Movie Review: Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) #atozchallenge


I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge by watching and reviewing some of my favorite movies of all time that I haven’t watched in a long time. This post contains SPOILERS!

Title: Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Release Date: April 3, 1975
Director: Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones
Production Company: Python (Monty) Pictures | Michael White Productions | National Film Trustee Company
Synopsis:

King Arthur (Graham Chapman) and his faithful servant Patsy (Terry Gilliam) recruit knights for the Round Table including Sir Bedevere the Wise (Terry Jones), Sir Lancelot the Brave (John Cleese), Sir Galahad the Pure (Michael Palin), and Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave-as-Sir-Lancelot (Eric Idle). They decide not to go to Camelot because it’s a silly place, but instead God (Graham Chapman) sends them on a quest to find the Holy Grail.

They have many adventures including being taunted by French soldiers, avoiding a fight with a three-headed knight, facing the peril of a castle full of young women, buying a shrubbery for the Knights Who Say “Ni!,” slaughtering a wedding party, fighting the Rabbit of Caerbannog, and crossing the bridge of death.  On the precipice of realizing the Grail quest, the surviving members of the party are arrested by the police.

When Did I First See This Movie?:

In the mid-80s my family discovered Monty Python in reverse order starting with The Meaning of Life.  I was scandalized by The Life of Brian so was not interested in watching more Python, but I walked in while my sister was watching at the Black Knight scene and was sucked into The Holy Grail. It swiftly became my favorite Monty Python movie.  When I was a freshman in high school, our history teacher showed the movie in class to give us the “feel” of the middle ages. We only watched part of the movie, but after school a friend and I snuck in and watched the rest of the movie.  Later, I had my VHS recording of the movie and went through a phase where I watched it every day after school.  It is likely that I’ve watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail more times than any other movie, although Ghostbusters and It’s a Wonderful Life are strong contenders.

What Did I Remember?:

I’m pretty close to having this movie memorized.

What Did I Forget?:

Minuscule details about swallows.

What Makes This Movie Great?:

This is a movie made by highly educated people who did their research on life in the Middle Ages and English folklore.  My history teacher was right about the movie having the “feel” of the Middle Ages even if everything happening is silly. The movie overs a satire of Medieval romance, militarism, religion, political identity, musical theater, and the seriousness of academia.  It also has a knight who keeps fighting when all his limbs are cut off, Knights Who Say “Ni!,” and a killer rabbit. The balance of satire and pure silliness is suburb.

What Doesn’t Hold Up?:

I confess that I think movie fizzles out after they cross the Bridge of Death.  I get what they were doing with the police showing, but it just never was all that funny.

Is the Castle Anthrax sequence sexist?  It’s certainly creepy that the occupants are aged “16 to 19 1/2.”  It’s funny that the version I streamed for this review includes a scene originally cut from the movie where Carol Cleveland breaks the fourth wall to exclaim how much fun she is having.  It’s almost as if it was reinserted to address the problematic elements of this sequence.

Is It a Classic?:

A definite classic, and a top-10 all-time comedy.

Rating: *****

Ten more all-time favorite movies starting with M:

  1. The Madness of King George (1994)
  2. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
  3. Mary Poppins (1964)
  4. Modern Times (1936)
  5. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
  6. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
  7. The Muppet Movie (1979)
  8. Murder By Death (1976)
  9. My Cousin Vinny (1992)
  10. My Fair Lady (1964)

What is your favorite movie starting with M? What is your guess for my movie starting with N (Hint: it features the debut movie performance of one of America’s most beloved performers)?  Let me know in the comments.

13 thoughts on “Movie Review: Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) #atozchallenge

  1. Ah, thanks! A total classic and definitely one to watch again during this lockdown, since I had completely forgotten the Castle Anthrax sequence (maybe a blessing from what you suggest) and no doubt a number of other scenes. One of my favorite scenes is Eric Idle playing the Frenchman. In our family, too, this is a many-times-watched and oft-quoted film. Terry Jones, who I have just this second found out died in January, was a medievalist scholar and so they had their built-in expert. Feeling sad at the loss of Terry Jones.
    Oh, and by the way, I also love another of your M movies, My Cousin Vinny.

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    1. I have a book about medieval history by Terry Jones that I haven’t read yet. I do vaguely remember watching a documentary he did on the middle ages that naturally had a lot of humor in it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. When I was in grad school studying for my qualifying exams I remember reading his monograph on Chaucer’s Knight (from the Canterbury Tales) and loving his irreverent–and I’m sure against-the-grain interpretation of him. This tribute to Terry Jones mentions a medieval series he did on BBC in the early 2000s which I’m going to try to find: https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=Monty-Python-Medievalist-Funny-Man-Author-Terry-Jones-Dies-at-77

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, definitely the Monty Python films! But also The Madness Of King George. I was very impressed by Nigel Hawthorne’s performance, but there was a scene I particularly enjoyed, where one of the servants responsible for checking the king’s urine(which indicates porphyria, what made him mad), says, “I’ve had enough! I’m going to leave and open a nice grocery shop,” and walks out. His boss shouts, “Mr Fortnum! Mr Fortnum!” – of course, referring to Fortnum and Mason, one of the expensive shops in Lindon, where I once bought a Christmas hamper to thank my hosts for looking after Mum and me.

    I would suggest you have another look at Life Of Brian. As a devout Catholic child, you might have been scandalised, but you may see it differently as an adult. It treats Jesus with great respect. It sends up people’s attitudes not only to religion, but to other things. A religious friend of mine at first refused to see it, then did, and loved it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, I’ve watched Life of Brian many times since that first time as a child and liked it for the most part. It’s still not my favorite, not for religious reasons but there’s an underlying nihilism that rubs me the wrong way.

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  3. MP & THG has to be my favorite King Arthur movie. Well, that and The Sword in the Stone. And, well, there is always…
    I was a huge Python fan once it started to be aired in the US, so this was THE movie we had to see when it came out.

    My best moment with the movie: watching it a couple of years ago in a large movie theater that was packed solid. Hearing so many laugh together, singing along, and talking back to the screen (you have to hear 300+ people, in unison, say “We are the knights who say ‘NI!’). Then the kicker: John Cleese came out and had a Q&A with the audience. An amazing evening.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Liam, first, I apologize for falling off reading your A-Z posts.
    Second, this is one of my all-time favorite movies.
    I first saw it in high school in 1972 or 73 and my pal and I almost wet our pants with our laughing.
    This is the perfect time to revisit it! Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

    Liked by 1 person

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