Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Rating: A-

Dir: Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones
Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin

“Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony… Well, you can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just ’cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!” That’s socio-political critique of King Arthur offered by one of his subjects, is an example of the surreal brilliance present here, which hasn’t dated a moment since it came out. [Almost 35 years later, Gatorade would do a commercial called The Guest for G, that included Derek Jeter, Usain Bolt and Misty May as knights, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as Tim the Enchantere, and Michael Jordan as the voice of the Grail.]

It is probably the most-quotable movie of all time, tying together such disparate elements as musical knights, ferocious rabbits and taunting Frenchmen into a surprisingly-coherent whole (on its own terms, if not necessarily to the universe as a whole], in which Arthur (Chapman) and his followers search for the sacred relic. I remember seeing this at the cinema, the week after 9/11, which was an unfortunate bit of timing for the re-release, but that didn’t diminish its brilliance at all. Even though it was their first attempt at a “proper” movie, most of it works marvellously, from the opening credits that get hijacked into Swedish, through to the abrupt ending.

About the only sequence which overstays its welcome is perhaps the Swamp Castle one, where Sir Lancelot charges to the rescue of an effeminate prince with a fondness for breaking into song. It falls more into the category of “mildly amusing,” and as such, a long way short of the rest of the film; it’s also one of the longer scenes, or maybe it just feels that way? Overall, however, this is one of the finest comedy films of all time, and while the Pythons arguably would reach greater heights for brief moments on their television series and other movies, this is the crowning jewel in their cinematic cabinet.