Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
“And now! At Last! Another film completely different from some of the other films which aren’t quite the same as this one is.”
Director: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Cast: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle
Synopsis: King Arthur and his knights embark on a low-budget search for the Grail, encountering many very silly obstacles.
After revisiting the most successful sketches from their unaccountably popular TV show (each episode seemed to consist of one timeless, classic sketch submerged deep within a sea of painfully unfunny ones), the Monty Python crew travelled back in time to Medieval Britain (932 AD, to be exact), a primitive country ruled by the somewhat unassertive King Arthur (Graham Chapman), who is in the process of assembling the knights of the round table. He travels the country accompanied by a servant banging coconut shells together to simulate the sound of horses hooves – a great running joke born of necessity simply because the production budget wouldn’t stretch to real horses – and running into a succession of quarrelsome characters. Amongst them are a peasant political agitator, an abusive French soldier (“Go and boil your bottoms, you sons of silly persons!”) and the Knights that say ’Ni!’
Most of the ingredients from the TV shows make it to the big screen intact, although for once the female characters are played by real women rather than men in drag. Each of the team assumes multiple roles, and appears to be having a whale of a time, even though the shoot was apparently a thankless one, filmed in the unwelcoming Scottish highlands, and burdened with an alcoholic leading man suffering dreadfully from withdrawal symptoms. Somehow, none of these trials are apparent from the performances, thanks largely to the inventively silly script by the team. The surreal tone of the TV shows is not as pronounced here, but that’s more of a strength than a weakness as a resemblance to reality – no matter how tenuous – makes the humour far more accessible to those who – like me – aren’t fans of the show.
(Reviewed 20th September 2012)