What Monty Python fan hasn’t been waiting … and waiting … to see that killer rabbit in high definition?
The 1974 romp “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” hits Blu-ray this week, complete with a beautiful, crisp transfer that makes the film’s sublime silliness even more impossible to resist.
Yes, this “Grail” amounts to a series of sketches stitched into a meandering narrative, and that patch work style can grow tedious. But the troupe’s commitment to infantile humor laced with smart meta-gags decades before their time make it a comic treasure all the same.
The absurdity begins in the opening credits, and you’ll have to scan the titles quickly to catch every gag. It’s the ideal Rorschach test – if you’re rolling your eyes already it’s best to pop in a droll Woody Allen comedy instead.
For everyone else, the goofy credits are the appetizer to a tasty main course.
The plot, for what it is, involves King Arthur (Graham Chapman) trying to rally noble knights to his court at Camelot. The Python regulars – Chapman, Michael Palin, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle – play multiple roles along the way.
The classic bits – from the knight who keeps fighting despite losing limb after limb to the sight of grown men imitating a galloping horse – remain delightful even if we’ve already memorized every comic beat some time ago. The smaller jokes, like when one of Idle’s characters is serenaded about his cowardice, actually keep the film afloat.
“The Holy Grail” may feel unabashedly mindless in its mayhem, but the troupe spike the punch with peasants espousing macro-political theories and other intellectual morsels meant to keep us off balance.
And the players continually break the fourth wall until the structure’s final brick has been shattered.
In lesser hands, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” would be a mess, a colossally unhinged attempt at spoofing medieval movie classics. Instead, it’s a landmark achievement in cerebral stupidity, and the British troupe’s finest hour (and 32 minutes).
The Blu-ray extra include more than 30 minutes of new Blu-ray extras including lost animations introduced by Gilliam, outtakes and extended scenes. Other Python goodies include an educational film dubbed, “How to Use Your Coconuts,” a location featurette starring Jones and Palin and commentaries from five of the six surviving Python members. Chapman died in 1989.