Monty Python And The Holy Grail

DVD Rating: *****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Read Amber Wilkinson's film review of Monty Python And The Holy Grail
Monty Python And The Holy Grail, directed by Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam

It becomes apparent within seconds of putting the first of this package's two discs in your machine that it has been lovingly put together. So lovingly, in fact, that what you receive can only be described as the full Monty. Oddly, there are so many extras detailed on the box that you could be forgiven for thinking that they were making them up - or at the very least, embellishing them - and that the whole thing would be a triumph of style over substance. Not so.

The film print itself is surprisingly clear for a movie of this age. There is some grain and scratches in places but, on the whole, both it and the sound have scrubbed up very well, although the sound on the accompanying Quest for The Holy Grail Locations seems strangely muted in comparison with the main feature. Don't expect miracles from the surround sound, either, but, then, this really isn't that type of movie. The menus are a real treat for Gilliam fans, with lots of surreal animation and cries of 'Get on with it' should you dally too long in between items.

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Both of the commentaries on the first disc are well worth listening to, with Jones and Gilliam's concentrating more on the formation of the Python team and the logistics of putting the film together - relying on financial backing from the likes of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin to get it off the ground. Cleese, Idle and Palin, on the other hand, talk more about the events surrounding the making of the film, with Cleese coming across as much more austere than the other two. Each of their commentary tracks are run simultaneously on the disc, although it seems that they weren't in a room together at the time. There are advantages to this, in that their individual anecdotes often complement each other or confirm one another's whimsy, but this does have the disadvantage of there being no interaction between them.

Also on the first disc is a "Follow the Killer Rabbit" feature, a take-off of the "follow the white rabbit" idea which originated on The Matrix. By clicking the screen whenever the rabbit icon appears - but, boy, you have to be quick on the draw or you'll miss it - you will be taken to either some storyboards or, more often, an expenses chit costing out the likes of 5 pints of Kensington gore or 82 student lunches. These interludes are fun but, unless you have a very large television, you may find yourself squinting to make them out. Watch out for the rabbit's not-so-subtle change in appearance partway through.

Other features on this disc include the very amusing, Shakespearean-style subtitles for "those who hate the film" - for which we should all be grateful to Jessica Tipping. A natty onscreen script, which neatly overlays the action, allows you to practice that "hard to remember" dialogue when you come home from the pub.

There are a couple of other small features/jokes on the first disc, which are great fun and which I won't spoil by detailing here. Suffice to say, they're enjoyable and again reflect the "loving nature" with which this DVD has been compiled.

And so on to the second disc in the package, which is choc-ful of some great, entertaining extras. First up and specially for the after-pub crowd are "three mindless singalongs", featuring the scenes and lyrics to "Knights of the Round Table", "Sir Robin" and, unlikely as it may seem, "The Monks Chant". The latter is particularly funny, so don't be tempted to skip it.

The 45-minute Quest For The Holy Grail Locations is a brand new documentary, tracking Terry Jones and Michael Palin as they return to Doune Castle and other locations from the film. This is an enjoyably detailed feature, full of humourous banter and recollection from the two of them and reason enough to own this Special Edition. They both seemed genuinely enthused to be making the film and that enthusiasm is definitely contagious. It's also interesting to compare Jones' comments with those on the BBC footage from the time - back then, he described directing as a thankless task, whereas today he celebrates its virtues, claiming directors have much more fun.

Maintaining the "holy" theme, the next segment of extras comes under the banner of Sacred Relics. First up is a new skit featuring Michael Palin extolling the values of coconuts in an educative film, demonstrating how they can be used to create an "authenticity of full equine motion". Enough said, perhaps.

In the spirit of something completely different, this is followed by a couple of most amusing Japanese clips, with subtitles which re-translate the Japanese back into English. As with a lot of Monty Python gags, this doesn't sound particularly funny on paper, but the scenes chosen - The French Castle and The Knights of Ni - make for an hilarious watch. I defy anyone not to find the Knights asking Arthur for a "Bonsai" one of the funniest things captured on celluloid in a while.

The other most substantial extra on this disc is the 1974 BBC Film Night report, On Location With The Pythons. Stagey and silly, this is well worth a watch as both cast and interviewers horse around. Cleese again comes across as Mr Serious, with Gilliam a seemingly boundless source of energy and the late Graham Chapman apparently on another planet - though, as Jones and Gilliam point out elsewhere on this DVD, he was wrestling with alcoholism at the time, so perhaps this shouldn't be a surprise.

Next we come to the most refreshingly truthful extra on a DVD ever - Old Rubbish - which is, just that, a small collection of press releases and a scathing BFI review (read by Jones) from 1975. Much of the rest of the Sacred Relics extras is standard fare. Artefacts contains a series of posters, Photos are just that, from the time of the shoot, Trailers features one from the time and one from the US re-release and the cast biographies are simply a list of each character played by each actor, with an accompanying photograph of each role.

More fun can be found in the Unshot Footage section, however, with my favourite being a version of The Knights of The Round Table, shot using animated Lego men, awww. There is also an utterly silly, mocked-up location recce, basically a selection of exotic library film with an amusing commentary from Jones and Gilliam, and a series of storyboards - Unused Ideas - which never made it to film.

Wittily, there is also a section entitled Excommunication, containing the weblink to their site. And, if all this isn't enough for you and you really want to squeeze the last drop from this DVD, there is even an 'Easter Egg' for you to play with. Select Sacred Relics, hit the right arrow key and then the up arrow to highlight the Holy Grail and press Enter. You will then be treated to the full list of DVD credits - well, I didn't say it would be interesting!

This disc is most certainly worth the money. Unlike many DVDs quickly released onto the market, it has been carefully packaged and thought out. The team behind it have taken the time to not only gather together some of the more interesting extras from the time of shooting, but also to provide both informative commentaries and quirky and amusing new material. The result makes for a refreshingly complete addition to anyone's collection.

Reviewed on: 14 Mar 2002
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Monty Python And The Holy Grail packshot
King Arthur and his Knights go on a much-interrupted and humorous search for the Holy Grail. Out on re-release.
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Product Code: CDR14164

Region: 2

Ratio: 1:85:1

Sound: Dolby 5.1 and surround

Extras: English (Hard of Hearing) subtitles, subtitles for people who don

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