Plot: What’s it about?
King Arthur (Graham Chapman) has embarked on a noble, but dangerous quest, one to locate the legendary Holy Grail. So he mounts his horse…no, wait a second, due to shortages of horses, his faithful Patsy (Terry Gilliam) will be the steed, but he will simply clack together coconut shells to replace the sound of the hooves. In any event, he sets out to assemble the finest selection of knights he can muster, to make his quest that much simpler. But when he runs into some unruly Frenchman with red hot insults, wisecracks, and an animal launching fetish, he quickly realizes this trek won’t be as easy as he once thought. As he and his knights pass through the lands, they’ll encounter some folks on a witch hunt, a ruthless Black Knight, a two headed gentleman, Castle Anthrax & the beauties within, the mystical knights who say “Ni!”, and of course, a massive killer rabbit. On this epic search, can even King Arthur manage to locate the priceless relic and if not, does it really make any difference in the end?
As with their Flying Circus television show, the Monty Python troupe creates a special brand of humor here and while some people love it, others hate it and do not understand the appeal in the least. To some people, this movie is pure genius and to others, it is nonsense that should have never been filmed. I happen to think Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a classic picture and deserves all the praise it has gotten & more. It is true that some of the antics are sheer lunacy, but a lot of brilliance shines through, as it always does with this troupe. In my opinion, this movie is sheer lunatic genius and deserves a lavish treatment, one even better than the previous two releases from Sony. I guess someone up there agrees with me, as now we have this Extraordinarily Deluxe Edition, with not one, not two, but three discs of wholesome fun. The main new addition is a CD soundtrack, as well as a couple other small supplements. As far as whether or not an upgrade is needed for fans, I personally don’t think so, but that’s just me. I’d like more than a couple of minor supplements to spend the cash, but then again, some folks are all to willing to shell out for those small extras. The movie itself is highly, highly recommended however, no matter which version you wind up with.
This is a six man operation, but for the sake of this review, I have chosen to spotlight Michael Palin, who plays a wealth of roles here. But then again, all the troupe members saddle up as numerous characters, so who knows. Palin is the leader of the knights who say “Ni!” however, so he gets a little more push than the others, at least in this review. Unlike some of the other Pythons, Palin hasn’t found much mainstream success, but he has many memorable performances, usually with other Python members present. In this film, he pulls out all stops and is simply hilarious, thanks to his knowledge of the material, as well as how to deliver it. Other films with Palin include Fierce Creatures, Brazil, The Missionary, A Fish Called Wanda, Jabberwocky, and Time Bandits. The cast also includes Terry Gilliam
Video: How does it look?
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is presented in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a new transfer, but to be honest, the improvement is minimal. The image is a little more refined, but the transfer from the Special Edition is almost as good. In truth, unless you have a huge television, I doubt you’ll be able to tell much of a difference. I have a 65″ widescreen and I noticed very little enhancement, just a touch cleaner and more refined, that’s all. So if you have the Special Edition, then know that this transfer is better, but only a little and even then, not all televisions will showcase those improvements.
Audio: How does it sound?
This disc houses both the original mono & a new Dolby Digital 5.1 track, so I sampled both for the sake of this review. The mono option is solid as far as mono goes, but the dialogue is a little muffled at times, which is a let down. This problem is cleared up more with the 5.1 track, which seems cleaner and of course, has more depth and range. You won’t hear much from the rear channels here, but the front speakers more than handle the load. I noted some nice directional presence and while a tad thin here & there, this is a very well done remix and should please fans, since the mono has subpar vocals at times. This disc also includes subtitles in English, Spanish, and French, as well subtitles for people who don’t like the movie. If you choose the final of the tracks, you’ll see text from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part II.
Supplements: What are the extras?
As far as what’s new, we have an animated medley of Spamalot songs, an ad for this very DVD release, a trivia quiz, and a CD of Monty Python’s 1975 “live” recording of a theatrical screening of the film. The rest of the stuff is ported over from the Special Edition. Those goodies are as follows.
The first track features directors/stars Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, who provide an informative & humorous session. The two must have excellent memories, as they recall all sorts of production tidbits, from location work to small touches. You can even learn what they might have done another way, if they were given a second chance at making Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The second track has stars John Cleese, Michael Palin, and Eric Idle, who focus more on hilarious stories & anecdotes, so the two tracks balance out quite well. The three share all sorts of outrageous tales from the production, in what has to be one of the funniest commentary sessions of all time. You can also enable special modes to play as you view the picture, a Follow The Killer Rabbit option and a screenplay mode. The former displays an icon at certain points, which then bring up additional information if clicked, while the latter is just what it sounds like, it runs the text screenplay on the screen as you watch.
The second disc holds most of the supplements however, such as Quest For the Holy Grail Locations. This piece runs just over forty-five minutes and consists of Michael Palin & Terry Jones on a search for the locations, all while they reveal all sorts of insight as well. The two venture to a location, tell some interesting & humorous stories about it, and then move to the next one, a very cool and worthwhile documentary. I’m glad to see this is so long and in depth, in addition to being presented in anamorphic widescreen. A special featurette on How To Use Your Coconuts is also found here, as well as a hilarious interview with the troupe from BBC Film Night, which runs just under twenty minutes in duration. A short clip of Holy Grail done with Legos is here too, in addition to some storyboards for unused ideas, a brief travel featurette with audio commentary by the filmmakers, and a load of old rubbish (press materials, reviews, etc.). This release also includes three sing-a-long options, some clips of the Japanese version (with English subtitles), a selection of poster artwork & promotional materials, Gilliam’s original sketches, an interactive guide to the cast, some production photos, and the film’s original & re-release theatrical trailers.