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By Brad Laidman | December 28, 2000

Tim referring to what turns out to be a rabbit: “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 full 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.”
The silliest movie ever made is either about King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table searching for the Holy Grail or a handful of mentally unbalanced people who parade around in medieval clothing and think there are in search of the Holy Grail, although probably the latter. Of course the insanity all starts with the coconuts. Likely in response to a budget that couldn’t afford horses, all the Knights hop around the Dark Ages while their valets make the sounds of trotting horses with a bunch of said coconuts. In true Python fashion no one is quite sure where the coconuts came from.
The wonderful thing about Monty Python is the seemingly wasted brilliance. Aside from insane American animator Terry Gilliam, Python is made up of five classically educated Englishman who would rather flaunt their intelligence than use it for good. In whole they would much rather see a vicious rabbit tearing the limbs off seemingly brave knights than take any of their inherited lore seriously for even a moment or two. They were forced to learn it so they fully intend to tear it to pieces so no one can ever for a moment think of it in romantic fashion ever again. Python was well aware that best way to destroy a myth is not to intellectually contradict it, but to trash its seriousness and make it into farce. I remember laboring over an overlong British account of the French Revolution in college until I noticed that it went down much easier if I read it like a screeching Terry Jones dressed in drag, which incidentally I think he was in about 90% of their skits.
According to Monty Python’s view of the dark ages, the few intelligent souls around spend their time wallowing in mud, collecting it, or merely beating it with a stick. This of course does not preclude them from discussing the true basis of legitimate classical government. You can just picture these guys learning all of this crap at Oxford and passing notes to each other about how cool it would be to toss a few blessed hand grenades into the mix. The most effective intellects in this movie are the French castle guards who hurl nothing but filth and naughty insults.
My poor 11th grade English teacher was forced to try cramming “The Crucible” down our throats after most of us had memorized the entire “burn her she’s a witch” routine. Her assurances that no American witches were actually ever burned did little to preclude and avoid our squealing nonsense.
Watch out, because a little bit of logic can be more dangerous here than even the most dreadful ignorance. Additionally, there’s plenty of inspired insane characters here with little or no relevance to the traditional lore of Arthur, King of the Britains. The Black Knight, who refuses to acknowledge that he has been beaten, the cowardly Sir Robin and his band of minstrels, an appearance from an irritated God, a two headed monster that argues mercilessly with itself, a castle full of randy sex starved maidens, and of course, the shrubbery loving Knights who say Ni, but in the end Python make it clear that they could likely be equally as anarchically funny about anything else held irritatingly sacred be it Watergate, Paul Bunyan, Jesus, or Johnny Appleseed. If it hadn’t been for their images of Communist theorists competing for chaise lounges on game shows, the German versus Greek philosopher’s world cup of soccer, and a group of singing drunken Australian professors extolling alcohol’s impact on Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Sartre, I might have never made it through college, and for that matter neither would they. Silly, but not stupid, and as dangerous as any revolutionary ever was.

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