leader of the Knights Who Say Ni! John Cleese in particular kills it as Lancelot getting sort of carried away in his assault on the castle, Tim the Enchanter and his flair for pyrotechnics, and the infamous Black Knight.
The Pythons are to comedy what the Beatles are to music, hugely influential and immensely talented. If you consider yourself a fan of comedy, or just want to laugh out loud at a movie that will forever stand the test of time you need to watch this film. It doesn’t matter if its your first or hundredth time watching it, if you can quote all the lines or don’t know the flight speed of an unladen swallow, Camelot.. tis’ a silly place and one you can return to again and again.