Møntie Pythøn ik den Hølie Grailen (1974)

Written and Performed by Graham Chapman, John Cleese,
Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin
Directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones

Review by Tim

No story in the English-speaking world has been retold as often as the Arthur legend. More trees have died for this cause than any other. Novels and series of novels. Short fiction. Spam. Poetry. Music. Film and theatre. Spam. History. Spam. Spam. Everybody and his dog seems to want a piece of it. Especially the spam.

Central to the Arthur legend is the philosophy of Chivalry. This is where a bunch of guys with state-of-the-art weaponry band together to protect the rest of us, out of the goodness of their hearts. It's somewhat like the Northern Michigan Regional Militia. Also central to the Arthur legend is the Grail Quest. This is where God sends the guys with the weapons on an impossible mission to get them out of our hair. Sort of like Commander Norman Olson of the NMRM trying to win popular support for his group by going on Nightline with Ted Koppel at 2 am. Also central to the Arthur legend is a tale of love and betrayal. This is where Arthur is killed by his illegitimate son, while his wife and best friend run off together. Word from Michigan is awaited.

With all these themes central to the Arthur legend, one may wonder what is peripheral to it. The answer is Humor. There is nothing amusing about the story of King Arthur. It is very serious stuff. Which brings us to Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In this film, the members of the famous British comedy troupe, Monty Python's Flying Circus, have departed from their usual format of frivolous humor to bring us this thoughtful and incisive documentary on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, narrated by A Famous Historian.

The film covers many facets of life as it was lived in 932 AD, including historical perspectives on Politics:

"Listen...strange women lying in ponds, distributing swords, is no basis for a system of government! Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not some farcical aquatic ceremony!"
on Science:

"This new learning amazes me! Explain again how sheep's bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes."
and on the Human Condition:

"'Oo's that?"
"Dunno. Must be a king."
"'E 'asn't got shit all over 'im."
By far the most significant aspect of the film is the scholarly presentation of new evidence indicating the existence of a previously unknown member of King Arthur's retinue. I refer of course to Sir Robin, the Not-Quite-So-Brave-As-Sir Lancelot, who had nearly fought the Dragon of Angnor, who had nearly stood up to the vicious Chicken of Bristol, and who had personally wet himself at the Battle of Badon Hill. So impressive is the roll call of the almost performed deeds of this staunch paladin that Jenn and I, ever mindful of our responsibility to present positive and uplifiting role models for the instruction of youth and the edification of our peers, have structured our web site around him. Please don't thank us. Send spam. That will be enough.