Sony // 1974 // 92 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // March 7th, 2012
Sets the cinema back 900 years!
"Please! This is supposed to be a happy occasion. Let's not bicker and argue about who killed who."
King Arthur (Graham Chapman, Yellowbeard) is on a quest to find the holy grail. Aided by the persuasive sound effects of his right-hand man Patsy (Terry Gilliam, Jabberwocky), Arthur travels the English countryside and rounds up the likes of Sir Lancelot the Brave (John Cleese, A Fish Called Wanda), Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave-As-Sir-Lancelot (Eric Idle, Ella Enchanted), Sir Galahad the Pure (Michael Palin, Fierce Creatures), and Sir Bevedere (Terry Jones, Erik the Viking). Over the course of their journey, the men will have memorable encounters with Tim the Enchanter, a ferocious rabbit, the Knights Who Say "Ni," socially conscious peasants, the old man from scene 24, a rude French guard, a fearless black knight, an animated monster, and God...among others. Will King Arthur and his knights complete their epic quest?
By my count, this is the fifth time Monty Python and the Holy Grail has been reviewed by DVD Verdict, so there isn't exactly a whole lot to say which hasn't yet been said. If you're a fan of the film, the only real question is whether the Blu-ray merits enough of an upgrade from the DVD to warrant a purchase. We'll get to that shortly, but for the folks who are new to the movie, permit me to provide you with a list of reasons you need to check out this wonderfully absurd comedy.
Regardless of your comic sensibilities, there's something here for everyone. The humor in Monty Python and the Holy Grail runs from broad slapstick to witty wordplay and giddy whimsy. The laughs come at such a frantic rate, anything that doesn't work for you is sure to be quickly followed by something that does.
Aging vastly better than many comedies of the era, Monty Python and the Holy Grail's absurdist nature, quick pace, and general avoidance of quickly-dated gags make it an experience far ahead of its time. In fact, newcomers raised on Adult Swim programming may be startled to discover just how well this 1974 film suits their own comic sensibilities.
The cast is comprised of brilliant British comedians working at the top of their game. Sure, most of the Python players have now been reduced to cashing in on their legacy (I'm looking at you, Eric Idle), but once upon a time these guys were some of the smartest, funniest, and most ambitious comedians. Their chemistry and delightful improvisational gifts go a long way towards making the movie an enormous pleasure.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is endlessly rewatchable. Not only are there a wealth of moments which are immediately hilarious (e.g. the encounter with The Black Knight), the movie offers plenty of jokes which play better once you've been able to savor them for a while.
Despite its absurdity, the script has a lot of fun with the depths of Arthurian legend, turning in jokes which assume the average viewer has at least some knowledge of these topics. Unlike many modern feature-length parodies, Monty Python and the Holy Grail never assumes its audience has a low IQ.
Very few comedies are as endlessly quotable, but you must be careful: Running into another fan of the film is likely to cause an impossibly lengthy conversation in which the two of you simply throw lines at each other while doubling over with laughter. Like The Big Lebowski and Blazing Saddles, Monty Python and the Holy Grail boasts one wildly entertaining verbal exchange after another.
There isn't a moment in which a laugh isn't pursued. Opening credits are tinkered with, the fourth wall is broken, goofy anachronisms are employed, musical numbers are tossed in, hilariously gratuitous violence is offered, available puns are cheerfully seized, and animals are used as weapons. There's absolutely nothing too silly for Monty Python and the Holy Grail (save for Camelot, which is a silly place) and that's part of what makes it such reckless fun. This isn't a carefully constructed comic labyrinth; it's joyful mayhem which can barely contains its desire to get to the next punchline. Even the characters in the film agree: "Get on with it!" they roar when one routine wanders through a particularly elaborate set-up.
Sony's Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Blu-ray) is unquestionably the finest hi-def transfer I've ever seen. The image is jaw-droppingly...ah, I'm just kidding. Look, this movie has always looked pretty dingy, soft, and worn-out, and it still looks that way. However, the 1.66:1/1080p image is brighter and cleaner than ever before, detail is as strong as it possibly can be, textures are impressive, and blacks are deep. This is likely as good as it's ever going to get and a noticeable step up from the remastered DVD. They've done the source material justice. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio gives the picture a larger boost, its brassy score sounding more robust than ever. Dialogue is mostly clean and crisp, a good deal of distortion has been removed, and the mix is actually kind of immersive from time to time. Again, not anything earth-shaking, but appreciated nonetheless.
Most of the bonus features have been ported over from the DVD, but there are a few new items. First off, there's an option to download a "Holy Book of Days Second Screen" experience for your iPad. However, this feature was unavailable as of the writing of this review, so I'm afraid I can't report on its quality. Also new: some deleted animations (introduced by Terry Gilliam), as well as outtakes and extended scenes (introduced by Terry Jones). Everything else will look familiar to those who have bought previous releases: two commentaries (one with Gilliam and Jones; the other with John Cleese, Eric Idle, and Michael Palin), a fun "Quest for the Grail Locations" featurette, some excerpts from the Japanese version of the film, a mock PSA on the importance of coconuts, a Lego Knights version of the "Camelot" song, an old "BBC Film Night" piece covering the making of the movie, sing-alongs, a photo gallery, a trailer, BD-Live, and an UltraViolet Digital Copy.
I'm delighted that Monty Python and the Holy Grail is now on Blu-ray. It looks and sounds better than ever before, making an already-delightful experience even more pleasurable. You know you need this in your collection.
Review content copyright © 2012 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.66:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1974
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Second Screen (new)
* Extended/Deleted Scenes (new)
* Outtakes (new)
* Photo Gallery
* Digital Copy
* Python Online