Making the Grades
Some films are destined to become part of cinematic history, woven into everyday life despite their oddball flavor. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is one of those unusual escapades that is still quoted and alluded to years after its 1975 release.
Based on a British TV show that ran in England from 1969-1974 and debuted in the United States in 1974, Monty Python is the creative work of six imaginative comedians. Using their talents as sketch artists, they wrote the script as well as acted (in numerous roles) in this unconventional tale about the famous King Arthur. Two members of the group, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, also directed the production.
Hoofing his way across the lush countryside, King Arthur (Graham Chapman) is followed by his trusty squire who improvises the sound of horse's hooves with a couple of hollow coconut shells. On the way, the duo meet a peculiar assortment of peasants that give little heed to their royal sire. Luckily, Arthur is able to round up a few good knights to join him at his Round Table.
However, on the way to Camelot, the King and his loyal men receive a rather irreverent visit from God who sends them on a quest for the Holy Grail. Deciding it will be faster to find the sacred artifact if they all split up, the men go their separate ways, allowing for a series of episodic tales of their adventures.
Each one is tempted by a trial that seems particularly fitting for them. The Not-So-Brave Sir Robin (Eric Idle) comes face to face with a three-headed knight that threatens to kill him just for spite. Sir Galahad the Pure (Michael Palin) is seduced by a castle full of pretty young girls who attempt to take away his chastity by inviting him to indulge in various sexual activities. Brave Sir Lancelot's (John Cleese) quick-thinking actions get him in trouble when he rashly slashes his way through a wedding party in order to rescue a captive held in a tower room. Even King Arthur's noble patience is tried by the relentless chatter of his own countrymen, as well as some rude French soldiers.
Mixing animation, musical numbers and scenes of complete nonsense, the film's humor is frequently based on wildly inane situations and dialogue that includes bathroom-type jokes, rude name-calling, profanities and occasional slurs. Violent acts are often portrayed in a slapstick fashion, although the numerous injuries inflicted by swords often spurt copious amounts of blood, leaving victims soaked in the red stuff and the body count rising.
With only a meager budget, the producers relied on crewmembers and curious bystanders to enhance the size of the cast. The film paid off for some of the actors whose careers were propelled onward and upward by their efforts. However, parents will have to decide if the British humor and the absurd antics in this cult favorite are appropriate for their family's funny bone.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
At the beginning of the film, a group of men are collecting dead bodies for disposal. What was causing the deaths? Why was it important to get rid of the bodies so quickly?
How do the portrayals of the knights in this film compare to other stories of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table?
What elements of this film have contributed to it becoming a classic “cult” favorite? Are there any films have you seen recently that will still be popular 30 years from now?