Monday, April 07, 2014
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Directed by Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam and written and performed by Jones, Gilliam, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, and Michael Palin, Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a parody film that explores the story King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table in their quest for the Holy Grail. The film is the first proper film by the Monty Python comedy troupe that is composed of entirely new material under the control of the group as it plays to the Arthurian legend plus ideas of death, mystique, coconuts, swallows, and all sorts of silly things. Also starring Python cohorts Carol Cleveland, Connie Booth, and Neil Innes. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a very ridiculous, absurd, idiotic and… on second thought, it’s one of the funniest films ever made.
The film is an absurdist take on the legend of King Arthur and his quest for the Holy Grail where he and his Knights of the Round Table go into this quest to seek the Grail. While it sort of plays true to the legendary story, the Monty Python troupe decide to add a lot of inane things into the story. Some of which involve a lot of historical inaccuracies, dramatic liberties, coconuts, theories about politics, and of course, swallows. The first act of the script is about King Arthur forming the Knights of the Round Table and going on the quest to find the Grail. The second act involves the Arthur and his knights each venturing on a separate journey where they endure all sorts of things from a castle full of virginal women, a wedding, a three-headed knight, and the Knights who say “Ni!” The third act has the group reuniting to face more mysterious forces and face the Bridge of Death. It’s a script that has a lot of humor that is offbeat while being very loose in its tone and dialogue.
The film’s direction by Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam definitely showcased a contrast of two very different styles of presentation as the former was about the humor and its timing while the latter was more about the visuals. Gilliam’s approach to the fogginess of some of the scenes as well as the way some of the visual aspect of the film does give it a richness that isn’t seen much in comedies. That is balanced by Jones’ approach to humor where things are very loose as he would find ways to put Gilliam’s animation sequences to help play into the story. Much of the direction not only use some wide and medium shots as well as close-ups while finding ways to give the humor the chance to be off the wall. Even as it includes scenes where the fourth wall is broken in some places as it would add to the absurdist humor of the film. Overall, the Monty Python troupe creates a film that is absolutely insane in terms of the way it told the story of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.
Cinematographer Terry Bedford does amazing work with the cinematography from the look of the scenes in the fog to the scenes where King Arthur treks into a small, muddy village. Editor John Hackney does excellent work with the editing with its unique rhythmic cuts to play into the film‘s humor and musical numbers. Production designer Roy Forge Smith does brilliant work with the set pieces from the look of the castles to the design of the Trojan Rabbit, the dark cave, and the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. Costume designer Hazel Pethig does wonderful work with the costumes from the look of the robes and costumes of the King Arthur and his knights as well some of the other characters in the story. Makeup artists Pam Luke and Pearl Rashbass do fantastic work with the makeup for the look of some of the characters like the knights, Tim the Enchanter, and the Bridgekeeper.
The special effects work of John Horton with additional photography by Julian Doyle are terrific for the mixture of animation and live action in some scenes as well as some of the weirder moments in the film involving rabbits and other crazy things. Sound mixer Hugh Strain does superb work with the sound to create some sound effects and some scenes on the film’s locations. The film’s music consists of classical music to play into that period along with some original songs by Neil Innes like the Camelot musical number and the songs that Sir Robin’s minstrels sings.
The film’s cast includes some notable small performances from John Young as a historian and a dead body who isn’t dead, Rita Davies as the historian’s wife, and Connie Booth as a woman accused of being a witch. Other funny small roles from Python cohorts include Carol Cleveland as the castle Anthrax leader Zoot and her twin Dingo and Neil Innes in various roles as Sir Robin’s singing minstrel, a laughing French knight, a baton minstrel, the head of chanting monks, and a page who gets constantly injured. Terry Gilliam is excellent in his various roles as King Arthur’s page Patsy, the Bridgekeeper/soothsayer, the Green Knight, the film’s animator, and a knight who is killed by a treacherous creature. Terry Jones is amazing in his lead role as Sir Bedevere while also playing the mother of a very political man, a three-headed knight, a French knight, and the effeminate Prince Herbert who just wants to sing a song about… stop that, stop that!
Eric Idle is superb as the Not-so-Brave Sir Robin who is always acting like a wimp as Idle also plays a dead collector, a singing knight, Sir Lancelot’s squire, a monk, Roger the Shrubber, and a confused castle guard. Michael Palin is brilliant as the pure Sir Galahad whose purity is his gift while he also plays the role of a political theorist, a three-headed knight, a king who hates music, a monk, and the head knight who says “ni”. John Cleese is fantastic as the very brave but over-doing Sir Lancelot as well as notable small roles like the Black Knight, Tim the Enchanter, and the taunting French knight. Finally, there’s Graham Chapman in a phenomenal performance as King Arthur as he has that gravitas to play the role he also has some small roles in one of the three knights and the voice of God.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a magnificent… no, it’s a stupendous… no it’s a… no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no you stupid blogger, you stupid critic. This film is not very good. It is terrible. It is…. Shut up!!!! *cuts the arm off of someone* It’s just a flesh wound! *scuffle* You stupid American writer! Your mother smells of elderberries and… I’m sorry. Let’s try this again. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is one of the greatest comedies ever and see it now or that Frenchman will taunt you a second-timer!
Monty Python Films: (And Now For Something Completely Different) - Monty Python’s Life of Brian - (Live at the Hollywood Bowl) - Monty Python's The Meaning of Life - (Almost the Truth (Lawyer’s Cut))
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