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Blu-ray Review: Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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It was nearly impossible to grow up in the 1970s without being at least somewhat aware of Monty Python and the British comedy troupe’s classic bits. None of the group’s works—not their long-running BBC TV series, their record albums, etc.—resonated with the American public like their feature film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which represented their big breakthrough in the states.

Now this comedy classic is finally out on Blu-ray, and, typical for Python products, the film makes the transition to hi-def in grand fashion. New, exclusive-to-this-release special features include “The Holy Book of Days,” a second-screen experience that can be downloaded as an app on an iOS device and played with the Blu-ray to enhance its viewing; lost animation sequences with a new intro from animator (now a film director of note) Terry Gilliam; outtakes; and extended scenes with Python member Terry Jones (who co-directed Holy Grail with Gilliam).

The rest of the special features here were included in a collector’s edition DVD set, and they’re excellent. Especially fun is a present-day tour of the locations the Pythons used in the filming (including a Scottish castle that was used in multiple scenes and is now a Holy Grail-themed tourist trap); commentaries by the group; Japanese and LEGO versions of scenes from the film; and sing-along songs from Neil Innes’ brilliant soundtrack.

The 2003 set was superb; this version is better, the pinnacle edition of this seminal film, which is still incredibly funny, silly, pointless and an absolute blast. Holy Grail wasn’t about fine filmmaking; rather, it was about deconstructing and spoofing pretentious old movie tropes—including swashbuckling adventures, sword and sorcery fantasies, even movie musicals—with the now-classic Python sense of the absurd. Never a great film in a visual sense—it was purposefully dark and dank to convey the dark ages, (also probably due to its low budget)—the new version is sharper and brighter, and the 5.1 sound mix gives a real sense of dimension to the expansive scenes involving guards at the top of castles, mystical men on bridges, limbless knights and other epic scenes. If you’ve held off on buying the Holy Grail, this is the version to get, a true holy grail of well-preserved, beautifully irreverent comedy.

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