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Monty Python and the Holy Grail(1974)
An absurdist send-up of the legend of King Arthur and his knight's quest for the Holy Grail.
For more about Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the Monty Python and the Holy Grail Blu-ray release, see Monty Python and the Holy Grail Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on February 29, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin
Directors: Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam
» See full cast & crew
Monty Python and the Holy Grail Blu-ray Review
Sony brings out a very much alive Blu-ray release for this all-time fan favorite.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, February 29, 2012
Listen. Strange women lying in ponds, distributing swords, is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses. Not from some farcical aquatic ceremony. You can't expect to wield supreme executive power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you. If I went around saying I was an emperor just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away!
Humor is probably the most subjective of all human emotions, which makes the Comedy genre of film probably the most personal of them all. Yet there are a few Comedies that almost universally transcend the subjectivity and relativity of humor and delight audiences of all persuasions, of any sized funny bone, even the least tolerant of humorists and the most stubborn of filmgoers who refuse to laugh at anything without their favorite star, most admired writer, or most comically-inclined director working the movie. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is one such movie; even most people who know next to nothing about the picture, pay the least amount of attention to film, or refuse to watch anything made before 1998 know of "The Knights who say 'Ni'," "it's just a flesh wound!," and some of the more choice and absurd skits and lines of dialogue from the movie. Even those with the biggest frowns and hardened exteriors usually find something of comedic value in The Holy Grail. And it's not because it's merely funny, but because it's absolutely absurd. The cast and crew of Monty Python and the Holy Grail prove with this film a mastery of the absurd as comedy. They've found the perfect balance between absurdity as part of the plot and absurdity introduced just for the sake of absurdity. Yet even when the movie goes off on its various tangents that have little or nothing to do with the overreaching plot at hand, it all fits together, not just because it all shares the same look, generally, but because the characters, dialogue, and situations have been carefully assembled to produce just the right amount of comedy that's both head-scratching and gut-busting at the same time, the movie playing with an inspired rhythm and the perfect sense of purposelessness through which the nonsensical elements are allowed to shine.
The place is England. The year is 932 A.D. It is a time of darkness and death, of hopelessness and plague. The legendary King Arthur (Graham Chapman) is adventuring across the countryside on his pretend horse with a single lackey, Patsy (Terry Gilliam), in tow. His mission is to recruit several more knights with whom to round out his round table and restore England to glory. His journey is not in vain. He recruits the wise Sir Bedevere (Terry Jones), the brave Sir Lancelot (John Cleese), the chaste Sir Galahad (Michael Palin), the cowardly Sir Robin (Eric Idle), and Sir Not Appearing in the Film, the youngest, bravest, wisest, and most chaste of them all, but alas, he's been left on the cutting room floor. With the team assembled, Lancelot and company embark on a journey to, well, they really have nowhere to go and nothing to do when they decide that Camelot's too "silly" for their liking. Everything changes when God (voiced by Graham Chapman) tasks them with discovering the whereabouts of the one and only Holy Grail. Even if they don't quite know how to spell "Jehovah" in the original Latin (though they and the peasantry seem to know pretty much everything else), they embark at first collectively, and then individually, in search of the Grail, encountering everything from a three-headed giant to a locked-away young lad who wishes to be whisked away from his captivity from the castle tower, from a bunch of locked-away teenage girls with a fetish for knights to knights who says "ni" and demand a shrubbery for passage beyond their land.
From the opening titles -- which are accompanied by increasingly-ridiculous subtitles in a faux-Scandinavian/English hybrid style of writing -- forward, Monty Python and the Holy Grail makes clear its intentions to be as silly as British-ly possible. The entire movie is little more than a series of over-the-top misadventures of the centuries-old variety, though the filmmakers with tongue-in-cheek often intersect the ancient past with modern ideas, theories, dialogue, and a breaking of the fourth wall, culminating in an absolutely hilarious farcical ending that throws the entire thing off kilter, even if it's hinted at at several junctures throughout. In fact, this may be the least-serious movie ever made. It's a stalwart of sheer off-the-wall entertainment, of memorable one-liners, unforgettable characters, zany situations, and uproarious skits. Indeed, there's probably no other movie out there where pure nonsense has been made so funny. Don't have a horse? No problem! A knightly King Arthur is content to gallop along on his own two feet with a lackey in tow clanking together two coconuts to simulate the sound of a trotting horse. Of course, this leads to a grossly overcomplicated back-and-forth about how in the world coconuts even came to be in England in the 10th century. The movie consistently serves up high-minded dialogue and monologues about science and politics of which even the day's scholars probably would fail to grasp yet is spouted off by mud-covered peasants and random foot soldiers. It features a devilishly fun skit whereby the identity of a witch is deduced through leading questions and a scene where two castle guards attempt to overanalyze the concept of guard duty. Then there's the things which don't even make any sense, random characters who say "ni" and others who cringe at the sound of it. The knights are at one point asked to chop down a tree with a limp, dead herring, and the movie serves up an intermission break with less than ten minutes to go. It traverses all sorts of territory with uncanny efficiency, energy, and comedic know-how. No matter how far out onto the fringe the material may go, it just works in the greater context until it's prepared the audience to accept -- and embrace -- pretty much anything it can throw its way.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail proves infinitely entertaining and endlessly hilarious -- both subtly and overwhelmingly -- but it's also a very well made movie form the technical side of the ledger, critical in ensuring the greatest possible impact for the humor-at-large. Terry Gilliam's and Terry Jones' direction is fairly straightforward, with some choice shots that push closer towards "artistic" than "static," but for the most part the camera is positioned so as to only best serve the comedy, not display a greater technical know-how. The costuming is pleasant and convincing, whether the slightly more regal and colorful garb worn by the knights or the muddy, messy, monochromatic, and torn robes donned by the peasantry. The theme music represents the perfect combination heroic, adventurous, and obviously playful. Yet for all of these things, it's the legendary cast that brings Monty Python and the Holy Grail full-circle as a Comedy masterpiece for the ages. Each performance is faultless, whether those of the main cast in varying roles or the many tertiary players, such as a soon-to-be-dead historian commenting on the events happening in the film as if for a television documentary. The actors don't merely portray these characters, they inhabit them, whether donning chain mail and doing God's work or crawling about in the mud and playing frustrated peasants who mock the nobility. Every character finds favor, whether in appearance or dialogue. The movie plays with remarkable speed and efficiency as well, the only criticism being that it's too short, but with home video, it's only a matter of pressing a button to see it again.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail Blu-ray, Video Quality
Monty Python and the Holy Grail doesn't always look pretty, but Sony's faithful 1080p transfer is, generally, spectacular. Certainly, there are some very soft and hazy shots where detail appears low. Colors are often drab by nature. Viewers who don't like grain won't be very happy with the presentation. But for much of the time Monty Python and the Holy Grail looks amazing. Clarity is superb, generally, and combined with the natural grain structure, the transfer has every opportunity to reveal some very strong detailing. Facial intricacies, chain mail armor, clothing textures, individual grasses, stone façades, and even lumpy mud all appear nicely defined. The image enjoys a fair sense of natural depth, too. As noted, colors are rarely striking. The palette is somewhat bland by design, but green grasses, the knights' crests and coats of arms, and even the many earthen shades of mud, dirt, and stone appear natural and true. Flesh tones are accurate, and black levels fare well. Though it doesn't match for raw clarity and precision the newest releases, Sony's latest catalogue transfer is pretty spectacular and should delight fans both new to the movie and those with well-worn VHS, LaserDisc, and DVD copies of the film.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Monty Python and the Holy Grail's DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack, much like the video, has its moments of many ups and a few downs, but the good far outweighs the bad. Though there's not much body to the opening title music, it picks up a bit once various people have been "sacked" over the subtitle "fiasco." Early on, such elements seem focused straight up the middle with little range and only acceptable clarity. Yet as the film moves along, the track opens up considerably, spreads further out, and plays with a richer, more lifelike flair and a full body heft. Various sound effects range from adequate to striking. Booming thunder as heard in chapter eight enjoys natural spacing and a lifelike presence, which is followed by the hefty voice of God that seamlessly reverberates through the soundstage, making fine use of the added back channels. At the French castle siege sequence, the sounds of cows, cats, and chickens-as-projectiles prove seamlessly fun; moos, meows, and clucks maneuver effortlessly around the listening area. The famed "Holy Hand Grenade" explodes with a good, potent low end, the best example of heavy bass in the film. Dialogue is crisp and focused, generally, finding good balance whether in screechy voices or the heavy Latin chants, and even enjoying a solid, natural sense of reverberation in chapter 17. All in all, this is a fine track that might experience a few moments when it lacks in greater clarity or wider spacing, but fans should enjoy the lossless boost quite a bit. This disc also includes "Subtitles for People Who Do Not Like the Film (From Henry IV pt. 11)." Accessible from the "Languages" menu option, these subtitles present more discerning viewers with a more "proper" and high-minded translation of the film.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Monty Python and the Holy Grail contains a large number of extras, some new for Blu-ray, others ported over from previous editions, and all tons of fun!
Monty Python and the Holy Grail Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Little more need be said. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is one of the all-time greats. It's incessantly funny and branches out to embrace all sorts of different types of humor, but it all gels remarkably well, whether playing with humor of the most subtle variety or the most ridiculously absurd and nearly incomprehensible sort. The cast is fantastic, every scene proves memorable, and the movie just flies on by. Sony's Blu-ray release of Monty Python and the Holy Grail is fantastic. A strong technical presentation, loads of supplements, and a ridiculously low price tag make this one a no-brainer and an early contender to join the list of 2012's best releases. Monty Python and the Holy Grail earns my highest recommendation.
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