THREE GUYS AND… A MOVIE
series created by Marvin Mercer and Nick Stephenson
“MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL”
written by Nick Stephenson
This motion picture, famous to and much loved by generations, is a true testament to the creative spirit of cinematic effort. Given the film’s notoriety, as well as my own impression of its quality, this singular comedy is unlike most.
“Monty Python” is rather a film where no bored technicians following a checklist of “how to make a movie” gathered and shot film. The movie has no traditional structure and is liberated by this, as though it’s makers asked themselves what would delight them most to do from scene to scene, and this was their guiding through-line. Each sketch is a gem and I can see and feel the passion that went into its making. The filmmakers could have relied solely on the incredible verbal wit of their screenplay, yet the picture is fully realized visually.
It is not a mere recording of funny things being said. It features excellent camerawork, sets, sequencing, costuming and makeup that could have served the purpose of a serious period piece (sans horses), visual humor on par with its clever exchanges (the sight of humans clopping along, pretending quite seriously to believe they are mounted upon stallions), and deftly mixes animated sequences, storybook cutaways and live action into an aesthetically pleasing whole.
Most of the characters are played by a handful of actors, a fact I was unaware of until further inspection of the credits. Each actor is a total chameleon, transforming their voices and habits for each part – they are helped by costuming naturally, yet still, the collaboration is rare: the core group wrote and performed all of this material, all of them excelling in multiple roles. It is a true team effort and that of an exceptionally versatile and talented team.
I recommend everyone to watch and enjoy this picture. A basic understanding of homo sapien history prior to the 18th century will enrich much of your enjoyment, but it is by no means essential. “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” relies not on humor related to human popular culture, but instead transcends its place in time as well as the boundaries of human comedy by mining laughs from miscommunication, excessive childish behavior, lunacy, absurdity, and in one bold sequence, an unexpectedly gleeful murdering spree. The picture is bold, unique, merry, and continually producing new and charming sequences.
The film is dated to have been created in the year 1975. Its title refers to a group of human comedic thespians who identified their team as “Monty Python”. “Holy Grail” refers to an old mythic quest in human folk lore, that of the search for the cup of one of their messiahs, one Jesus Christ (most commonly agreed upon name). Research indicates this film should be classified as comedy. Furthermore, it is generally agreed upon that this little seen homo pictor artifact was widely available among humans in their time and from various writings and articles of “fan art”. Current studies reflect the film was immensely popular and had a devoted fanbase.
I chuckled at a scene of a human with no limbs insisting he was capable of combat, and the hilarity of a scene in which lower class peasants debate the philosophies and methods of various government institutions.
Such scenes are not common and that they are worth further study. I was intrigued that this movie did not seem to have a classic homo sapien three act structure. The film’s visual language was simple and leaves little for me to embellish upon. The film had a consistent tone. The events of the film often surprised me. I did not think a news anchor would be murdered, nor that this vignette would be returned to and ultimately provide an absurd ending.
The film is interesting but also easily understood with a single viewing and if one has even a cursory familiarity with human reactions to the film, one knows already what is to be discovered by watching it.
I imagine you think this so-called comedy has lived up to the hype humanity left for us to investigate for hundreds of years. No, oh simple ones.
No, yours truly was laughing at you, laughing as I imagined your disappointment, your disillusion, your realization that no, Monty Python did not create a comedic treasure trove of brilliant hilarity. “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” is but one more inept, incompetent, insipid, infantile human “production”.
The underlying premise of each and every sequence is the same. Some English moron or other misunderstands some other English moron. This wears thin very quick. Did the men of Monty Python see no other opportunity for comedy other than their characters being stupid?
Only in one sequence does it seem that the joke is not stupidity, but then again it is a sequence with no real joke at all. A knight renowned for his chastity enters a castle full of temptresses in mating season. They of course wish to seduce him, but he avoids their attempts, in a manner we are meant to interpret as hilariously awkward but is only just awkward. Then he is pulled from the castle by an ally and suddenly he wishes to be back inside, having his way with the women. This character changes from wanting to protect his chastity to wanting what the women have been offering him all along, and not for any given reason. It is not as if the character were unaware of their intent and then suddenly aware, which would have made far more sense and allowed the sequence to function as intended (in theory). This is exemplary of the film’s lazy writing.
Nothing escalates in “Monty Python”. Jokes are not built upon but rather repeated ad naseum. A scene of peasants bickering over the role of the government quickly establishes the joke that they are more educated than their real life counterparts might have been, but after this premise is established it merely continues. They continue to bicker. And bicker. And bicker.
The film is exemplary of the expression “beating a dead horse.” No one ever seems to have instructed the Python team in the arts of either subtlety or brevity – each joke is overstated and overemphasized. Far from a clever and witty comedy, this is a farce that is more like a comedian that is unsure of his jokes and so dreadfully, dully, over explains them to his audience, breaking down each and every cause for them as if he trusts no one to understand what he is saying.
It is a vanity project, a means by which a small group could further their fame and fortune. They are the writers and performers, allowing no other persons to breathe life into what is a tired, uninspired spoof of nothing in particular. No characters are to be found, just a collection of caricatures who are really one and the same character: a stupid person.
The film is shot and edited in the most perfunctory of ways, with only the laziest attempts at creating a fully realized world. Nothing is to be gained in viewing it, much less making it accessible to our families, friends and community, unless of course we wish to dash their hopes that this legendary artifact is of any merit whatsoever. I recommend it is stored in such a dark place so no one may ever mishap to see one frame of it.