Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail

UK movie (1974). Python/Michael White. Pr Mark Forstater. Exec pr John Goldstone. Dir Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones. Spfx Julian Doyle, John Horton. Screenplay Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Gilliam, Eric Idle, Jones, Michael Palin, published as Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Book) (1977). Starring Chapman (Arthur/etc.), Cleese (Lancelot/Tim the Enchanter/etc.), Gilliam (Soothsayer/etc.), Idle (Sir Robin/etc.), Neil Innes (Robin's lead minstrel/etc.), Jones (Sir Bedevere/Prince Herbert/etc.), Palin (Sir Galahad/King of the Swamp Castle/etc.). 90 mins. Colour.

AD932, and Arthur recruits Knights for the Round Table (defeating, inter alia, the Black Knight), but decides against taking them to the all-singing, all-dancing Camelot. God appears in the sky to charge the company with a Quest: to seek the Grail. This they undergo variously. Robin encounters a three-headed knight and flees in disarray. Galahad the Chaste is lured to Castle Anthrax and reluctantly rescued from the perils of its "but eight-score young blondes and brunettes, all between 16 and 19½". Arthur and Bedevere are told by a Soothsayer the only path to the Grail is via the Bridge of Death – a course that throws them into the clutches of the Knights Who Say "Ni!", who demand a shrubbery as tribute. Lancelot, mistaking a situation, massacres a wedding party to save the wimpish Prince Herbert . . . And so the Pythonesque adventures continue until, with a sudden Timeslip, Arthur and the surviving knights are arrested by 20th-century police for causing an affray.

MPATHG is a movie of its age, and some of its Humour seems puerile today; yet much still shines. It is that rare thing: a Parody that outclasses its targets. Where the movie excels is in its superbly squalid portrayal of the Dark Ages, with the pretentious artificiality of the Round Table symbolized by the Knights, through lack of horses, employing pages to clatter coconut shells together. Many Arthurian Legends are guyed, and not always affectionately. Whether such destructive Satire is praiseworthy is a qualm lost in laughter. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.