Entertainment :: Movies

Monty Python And The Holy Grail

by Steve Weinstein
Contributor
Monday Mar 12, 2012
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I somehow missed "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" for all these years, but wanted to catch it because I loved the smash Broadway musical version, "Spamalot." I also was a serious Python fan back in the day, as were we all.

This is one of those cult films that one is going to either adore or detest. I’m afraid that, sitting through it in 2012, I found the humor not Oxbridge high-low silly, but just silly-silly. It’s not that something perfectly silly can’t defy the ages. I can watch an "I Love Lucy" or a Marx Brothers film 10 times and still laugh. But this humor just came across as rather, well, twee.

Blame the Internet. When "Holy Grail" premiered, it was something completely different: a knowing send-up of the pretensions of scholarship and the low-brow physical comedy of "Three Stooges." Its emphasis on how really horrible the Middle Ages were remains a nice send-up of the faked Hollywood romantic view.

But today, with hundreds of thousands of YouTube videos, the Onion, Comedy Central and dozens of other media of the absurd, this type of humor has become commonplace.

I realize that my view is a minority one, since the film remains highly regarded both by the public and film scholars. My suggestion is to use the occasion of the Blu-Ray release and make up your own mind.

The best features of this release are the two old commentaries by members of the legendary Python troupe. Their wide-ranging repartee and observations reminds one anew of how brilliant they really were, especially Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle.

Michael Palin and Terry Jones revisit the location scouting for the film. It’s interesting how one castle pretty much stood in for every castle in the film, but otherwise, it’s the kind of feature on a DVD that will appeal only to the most avid films (or film students).

There are several other features -- far more than in a usual Blu-Ray or DVD release, which makes this a relative bargain. The Blu-Ray has added the inevitable outtakes and extended scenes. There’s also some related animation of the sort that used to appear regularly on the Python’s BBC show.

It’s supremely silly -- which means that Python fans will cherish it, while the rest of us are left scratching our heads.

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early ’80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).

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