Thursday, April 09, 2015

In Short, There's Simply Not A More Congenial Spot

"And the Lord spake, saying, 'First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then, shalt thou count to three. No more. No less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once at the number three, being the third number to be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being not in my sight, shall snuff it.'"


I like comedies — all kinds of comedies, really, but especially zany ones. When I say zany, I mean off the wall in some way. I don't necessarily mean frantic from start to finish — like a Marx Brothers movie, for instance.

Still frantic isn't a bad word to describe "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," which premiered 40 years ago today. Its jokes came at such a breakneck pace that I was out of breath at times.

"Monty Python and the Holy Grail" reminds me of a special time in my life. I knew of Monty Python because of family trips to Dallas to visit my grandmother; my recollection is that Dallas' public TV station aired the Monty Python show, Flying Circus, but back home, the Little Rock public TV station did not — at least, at that time.

So, in a way, I suppose Monty Python was kind of like a forbidden pleasure for me, and I watched it whenever I was in Dallas.

Up to the time of "Holy Grail," though, I had never seen a Monty Python movie. Of course the only Monty Python movie prior to "Holy Grail" was a compilation of skits from the TV show — most are regarded as classic routines now.

"Holy Grail" was the first Monty Python movie that had a unifying story — while retaining the somewhat twisted humor of the TV show. In hindsight, I suppose they were a bit hesitant to try what was clearly a new thing for them, but I guess they discovered that it worked.

That unifying story was a clever parody of King Arthur and his knights of Camelot.

This was at a time when movies frequently would run for months at a theater. There was really no compelling reason for a promoter to rush a movie out of theatrical circulation, I suppose, as long as people were paying to see it. There was no home video in those days, and not many people had access to cable TV, which really was in its infancy, or VCRs. Unless a movie was picked up for broadcast TV, taking it out of circulation probably meant the movie's promoters believed it had about run its course.

Anyway, I remember when I first went to see it at the theater. It was late in the year, after I got my driver's license, and a friend of mine and I drove to Little Rock to see it. I remember feeling very grown up, driving to Little Rock. I remember it was a cold night, but it was warm in the theater, and my friend and I laughed throughout the showing. Then we laughed on the drive home. It was a fun evening.

I didn't realize at the time that the movie premiered on his birthday so, while I'm thinking about it, I hope he's reading this. Happy birthday, Doug! Watch "Holy Grail" to mark the occasion.

For me, anyway, the humor never gets old. It's silly — like the humor in "Airplane" — but I still laugh ...
At the knights pretending to be riding horses while their servants follow behind clacking two halves of coconut shells together to make the sounds of hooves.

At the dialogue, which is also silly, but it is still funny.

At the strange circumstances that only Monty Python could have dreamed up.
For example, the scene with the Black Knight. The Black Knight appeared to be a fearsome adversary, blocking King Arthur's way, and he refused to let the king pass, and that meant a duel.

It was a duel that the king won, systematically cutting off the Black Knight's limbs, prompting the Black Knight to proclaim it a draw.

Then all sorts of scenes come flooding to mind ...

The scene where the gang determines that a woman is a witch, for example.
Bedevere (Terry Jones): How do you know she is a witch?

Peasant: She looks like one.

Bedevere: Bring her forward!

Girl: I'm not a witch.

Bedevere: But you are dressed as one ...

Girl: They dressed me up like this. And this isn't my nose. This is a false one.

Bedevere: Well?

Peasant: Well, we did do the nose.

Bedevere: The nose?

Peasant: And the hat. She's a witch!

Peasant Crowd: Burn her!

Bedevere: Did you dress her up like this?

Peasant: No, no, no! Yes, yes. A bit. But she's got a wart.

Bedevere: What makes you think she is a witch?

Peasant: Oh, she turned me into a newt!

Bedevere: A newt?

Peasant: Well, I got better.

There was the scene where a man was collecting corpses, and a man brought one to him that wasn't quite dead.

There were the Knights Who Say Ni ... who demanded a tribute from those who wished to pass through their woods.

And there was the dialogue at the bottom of the screen while the credits were rolling. I won't say anything more about that. If you haven't seen it, though, you should.

Tonight wouldn't be a bad time for it, either.