Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Extraordinarily Deluxe Edition (1975)

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Released 24-Oct-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio & Animation
Main Menu Introduction
Karaoke-Singalong
Featurette-Quest For Holy Grail Locations
Featurette-Coconuts, Lego Knights
Featurette-ATaste of Spamalot, Location Recce
Featurette-Secrets Of The Holy Grail
Gallery-The Album Of The Soundtrack Of The Trailer Of The Film...
Audio Commentary-Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam
Audio Commentary-John Cleese, Michael Palin and Eric Idle
Active Subtitle Track-The White Rabbit
Audio-Only Track-The Hard Of Hearing
Featurette-Japanese Version
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-BBC Film Night
Gallery-Old Rubbish
Gallery-Photo
Gallery-Poster
Trailer-4
Quiz-The Holy Grail Challenge
CD-The Album Of The Soundtrack Of The Trailer Of The Film
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1975
Running Time 88:20
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (58:04)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Terry Gilliam
Terry Jones
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Graham Chapman
John Cleese
Eric Idle
Terry Gilliam
Terry Jones
Michael Palin
Connie Booth
Carol Cleveland
Neil Innes
Bee Duffell
Case ?
RPI $49.95 Music Neil Innes


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Dutch
Hindi
English Audio Commentary
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
English Alternate Subtitles
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    In AD 932, while searching for knights to join his court at Camelot, Arthur, King of the Britons (Graham Chapman) is charged by God (W.G. Grace) with a sacred quest, to seek out the Holy Grail in order to shine a light in these dark times. And so the King with his trusty servant Patsy (Terry Gilliam) and his motley band of knights set off in search of the grail. There's Sir Lancelot the Brave (John Cleese), Sir Galahad the Pure (Michael Palin), Sir Bedevere (Terry Jones), Sir Robin the Not Quite So Brave As Sir Lancelot (Eric Idle) and the aptly-named Sir Not Appearing In This Film.

    During their quest they come across a variety of characters including Zoot (Carol Cleveland) and the eight score young virgins of Castle Anthrax, the Black Knight, the Knights who say Ni, Roger the Shrubber, the old man from Scene 24 and Tim the Enchanter. The quest leads them into all sorts of grave peril, from the taunts of a French knight, to a killer rabbit, to the Bridge of Death. The peril faced by Sir Galahad at Castle Anthrax is particularly, um, perilous.

    The Pythons' first real movie (And Now For Something Completely Different was a compendium of sketches reshot for the big screen) was one of many features spun off from TV comedies in the 1970s, when this was all the British film industry seemed capable of apart from smut, horror or both. It marked the return of Cleese, absent from the final season of the TV series. As a recreation of mediĉval England it is something of a triumph, as realistic and idiomatic as Excalibur though shot on a significantly lower budget. Virtually the entire film was filmed on location in Scotland around real castles, caves and gorges. This adds an air of realism lacking from many other movies set in this time period. So does the dirt and filth. There are no peasants with clean clothes and everything looks thoroughly lived in. Although, as Jones points out in his commentary, the film is set in the 10th Century but the costumes are from the 14th, and people probably weren't really this dirty.

    Not that the script is particularly realistic otherwise. Arthurian legend is distorted and twisted with plenty of silliness and the movie is one big laugh from start to finish. The Pythons were back in top form with this one. The movie was co-directed by Jones and Gilliam, and it is tempting to see some of Gilliam's visual style starting to appear here, although the extras suggest that Jones was equally responsible for the look of the film. The ending struck me as anti-climactic when I first saw the movie in about 1976 or 1977, but having seen it many times since it makes more sense and no longer seems out of place. The performances are also excellent across the board, as is the production design, especially Hazel Pethig's costumes.

    The movie has been a continuing success, adapted in recent years into the Broadway show Spamalot. If like me you have memorised large swathes of dialogue from the movie you will greet this like an old friend. The new release seems to be intended to cash in on the success of Spamalot and may not appeal if you have one of the better previous editions of the movie, but if you don't have a copy then this one is well worth the money.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The movie is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The film is matted to this aspect ratio, having been shown full frame on television. So in this version you don't get to see the microphone in the scene outside the rabbit's lair, but you can still see the small boat with outboard motor in the foreground of Castle Aaargh.

    I vaguely recall being disappointed at how dark and dim the movie looked in the cinema, and also on VHS, but on this DVD it looks a lot better. Because of dim natural lighting and the occasional use of soft filters it is never going to look perfect. This DVD makes a pretty good effort all round.

    The image is quite sharp most of the time, although a little soft in patches. There is some film grain visible as well.

    A nice amount of detail is visible, though fine details suffer from the limitations of DVD compression. Colour is a considerable improvement over the Region 2 release, which I believe was the source for the previous Region 4 release, being brighter and more lifelike. Black levels are good. Shadow detail is average.

    There are virtually no film artefacts aside from some occasional dirt. Film to video artefacts can be seen in some edge enhancement and minor compression artefacts, mainly affecting background or incidental detail.

    The disc on which the film appears is dual-layered and RSDL-formatted. The layer break is well placed at 58:04 in the blackout after the Swamp Castle scene.

    There are a whole bunch of subtitle options. The standard English subtitles are good, in clear white font and are easy to read. The dialogue is reproduced almost verbatim though some words are omitted for the sake of brevity.

    There is an option to watch the film with the script displayed as subtitles. The script includes the scene-setting information and has the dialogue verbatim, with indication as to whom is speaking.

    A third subtitle option is for people who don't like the film, and shows dialogue from Shakespeare's Henry IV Part II. I thought this would just be random selections but it looks like someone has picked lines that match the visuals in some way or another, so it makes some sense without actually following the same story.

    The subtitles unfortunately cannot be changed during the film by pressing the button on the remote. You have to go through the menu options to change them. This is a problem as some of the dialogue is not very clear.

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

Audio

    The soundtrack options for the film are DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1. The DTS track is new to this release. The original soundtrack configuration (mono) is not provided.

    There is not much difference between these two tracks. The only discernable difference is that the DTS track is slightly louder than the Dolby Digital track. The dialogue is very centred in the sound mix, with the mains becoming noticeable during music. The rears don't appear to be used much, and subwoofer activity is at a minimum.

    The original soundtrack was not very clear in spots. Even on the LP recording with headphones I struggled to work out what some of the words were. The dialogue on the DVD replicates this very well. Dialogue can be clearly heard so any lack of clarity is due to the source material. There is no discernable hiss or distortion, nor any audio sync issues.

    The music comes from two sources. There are several amusing songs by Neil Innes, who worked extensively behind the scenes on the TV series. He plays Sir Robin's annoying minstrel in the movie. The rest of the music comes from a music library, all very well chosen to suit the film. The music comes up splendidly on the DVD.

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

Extras

Disc One:

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    Animation with audio from the film. The menus generally are very well put together but some may find them a little slow to navigate through.

Main Menu Introduction

    Some Gilliam-style animation.

Commentary-Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam (directors/cast)

    This commentary is the more interesting of the two and is dominated by Gilliam's recollections of the production, including some things that they had to do due to lack of funds. Jones pops up from time to time with tidbits of information. The pair have been recorded separately (the acoustic is slightly different) and the commentary pieced together.

Commentary-John Cleese, Michael Palin and Eric Idle (cast)

    Slightly less interesting than the directors commentary, this is mainly Cleese and Palin with occasional interjections from Idle. Each were recorded separately though it has been mixed so that there is some overlapping of the voices. There is a lot of reminiscing about the shoot, the difficulties posed by the costumes and the effects of the miniscule budget on transportation and accommodation. The performers also spend a fair bit of time responding to what is happening on screen, which people seeking illumination about the filmmaking process might find tiresome.

The White Rabbit

    Selecting this option shows a white rabbit from time to time. Choosing the select button when this is displayed shows photos or sketches by Gilliam of the scene in question. If the rabbit has a pound sign then expense dockets are displayed, indicating how much the scene or part thereof cost.

Audio-Only Track - The Hard Of Hearing

    You would think that this menu option would switch on HOH subtitles, but in fact it merely enlists the aid of a certain Mr Gumby in reading the menu.

Disc Two:

Karaoke-Singalong (4:07)

    Three subtitled musical numbers from the film, being Sir Robin's minstrels, the Camelot song and the head-beating monks. The latter is preceded by instructions on how to hit yourself in the head with the DVD box.

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

    This is an interesting piece made in 2000 where Jones and Palin revisit some of the locations, such as Doune Castle, the Gorge of Eternal Peril, the Cave of Caerbannog and Castle Aaargh. The interior of the latter, really named Castle Stalker, is a bit of a surprise, looking like the set for a cooking programme.

Featurette - Coconuts (2:58)

    Made in 2001, this is a short skit with Eric Idle as a bureaucrat giving instruction on how to use coconuts to make the sound of a horse's hoofs.

Featurette - Japanese Version (8:35)

    The French Taunter and the Knights of Ni scenes from the Japanese dubbed version of the movie, with subtitles translating the Japanese audio. The amusement comes from the strange way the dialogue has altered in translation.

Featurette - BBC Film Night (17:29)

    A making-of documentary of sorts, which was filmed on 16mm and in mono during the location shooting and screened on the BBC at the end of 1974 as part of one of their regular programmes. There are attempts to interview the cast to which they respond in their usual zany manner. An interesting curio.

Gallery - Old Rubbish

    Some clippings from newspapers reviewing the film plus material relating to the premiere, excerpts of which are read aloud by Terry Jones.

Gallery - Artefacts

    Five posters for the film from various countries.

Gallery - Photos

    A heap of photographs from behind the scenes during the shooting of the film.

Theatrical Trailers (7:55)

    Three trailers are provided, which is one more than the previous DVD. Added to the UK and US re-release trailers is a trailer for Monty Python's Personal Best. The US trailer is identical to the UK trailer, but with 18 seconds of additional material tacked on at the end. I have never been able to look at The Seventh Seal in the same way since watching these trailers - this sequence never fails to crack me up.

Gallery - Cast

    A list of all major cast members, and if you select each it shows which other characters they played with a photo for each.

Easter Egg - DVD Credits

    Yes, the Easter Egg on disc two (the Grail on the Sacred Relics page) merely reveals production credits for the DVD and for Spamalot - 12 pages of credits.

Featurette - Lego-Knights (1:38)

    This is a Lego version of the Camelot song, using the original soundtrack with Lego figures replacing the film footage. Some people have far too much free time.

Featurette - Location Recce (2:15)

    A spoof of making of featurettes using bits of found footage, mainly from old travelogues.

Gallery - Unused Ideas

    Mainly sketches by Gilliam of sequences and animations that did not get used in the final product.

Featurette-The Holy Grail Challenge

    A series of multiple choice questions about the movie ranging from easy to difficult. If you get enough answers correct selected scenes from the film are played. There is also a quiz for people who don't like the movie - it pays to know your Shakespeare.

A Taste of Spamalot (6:14)

    Short excerpts from the album of the soundtrack of the Broadway version of the film, featuring Gilliam-like animations and images of the cast. From the 11 short excepts the songs seem to lack the wit of those in the film and do not inspire me with much confidence about the enduring quality of Spamalot.

Trailer-Secrets Of The Holy Grail (1:23)

    This is just a trailer for the DVD.

Gallery-The Album Of The Soundtrack Of The Trailer Of The Film...

    The disc tells you how to play the CD. Well, that would be fine but... (see next extra).

CD-The Album Of The Soundtrack Of The Trailer Of The Film

    The set contains the soundtrack album, at least the ones available in stores do. The distributors did not provide us with a review copy. From what I can gather the CD included in the set is the original soundtrack CD, not the recent reissue which apparently has some new material included on it.

R4 vs R1

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

    There have been several incarnations of the film in Region 4. The first contained a pan and scan version and is thankfully lost in the mists of time. The second was a port of the Region 2 Special Edition, containing most of the extras that are included on the first two discs of the Deluxe Edition.

    I have the Region 2 Special Edition. The video quality on the Deluxe Edition is noticeably superior. The colour on the old edition is weaker and less vivid, and while sharp it is not quite as sharp as on the new Deluxe. The Special Edition is perfectly adequate though, and unless you really must have the best picture quality available and DTS sound, the new extras are not enough to justify upgrading. This is especially true when the old soundtrack CD can be had for $10.

    The Deluxe Edition appears to be the same worldwide.

Summary

    This is perhaps the best British comedy film of the 1970s, coming at a time when the British film industry was in the doldrums, especially where comedy was concerned. More importantly it is a superb extension of the most influential British comedy series to appear after The Goons.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is very good.

    A very good extras package, duplicating much of the previous release and not adding anything of great substance, apart from the soundtrack CD.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS9100ES, using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-HS60 LCD Projector projected to 80" screen. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES for surrounds, Elektra Reference power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: B&W Nautilus 800; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Tannoy Revolution R3; Subwoofer: Richter Thor Mk IV

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Spamalot -
Aspect Ratio -
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