Written by J.T. Johnson
ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: April 3, 1975
DIRECTORS: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Terry Bedford
WRITERS: Monty Python
MUSIC: Dewolfe, Neil Innes
Starting in 1969, a comedy group called Monty Python began a sketch comedy show called “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”. Their surreal comedy and loosely connected sketches have grown to legendary status. Any comedian worth their salt credits at least some influence from this famous group. By 1974, though, one of the members, John Cleese, was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their work on television.
After four series, “Flying Circus” went off the air. Thankfully, it would not be the last time we would see the famous group. In 1971, they had already released one feature-length film called “And Now for Something Completely Different”, but the movie was merely a collection of some of their best skits from series one and two of the show. When 1975 came around, it truly was time for something completely different.
“Monty Python and the Holy Grail” had actually been conceived while the group was doing the show. Thankfully, Cleese was onboard to do a movie every once in awhile instead of doing an ongoing television show with a television schedule that was more demanding. Despite being shot on a shoestring budget, the movie has gone down as one of the best comedies ever made.
Like the TV show that preceded it, several scenes in this movie have become classics. Whether it is the fight with the Black Knight, the scene with the Knights Who Say Ni, or the Killer Rabbit, there is plenty of evidence to prove that the movie is truly one of the best comedies of all time. I first saw the comedy in high school and it has been a part of my collection ever since.
It is good to see that the Pythons all have something to do. Gilliam steps in a few times to provide his signature animation segments, Cleese gleefully cuts down everyone as Lancelot thinking he is about to save a beautiful princess, and they all ride imaginary horses while their servants bang coconuts together to make the sounds of galloping horses. A fun fact about the coconuts is that they were only used because the production couldn’t afford real horses.
It just goes to show that when you have a limited budget, you can come up with some of your best ideas while under certain constraints.
There is nothing greater than seeing a well-oiled comedy machine at the peak of their talents. The Pythons would have other films, including the equally impressive if not slightly better “Life of Brian”, but there is a unique charm to this movie. That’s why it is not surprising that even to this day, over 40 years after its release, the movie’s legacy is as strong as ever.