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Monty Python and the Holy Grail

(Columbia Pictures/Photofest)

Bring Out Your Dead. Strange Women Lying in Ponds. Flesh Wound. Large Wooden Badger. Wicked Bad Naughty Zoot. Electric Donkey Bottom Biters. Rarely does a film penetrate the public consciousness so thoroughly that it can supply the names for three decades’ worth of college bands. Indeed, Monty Python and the Holy Grail is so indelibly imprinted on our cultural DNA that a theatrical rerelease hardly seems necessary — even those too young ever to have seen it have inherited our knowledge genetically. Yet, here it is, back again, like a favorite, boozy uncle at Christmastime. Exceptionally literate yet devotedly silly, the movie is a masterpiece of cinematic Dada. Its knowing subversions of both the medium (the coconut hoof beats borrowed from radio, a Camelot debunked as “only a model”) and narrative itself (the last-second escape from a cartoon dragon thanks to the animator’s heart attack) were years, if not decades, ahead of their time, and precursors of everything from the Airplane! movies to Scrubs. To see Holy Grail now is to be reminded of a vanished age — before Spamalot, before the SNL annexation of big-screen comedy, before John Cleese’s diminishment from Funniest Man Alive to a second career playing snobs, butlers, and James Bond’s “Q” — when six 30-something Brits could make film history for just $300,000. (Nuart)


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