Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Collector's Edition (1974)

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Released 26-Aug-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Screenplay
Audio Commentary-Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones
Audio Commentary-John Cleese, Eric Idle & Michael Palin
Alternate Subtitles
Active Subtitle Track-The Killer Rabbit
Audio-Only Track-The Hard of Hearing
Karaoke-3
Featurette-Quest for the Holy Grail Locations
Featurette-Coconuts; Japanese Version; BBC Film Night
Gallery-Old Rubbish; Poster; Photo; Cast
Theatrical Trailer-2
Easter Egg-DVD Credits
Featurette-Lego-Knights
Featurette-Location Recce
Gallery-Unused Ideas
Web Links
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1974
Running Time 88:23
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (58:05)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Terry Gilliam
Terry Jones
Studio
Distributor
Python (Monty) Pics
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Graham Chapman
Terry Gilliam
John Cleese
Terry Jones
Eric Idle
Michael Palin
Connie Booth
Carol Cleveland
Case ?
RPI $44.95 Music Neil Innes


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Dutch
Bulgarian
Croatian
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Russian
Slovenian
Swedish
Turkish
English Screenplay
Dutch Screenplay
English Alternate Subtitles
Dutch Alternate Subtitles
Hungarian Alternate Subtitles
Dutch Audio Commentary
Hungarian Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Hungarian Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    King Arthur and his knights embark on a low-budget search for the Grail, encountering many very silly obstacles.

    That is the tagline from the Internet Movie Database, and at the end of the day (and this reviewing session) I could not come up with a better way of describing the film. What do you get when you give about £230,000 to a couple of debutante directors and the rest of the members of the greatest comic collective the world has ever seen? Monty Python And The Holy Grail!

    Monty Python And The Holy Grail is one of the greatest comedies ever committed to film and something very special indeed. I have been a fan of Monty Python for as long as I can remember there being Monty Python and have seen this film more times than I have had hot sex. Guess what? It's better than hot sex! Okay, maybe that is not quite true but after twenty five odd years of watching this film, I can remember more about it than any hot sex session and still have a bloody good laugh the next time I watch the film. To my mind that is the defining trait of a truly great film and in particular a truly great comedy - to still generate laughs even after repeated viewings.

    What is the film about? King Arthur (Graham Chapman) is seeking knights to join him in the court of Camelot, and after some run-ins with the French, eventually gathers together Sir Bedevere (Terry Jones), Sir Lancelot (John Cleese), Sir Galahad the Chaste (Michael Palin) and Sir Robin the Not So Brave (Eric Idle). After not returning to Camelot for reasons well detailed in the film, the knights are confronted by God who gives them an awesome task - to find the Holy Grail. Now the fun really begins! They have to confront the dangers of The White Rabbit and The Bridge Of Death in order to seek what they hope to find. Many months pass before the possibility of success finally arrives. But then again, perhaps not. In case you are wondering, Terry Gilliam plays the part of Patsy - Arthur's "horse" - but like everyone else also plays a bunch of other parts, so typically Monty Python. Not so typically Monty Python is the fact that apart from Dennis's mother, all female parts are actually played by females!

    With classic comedy scenes aplenty - you must have seen the Black Knight scene surely? - that still are as funny today as they were twenty five odd years ago, this is truly a gem of a film. What this bunch of comic geniuses managed to achieve on a shoestring budget remains one of the pre-eminent comedy classics, ranking up there with the likes of Buster Keaton's The General. Okay, it looks cheap and nasty at times, but you really would be hard-pressed to make any complaint - there are plenty of way over-budget Hollywood pieces of tripe that could not even approach the delights of this film with one hundred times the budget. And this was but one of their classic films! When you add into the mix a collection of some of the funniest gag subtitles during the opening credits, the inspired surprise opening and everything else, this is a true classic DVD release.

    Monty Python fans have been awaiting this sort of local release for far too long and to finally have it is to emphasise why. Whilst the film urges you to run away frequently, the only direction you should be running is towards your nearest DVD retailer to order this DVD. Brilliant stuff all through, and an essential purchase for any DVD collection.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    It was made for a rather paltry sum of money by a group not exactly known for their indulgence in high quality sets (at least for their television work). Perhaps that run away proposition might apply to the transfer? Not a chance! Given the lack of budget, some of the problems here are to be forgiven as they were expected, but overall this is a very good transfer.

    The film is presented in its original aspect ratio, being 1.85:1. It is of course 16x9 enhanced.

    As indicated, there are the odd slips here and there that are the indicators of the low budget nature of the film (slight focus problems, lack of depth of field and so on). However, in general the transfer is quite sharp and quite well detailed. There was rarely any part where I could honestly say I was disappointed with the transfer, although in an ideal world with a bigger budget there is no doubt that it could have been a lot better. Rarely did I need to make any notes during the multiple review sessions for the DVD, which is generally a fine indicator of a very decent transfer. Surprisingly for the budget, there is nothing much in the way of grain issues in the transfer, so as a result there is nothing really wrong with the clarity on offer (although the overly lavish use of smoke during the film could almost have sunk things at times). Probably the only place where the low budget is really noticed is in the lack of really great shadow detail, but what we have is quite adequate enough.

    The colours have come up surprisingly well at times too, although only rarely do they excel and really shine. I have no issue with what we have, it would just have been nice to see a larger display of the really, really good bits. Whilst the film does not need a high degree of vibrancy, at times that is what is present here. Blacks could perhaps have been way more solid than they are, but I would doubt that we have ever seen the film looking this good. There are no issues with saturation at all, and nothing really noticeable awry in the bleed department either.

    One area I was expecting to see loads of problems was with the film-to-video artefacts, but apart from some rather minor aliasing that I barely noticed, this is almost devoid of such problems. Further, there were no issues with MPEG artefacts in the transfer. The only really noticeable problems are not surprisingly with the film artefacts, and despite the remastering efforts there are a few rather obvious efforts. An obvious example is during the cave scene at around the 72:00 minute mark, where the white flecks are very obvious against the dark background. Overall though, this was way better than I was expecting.

    This is an RSDL formatted single sided, dual layered DVD. The layer change is somewhat obvious at 58:05, but is not disruptive to the flow of the film.

    There are a truckload of subtitle options on the DVD, many of which are better dealt with in the Extras section. I checked out the English for the Hearing Impaired efforts, which are pretty good and reasonably accurate.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are five soundtracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and two English Audio Commentaries in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded sound. I listened to the English soundtrack in its entirety, just about the whole thing of the first audio commentary, the whole of the second audio commentary and part of the Hungarian soundtrack! Why did I listen to the Hungarian soundtrack? Seemed like a Pythonesque thing to do at the time.

    The remastered sound has served the film well and there are no problems understanding what is going on - inasmuch as you can ever understand what is going on in a Monty Python film. There did not appear to be any audio sync issues with the English soundtrack.

    The original songs for the film come from Neil Innes , who was also supposed to do the entire score. However, in the end the score itself was compiled from stock sources raided by Terry Jones at DeWolfe's. In the end the mix is quite effective and adds quite well to the film itself.

    Whilst the presence of a full bitrate Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is welcome, the film hardly requires the full use of such a soundtrack. Being predominantly dialogue driven, and when it is not it is very much visual driven, there is not a fat lot of scope for the full-blown effect of a 5.1 soundtrack. Considering that the original soundtrack was mono, I suppose that we should be grateful for any decent attempt at creating a surround soundtrack. The effort is really only noticed with some of the music and ambient sounds coming out of the surround channels but that is probably as much as the film needs. Certainly there is not a fat lot happening in the LFE channel.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    We might have been waiting a fair old while for this classic piece of comedy to make it onto Region 4 DVD, but the unnecessarily long wait has been in general very much ameliorated by the quality of the transfer as well as the extras package. Considering the limited budget of the film, there is a fair deal more here than perhaps we would have expected - and much of it is very much worthwhile. There is only a small amount here that is genuinely filler.

Menus

    Someone sat down and thought these out - very, very Pythonesque in general style and presentation, evoking the uniqueness of Terry Gilliam's animations. which is hardly surprising since he probably did them. All seem to be 16x9 enhanced and come with audio and animation enhancement. Some of this is quite subtle and some of it is only really noticeable if you linger in the menus a tad - so I would encourage you to do so. Some of the surround encoding in the menus is as good as you will ever hear - even in feature films, and certainly better than this feature!

Disc One

Audio Commentary - Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones (Co-Directors)

    This has been licensed from The Criterion Collection so is the one that graced the laserdisc release some years back. Not the best I have ever heard but when Terry Gilliam gets going, just go along for the ride! A lot of heavy reminiscing, not necessarily screen-specific, but nonetheless quite entertaining. Terry Jones could perhaps have made a bigger contribution but that is a minor quibble.

Audio Commentary - John Cleese, Eric Idle and Michael Palin (Comic Geniuses)

    Apparently recorded separately and cobbled together, the result is actually very good. Whilst there is no obvious banter between the people involved, the overall mix has been well done so you get laughter from two of the participants behind the contribution from the third contributor at times. Funnily enough, all three have the same favourite scene from the film! Personally, I think this is better than the previous effort and divulges a lot more behind the scenes stuff.

Dolby Digital Trailer - City

    Filler, definitely filler and completely incongruous to the entire package - and the package loses two stars as a result. Insert your own rant regarding this blight on Columbia TriStar DVDs, the blight that has the sole purpose of ensuring that I do not buy Columbia TriStar DVDs nowadays for I simply cannot stand this piece of garbage. Worse, this has now migrated up front so you have to suffer it before you even get to the menu. A pox upon Columbia TriStar for their continued indulgence of this 32 second piece of hell - crap that ought to be banned by the DVD specifications. I suppose other, more enlightened, distributors are probably happy that Columbia TriStar still use it though - it means they get more purchases of their product in my annual DVD purchasing budget.

Screenplay

    One of the subtitle options available on the DVD is a screenplay option, where you can watch the film with the broad screenplay displayed. Something I have never seen before and actually quite interesting.

Alternate Subtitles

    If you don't like the film, you can always turn the alternate subtitles on - thereby enjoying subtitles from Henry IV Part 2! Now this might sound bloody stupid - well, what do you expect from Monty Python I hear you all say - but in fact it is very funny as the sections from that play have been very well chosen and are a really incongruous, but extremely effective re-adaptation of the film dialogue. This is worthwhile indulging all the way through on a lazy Sunday afternoon, just for the sheer heck of it.

Active Subtitle Track - The Killer Rabbit

    Evoking a previous effort, but with a typical Monty Python twist. Whenever the white rabbit appears, hit enter and you will get to see something from the mind of Terry Gilliam predominantly. However, if that white rabbit has a good old £ sign in it, you get to indulge some of the accounting information of the film (it's called the accountants version). Bloody funny at times - and bloody after the goings-on at the cave!

Audio-Only Track - The Hard Of Hearing

    Essential stuff for those who suffer somewhat with their hearing - just select this option and you will have no problem with the menu selections! They will be read for you - Monty Python style.

Alternate Opening

    Not so much an extra but another piece of inspired Monty Python silliness. The connection is quite funny once you know the reason for the choice of the alternate opening. (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) The opening moments of Dentist on the Job (1961) is seen before a voice (Terry Jones?) mumbles that this is the wrong film and scrambles to start the correct one. The alternate title of the film Dentist on the Job is Get On With It! - which is sort of the tagline for the film.

Disc Two

Karaoke (3)

    Really just rehashing the three musical numbers from the film with subtitles switched on. The musical numbers are Knights Of The Round Table (1:27), Sir Robin (1:26) and the Monks Chant (1:14). They feature the same presentation as the main feature, namely 1.78:1 aspect ratio, 16x9 enhancement and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. The Monks Chant is preceded by a Pythonesque introduction on how to belt yourself over the nut with the DVD box. Quite funny and rather apt for those who know the film well. Whilst basically filler, that introduction lifts the section to terrific status. The quality is very good.

Featurette - Quest For The Holy Grail Locations (47:00)

    Wonderful stuff! Terry Jones and Michael Palin take us on a twenty fifth anniversary search of the locations used in the film. Starting and lingering most at Doune Castle, this really is a terrific wander back in time. Doune Castle was the French castle in the film and apparently is a favourite haunt for Python fans - the gift shop sells Python books and even has a pair of coconuts for loan so that fans can famously re-enact the arrival of the knights. The two gentlemen really reminisce about the film and we get loads of stuff about the making of the film. The tour of a castle is a highlight as Terry Jones points out all the bits used in the film, showing how they used a comparatively small area for so many scenes in the film. We continue the ramble through the Scottish Highlands in search of Killin Cave and Loch Tay, Glencoe and Castle Stalker. The whole thing really is a wonderful retrospective of the film, with aid being rendered by Production Manager Julian Doyle. Although it suffers somewhat from aliasing, the overall quality is pretty good. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it is 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Basically, this is really terrific, so much so that I enjoyed it a second time really quick.

Featurette - Coconuts (2:57)

    This and the next eight items all appear on the DVD under the heading of Sacred Relics. This is done in the style of an original skit from the original television series, although the copyright is dated 2001. Obviously it deals with the preparation and development of coconut shells, which pay such an important part in the film. Presented in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced (and black and white to boot), that comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Nostalgia plus!

Featurette - Japanese Version (8:34)

    This takes two scenes from the film - The French Castle and The Knights Of Ni - and translates them into Japanese. We therefore have a 1.85:1 presentation (naturally 16x9 enhanced) with a rather nice sounding Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. However, the fun really is with the English subtitles for the segments - the translated Japanese soundtrack now is literally translated back into English, with bloody funny results. The entire context of the film is pretty much changed, including the nature of the Holy Grail, and this really is terrific stuff. No complaints from a technical point of view.

Featurette - BBC Film Night (17:11)

    Aside from the search for the locations, this is the highlight of the extras package. Filmed in 1974 and aired on television on 19th December, 1974 this is behind the scenes footage and interview material shot on location. Some of the interview footage is priceless - Terry Gilliam is just about out of his tree and the late but never forgotten alcoholic Graham Chapman is pure Python. Funny as heck as well as nostalgic to the hilt, this is brilliant stuff even though the television source of the material is amply demonstrated in the technical quality (that is, it is quite grainy at times). Naturally, this is presented in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound that borders on mono at times.

Gallery - Old Rubbish

    This is six pages of stuff, mainly invitation material but rounded off with a piss-take on a 1974 review of the film by the BFI. Featuring Terry Jones doing the reading. Funny stuff and 16x9 enhanced too.

Gallery - Artefacts

    A selection of five international promotional posters for the film, with 16x9 enhancement of the presentation.

Gallery - Photos

    A selection of 81 (I think) photographs, all of which look like they are behind the scenes stuff. 16x9 enhanced, but annotation would have been appreciated more I feel.

Theatrical Trailers (2)

    The original UK trailer (3:02) and the US re-release trailer with additional footage tacked on (3:19), done as only Python could do. Whilst it is all a bit grainy and there are film artefacts of obvious size floating around, overall the presentation is not too shabby. In a Full Frame format, apart from the additional footage on the re-release trailer which is in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, they are not 16x9 enhanced and come with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Very funny.

Gallery - Cast

    Featuring nearly the entire main cast, this allows access to details of the secondary characters that they play in the film. 16x9 enhanced.

Easter Egg - DVD Credits

    Providing details of the inspired geniuses who put the package together.

Featurette - Lego-Knights (1:37)

    This and the next two items appear under the heading Unshot Footage on the DVD. This one is an absolutely superb animated piss-take on the Camelot Knights Of The Round Table musical number featuring (as you will have guessed) Lego knights and scenery. Whilst it is a tad grainy and is not 16x9 enhanced, the 1.85:1 presentation features good Dolby Digital 2.0 sound and is generally very acceptable. Bloody funny!

Featurette - Location Recce (2:14)

    This effort is a piss-take on The Blair Witch Project, done as only Monty Python can do. Funny stuff even if the technical quality is not 100%. Presented in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Gallery - Unused Ideas

    Twelve pages of ideas/assorted crap that never made it into the final film.

Web Link

    Lurking under the banner of Excommunication in the menu, not so much a web link as an address - www.pythonline.com. Check it out.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There has already been a Region 4 release of the film, from Rainbow, that has thus far not been reviewed on this site. That version is presented in an incorrect aspect ratio of 1.49:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced, comes with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, has no subtitle options and has basically bugger-all extras. Compared to this release, it is a pointless waste of time and should be avoided by all Monty Python fans.

    There have been two Region 1 DVD versions. One was a plain Jane release with bugger-all extras (well apart from some trailers for other films). It also featured a non-16x9 enhanced 1.66:1 aspect ratio transfer that was really not that pleasant to look at. To round out the disappointments, it had a serviceable Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack (presumably the original soundtrack) that did nothing to excite either. It was one of the most anticipated Region 1 releases I ever bought and ended up being one of the worst Region 1 purchases I ever made.

    That release has been supplanted by a two disc Special Edition that is the direct comparison to this Region 4 release. As far as I can ascertain, there is bugger-all difference between the two versions other than the obligatory differences in soundtrack and subtitle options. The main difference is the presence of the original mono soundtrack on the Region 1 release - it is not found on any other release that I am aware of. Likewise, just about every country in Region 2 (Europe) has their own version of the Special Edition and as far as I can see, they are all basically identical to each other, barring soundtrack and subtitle options. However, since my grasp of Spanish, French, Dutch, German, et cetera, et cetera, is pretty poor, I could well be wrong.

    Accordingly, there is no compelling reason to rate either Region 1 or Region 2 (Europe) ahead of the Region 4 release. Some, however, will certainly rate the Region 1 release as the better owing to the presence of the original soundtrack, even if I do not.

    Notwithstanding the previous, it should be noted that on some players, the subtitles on the Region 1 release apparently default to on. Also, there is a far more annoying problem on a range of players in that the subtitles switch on and off throughout playback of the movie. The problem is possibly related to the white rabbit feature and is being looked into by the distributor - along with a problem with the Swedish subtitles not displaying during the opening credits. None of these problems were encountered on the Region 4 release reviewed - but obviously the sample of players is fairly limited thus far!

Summary

    Short and sweet: BUY THIS DVD NOW! One of the best comedy films ever made and just plain inspired silliness, the likes of which we are unlikely to see ever again. One of the most eagerly awaited Region 4 DVDs for me (well, okay the Special Edition of The Right Stuff is more eagerly awaited) and heading right to the top of the best releases of the year. The whole package has been put together with incredible care and every opportunity has been taken to ramp up the Pythonesque nature of the presentation. More of the same please for future Python releases! I have not enjoyed a review session like this since I started reviewing on this site all those years ago.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Tuesday, June 03, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Anthony H (read my bio)

Comments (Add)
R1 vs R4 - REPLY POSTED
Ni - James O
editing room? -
Original soundtrack missing - sbr (read my bio) REPLY POSTED
As if the DD trailer is that bad... - REPLY POSTED
Re: As if the DD trailer is that bad... - Stimpy (da, what's a bio Ren?)
Get it from amazon.co.uk for next to nothing -
Voting with your feet (re the missing soundtrack) - sbr (read my bio)
Three months is far too long to wait... - garumph (read my bio)
New Meaning Of Life? -
Missing subtitle -
"You might enjoy these classic comedies" -
Killer Rabbit a no-show -
Killer Rabbit - Paul Lee (Bio this way)