Director: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Stars: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle
Plot: King Arthur and his knights embark on a low-budget search for the Grail, encountering many, very silly obstacles.
Funds earned by Pink Floyd's album "The Dark Side of the Moon" went towards funding Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). The band were such fans of the show they would halt recording sessions just to watch Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969).
The famous depiction of galloping horses by using coconut shells (a traditional radio-show sound effect) came about from the purely practical reason that the production simply could not afford real horses.
Since the armour the Knights wore was really made of wool, and the weather conditions in Scotland and England being what they normally are, the actors spent most of the shooting days being very cold and wet. To make matters worse, the hotel where they were staying only had a limited number of baths and hot water. At the end of shooting each day, there was a mad dash to see who could get back to the hotel first, and into some hot water. The Monty Python troupe all seem to agree that they did not enjoy much of the filming experience for this movie.
During one of the first screenings of the film in front of a live audience, director Terry Jones noticed that when music was played during the jokes, there was a marked reduction of laughter from the audience. He went back and edited the music out whenever a punchline was delivered. At subsequent screenings he noticed a dramatic increase in the audiences' positive reactions to the jokes. From that point on, whenever he directed, he remembered to stop the music for the funny parts.
"God" is in fact a photograph of the famous 19th-century English cricketer W.G. Grace.
In the Killer Rabbit scene, a real white rabbit was used. He was dyed with what was assumed to be a washable red coloring liquid in the shots after the battle. When filming wrapped the rabbit's owner was dismayed to learn the dye could not be rinsed off. Terry Gilliam described in an audio commentary that the owner of the rabbit was present and shooting was abruptly halted while the cast desperately attempted to clean the rabbit before the owner found out, an unsuccessful attempt. He also stated that he thought that, had they been more experienced in film-making, the crew would have just purchased a rabbit instead.
The French tactic of pelting Arthur and his knights with livestock echoes the relatively modern legend of a medieval siege of the fortified southern French town of Carcassonne. Said to have been near starvation, the townspeople used the last of their food to pelt the besieging army to convince them, suffering likewise, that the town was well stocked with food and that the siege was hopeless. The tactic was successful, and the siege was lifted.
The Black Knight was first played by John Cleese, but when Arthur cuts off the first leg a real one-legged actor (a local silversmith) was used. On the DVD Terry Gilliam reveals that a marionette was used to film the shot of the second leg being cut off, he also jokes that using the one-legged silversmith for the shot of the knight with no legs saved work, since they only had to dig a hole for one leg (Cleese has said that it was himself standing in the hole).
The Enchanter's name is Tim because John Cleese forgot the character's original name. He ad-libbed the line, "There are some who call me...Tim".
During the witch hunt, Eric Idle bares his teeth and bites down on the blade of the scythe he is holding. This was not scripted; Idle was actually about to burst out laughing and bit his scythe to stifle himself so as not to spoil the take. (If you look closely, you can see him shaking slightly, trying to keep his laughing under control.) Michael Palin can be seen hiding laughter at the same time as well, while earlier in the scene John Cleese quickly turns his head to one side just before the shot cuts, though not quickly enough to hide that he has broken character and is grinning broadly. All three comment on each others' corpsing on the DVD commentary.
Graham Chapman's alcoholism (which he tried to suppress with Antabuse) caused problems during filming, and not just through his repeatedly forgetting his lines. The first day of shooting required Chapman to cross the Bridge of Death. When working on Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969), Chapman had been used to drinking heavily to calm his nerves. He quickly discovered to his dismay that the crew had no alcohol on the set, and the nearest town was too far away for a quick trip to purchase any. Consequently, he was visibly stressed, shaking, sweating and moving slowly throughout the scene, yet he was known to be an experienced rock climber. Not knowing about his alcoholism, the crew wondered if Chapman's heavy costume caused the stress; it was actually alcoholism-induced DTs.
John Cleese as Tim the Enchanter actually stood on the pinnacle seen at the beginning of his scene. On one side was a drop he said could have killed him, and on the other was a drop he said could have maimed him. To make matters worse, the wind kept threatening to push him over either side. Between takes, he would crouch down to avoid being pushed over by the wind. The whole experience was one he remembers as being very frightening, but he did it anyway, because he knew what kind of budget and time-lines they had to work with.
Michael Palin plays the most characters (12).
Both John Cleese and Terry Gilliam performed all their stunts during the duel between Black and Green Knight. They both had to learn to manage big and heavy swords and to do some acrobatics, though never being recognizable, wearing both heavy armors and full helmets. They both avoided use of stunt-men because, as they said in commentaries, they had a lot of fun in enacting the duel.
The major knights all have appropriate artwork on their shields and armor. The cowardly Sir Robin has a chicken for his emblem. Bedevere, a man of science and nature, has a tree. Lancelot, an overzealous knight that often kills without thought, has a vicious dragon emblem. King Arthur, who receives a vision from God in the sky/sun for his quest, has a symbol depicting the sun. Sir Galahad, a pure knight who has his purity tested with a visit to a castle filled with temptresses, has a holy cross. And the Black Knight has a wild boar, which is quite representative of his stubborn personality and refusing to admit defeat.
In several scenes the monks chant in Latin: "Pie Iesu domine, dona eis requiem". The translation of this is: "Merciful Lord Jesus, grant them rest." It's part of the standard Latin funeral rite.
There were numerous disagreements between Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones. Gilliam was more focused on technical aspects, while Jones was more focused on the comedy. After this, it was agreed that Jones direct the further Python films.
The film's abrupt ending came about because it didn't have the budget for a large-scale battle sequence.
Movie was adapted as a Broadway musical in 2006 called "Spamalot".
John Cleese's then-wife, Connie Booth has a cameo as the "witch."