KING & KNIGHT Graham Chapman and Terry Gilliam in Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Credit: Columbia Pictures/Photofest

Nearly 40 years later, it remains one of the all-time great opening scenes in movie history. And one of the silliest. As the clopping sound of hooves approaches, Graham Chapman, playing King Arthur, gallops into the frame…without a horse. Next to him is Terry Gilliam as his hunchbacked lackey, clapping two coconut shells together. It’s a cheap gag, but it captures everything that made Monty Python so brilliant. Now debuting on Blu-ray,

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974, PG, 1 hr., 32 mins.) is by far the best film in the outrageous Oxbridge comedy troupe’s canon. Yet it’s mind-boggling just how much mileage they’ve been able to get from what’s essentially an esoteric history lesson peppered with juvenile jokes about killer rabbits, shrubberies, and knights who say “Ni.” I mean, who would have guessed that three decades later, a low-budget movie starring six guys riffing on tales from ye olde Middle Ages would wind up being adapted into a boffo Broadway musical (Spamalot) playing to packed houses of fanny-pack-wearing tourists? The Pythons have never been ashamed to admit that they’re out to separate fans from their hard-earned cash. It’s part of their charm. And chances are, if you’re a Holy Grail fan, you already have one or more of the many DVD incarnations of the film sitting on your shelf. So should you buy the Blu-ray? It depends. The picture, which frankly always looked a little crummy and washed out, is crisper than ever. But most of the best EXTRAS, like the audio commentaries from Gilliam, Terry Jones, John Cleese, Eric Idle, and Michael Palin, are holdovers from the previous Collector’s Edition or the three-disc Extraordinarily Deluxe Edition. What’s new is a feature on the film’s “Lost Animations,” hosted by Gilliam, who, in a moment of refreshing candor, says about one of his bits that wound up on the cutting-room floor: “If we kept this in the film, it would have been a great success and we wouldn’t have to be selling Blu-rays.” He then complains about how he mysteriously got roped into contributing to the new extras while none of the other guys did. That’s not entirely true, though. In the other chintzy bonus feature, Jones introduces a meager number of outtakes. While it’s fun seeing his face light up as he watches snippets from a film he hasn’t seen in 38 years, they’re over before you know it. (The best bit is an audio clip of him yelling at a hapless extra on the set.) I’m always up for an excuse to watch Holy Grail again. It’s timeless. But enough with the special editions already. Don’t make us use the holy hand grenade. B

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

  • Movie
  • 91 minutes
  • Terry Gilliam
  • Terry Jones