Plot: When the mythical king of the Britons leads his knights on a quest for the Holy Grail, they face a wide array of horrors, including a persistent Black Knight, a three-headed giant, a cadre of shrubbery-challenged knights, the perilous Castle Anthrax, a killer rabbit, a house of virgins, and a handful of rude Frenchmen.
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For this Saturday’s Retro Review, we decided to go with a cult classic, in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Would this rather slapped together film, complete with a film that just stops (rather than ends), and the whole irreverent Monty Python crew, still be worth our time? Or has the last 40 years destroyed the hilarity?
The cast, well-known to fans of Monty Python, does a good job putting their unique spin on things. Graham Chapman, as King Arthur, is a perfect straight man for all the zaniness of his co-horts, and does a good job of keeping the plot moving along. Michael Palin and John Cleese are the most recognizable, of course, but the whole crew gets a chance to participate in the absurdism. Like usual, they take it all in stride, as if this kind of thing happens every day. Shrugging off everything from being attacked by everything from a rude Frenchman to a killer rabbit, they nonchalantly keep on their quest. It’s hilarious, and viewers should enjoy their performances.
As in their other big film, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, the Monty Python crew take a familiar legend and give it a zany kick in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. while the plot is rather simplistic (as the title states, it’s just King Arthur and his knights on a quest for the Holy Grail), the Monty Python crew manages to toss in everything from uppity peasants to a fighting knight that just won’t quit. Thankfully, they do it all with a frankness and hilarity that will keep the viewer laughing right up to the abrupt end.
From the moment King Arthur and his faithful servant first crest a hill into the picture, and the viewer realizes that King Arthur is not acting at riding a horse while his servant hits coconut halves together (to simulate the sound of hooves), the viewer knows they are in for something different. And Monty Python and the Holy Grail doesn’t disappoint. Full of classic scenes, and dosed liberally with an air of absurdity that it seems to relish, the film manages to keep viewers entertained, even while it meanders its way to a conclusion.
Satirical films have long tried to capture the essence of what Monty Python and the Holy Grail managed to create. An irreverent, wacky, and totally absurd film with cheesy special effects, it nevertheless still wins viewers over – and it does so without even trying. It looks like something a couple of friends could put together in their basement without too much difficulty. And yet, thanks to the stylings of the Monty Python crew, it manages to go beyond its humble looks and delivers comedy gold again and again.
While my favorite is their later film Monty Python’s Life of Brian, this film is the cult classic. There’s just something about Monty Python and the Holy Grail that has kept viewers laughing for 40 years. And, since its original quality has only improved with time – thanks to advances in video transfer like DVD and Blu-Ray, this is one of the few films that just seems to get better with age.
If you haven’t seen it recently, be sure to pick up one of the myriad of ridiculous editions in your preferred format, and see what slapstick comedians like Will Ferrell and his ilk strive for, yet fall so short of: pure comedy gold.