"Monty Python and the Holy Grail" on DVD
Wholly Cows, Rabbits and Knights Who Say "Ni"
The earlier DVD releases of this Python classic did a good job of bringing that film to the new digital medium, but this newest Special Edition ups the ante even more.
Not only has Sony Home Entertainment chosen to give the film a new high definition anamorphic widescreen transfer (and it shows) with a newly-remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 audio soundtrack that improves greatly upon the original release (the old mono soundtrack is also included), but they've thrown in a cornucopia of silly extras that stretch over two more discs to make a five disc, er three disc, set.
This is great, though the menus are interminable. But even if they hadn't come out with this special edition, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" would be worth seeing. Such unbridled silliness - especially of the Python ilk - is always worth watching if it's done well, and few would argue that "Grail" isn't one of the better entries in this genre of film. It isn't the satirical masterpiece that is "Monty Python's Life of Brian," but it's pretty close.
Co-directed by Pythoners Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, the flick's loose story thread follows King Arthur (the late Graham Chapman) as he assembles his Knights of the Round Table and then is sent by God on the quest to find the legendary Cup of the title. It's really more a series of skits than a real narrative, however, and that's fine; Python works best as skits and they tend to fall down when the skits get too long.
And silly it is, as only Monty Python can be silly, full of wordplay and zany swordplay and horseplay in which it be-hooves them to have cocoanuts on hand.
The picture quality is very good for the most part, with lucious color, but there`s still a lot of grain that`ll probably take another special edition to have restored completely. It`s anamorphic widescreen and compatible with 16x9 TV`s, which is always a plus (and, in fact, is necessary at this stage of the TV market). Audio is also up to par.
The extras are well worth having. Well, most of them. First up is a running commentary by the co-directors ``with complaints and back biting`` by Messrs Palin, Cleese and Idle.
Disc One continues with "subtitles for people who don't like the film" (taken from Shakespeare's Henry IV Part II), as well as an onscreen representation of the film's very silly screenplay. Sony also brags about the new animated menus (with very loud Dolby Digital 5.1 sound), and they are indeed there. But they slow down access to the movie, as is so often the case with overblown menus.
Oh, yes! There's also an extra 24 seconds of running time that was originally excised from the film but which has now been put back in. We're glad, too. It isn't a big deal, but it's stuff that should have been there all along (we won't spoil it by telling you what it is).
Disc Two includes "A Taste of Spamalot," the Pythons` Broadway musical (and it`s pretty compelling), as well as "The Holy Grail Challenge," a rather silly trivia game. You also get "three mindless singalongs," a feature documentary "The Quest for the Holy Grail Locations," with Michael Palin and Terry Jones (it's funny in places) as well as a new featurette on the proper use of cocoanuts (a la Python, of course). There's also a BBC documentary on the film's production and a rather silly version of the Camelot song done completely in Lego, those little children's toy blocks. And to sweeten the deal you get "unshot footage," "unused ideas," and some other stuff.
Disc 5, er 3, is an audio CD, The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of Monty Python & The Holy Grail, so you can take it with you wherever you go.
It's silly, quite a bit of it is lame, but it's definitely the definitive DVD (at least until Cleese et all need money again) of this, the Monty Python troupe's first real movie.
We laughed until we thought our pants would never dry.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Extraordinarily Deluxe Edition, from Sony
Pictures Home Entertainment
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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