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This year is the 40th anniversary of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. This means it’s time for the re-release of the Blu-ray/DVD and the brief return to theaters that the film gets about every five years at this point. For a movie that has been examined pretty much to death by now, you’d think that after 40 years there’s just nothing new to talk about. Well, you’d be wrong. It turns out that there are several minutes worth of Terry Gilliam's animation that we’ve never seen before. Feel free to sit and watch them 100 times in order to catch up to the number of times you’ve seen the movie.
Monty Python resident animator Terry Gilliam narrates the complete video, which is really worth listening to by itself. Gilliam wavers in between acting utterly heartbroken that his animation was rejected, and not being entirely sure exactly what he was trying to accomplish in the first place. It’s hard to tell if Gilliam is making a joke when he says he doesn’t have a clue what he was thinking with some of the art, if he’s being honest. It has been 40 years after all.
The commentary is, in its own way, very much a Monty Python-like sketch, complete with Gilliam being reprimanded by the guy doing the recording of his voice-over. After viewing the clips with Gilliam’s voice-over, you can see them in their "complete" form; but we have to warn you, they’re not going to make any more sense that way.
If you’re a Python fan - and if you’re not, there’s something wrong with you - you’ll know that Terry Gilliam’s animation that he did for the films (as well as the Flying Circus TV series) are all utterly bizarre. These are no exceptions. Whether it’s the trumpeters using a non-standard orifice to play their instruments or the snail which is...just...wrong, they all look like things that could have just as easily made it into the finished film.
One piece of actually useful and interesting information, which can be a rare thing to come from a Python, is the discussion of where the art style received its inspiration. While anybody who has ever looked at an illuminated manuscript or studied medieval art (that’s a thing we all do, right?) would recognize the style, according to Gilliam, the work was inspired not by the manuscripts themselves but by illustrations that were apparently done by monks in the margins of those manuscripts. Essentially, it’s all based on the doodles of bored monks. Sounds like the perfect place for Monty Python to get started.
It’s still amazing that after 40 years there are still things to uncover about this classic film. We can’t wait until the 45th anniversary Blu-ray release when the Monty Python guys reveal the never-before-seen video of all the different sandwiches John Cleese ate during filming. Cheese sandwiches, probably.