Monty Python and The Holy Grail

King Arthur has coconuts, and no-one in Britain knows what they are, or more precisely, how they came to be there. “The stars are giant balls of gas,” says a recent American television science program, “held together by their own density.”

This is rather like the banquet scene in Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives. “We didn’t take that hill, and we lost the war.” An unintended consequence of History’s End (the historian dies, as it were, off the record) is that the quest for the Holy Grail was never accomplished, and England has ceased to be for a thousand years.

The subsidiary reasons are given at great length and in many, many details. Opposition from the Black Knight or the Black Beast is easily overcome, laughably so. Britons, however, when they are not talking shop politics or hitting themselves in the face devotedly, can’t tell a witch from roast duck.

Arthur forgoes wassailing in Camelot with his knights (who nonetheless leave their mark on Mel Brooks’ History of the World: Part I), and is put on the quest by God. The king besieges a castle of Frenchmen with an empty Trojan rabbit, and it is at this juncture that a knight on genuine horseback slays “a famous historian” named Frank.

Sir Robin, Sir Galahad and Sir Lancelot face tests of manhood in their tales. The Knights Who Say “Ni” demand a shrubbery, and then another shrubbery (the book lady from Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 resists). “Ni” is the word, and “It” the counter response.

The police investigate the crime scene, follow the case with the historian’s widow.

Tim the Enchanter hurls fire from his fingertips, leads Arthur and his knights to the holy cave guarded by a killer rabbit that is “blown to tiny bits” with the Holy Grenade. Carven on the wall of the cave are “the last words of Joseph of Arimathea”. They lead beyond the Bridge of Death, where only true-blue knights or those who anyway know the capital of Assyria may pass, to the end of the quest by way of a brief intermission and a dragon-headed ship. The same Frenchmen hold the castle where the Holy Grail is kept, but police take Arthur and his men away in the black maria. Intermission music plays over a black screen. The screen is black at the beginning as well, entering on an homage to Ingmar Bergman. Swedish subtitles translate the credits and give way to a lot of moosing about, which provokes a change of management and colorful credits full of llamas to a Latin beat. And then the film begins.