Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Credit: Holy Grail: Kobal Collection

”It has some quite funny moments…a fairly exciting story…and some low-budget adventure.” That’s the come-on in the original British trailer for Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and the fact that the line is delivered in Chinese only makes the offer harder to ignore. One of the funniest films ever made (”What, the curtains?”) turns out to have been among the lowest in budget, according to the commentaries on this two-disc set. The use of coconuts clopped together instead of actual horses? ”It was funny,” says Michael Palin, ”but then it turned out it was also cheap.” King Arthur’s massive army in the final scene? University students hired, as John Cleese recalls, ”for about a banana-and-a-half a day.” Those varied castle interiors? Mostly shot in the Scottish castle of Doune. ”It’s amazing what you can do with a few bits of hanging tapestries,” says Palin.

If the ”Holy Grail” DVD doesn’t put its own format through a grand conceptual meat grinder the way the ”Python” CD-ROM did a few years back, it still tweaks the disc fetishist in welcome ways. Yes, there are audio commentaries — one from directors Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, the other featuring Palin, Cleese, and Eric Idle — and the usual click-through galleries of photos and production art. There’s also a lovely video documentary in which a middle-aged Palin and Jones huff and puff their way up to original ”Grail” locations. There are even some new comedy bits: a ”Coconut Information Division” sketch featuring Palin, and a shot-for-shot Lego re-creation of the ”Camelot” musical number. But how many DVDs allow you to watch the entire film while reading subtitles from ”Henry IV Part II”? And who else but the Pythons would start the film with several minutes of a justly forgotten British comedy called Dentist on the Job? ”We must have been just young and very foolish,” sighs Palin at one point. They’re still foolish, luckily.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Movie
  • 91 minutes