Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a British slapstick comedy centered around the Arthurian legend. Performed by the Monty Python comedy group consisting of John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Terry Gillam, and Michael Palin, it has forever etched its name into British folklore. Released in 1975, after the group’s successful television run, Monty Python‘s Flying Circus, it quickly became one of their most well-known, if not best known work. It follows the misadventures of Sir Arthur as he goes about recruiting his Knights of the Round Table and pursuing the Holy Grail.
The film has amassed a huge following since its release, largely due to internet popularity of several of its scenes. The one that comes to mind is the scene in the woods where King Arthur’s journey is interrupted by the Knights Who Say Ni. These knights do not speak any words other than ‘Ni’, ‘Peng’, and ‘Neee-Wom’ and won’t allow Sir Arthur and company to pass through until they’re appeased through a gift of shrubbery. The quirkiness and wacky confusion that follows this scene is characteristic of the rest of the movie and reason why this makes me laugh every time.
Unlike most contemporary comedy films, there is no main narrative that ties down the story arcs. The writers and the actors, I imagine, have creative freedom to explore their own brand of comedy. This is what makes the film unpredictable—it wouldn’t be possible without the zaniness of the characters. Perhaps this is best represented by the ending, wherein police show up to arrest Arthur and it’s revealed that the movie was simply a production set the entire time.
While most comedies grow stale with time, this film, along with rest of the group’s works, proves to be an exception. Part of this is due to the genre of comedy it plays into, but also because of the people that went into making this film; the comedy group had complete autonomy while filming.
I would certainly recommend watching this film, if you haven’t already. I must warn you that it isn’t for everyone and you should know what you’re getting into. Don’t expect heroes on horses or singing damsels in distress, because this is not that kind of Arthurian tale. Rather, it’s a loony version where Arthur trots along sans horses while a subject imitates galloping noises from behind. Critics could argue that the film was just an excuse for the Monty Python troupe to ‘over-act’ out their fantasies. Though with a unique blend of absurdity and wit, a combination you hardly see on screen anymore, it’s a classic.