King Arthur (Graham Chapman) has embarked on a noble, but dangerous quest, one to locate the legendary Holy Grail. So he mounts his horse…no, wait a second, due to shortages of horses, his faithful Patsy (Terry Gilliam) will be the steed, but he will simply clack together coconut shells to replace the sound of the hooves. In any event, he sets out to assemble the finest selection of knights he can muster, to make his quest that much simpler. But when he runs into some unruly Frenchman with red hot insults, wisecracks, and an animal launching fetish, he quickly realizes this trek won’t be as easy as he once thought. As he and his knights pass through the lands, they’ll encounter some folks on a witch hunt, a ruthless Black Knight, a two headed gentleman, Castle Anthrax & the beauties within, the mystical knights who say “Ni!”, and of course, a massive killer rabbit. On this epic search, can even King Arthur manage to locate the priceless relic and if not, does it really make any difference in the end?
As with their Flying Circus television show, the Monty Python troupe creates a special brand of humor here and while some people love it, others hate it and do not understand the appeal in the least. To some people, this movie is pure genius and to others, it is nonsense that should have never been filmed. I happen to think Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a classic picture and deserves all the praise it has gotten & more. It is true that some of the antics are sheer lunacy, but a lot of brilliance shines through, as it always does with this troupe. In my opinion, this movie is sheer lunatic genius and deserves a lavish treatment, one even better than the previous two releases from Sony. As far as whether or not an upgrade is needed for fans, I personally don’t think so, but that’s just me. I’d like more than a couple of minor supplements to spend the cash, but then again, some folks are all too willing to shell out for those small extras. The movie itself is highly, highly recommended.
This is a six man operation, but for the sake of this review, I have chosen to spotlight Michael Palin, who plays a wealth of roles here. But then again, all the troupe members saddle up as numerous characters, so who knows. Palin is the leader of the knights who say “Ni!” however, so he gets a little more push than the others, at least in this review. Unlike some of the other Pythons, Palin hasn’t found much mainstream success, but he has many memorable performances, usually with other Python members present. In this film, he pulls out all stops and is simply hilarious, thanks to his knowledge of the material, as well as how to deliver it. Other films with Palin include Fierce Creatures, Brazil, The Missionary, A Fish Called Wanda, Jabberwocky, and Time Bandits. The cast also includes Terry Gilliam (Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Spies Like Us), John Cleese (Silverado, Yellowbeard), Graham Chapman (The Odd Job, The Statue), Terry Jones (Green Card Fever, How To Get Ahead In Advertising), and Eric Idle (European Vacation, Splitting Heirs).
Video: How does it look?
It would be a nice treat if Sony had really made this and event and done a new 4K transfer of this classic. Sadly, nope – that didn’t happen. Much like the 30th Anniversary of Back to the Future it’s an opportunity missed. Fans of the movie will know that Monty Python and the Holy Grail has never really looked that great. I’ve seen this on VHS, LaserDisc, DVD and now Blu-ray and while this is the best the film has looked, with amped up contrast and improved detail, it does fall far short of what us videophiles have come to expect. The 1.66:1 AVC HD transfer does look a bit cleaned up, though some scenes are fairly muddy and some of the outdoor shots are a bit on the dirty side. This movie looks like it was filmed in medieval times, so if you want to see a shining example of what life back then looked like, check out Game of Thrones instead. I highly doubt the target audience will care too terribly much, though.
Audio: How does it sound?
Contrary to what I was thinking before I inserted this disc, the re-mastered DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack does sound fairly good. Granted, it’s not something that’ll shake the walls, but I was fairly impressed. Dialogue still sounds a bit thin at times and there’s really not a lot going on in the surrounds, but there are moments (when they meet Tim, for example) that sound decent. I’m happy to report that the “Camelot” song sounds as good as it ever has! For purists, there’s also a Dolby Digital 1.0 track and the same subtitles “For People Who Don’t Like the Film” are present – you can brush up on your Shakespeare.
Supplements: What are the extras?
All of the previously-released supplements (except the second screen app, which I was unable to find) are present here with one new addition. I guess Sony figures they can throw in a new supplement, add some new packaging and sell it again.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival Q&A – The lone new supplement is actually a fairly good inclusion. I’d say that if you don’t already own this disc (and I’m guessing any hard-core fan already does) then this is certainly the version to get that has this segment. As the title suggests, we have “the gang” that do a Q & A session for 30 minutes. Not a lot of new information is learned, but it’s nice to see how fond they are of this film and even years later they’re still chuckling about it.
Outtakes and Extended Scenes with Introduction by Terry Jones – Totaling nearly 20 minutes, we’ve got about 7 to choose from here with an introduction by Terry Jones.
Lost Animations with Introduction by Terry Gilliam – Six total and Co-Director Terry Gilliam gives us some commentary on those that didn’t appear in the film.
Scintillating Commentary by Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones and Even More Revealing Commentary by John Cleese, Eric Idle and Michael Palin –The first of two commentary tracks feature directors/stars Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, who provide an informative & humorous session. The two must have excellent memories, as they recall all sorts of production tidbits, from location work to small touches. You can even learn what they might have done another way, if they were given a second chance at making Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The second track has stars John Cleese, Michael Palin, and Eric Idle, who focus more on hilarious stories & anecdotes, so the two tracks balance out quite well. The three share all sorts of outrageous tales from the production, in what has to be one of the funniest commentary sessions of all time.
Quest for the Holy Grail Locations with Michael Palin & Terry Jones –This piece runs just over forty-five minutes and consists of Michael Palin & Terry Jones on a search for the locations, all while they reveal all sorts of insight as well. The two venture to a location, tell some interesting & humorous stories about it, and then move to the next one, a very cool and worthwhile documentary.
Lego Knights: The Knights of the Round Table in LEGO – Ever wanted to see the Monty Python boys in Lego form? Your wait is over.
Special Japanese Version –No, it’s not the entire film in Japanese, rather just two scenes: The Nights who Say ‘Ni’ and The French Castle.
How To Use Your Coconuts (An Educational Film) – This will take some practice, but that’s needed if you want to be an expert in making your coconuts sound like you’re riding a horse. Pay attention – there’ll be a quiz later.
BBC Film Night on Location – December 19, 1974, the BBC’s “Location Report” is about as vintage as one can get. We’re treated to some behind the scenes footage from the shoot.
Three Songs to Sing-Along –If you don’t know the words to “Camelot” then your wait is over. Also included is “The Brave Sir Robin” and “Monks Chant.” Right. Moving on then…
Original Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
No doubt about it, Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a classic in all respects of the word. Movie studios use every 5 or 10 years to churn out another version and some are worth it while others are not. This is one of the latter. Granted, the new Q & A is a nice touch, but that and new cover art won’t be enough to sway even the most dedicated fan. For those that don’t own this movie, this is certainly the version to get but for others, you’re better off talking to the bridge keeper.