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?
For this Blu-ray release, Sony has done the best they could with the elements they had to make the best possible viewing experience. That’s essentially a long-winded way of saying that this isn’t the best-looking HD experience you’ll have, but 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?
As long as movies are sold, I’m willing to be that this will be a title they’ll keep hawking. And with good reason, we keep buying these “Special Editions.” Essentially everything that was present on 2001’s “Extraordinarily Deluxe Edition DVD” has made the cut here and we get a few Blu-ray exclusives as well. Let’s get started. 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. You can also enable special modes to play as you view the picture, a Follow The Killer Rabbit option and a screenplay mode. The former displays an icon at certain points, which then bring up additional information if clicked, while the latter is just what it sounds like, it runs the text screenplay on the screen as you watch.
Next up we have “Quest For the Holy Grail Locations.” 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. I’m glad to see this is so long and in depth, in addition to being presented in anamorphic widescreen. A special featurette on How To Use Your Coconuts is also found here, as well as a hilarious interview with the troupe from BBC Film Night, which runs just under twenty minutes in duration. A short clip of Holy Grail done with Legos is here too, in addition to some storyboards for unused ideas, a brief travel featurette with audio commentary by the filmmakers, and a load of old rubbish (press materials, reviews, etc.). This release also includes three sing-a-long options, some clips of the Japanese version (with English subtitles), a selection of poster artwork & promotional materials, Gilliam’s original sketches, an interactive guide to the cast, some production photos, and the film’s original & re-release theatrical trailers.
What’s new with this Blu-ray is “The Holy Book of Days Second Screen Experience.” Admittedly I really haven’t had a lot of luck with these “Second Screen” things, but it’s also an app for the iPad. It’s supposed to re-create the experience of shooting the film. There’s an interactive map, never-before-seen-video, animations, stills and everything in between. “Lost Animations with Introduction by Terry Gilliam” is just that, the original introduction that didn’t make the final cut. Finally we have some Outtakes and Extended Scenes with an introduction by Terry Jones! Again, it’s just that.