TRIP SLAYMAKER ’18
It has been 42 years since the release of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It remains the most popular and beloved of the British comedy group’s feature length films. This is not only because it is funny, but because its comedy is so broadly successful. As is the case with just about any comedy film, the quality of the movie can be most easily ranked by how often and how much it made the viewer laugh. Holy Grail gets a laugh every few seconds, and its comedy is stinging.
It was this 1975 film that marked the most radical ascension to stardom for Monty Python, composed of leading actors Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. Monty Python and the Holy Grail has consistently been thought of as one of the best comedy movies of all time, often alongside the also hilarious and oft banned Life of Brian. It parodies and jabs the mythologized image of the Arthurian legend, taking swipes at everything from the courtly love tradition to ornithology along the way.
People who dislike the movie cite its smugness, and the need the writers seem to have to prove their education. Possibly this sense comes from the miraculous encyclopedic knowledge characters seem to demonstrate at every turn, from the migratory patterns of the African swallow to the nuances of political science. The assorted medieval characters constantly poke holes in King Arthur’s reasons for his quest, whether they be based in religion, government, or simple logic. As the absurdism piles up around him, and Arthur’s quest stalls out before the film’s end, the film employs a perfect anticlimax: the knight’s fail to find the holy grail at all.
Anything that might help with the sendup of the Arthurian tradition of Tennyson and Malory is sharpened to its most devastating effect. A memorable instance comes when King Arthur speaks to a mud-shovelling peasant about his mythical ascension to the monarchy. When Arthur describes his encounter with the Lady of the Lake, Dennis the peasant informs him that “Strange women lying in ponds, distributing swords is no basis for a system of government.” Gilliam and Jones, who directed the film, often set scenes in grimy, bleak, and dimly lit environments that ram home the squalor of the period that is so often polished for the romance of the round table.
Though there are likely other comedies that might top the lists of funniest movies, Holy Grail has to be the most often quoted film ever released. That is why it lends itself to traditions like movie theater sing-alongs. Events like the one hosted by Cinestudio on Friday Nov. 10 at 10:30 pm are fun for people who like watching funny movies in groups and quoting great jokes from a timelessly funny script.