A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 191 – Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Monty Python and the Holy Grail – September 7th, 2010

After our long weekend of epic movies we needed something short tonight. It’s not just that we wanted a break, but it’s that I had a late shift so we needed one that would be over in time for us to write reviews. But we also wanted something lighthearted and silly. I didn’t mean to pick something with any of the same flavor as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I stopped at this on our list despite the presence of knights and swordfighting. Granted, this is Monty Python and therefore a ridiculous movie in every respect. Still, there is a good deal of swordfighting and death. Oh well.

Raised as I was on a steady cultural diet of British television shown by any PBS affiliate that we could pull in with our second floor antenna, I did see a good amount of Monty Python when I was younger. I don’t think I was technically allowed to watch it until I was a little on the older side, but some got through anyhow. It’s hard to avoid entirely, you know. In amongst the Doctor Who, To the Manor Born and Fawlty Towers I got enough Python to go seeking out the movies when we went to rent something for the weekends. For some reason this one was never my first choice and I saw The Meaning of Life several times before moving on to Holy Grail. But then, like any good little geekling, I dutifully memorized the vast majority of the movie, absorbing it into my lexicon of quotations and references.

It’s been a while since I last saw this, to be honest. I’ve seen it so many times I usually just figure I might as well put in something else I don’t know so well. But because of that I’d also come to assume that I was recalling all the good bits and leaving other slower bits out. I mean, I know there are movies I have memorized and I didn’t think this was one of them. Not entirely. Except really, every scene of this movie is quotable. Every bit they do, every gag, every episode, they’re all memorable. There really aren’t many down moments. I think it’s that the story’s not quite linear. It’s a bunch of Arthurian-based Python sketches strung together in a vague storyline. The point isn’t really the story. It’s the jokes.

I suppose it helps to know the basic gist of the stories of King Arthur. I know them because of a night spent reading a book of Arthurian legends instead of sleeping. King Arthur and the Round Table and all that do play right into my fascination with the end of eras and things passing into memory. So okay, there’s all the serious stuff, and now here’s Graham Chapman pretending to ride around with no horse. Just Terry Gilliam with a rucksack and a couple of coconut halves. And it’s not like the movie sticks too closely to the legends. I don’t recall mention of shrubbery in the legends I’ve read, and I’m pretty sure there were no debates about swallows or holy hand grenades. And yet there they are!

It’s very tempting to go referencing every funny moment in the movie, but as I said, they’re all funny. That’s why the movie is so entrenched in the pop cultural lexicon now. From my high school friends calling the Enchanter card in Magic the Gathering ‘Tim’ (anyone else do that?) to the coconut gag. I’ve even found a translation of the French taunting into Klingon (“yIH ghaH SoSlI’e’ ‘ej He’ vavlI’ ‘ej tera’nganpu’ rur” which, according to where I found it, should translate to “Your mother was a tribble and your father smelt of humans”) and then there’s the brilliant Knights of the Round Table/Star Trek fanvid. Even if you don’t like this movie you probably know a reference to it, whether you know it or not. It’s ubiquitous. I like that in a geek culture icon.

September 7, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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