My Two Cents (Daily) - A smattering of reviews, news & cover art to close out the week http://t.co/z4Yi3ANbNz
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
DirectorTerry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Release Date(s)1975 (March 6, 2012)
Studio(s)Python (Monty) Pictures (Sony Pictures)
For the uninitiated (shame on you), Monty Python and the Holy Grail is the second film from the comedy troupe Monty Python, consisting of Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam. It's considered by many to be one of the funniest movies ever made and solidified the group's reputation as one of the best comedy acts ever all over the world.
Anyone with a college degree is likely to have seen Holy Grail in their dorm room on multiple occasions (as well as Evil Dead II, but that's beside the point). It's one of those movies that you discover when you're young and you just can't enough of, even on into your adulthood. You really can get into quoting wars with your friends with dialogue from the movie. I'm sure that most of the people reading this have probably already seen it and know exactly what I'm talking about, so I won't bother getting into any details about the movie itself. You might even know it better than I do... Ni!
Now I'll be the first to admit that when this release was announced, I initially wasn't all that enthusiastic. Not because I'm sick of the movie, but because of the overabundance of releases of the movie. Ever since its original DVD release, Holy Grail seems to be one of those films that just seems to keep getting more and more useless re-releases (as well as Evil Dead II, but that's beside the point, again). I'm happy to say that there's more to this release than just a quick cash grab and that the overall package is well-worth your hard-earned dollars.
Cosmetically, Holy Grail has never been the greatest to look at. After all, it was shot very low budget by mostly amateurish filmmakers. The images sometimes get hazy or have a soft focus to them (the opening scene involving the coconut argument is a good example of this). Thankfully, the lighting and color temperature is almost always even between coverage, so it doesn't look amateurish for lack of trying. To be fair, this Blu-ray is probably the best the film has ever looked on a home video format. There's definitely been a lot of grain erased from the image, but not to the point of trying to achieve glossy perfection. This has always been a grainy film, and it still looks grainy. Just much cleaner, and the grain structure can be pleasant to those accustomed to it. Colors are nice and warm, especially during scenes with foliage. Greens, tans and grays pop very well, which is surprising given that the color palette has always been on the faded side, but by design. Skin tones also are never consistent and the contrast is also riding the fine line between even and low most of the time. Blacks are mostly deep, and a lot of care seems to have been taken to clean up the main titles, which are white on black. In those instances, blacks are really deep. When things are in their proper focus, the images are also quite crisp and well-defined. Overall, I'd say this is a visual presentation worthy of the format it's being presented on. It will definitely stand out to those who haven't seen it since the VHS days or the early days of DVD.
As far as the audio goes, you have five options to choose from: English 5.1 DTS-HD; the Original Mono soundtrack in English; and French (Parisian), Japanese & Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital. The 5.1 track does have some power to it - much more than I expected. The music is the main thing that benefits from the increase in clarity. During the main menu, in particular, the theme of the film plays over it and it sounds so good that you might not want to start the movie right away. As far as the mix itself goes, dialogue is mostly centered but nice and audible. There are some nice LFE moments during some of the scenes in the latter half of the film, especially during the Tim the Enchanter and cave scenes, wherein explosions come bursting to deep bassy life. It's a pretty good track, but it does have its drawbacks. Some of the sound effects are of pretty much the same caliber that we're used to from over the years, so they don't quite pop as much as the music and the dialogue. There are only a handful of surround moments as well, and not a lot of ambience. Things stay mostly centered for the duration. Personally, I feel like you're better off with the Original Mono track, which is what the surround track is derived from, but if you want a loud, slightly cleaner and sparingly surround soundtrack, then go with the first option. Subtitles have also been included for those might need them in a variety of languages including English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese and many others. There's also the silly Subtitles for People Who Do Not Like the Film (From Henry IV pt. II) option in English, Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese.
On a nitpicky side note, I'm not happy that the original version of the film has STILL not been included with this release. The additional 23 seconds is nice to have but I prefer the original version of the film. Also, ever since the first Special Edition DVD of the film, the soundtrack was re-engineered a bit. The narrator, as played by Michael Palin, was newly overdubbed. The one saving grace about this release though is that the annoying Dentist on the Job opening bit from the Special Edition DVD has been nixed. It's funny at first but it becomes annoying on repeat viewings. I usually just skipped through it anyway, just so I could GET ON WITH IT!!! Anyways, from a purist standpoint, I still treasure dearly the original Deluxe Widescreen DVD release, which is the original version of the film with its original soundtrack. It may not be the best-looking version, but it's the version that I and most of the people reading this review grew up with. It would have been nice to have this included along with the Special Edition version. Blu-ray is certainly capable of seamless branching, but oh well.
While the disc does lack my preferred version of the film, it certainly doesn't lack in the extras department. There are several new additions to the extras in conjunction with the inclusion of almost all of the previous ones. In my opinion, the new extras are worth the price tag alone. Although the Pythons claimed for years that there were no outtakes or deleted scenes, indeed there were, and they're included here for the first time. The Outtakes and Extended Scenes are introduced by Terry Jones and the Lost Animations are introduced by Terry Gilliam. There isn't an enormous amount of material here, but there are plenty of gems to be discovered. There's also the newly-added BD-Live option Holy Book of Days Second Screen Experience, which you can use with your iPad. It basically covers most of the extras while you watch the film on your TV, but it‘s a little exclusionary with its content, which I'll get into later. Carried over from the previous releases is the two audio commentaries, one with Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones and the other with John Cleese, Eric Idle and Michael Palin; The Quest for the Holy Grail Locations featurette; the Lego Knights: The Knights of the Round Table in LEGO segment; the Special Japanese Version segment; the How to Use Your Coconuts faux educational film; the BBC Film Night behind-the-scenes featurette; three sing-alongs; a Cast Directory Photo Gallery; the US 2001 re-release trailer; a set of Holy Grail Blu-ray credits; and finally, some previews. There's also a couple of inserts: one to redeem an Ultraviolet copy and another for a Sony Rewards registration code.
There are also several extras and some swag not included with this release. The original Deluxe Widescreen DVD release only had a few trailers for other movies, but the Special Edition DVD release featured an interactive Follow the Killer Rabbit interactive feature, as well as the Special Version for the Hard of Hearing bit. Also missing from that release is the on-screen screenplay option, Terry Gilliam's sketches & posters, behind-the-scenes photos, the A Load of Old Rubbish bit, and finally, all of the Unused Ideas & Unused Locations bits. From the Extraordinarily Deluxe Three-Disc Edition DVD release, there's The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Live from the Classic Cinema Sillbury Hill bonus CD, the A Taste of Spamalot animated segment, the Holy Grail Challenge and Secrets of the Holy Grail bits. From the Collector's Edition DVD Boxed Set, there's the swag items: a paperback of the script and an exclusive film cel. The swag and interactive stuff you can probably live without, but the photo galleries, on-screen screenplay and CD soundtrack are sorely missed. It would have also been pretty cool if they had included all of the music that Neil Innes had originally recorded for the film that was never used. You can hear bits of it during the Lost Animations segment, but it's very brief. There's also some hidden gems within the Holy Books of Days Second Screen Experience app, including excerpts from Michael Palin's diary that he kept during the filming, which should have been included separately on the disc for those without the ability to use this option. I don't really mind these little interactive gizmos, but when they exclude people without the technology to use them, I don't care much for them. Even though there are a few things missing and the interactivity is singled out only for a selected few, it's still a great set of extras for a surprisingly great Blu-ray release.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a film that I never, ever tire of, and I don't think anyone else will either. It just seems to live on forever and there doesn't seem to be any end in sight. Not only is it one of the funniest movies ever made, it's also one of the most enjoyable and well-made comedy films of all time, and I'm sure that this will be bring it to a wider audience and people will be seeing it for the first time. But you peasants (fans), be rest assured: this Blu-ray release is king. I can tell because it doesn't have shit all over it.
- Tim Salmons