Cocktails and Movies “Take Out Theater:” Monty Python And The Holy Grail

“Take Out Theater” – for those of you who hate to go out in public

Last week, Cocktails and Movie contributor Mike Reyes inaugurated our first installment of “Take Out Theater” with an excellent choice for a movie at home with his selection of “Midnight in Paris.” He picked a solid movie from the Woody Allen canon and picked a great cocktail to go with it. You can check out his selection here.

Now, it’s time for me, the fearless leader of this little dog and pony show (aka Tim Barley), to take his turn at the wheel and suggest a movie. I’ve got a versatile pick with which you can grab takeout, curl up with your favorite guy or gal, drink wine and laugh your ass off. Or you can grab you buddies, get some beer and pizza and laugh even harder. As a single man, there are many reasons for the pick I am about to lay on you, and I’ll get into them. It’s a brilliant and funny film and if that special someone comes over, looks through your DVD collection, turns to you with a smile and pleads, “Can we watch this?” you don’t EVER let that person go… (I did, but then again I’m a veg)

Without further adieu, ladies and gentlemen I give you…

Monty Python and the Holy Grailcocktails and movies monty python holy grail

Directed by: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Written by: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, John Cleese, Michael Palin
Starring: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, John Cleese, Michael Palin
Rating: PG
Run time: 91 minutes
Studio: DVD release on Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

38 years later this film still holds it own. If you’ve been to college or have an older brother or sister or just like funny films, then you probably know about and have seen this film (and many others from Monty Python such as “The Life of Brian” and “The Meaning of Life”). Probably many, many times. There isn’t much new that I can tell you about it. But, if you haven’t seen it, here’s the plot:

The Holy Grail is based (very loosely) on the story of King Arthur (Graham Chapman) who, after putting together his knights of the round table, including Sir Bedevere the Wise (Terry Jones), Sir Lancelot the Brave (John Cleese), Sir Galahad the Pure (Michael Palin) and Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave-As-Sir-Lancelot, is charged by God to seek out the Holy Grail. After their first stop at the French-controlled castle goes horribly wrong, they decide to split up on their separate quests to find the grail.

The first quest we follow is King Arthur and Bedevere as they are stopped by the Dreaded Knights-Who-Say-Ni and are forced to satisfy strange requests involving shrubberies. During this time, Sir Robin avoids being killed by the three-headed giant (Chapman, Jones and Palin) while his minstrels serenade him with the song “Brave Sir Robin Ran Away.” Sir Lancelot assaults a castle and kills many wedding guests to free what he thinks to be a woman but is instead an effeminate prince at Swamp Castle. Sir Galahad is lured by a Grail shaped beacon to the Castle Anthrax, populated by young women (“all between the ages of 16 and 19 and a half”) who want to perform sexual favors for him, but is “rescued” by Sir Lancelot.

The group is reunited as Arthur and Bedevere are being given new requests by the Knights-Until-Recently-Said-Ni involving more shrubberies and a herring. After discovering the forbidden word, they are able to get away and soon they encounter Tim the Enchanter who helps them find the Cave of Caerbannog, where the location of the Grail is written. But, it is guarded by “the most foul, cruel and bad-tempered rodent.”  They dispatch the rodent (I am not going to tell you what it is if you haven’t seen the film) (fun fact: the troupe rented the rodent from a local farmer, but “ruined” the it by pouring red dye on it which later could NOT be removed, leading them to ask why they didn’t just buy the rodent instead. Check out the commentary disc.), enter the cave, are almost killed by the Black Beast of Aaaarrrrrgggggh, but the film’s illustrator “dies” and they are saved.

Their last obstacle is the Bridge of Death over the Gorge of Eternal Peril, where the bridge keeper asks those who would travel across three questions. Some members make it, some don’t, but Arthur turns the table on the bridge keeper by asking a smart question about African and European Swallows and the keeper is thrown into the gorge.

Finally, Arthur and his remaining knights make it to the castle where the Grail is kept, only to find the same French forces are at this castle as well. Turned away, Arthur amasses an army and as he leads the charge on the castle, he is arrested by the police. The movie ends abruptly, no credits only minutes of organ music.

The review above is purposely brief and low on details for one cannot appreciate a Monty Python movie without watching it. There is a lot of subtext and satirization of current events at the the time, including one of the funniest bits about class and how the British monarchy fits into the system of government (“Strange women lying in ponds, distributing swords is no basis for a system of government”). But, the reason why The Holy Grail worked then and still works all these years later is its deconstruction, satirization and outright poking fun of all aspects of a changing British society and politics. From its commentary on the older generations of Britons clinging to a dying monarchy and worldwide empire, outdated traditions, to class warfare and religion, and to a longstanding rivalry with the French, nothing was out of bounds for the Monty Python troupe. It is in this vein that the movie holds a special place in my comedy collection. You can be sure that when someone wants to watch this movie with you, they not only can laugh at some outright funny visuals, but on a higher level you know they understand that the humor in the film has a much deeper meaning. It’s not as guy-oriented as something like Caddyshack or Animal House. If your date can enjoy Monty Python and the Holy Grail with you, you know you’ve got a special someone…

The Drink

Scotch Fizzcocktails and movies Scotch-fizz
(although if you’re the man you’d better be drinking straight Scotch)

We figured since the film was shot entirely in Scotland at two old medieval castles, what better way to celebrate the film than with some classic single-malt Scotch whiskey? As you’ll probably be laughing through the movie, it’s an easy way to nurse your drinks. You can find a pretty good recipe here. Thanks again to Epicurious for the recipe.

So, there’s this week’s “Take Out Theater” from us here at Cocktails and Movies. We  hope that you enjoy the film if you’ve never seen it. If you have seen it, we hope that you remember it as fondly as we do.

If you have any suggestions for Take Away Theatre, please submit them through the Comments section below, or on our Facebook or Twitter feeds