Thursday, April 9, 2015

Happy Fortieth (!) Anniversary To Monty Python And The Holy Grail!

Hard to believe, but it's been forty years since the premiere of Monty Python And The Holy Grail on April 9, 1975. Forty years!

I won't bore you with the usual tedious pack of movie quotes, so instead I'll bore you with a few facts about the production:

• The film's budget was $400,000, which was small even in 1975. Much of that amount was supplied by rock band Pink Floyd, who were fans of the Pythons.

• On the first day of the film's American screening in New York, fans were lined up to see it at 8 am. It eventually made $5 million, more than ten times its budget.

• The "banging coconut halves together" gag was added after the producers realized they couldn't afford real horses.

• In Japan, "Holy Grail" was translated as "Holy Sake Cup."

• The opening credits, consisting of humorous text, are so simple and plain because the production had run out of money at that point.

• The castle of Camelot was a plywood cutout placed on top of a hill. It reportedly frequently blew over in the wind (the cutout, not the hill).

• Graham Chapman (who played King Arthur) was suffering from a long-standing alcohol addiction during the production, causing him to forget his lines. After a few rough days he sobered up for the remainder of the shoot, and eventually kicked the habit altogether (although it took him until 1977 to do so).

• "God" was played by a photograph of one of England's most famous cricketers, W.G. Grace.

• 1975 audiences were supposedly horrified by the scene in which the Black Knight systematically gets his limbs chopped off. Director Terry Gilliam theorizes that people were still sensitive about such violence due to the Vietnam War, which was still raging at the time.

It wasn't until the Knight lost all four limbs and "called a draw" that they finally began cautiously laughing.

• During the witch hunt scene, you can see Eric Idle biting down on his sickle. He did so to keep from laughing.

• Graham Chapman was the only cast member who wore real chain mail armor. The rest of the cast wore knitted wool, painted to look like metal.

• Just as they did on their TV show, the Pythons all play multiple roles. Michael Palin plays the most characters, at twelve.

• All the main characters have relevant symbols on their shields and armor. King Arthur, who is ordered by God to find the Grail, has a sun symbol. The gung-ho Lancelot has a dragon symbol. The scholarly Bevedere has a tree (presumably a tree of knowledge). And the cowardly Sir Robin has a chicken emblem.

• For the Killer Rabbit scene, Terry Gilliam recounts that the production rented a bunny from a pet owner. The woman was adamant that her rabbit not get dirty or damaged. They added red dye to it to simulate blood, and were shocked to find it was permanent and wouldn't wash off. When the woman saw her red rabbit, she reportedly "became crazed." 

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