The second best comedy ever made, Monty Python and the Holy Grail
must give precedence only to the same team's masterpiece, The Life of Brian
(1979). Even though most of this film's set-pieces are now indelibly inscribed in every Python fan's psyche, as if by magic they never seem to pall. And they remain endlessly, joyfully quotable: from the Black Knight ("It's just a flesh wound"), to the constitutional peasants ("Come and see the violence inherent in the system!") and the taunting French soldier ("Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!"). Not forgetting of course the migratory habits of European and African swallows...
The film's mock-Arthurian narrative provides a sturdy framework for the jokes, and the authentic-looking production design is relentlessly and gloriously dirty. The miniscule budget turns out to be one of the film's greatest assets: Can't afford horses? Use coconuts instead. No money for special effects? Let Terry Gilliam animate. And so on, from Camelot ("it's only a model") to the rampaging killer rabbit glove puppet. True it's let down a little by a rushed ending, and the jokes lack the sting of Life of Brian's sharply observed satire, but Holy Grail is still timeless comedy that's surely destined for immortality.
On the DVD: Disc One contains a digitally remastered anamorphic (16:9) print of the film--which is still a little grainy, but a big improvement on previous video releases--with a splendidly remixed Dolby 5.1 soundtrack (plus an added 24 seconds of self-referential humour "absolutely free"!). There are two commentaries, one with the two Terrys, co-directors Jones and Gilliam, the other a splicing together of three separate commentaries by Michael Palin, John Cleese (in waspish, nit-picking mood) and Eric Idle. A "Follow the Killer Rabbit" feature provides access either to the Accountant's invoices or Gilliam's conceptual sketches. Subtitle options allow you to read the screenplay or watch with spookily appropriate captions from Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part II.
The second disc has lots more material, much of it very silly and inconsequential (an educational film on coconuts, the Camelot song in Lego and so on), plus a long-ish documentary from 2001 in which Palin and Jones revisit Doune Castle, Glencoe and other Scottish locations. Perhaps best of all, though, are the two scenes from the Japanese version with English subtitles, in which we see the search for the Holy sake cup, and the Ni-saying Knights who want... bonsai! --Mark Walker
Brand new and sealed!! Please note this is the region free USA edition!! Get it quick!! Get it now !!