Sunday, March 16, 2014
MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL
(April 1975, U.S.)
Where do I even begin with this one?? I suppose one of the first points I'll mention is that over the years I've come to discover that the subject of Monty Python, in general, breeds it's own share of geek followers in the same manner that STAR TREK and STAR WARS breeds it's own community. Ask anyone who's spent enough time watching DVDs of the BBC TV series MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS (particularly ME!) and it's very likely they can sing all the words to "The Lumberjack Song" and can recite the entire "Dead Parrot" and "Spam" sketches verbatim! For my own personal history, I discovered the film of MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL long before I ever got into the FLYING CIRCUS. I discovered the film during my early college years in Buffalo, New York at a midnight movie theater across the street from my dorm. Simply put, by the time I was a sophomore, my friends and I had every single hilarious moment and line of that film, from "Bring out yer dead!", to "I fart in your general direction!" to the entire sequence of the "Knights who say Ni!" down cold! Yes, my friends, it was the late 1980s, when midnight screenings of popular '70's lunacy made certifiable geeks of us all! Ah, those were the days!
This was Monty Python's first film that dove into original material without regenerating any of it's old BBC sketches (as did AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT). With their own take on the tale of King Arthur, Camelot and the quest for the Holy Grail, history is turned upside down on its ass and severely violated without protection, with outrageous and insane results. From the moment the opening credits insists on going on and on about a moose, we're laughing and the laughter doesn't stop until the final moment. This film is a cult classic as gut-bustingly hilarious as it is blithely ridiculous. As King Arthur himself, Graham Chapman actually looks the part, as if he could play it seriously if he wanted to. Many other roles in the film are interchangeably mixed-and-matched between all members of Monty Python's legendary group, including Sir Lancelot and the ever-taunting-and-insulting French knight with the "outrageous French accent" by John Cleese (my favorite Python!). Plot ain't exactly key here. It's a quest for the Holy Grail and the misadventures that occur along the way; misadventures that include the Black Knight without arms and legs claiming they're just "flesh wounds", the Trojan Rabbit without knights inside to infiltrate the castle, the "perilous situation" of horny women between the ages of sixteen and nineteen and a half at Castle Anthrax who only wish to be spanked by Sir Galahad (played by Michael Palin), the search for a perfect shrubbery, and the Legendary Black Beast of "Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh", just to name some. Oh, and here's one of my favorites...
Even by the film's climax, when for just a moment, things get rather spiritually and musically intriguing at King Arthur's point of conclusion when battle will ensure and victory will be won against his enemy (the French!), he and his men are suddenly arrested by England's modern-day police force for the slaying of a modern historian somewhere during the course of the film. And remember, if much of this makes little sense to you, keep in mind that much of Monty Python is never supposed to make sense! Laughter is key here, and it's here in abundance!
Those who know me know that I'm often very loyal and consistent with those that I regard to be my favorite things. My favorite film, rock song, classic TV show, food, etc., have likely remain unchanged since I was a kid and a teenager - and so it is with MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL - my favorite film comedy of all time. That's quite an honor in my book when you consider that it goes up against some other very viable candidates as ANIMAL HOUSE (1978) and CADDYSHACK (1980). In fact, try to imagine comedy that one would watch if they truly needed something to bring them out of real misery or depression and that will give you some idea of just how seriously I take the rather unserious antics of Monty Python! And by the way, for those who don't know, this film spawned a Broadway musical called SPAMALOT. Despite my extreme love for this film, the stage show sucked! In fact, since seeing that show, I've come to draw the line at paying good money and wasting valuable time with Broadway musicals based on movies! As a result of that conviction, I haven't been to the theater in a long time.
Favorite line or dialogue (believe me when I tell you this was no easy task for this film, but here we go!):
King Arthur: "It is I, Arthur, son of Uther Pendragon, from the castle of Camelot. King of the Britons, defeater of the Saxons, Sovereign of all England!"
Soldier: "Pull the other one!"
King Arthur: "I am, and this is my trusty servant Patsy. We have ridden the length and breadth of the land in search of knights who will join me in my court at Camelot. I must speak with your lord and master."
Soldier: "What? Ridden on a horse?"
King Arthur: "Yes!"
Soldier: "You're using coconuts!"
King Arthur: "What?"
Soldier: "You've got two empty halves of coconut and you're bangin' 'em together."
King Arthur: "So? We have ridden since the snows of winter covered this land, through the kingdom of Mercia, through..."
Soldier: "Where'd you get the coconuts?"
King Arthur: "We found them."
Soldier: "Found them? In Mercia? The coconut's tropical!"
King Arthur: "What do you mean?"
Soldier: "Well, this is a temperate zone."
King Arthur: "The swallow may fly south with the sun or the house martin or the plover may seek warmer climes in winter, yet these are not strangers to our land?"
Soldier: "Are you suggesting coconuts migrate?"
King Arthur: "Not at all. They could be carried."
Soldier: "What? A swallow carrying a coconut?"
King Arthur: "It could grip it by the husk!"
Soldier: "It's not a question of where he grips it! It's a simple question of weight ratios! A five ounce bird could not carry a one pound coconut!"
King Arthur: "Well, it doesn't matter. Will you go and tell your master that Arthur from the Court of Camelot is here?"
Soldier: "Listen, in order to maintain air-speed velocity, a swallow needs to beat its wings forty-three times every second, right?"