Director: Terry Gillam, Terry Jones
Cast: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gillam, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones
Plot: King Arthur (Chapman) assembles the Knights of the Round Table and then is instructed by God to find the Holy Grail.
When asked to find one of the great comedy movies of old, Monty Python and the Holy Grail must surely be up there. The British comedy act are responsible for some of the great comedy sketches, each member of the group an icon of British television history. While their first foray into cinema wasn’t quite successful (essentially a two hour sketch show, failing to translate from the small screen to the big), Holy Grail saw the team hit the nail on the head to fine effect.
In fact, it is fair to say that the Holy Grail was such a roaring success that it pretty much over-shadowed the television show. If you wish to dig out some classic Monty Python, fans of the group will probably send you to either this film or Life of Brian, rather than the television sketch show. There is something more refined about the jokes on display here, attached with a theme and a vague plot-line, rather than a random splattering of gags. The story is hardly in-depth, a charting of the life of their own take on King Arthur. Graham Chapman strides onto our screens, slamming two coconut shells together, because the budget does not stretch to horses, and wins over our hearts. His mission: assemble the Knights of the Round Table. The first reel of the film sees Arthur meet up with the various Knights, all played by their very own Python. Terry Jones, for example, is drowning a woman because she weighs the same as a duck and therefore must be a witch. When the team have been found, the Knights are asked by God to find the mythical Holy Grail. From there on out, the plot doesn’t truly matter. The team split up, allowing Monty Python to enter sketch mode once again, as they get up to their own misadventures. But by this point, the sketches do not feel hollow, because we have been given enough plot to make them matter. It helps that the comedy skits on display here are nothing if not spectacular. To the uninitiated, describing them really doesn’t do the talent on show justice, because the jokes are designed to be pure, unadulterated nonsense. The gang rock up to a castle to find it occupied by insult-throwing Frenchmen. A bunny rabbit becomes the stuff of movie legend. Merely telling you the events of Holy Grail doesn’t get across the expertly written hilarity of it all. It isn’t about hearing the joke, it is about experiencing the jokes first-hand. Witnessing the reaction of each character as they stumble across the next bizarre scenario. If at times, the movie frustrates because of its refusal to adhere to the conventional movie rules, then you are not getting the point. Historical accuracy is disrupted for the benefit of a joke. The movie ends abruptly in a nonsense fashion. But then again the beginning and middle of the film are also complete nonsense, so why should the conclusion be any different?
Final Verdict: Monty Python break into cinema with a perfect start. Nonsense sketches, but they have bled into British culture. A classic.