Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) - Illustrated Reference

The Monty Python Team
The Monty Python Team

Monty Python and the Holy Grail was directed by Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones and premiered on March 14, 1975. Starring Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, Neil Innes, Carol Cleveland and Connie Booth. Screenplay by the Monty Python team. Music by Neil Innes. 91mins.

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table are on a quest to find the Holy Grail.

The Monty Python team had been friends in the early 60’s writing sketches for various TV comedy shows and also appearing in a few of them too. In the late 60’s they decided to create their own comedy sketch show for the BBC, it would be surreal, zany and a little naughty too. They tried to come up with a name for the series, some of the suggested titles include – Owl Stretching Time, The Toad Elevating Moment, A Horse, a Spoon and a Bucket – before coming up with Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The BBC series run for 45 episodes from 1969 to 1974. Terry Gilliam would provide animated links between sketches.

King Arthur: I am your king!
Woman: Well, I didn't vote for you.
King Arthur: You don't vote for kings.
Woman: Well, how did you become king then?
King Arthur: The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water signifying by Divine Providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. That is why I am your king!
Dennis: Listen, 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.
King Arthur: Be quiet!
Dennis: You can't expect to wield supreme executive power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!
King Arthur: Shut up!
Dennis: I mean, if I went around sayin' I was an emperor just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me they'd put me away!
King Arthur: Shut up! Will you shut up!
Dennis: Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system. Come and see the violence inherent in the system! HELP! HELP! I'm being repressed!
King Arthur: Bloody peasant!
Dennis: Oh, what a give away. Did you hear that, did you hear that, eh? That's what I'm on about -- did you see him repressing me, you saw it didn't you?

Graham Chapman
Graham Chapman
John Cleese
John Cleese
Michael Palin
Michael Palin
Eric Idle
Eric Idle
Terry Jones with Connie Booth
Terry Jones with Connie Booth
Terry Gilliam
Terry Gilliam

Graham Chapman (1941-1989) / King Arthur / Voice of God / Middle Head

Born in Leicester, England, Graham Chapman’s films include – Doctor in Trouble (1970), And Now for Something Completely Different (1971), Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979), The Meaning of Life (1983) and Yellowbeard (1983).

Tim: To the north there lies a cave -- the cave of Kyre Banorg, wherein, carved in mystic runes upon the very living rock, the last words of Ulfin Bedweer of Regett [boom] proclaim the last resting place of the most Holy Grail.
King Arthur: Where could we find this cave, O Tim?
Tim: Follow! But! follow only if ye be men of valor, for the entrance to this cave is guarded by a creature so foul, so cruel that no man yet has fought with it and lived! Bones of four fifty men lie strewn about its lair. So, brave knights, if you do doubt your courage or your strength, come no further, for death awaits you all with nasty big pointy teeth.
King Arthur: What an eccentric performance.

John Cleese (1939-) / Sir Lancelot the Brave / The Black Knight / Tim the Enchanter / Taunting French Guard / Third Villager

Born in Somerset, England, John Cleese’s films include – And Now for Something Completely Different (1971), Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979), Time Bandits (1981), The Meaning of Life (1983), Yellowbeard (1983). Silverado (1985), Clockwise (1986), A Fish Called Wanda (1988), Eric the Viking (1989), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994), The Jungle Book (1994), Fierce Creatures (1997), The World is Not Enough (1999), Rat Race (2001), Die Another Day (2002), The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008) and The Pink Panther 2 (2009).

TIM: There he is!
ARTHUR: Where?
TIM: There!
ARTHUR: What, behind the rabbit?
TIM: It is the rabbit!
ARTHUR: You silly sod! You got us all worked up!
TIM: Well, that's no ordinary rabbit. That's the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on.
ROBIN: You tit! I soiled my armor I was so scared!
TIM: Look, that rabbit's got a vicious streak a mile wide,it's a killer!
GALAHAD: Get stuffed!
TIM: It'll do you up a treat mate!
GALAHAD: Oh, yeah?
ROBIN: You mangy Scot's git!
TIM: I'm warning you!
ROBIN: What's he do, nibble your bum?

Michael Palin (1943-) / Sir Galahad the Pure / King of Swamp Castle / Dennis / Leader of the Knights Who Say Ni! / Brother Maynard’s Brother / Second Villager / Right Head

Born in Sheffield, England, Michael Palin’s films include - And Now for Something Completely Different (1971), Jabberwocky (1977), Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979), Time Bandits (1981), The Missionary (1982), The Meaning of Life (1983), A Private Function (1984), Brazil (1985), A Fish Called Wanda (1988) and Fierce Creatures (1997)

Minstrel: [singing] Bravely bold Sir Robin rode forth from Camelot. He was not afraid to die, oh brave Sir Robin. He was not at all afraid to be killed in nasty ways, brave, brave, brave, brave Sir Robin. He was not in the least bit scared to be mashed into a pulp, or to have his eyes gouged out, and his elbows broken. To have his kneecaps split, and his body burned away, and his limbs all hacked and mangled, brave Sir Robin. His head smashed in and heart cut out, and his liver removed, and his bowels unplugged, and his nostrils raped and his bottom burned off and his penis...
Sir Robin: That's, uh, that's enough music for now, lads... looks like there's dirty work afoot.

Eric Idle (1943-) / Sir Robin / Concorde / Roger the Shrubber / Brother Maynard / Dead Collector / First Villager

Born in South Shields, England, Eric Idle’s films include - And Now for Something Completely Different (1971), Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979), The Meaning of Life (1983), Yellowbeard (1983). Transformers the Movie (1986 voice), The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), Nuns on the Run (1990), Mom and Dad Save the World (1992), Casper (1995) and An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (1997).

Terry Jones (1942-) / Sir Bedevere / Prince Herbert / Dennis’s Mother / Left Head

Born in Colwyn Bay, Wales, Terry Jones films include - - And Now for Something Completely Different (1971), Jabberwocky (1977), Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979), The Meaning of Life (1983) and Eric the Viking (1989).

Terry Gilliam (1940-) / Sir Bors / Green Knight / Patsy / Bridgekeeper / Animator

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Terry Gilliam’s films as director – Jabberwocky (1977), Time Bandits (1981), Brazil (1985), The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Fisher King (1991), Twelve Monkeys (1995), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), The Brothers Grimm (2005), Tideland (2005), The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) and The Zero Theorem (2013).

CROWD: A witch! A witch! A witch! We've got a witch!
VILLAGER #1: We have found a witch, may we burn her?
CROWD: Burn her! Burn!
BEDEVERE: How do you know she is a witch?
VILLAGER #2: She looks like one.
BEDEVERE: Bring her forward.
WITCH: I'm not a witch. I'm not a witch.
BEDEVERE: But you are dressed as one.
WITCH: They dressed me up like this.
CROWD: No, we didn't -- no.
WITCH: And this isn't my nose, it's a false one.
BEDEVERE: Well?
VILLAGER #1: Well, we did do the nose.
BEDEVERE: The nose?
VILLAGER #1: And the hat -- but she is a witch!
CROWD: Burn her! Witch! Witch! Burn her!
BEDEVERE: Did you dress her up like this?
CROWD: No, no... no ... yes. yes, yes, a bit, a bit.
VILLAGER #1: She has got a wart.
BEDEVERE: What makes you think she is a witch?
VILLAGER #3: She turned me into a newt!
BEDEVERE: A newt?
VILLAGER #3: .....I got better.
CROWD: Burn! Burn her!
BEDEVERE: Quiet, quiet! There are ways of telling whether she is a witch.
CROWD: Are there? What are they?
BEDEVERE: Tell me, what do you do with witches?
CROWD: Burn, burn them up!
BEDEVERE: And what do you burn apart from witches?
VILLAGER #1: More witches!
VILLAGER #2: Wood!
BEDEVERE: So, why do witches burn?
[pause]
VILLAGER #3: .. 'cause they're made of wood...?
BEDEVERE: Good!
CROWD: Oh yeah, yeah...
BEDEVERE: So, how do we tell whether she is made of wood?
VILLAGER #1: Build a bridge out of her!

The Pythons first movie was And Now For Something Completely Different (1971) which was a compilation of sketches from Monty Python’s Flying Circus remade for the film. For their second film they decided to go on a quest for the Holy Grail.

Each Monty Python actor plays multiple roles in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Michael Palin played the most parts, 12.

Arthur and his Knights were banging coconut shells together to give the impression they were riding horses, in reality there wasn’t any money in the production budget for real horses (a knight was seen riding a horse in the scene where the Historian is killed).

The rock group Pink Floyd were fans of the TV show Monty Pythons Flying Circus and they helped fund the production of Holy Grail with the earnings from their album "Dark Side of the Moon".

Sir Lancelot: Look, my liege!
King Arthur: Camelot!
Sir Galahad: Camelot!
Sir Lancelot: Camelot!
Patsy: It's only a model!
King Arthur: Shhh!

Monty Python were refused permission to film in real castles in Scotland, but they eventually found two privately owned castles that allowed filming. The castle of Camelot was a 10ft high plywood model which fell over when it got too windy.

When ‘God’ appears and tells Arthur to seek the Holy Grail a customised photograph of famous 19th century cricketer W.G. Grace was used.

The Black Knight and Green Knight were played by John Cleese and Terry Gilliam and they both performed their own stunts during the duel.

Connie Booth (1944-) played the 'Witch' in Holy Grail and was married to John Cleese at the time. She co-wrote the TV series Fawlty Towers with Cleese and also played the part of Polly.

French Soldier: I don't want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.
Sir Galahad: Is there someone else up there we can talk to?
French Soldier: No, now go away or I shall taunt you a second time.

Empire Magazine ranked Monty Python and the Holy Grail #4 on its Top 100 Comedy Films List (Life of Brian was #1).

Holy Grail cost just £229,575 to make and according to Wikipedia the film has grossed £80,371,739 at cinemas (presumably worldwide) which would make it a very profitable film indeed.

The Blu-ray release of Holy Grail is packed with special features including deleted scenes, a documentary, 2 commentary tacks, lost animation sequences, outtakes and extended scenes.

The musical Spamalot was inspired by the film and written by Eric Idle. It opened on Broadway in 2005 and run for 1,500 performances, grossing $175m. It won three Tony Awards including Best Musical.

1st Peasant: Who's that then?
2nd Peasant: I dunno, must be a king.
1st Peasant: Why?
2nd Peasant: He hasn't got sh!t all over him.

The Critics Wrote –

"The whole film, which is often recklessly funny and sometimes a matter of comic genius, is a triumph of errancy and muddle. Its mind strays like an eye, and it thrives on following false trails." (The New Yorker)

"The gags are nonstop, occasionally inspired and should not be divulged, though it's not giving away too much to say that I particularly liked a sequence in which the knights, to gain access to an enemy castle, come up with the idea of building a Trojan rabbit. When Arthur calls retreat, he simply yells: "Run away!" And the morale of Sir Robin, the least successful of the Round Table knights, isn't helped by a retinue of minstrels who insist on singing about his most embarrassing defeats." (New York Times)

"The first time I saw The Holy Grail, I was convulsed with laughter for practically the entire running length. Now, six or seven viewings later, I still smile and chuckle. Regardless of where an individual's comedy zone lies, it's impossible to deny the intelligence of the script, and the movie's willingness to take chances and be different. And, for those who "get" the jokes, this motion picture represents one of the best and brightest comedies ever to shine from the silver screen." (James Berardinelli)

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Comments 7 comments

UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Ah, steve, one of my all-time favorites. Brilliant. I never get tired of this one. I also enjoyed Life of Brian, but Holy Grail is the best, in my opinion. So many hilarious bits, Knights who say "Nih", the beautiful witch saying "it's a fair cop", "it's only a flesh wound", "what's your favorite color?", "I'm not dead yet... I'm feeling better", and on and on.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Ni! Thanks UnnamedHarald, your comments are always appreciated. I wish I could have added more quotes but there's already quite a lot on here. I remember posting the entire script to Holy Grail in a Monty Python thread on my movie forum many years ago and got away with it.

My signature on the forum at one time was a quote from this film -

"Listen, 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."

Thanks for posting.


Life as a Blog profile image

Life as a Blog 4 years ago from Austin, Texas

Awesome hub! I love this film and Life of Brian so much! I may have to go watch them now!


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

This takes me back. Thanks


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Life as a Blog, Mhatter99, thanks for commenting on my Monty Python hub, much appreciated. Life of Brian is on my Hublist too. "Welease Wodger!"


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

Outstanding hub on an outstanding movie...the quality of the attached photos is amazing...and makes me think I need to upgrade to BluRay. My current DVD copy of this classic is fully loaded so I was unwilling to upgrade...but the quality of the photos has me re-thinking my stance.

I saw this movie the first time on public television during a fund raising campaign...back then we only have 5 channels to choose from. I have never laughed so hard at a movie that first time. The killer rabbit, the knight guarding the pathway, the coconut horses, the troll guarding the bridge...the list goes on and on of my favorite scenes.

Hard to believe that it has almost been 40 years since this release of the movie. Glad to see most of the Pythons are still around...although they are getting up there in age.

Voted up and across the board.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Bruce, appreciate the comment, votes, reminiscences and kind words amigo.

I watched this film so many times on video I practically memorised it.

Saw Eric Idle recently on TV at the Olympics closing ceremony singing "Always look on the bright side of life" which he wrote for Life of Brian.

The blu-ray of Holy Grail is outstanding and worth buying.

Thanks for posting. Ni!

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