Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a film written and performed by the comedy group Monty Python (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin), and directed by Gilliam and Jones. It was filmed in 1974 during a gap between the third and fourth seasons of their popular BBC television series Monty Python's Flying Circus and released on 3 April 1975 in the UK.
In contrast to the group's first film, And Now For Something Completely Different, which was a compilation of sketches from the television series, Holy Grail was their first film composed of wholly original material. It generally spoofs the legends of King Arthur's quest to find the Holy Grail. The film was a success on its initial run and retains a large-scale cult following today. The film was the inspiration for the 2005 Tony Award-winning musical Spamalot, written by Eric Idle. A few years ago it gained the Guinness World Record for largest audience interactive participation in one area the event was led by Michael Palin via a taped instruction and narration to the audience of when to sing along and shout to certain scenes of the film. It is also on the Top 250 movies of all time list on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) and it received 90/100 on Metacritic.com.
Plot EditKing Arthur, accompanied by his servant Patsy, is recruiting his Knights of the Round Table throughout England. He is frustrated at every turn by anarcho-syndicalist peasants, a Black Knight that refuses to die, and guards that are more concerned with the flight patterns of swallows than their lord and master. Finally he meets Sir Bedevere the Wise, who impresses him by using deductive reasoning to discover a witch. They are eventually joined by Sir Lancelot the Brave, Sir Galahad (called both "the Chaste" and "the Pure"), Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave-As-Sir-Lancelot, and Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Film, and form them together as the Knights of the Round Table. After journeying to Camelot (and declaring it "a silly place"), they receive a divine vision from God, who gives Arthur and his knights a quest: find the Holy Grail. The knights embark on their quest, but after being taunted by frenchmen, Arthur decides that they will split up. Sir Robin encounters a Three-Headed Giant, Galahad encounters peril at Castle Anthrax, Sir Lancelot massacres a wedding party at Swamp Castle, and Arthur and Bedevere encounter the dreaded Knights who say Ni. They each overcome their individual perils and meet back up with to face a bleak and terrible winter. Surviving the winter by eating Sir Robin's minstrels, they venture further to a pyromaniac enchanter called "Tim", who takes them to a cave guarded by a killer rabbit, where the location of the grail is written onto the wall.
After killing the vicious Rabbit of Caerbannog with the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, with the help of Brother Maynard and his entourage, the knights read the location of the grail, and, embarking on their journey to the location, face The legendary Black Beast of Aaaaargghh, and cross the Bridge of Death that is guarded by "the old man from Scene 24". Arthur and Bedevere survive to arrive at Castle Aaargh, the location of the grail and face the taunting Frenchmen once more. The film ends abruptly when a group of modern-era police interrupt the climactic battle scene to arrest Bedevere and King Arthur for the murder of the "Famous Historian".
The film was shot on location in Scotland, particularly around Doune Castle, Glen Coe, and the privately owned Castle Stalker. The many castles seen throughout the film were either Doune Castle shot from different angles or cardboard models held up against the horizon. (This was referenced in Patsy's famous line, the dismissive "It's only a model" in reference to Camelot — which it was.) The only exception to this is the very first exterior shot of the castle of the Swamp King, which is Bodiam Castle in East Sussex - all subsequent shots of its exterior and interior were filmed elsewhere. The chain mail armour worn by the various knights was also actually silver-painted wool (which tended to absorb moisture in the cold and wet conditions).
The film was co-directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, the first major project for both and the first project where any members of the Pythons were behind the camera. This proved to be troublesome on the set as Jones and Gilliam had different directing styles and it often wasn't clear who was in charge. The Pythons evidently preferred Jones, an acting member of the group, as opposed to Gilliam, who began as an animator. On the DVD audio commentary track Cleese expresses irritation at a scene set in Castle Anthrax where he says the focus was on technical aspects rather than comedy. The two later Python feature films, Monty Python's Life of Brian and the Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, both have Jones as the sole director.
The Pythons decided on a joke where the characters would pretend to ride horses while their porters banged coconut shells together, an in-joke as to how BBC radio shows as well as old-time radio in general, had produced the sound effect of horses since the 1930s (a gag seen previously in the sole surviving episode of the 1956 program A Show Called Fred, produced by Richard Lester and starring Peter Sellers, and also used on The Goon Show in the form of "here comes a man riding on coconut shells"), with the added benefit of being much cheaper than hiring horses and learning to ride them. This was later referenced in the German release on 13 August 1976, which translated the title as "Die Ritter der Kokosnuß" ("The Knights of the Coconut"), and in a successful attempt in Trafalgar Square at 7pm on St George's Day 2007 to break the world record for the largest coconut orchestra.
The use of coconuts leads to an extended (and boring, to Arthur) discussion on how coconuts could have found their way to the British Isles. The possibility of swallows carrying them, absurd as it seems, reappears in a key moment late in the film and helps Arthur advance his quest.
As an extension of the group's penchant for bizarre title credits, the 2001 DVD release of the film commences with the British Board of Film Censors' certification for Dentist on the Job, a film "Passed as more suitable for Exhibition to Adult Audiences", followed by its grainy black and white opening titles and several minutes of the film itself (approximately 1 minute 48 seconds). During the opening scene of Dentist on the Job, the projectionist (played by Terry Jones) realises it is the wrong film and puts the correct one on. (Dentist on the Job was a 1961 comedy starring Bob Monkhouse, perhaps chosen as an epitome of the comedy to which Monty Python had once provided an alternative. Also, Dentist on the Job's alternate title is Get On With It, a phrase that appears multiple times throughout Holy Grail.)
Holy Grail's start credits include mock Nordic subtitles and many gratuitous references to "møøse" and llamas. The subtitles fictionally tell how those responsible for the fake credits were sacked and replacement credits were created at great expense. The film has no ending credits, or indeed any indication whatsoever that the film is over, instead showing a policeman forcibly shutting down the camera and cutting straight to a black screen and a full two minutes and forty seconds of organ music. Due to the abrupt ending of the movie, the first few seconds of the opening credits are sometimes shown again when the film is played on television. The organ music is often missing from cinema showings as inexperienced cinema projectionists tend to mistake the ending blank footage (with audio track) as scrap film and remove it before sending the film back to the depot.
Profits from Pink Floyd's album The Dark Side of the Moon went towards financing the movie. The band members were such fans of the show, they would halt recording sessions just to watch Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969–1974). Ian Anderson and Led Zeppelin were also key investors in the film.
- Graham Chapman, who, in addition to playing King Arthur, was also the voice of God, one of the Giant's three heads and a guard of Swamp Castle with the hiccups.
- Terry Jones played Bedevere. He also played the female peasant who bothers Arthur, another of the Giant's three heads and Prince Herbert.
- John Cleese played Sir Lancelot. In addition, he played Tim the Enchanter, the Black Knight (except when he has been reduced to one leg), the second guard to discuss swallows, a man carrying a not yet dead man to the cart in the plague-ridden village, a peasant who accuses a woman of being a witch, and the insulting Frenchman.
- Eric Idle plays Sir Robin. Idle also played a dead collector (who clangs on a tin pan shouting "Bring out your dead!"), a peasant who accuses a woman of being a witch, a guard who needs to be spoonfed instructions at Swamp Castle, Lancelot's servant Concord, Roger the shrubber (somebody who arranges, designs, and sells shrubberies), and Brother Maynard (a priest who is eaten by the Black Beast of Aaaaargh).
- Michael Palin as Sir Galahad. Palin has the most roles in the film: a mud eater, Dennis the anarcho-syndicalist peasant who accuses Arthur of showing "the violence inherent in the system," another peasant who accuses a woman of being a witch, the first guard to discuss swallows, a head of the Giant, the Lord of Swamp Castle, one of the wedding guests, the leader of the Knights who say "Ni!", a priest who reads out the instructions found in the Book of Armaments of the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch (credited as "Brother Maynard's Brother") and the narrator.
- Terry Gilliam plays Patsy, Arthur's servant, who bangs coconuts together and calls Camelot "only a model". He also played the Green Knight who dies fighting the Black Knight, the Old Man from Scene 24 that pops up again as the Bridgekeeper, Sir Bors (who cries out during the Camelot song "I have to push the pram-a-lot!" and is killed by the rabbit), a gorilla hand turning pages of "the book of the film" during the narration and finally himself as the animator who dies of a fatal heart attack.
- Carol Cleveland as Zoot, one of the maidens in the Castle Anthrax and also as Zoot's identical twin sister, Dingo.
- Connie Booth as the woman accused of being a witch.
- Neil Innes as Sir Robin's favourite minstrel, another peasant who accuses a woman of being a witch, a monk and Galahad's servant/horse crushed by the Trojan Rabbit.
- John Young as the famous historian and the not-yet-dead man carried by Cleese.
None of the Pythons can recall why they got an actual old woman (Bea Duffell) to play the old crone when any of them could have done it just as easily. The actress is, however, complimented on the DVD commentary (albeit accompanied by attempts to recall why she was cast).
The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the movie's official soundtrack, is less of a soundtrack and more of a comedy album in its own right, which depicts the "premiere" of the film along with several other sketches intercutting scenes from the movie.
The flagellant monks are chanting a phrase from the Latin Requiem mass, pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem, which in English is rendered, Holy Lord Jesus, grant unto them rest. They then hit themselves with wooden boards. This may be in reference to the flagellants during the time of the black plague.
Home video editions, locations Edit
The first DVD was released in 1999 and boasted only a non-anamorphic print, about two pages of production notes, and trailers for other Sony Pictures Warner Bros. 20th Century Fox releases. On October 23, 2001, the Special Edition DVD was released. It includes two commentary tracks, documentaries related to the film, the "Camelot Song" as sung by LEGO minifigures (Source), and "Subtitles For People Who Don't Like the Film", consisting of lines taken from William Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 2, and in the opening has a conversation between two people written in "Swedish". There are also two scenes synchronised in Japanese, where the knights search for a "holy sake cup" and where the Knights Who Say Ni request a bonsai. Most of the home video adaptations feature an extra scene where several characters are telling Carol Cleveland's character Dingo to "Get on with it!". Some of them include characters not seen yet at that point in the film, such as Tim the Enchanter, The Old Man from Scene 24 and the army at the end of the film (this scene was also shown in the Comedy Central broadcasts of the film). It also features a small featurette about proper use of a coconut.
The DVD "Special Edition" includes "The Quest for the Holy Grail Locations", hosted by Michael Palin and Terry Jones, which shows places in Scotland used for the setting titled as "England 932 A.D." (as well as the two Pythons purchasing a copy of their own script as a guide). Many scenes were filmed in or around Doune Castle, "Scene 24" and the blood-thirsty rabbit's "Cave of Caerbannog" were in sight of Loch Tay, near Killin, and "The Bridge of Death" was in Glen Coe. In the closing battle scene, shots facing "Castle Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh" were filmed at Castle Stalker but the shots looking the other way towards the huge army were filmed later somewhere near Stirling once they had managed to get enough people - one of them being author Iain Banks, then a student, as he recounts in his non-fiction work Raw Spirit. It should be noted that this DVD edition is missing the "Swedish" subtitle "Mønti Pythøn ik den Hølie Gräilen" in the film's opening title screen.
In this special edition DVD release, the opening credits of the 1961 film Dentist on the Job is seen before the voice of the projectionist (presumably that of Terry Jones) mumbles that this is wrong film. The film stops abruptly and a slide reading "One moment while the operator changes reels" is seen on screen. The projectionist can be heard scrambling to start the correct film (Dentist on the Job has an alternative title of Get On With It!).
On October 3, 2006, an "Extraordinarily Deluxe" DVD was released that includes the features of the previous "Special Edition" as well as other, new features. These include songs from the Spamalot (with accompanying animation), a "Holy Grail Challenge" feature, and a "Secrets of the Holy Grail" feature. The aspect ratio for the "Extraordinarily Deluxe" DVD is 1.66:1, whereas the previous Special Edition features a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Also, the "Extraordinarily Deluxe" DVD restores the "Swedish" subtitle missing from the Special Edition.
In 1985, an unofficial text adventure game called The Quest for the Holy Grail appeared for the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum computers, released as a budget title on cassette tape by Mastertronic. While the game borrowed many concepts from the movie (the three headed knight, the white rabbit, holy hand grenade, shrubbery, etc.), the plot of the game made no real attempt to follow the plot of the film. Reviews of the game were not kind, lambasting it for weak humour and ease of completion.
In 1996, 7th Level released the official Monty Python &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp; the Quest for the Holy Grail. It used footage and imagery from the film, as well as audio clips (some new) and featured an animated version of a scene never filmed entitled "King Brian The Wild".
Minigames included variations on popular games such as Whack-A-Mole ("Spank the Virgins") and Tetris ("Bring Out Your Dead").
This film is number 40 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies". In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted Monty Python and the Holy Grail the 5th greatest comedy film of all time. The next Monty Python film, Monty Python's Life of Brian, was ranked #1. A 2004 poll by UK arm of Amazon and the Internet Movie Database named Monty Python and the Holy Grail as the best British picture of all time.
Cultural references Edit
A number of works, such as video games, novels, newspapers, and even anime pay homage to this movie, an indication of its huge following.
- In the DVD commentary for the The Lord of the Rings films, director Peter Jackson admitted crowd scenes with rural peasants were tricky to design, as they could easily remind viewers of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Also, in The Two Towers commentary, previsualization artist Christian Rivers compares Helm's Deep to Camelot, saying, "it's only a model."
- In the "Weird Al" Yankovic song White and Nerdy from his album Straight Outta Lynwood, he says "I memorized Holy Grail really well / I can recite it right now and have you ROTFLOL."
- In the Warhammer 40,000 table-top strategy game, the Black Templars, a Space Marine chapter thematically based on medieval crusading knights, have access to the grenade of Antioch.
- In the Webcomic "El Goonish Shive," Tedd places birdseed outdoors to find the squirrels have been eating it. The squirrels (with Grace translating) demand a statue. After Tedd provides it, the squirrels demand a shrubbery. Tedd says "Shrubbery?! What is this, a Monty Python sketch?" To the right of the panel, translated into English, the squirrels are saying "Ni!" with one saying "nu" and being corrected by another squirrel, a la King Arthur and Bedevere. 
- The Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Day For Knight" features a reference to the witch burning scene. During a scene in which Shirley the Loon is being mistaken for a witch, a frog appears, saying, "She turned me into a prince!" At that point, the others look at the frog weirdly, and the frog says, "Well, I got better."
- Star vs. the Forces of Evil Star Butterfly opening scene. Star Comes to Earth
- An episode of Histeria! had a sketch debating the existence of King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, and Sir Galahad. At the end, the characters opt to retreat, shouting out "Run away!" like they do in the film. Also, a portion of the witch accusation scene was paraphrased in a sketch about the Salem witch trials.
- In the 1999 Computer game Heroes of Might and Magic III: The Restoration of Erathia all of the cheats refer to the movie, including the coconuts, the shrubbery, Tim the sorcerer and the Trojan rabbit.
- In the 1998 Computer game Fallout 2, there is a special encounter making reference to the "Bridge of Death" scene. A bridge keeper will ask player a question with three answers. Pending different answers, game may end, the bridge keeper will explode, or he may step aside and grant you passage. The game also contains a random encounter called "The Vorpal Rat Cave." The player meets a group of people searching for the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.
- In the PC game Warcraft 3, some units as the footman and the peasant give famous quotes from the film when being clicked on repeatedly such as: "Help! I'm being repressed!", "It's only a flesh wound!", "You're the king? Well I didn't vote for you!". If you were to do this with a knight, one of the quotes given would be "My favorite color is blue. No! YELLOW!" While saying yellow, the voice softens as if being thrown away. The knight will also utter "I will not say ni."
- In the fourth level of the PC game Shadow Warrior, there is a secret area set behind a waterfall where a cave, a helmet reminiscent of the one worn by Bors in the movie, and a small white rabbit can be found. When the player approaches this rabbit, the player character says: "That's no ordinary rabbit!" while the rabbit's eyes turn red and begins attacking the player.
- In the MMORPG Guild Wars there are many references, such as skills like "It's Just A Flesh Wound", also "Victory Is Mine!", and a boss known as "The Black Beast of Argh". Also, during the Canthan New Year celebration a quest called "The Knights who say Ni" was available to complete.
- In chapter 9 of The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, when Scrooge scoffs at a nearby Scotsman and calls him a peasant, the Scotsman in question turns to his companion and quotes Dennis the peasant's last dialogue line.
- In The Powerpuff Girls Episode 19, in which Bubbles thinks she is Mojo Jojo, the real Mojo Jojo recites the following speech: "One shall be the number of Mojo Jojos in the world,and the number of Mojo Jojos in the world shall be one. Two Mojo Jojos is too many and three is right out." which is variation of the speech spoken by the cleric about the use of the grenade of Antioch.
- After beating a nerd with a stick in the controversial game Bully, he might moan "It's only a...flesh wound...". This phrase is also said by Ema Skye in the game Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney during the final case, saying "it's only a flesh wound, Mr Wright".
- In the animated movie Billy and Mandy's Big Boogey Adventure, General Skarr says "It's just a flesh wound" when Grim points out the hole in his chest.
- In the video games Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat Trilogy, the female character Kitana transforms into a small, white killer rabbit for her animality. In Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks Kung Lao pulls a white killer rabbit out of his hat for two of his fatalities (though in only one of them the rabbit itself ravages the opponent - the other has Kung Lao spank the enemy with the rabbit).
- Another example is in the popular Playstation 2 game Ratchet &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp; Clank: Up Your Arsenal, where Ratchet talks to Tyrranoids in disguise and says, "I emit a noxious effluvium in your general direction."
- In the Super Nintendo RPG The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang, one of the enemies you encounter in Batland includes a "Phython Bunny"; It looks like a normal white rabbit with red ears but will attack the player with very sharp fangs when the player comes too close to it.
- The MMORPG Asheron's Call contains a monster rabbit (dubbed Pookie by the players) that is an obvious homage to the killer rabbit of the film.
- In the MMORPG Runescape, you can use a herring on most trees, and the examine states: "This is not the mightiest tree in the forest!" Use it on the Grand Tree, however, and it says "It Can Not Be Done!" Also, at Party Pete's Party Room in Falador, you can pull a lever and knights will dance on the table similar to the Camelot castle scene.You can also talk to Zahwa in the Al Kharid fighting arena and when you ask him if he is all right he answers" Its just a flesh wound!". Also, on the twin islands of Jatizso and Neitiznot, guards at the watchtower will yell at each other "Your mother was a hamster!" and "And your father smelled of elderberries!".On the Island of Miscellania,if you talk to a certain guard, he'll say, "You're the King/Queen? I didn't vote for you!"
- In the MMORPG World of Warcraft, there is a quest in Zangarmarsh called "Bring Me A Shrubbery!" in reference to the scene with the Knights Who Say Ni. There is also a follow up quest called "Bring Me Another Shrubbery!".
- In the Xbox game Fable, the guards will sometimes shout "It's only a flesh wound!"
- In an episode of the animated tv show Xiaolin Showdown a giant world-ending plant is a parody of John Cleese's character "the insulting Frenchman".
- In the game The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion when in the Shivering Isles expansion pack, there will be an NPC named Runs-In-Circles who will run around saying "Ni"
- The animated film Shrek the Third includes a scene where a character is banging coconuts together to simulate horses' hooves; John Cleese and Eric Idle both provide voices in this movie.
- Phil Vischer Creator of the Veggietales franchise credits the frenchmen who taunt King Arthur as the inspiration for his "french peas".
- In the Playstation 2 game Destroy All Humans when doing the food delivery mission the soldier will ask "What is your name?" and "What is your quest?".
- The Megadeth song "Chosen Ones" on the 1985 album Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good! is about the scene with the killer rabbit.
- In the turn-based PC strategy game by Team 17, Worms Armageddon, the special weapons cache contains a "holy hand grenade" which detonates after a count of three, as a chorus sings Hallelujah, creating a massive crater wherever it explodes.
- In The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, when playing as the character Joe Fixit upon entering a level, he'll occasionally say: "A spanking! A spanking!" in the way the girls from Castle Anthrax in the film do.
- In the game Ready 2 Rumble Boxing, during the credits, it shows each programmer with boxing gloves on and a quote. The quote of the second programmer, Dave "millionaire boy" Wagner, is "Blue. No green! AHHHHHHHHHH!!".
- In the SRPG Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories, there is an item called Charred Newt. The description says "It didn't get better.", referring to Sir Lancelot.
- In the online RPG Kingdom of Loathing, the Naughty Sorceress has an attack that says "She turns you into a newt. You get better, but it still hurts." This is another reference to Sir Lancelot.
- In Absolutely Fabulous's season 4 episode, Parralox.. Bubbles takes a pair of breast implants and claps them together, much like the coconut scene from the movie.
- In the computergame Nukewar (1983) sometimes a cow falls down on a city, killing millions of people.
- In the Simpsons episode Homer Goes to College) one of the college nerds Homer is trying to make cool states, "We spend the rest of our time memorising Monty Python quotes, 'We are the knights that say Ni!" then the rest say, "Ni! Ni! Ni!"
- In the daily online comic strip, Day by Day, by Chris Muir, the bridge scene is used to poke fun at Democrats, indicating they never get asked hard questions by the MSM. 
- In one episode of MTV's Pimp My Ride, Mad Mike gets his arm chopped off by the trunk of a car and replies to one of the workers that "It's only a flesh wound".
- Young comedic filmaker Eric Ogden of SilentWulf.com has an short Intermission sequence in his film "We Like Acid", using the same organ music and a similar Intermission picture.
- In Deadliest Warrior: The Game, there are achievemtents called Flesh Wound, in which you must defeat an opponent with an arm chopped off, and Black knight, in which you must remove all the limbs of a knight in a single match.
- In The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius when Jimmy talks about Betty, Cindy shouts "Get on with it!"
- In Eddsworld's Zombeh Attack 2, Matt's grave says "I decompose in your general direction, a reference to the Taunting Frenchman's "I fart in your general direction."
- In an episode of "How I Met Your Mother," a character named Marshall plans to be the "Monty Python Guy" at the office to keep him from being fired prompting Barney to say "We are the knights who say-fire," meaning that the "Monty Python Guy" would not work.
- In the movie "National Lampoon's European Vacation," Eric Idle appears in this movie as a bike rider who is run over by Clark in London. As Clark and his wife point out Eric's various injuries such as a stream of blood coming out of his hand or scrapes on his knee Eric says "It's just a flesh wound" like the Black Knight.
- In the American animated series, "The Boondocks," during a gunfight at a gas station, a character named Ed says to an officer "You shall not have died... in vain," similar to Sir Lancelot to Concord. The officer soon says "I don't think I'm dying," prompting Ed to say "Then you shall not have been mortally wounded in vain," again, similar to Lancelot.
- In an episode of Family Guy, when King Stewart bursts through the church doors, many onlookers exclaim he is the king and at the end, a lady says "Well I didn't vote for him" exactly like Dennis's mother.
According to the autobiography The Pythons, Eric Idle proposed the idea of a Holy Grail sequel in 1990. According to Idle, the movie would be about an attempt to bring the knights together for one last crusade, as a sort of self-referential statement about the Python group. The team, however, did not want to do it, which made Idle realize that "[the group] would never, ever work together again," especially since Graham Chapman had died the year before.
References and notes Edit
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