CTHE has managed to squeeze yet another release out of the Monty Python franchise, this time in the form of a Holy Grail two-disc Special Edition. A single disc version with 2.0 sound streeted in September of 1999. While the discs are loaded with a mountain of extras and the video and sound are definitely better than the 1999 version, I would recommend this set for first time Holy Grail purchasers and suggest that current owners needn’t upgrade. This disc has regrettably bumped into the limitations…of digital enhancement and re-mastering; while it may be “better” (i.e.: it offers 5.1 versus the previous releases’ 2.0), the 1975 source material can only be pushed so far and the sound a video are just not great enough to justify repurchase.
If, however, you are a Python fanatic, you may appreciate the pile of extras to be found in this set, of which none are present in the 1999 release. See the Extras and Special Features section below for more on these.
5.1 and 2.0 are offered in English. The sound is “fine;” that is to say it gets the job done, but won’t be winning any awards. Spatial placement of voices and sounds is well done, but the sound on the whole lacks depth and definition. As with the video, I expect that this can be wholly blamed on the source quality; undoubtedly the fidelity of the original master wasn’t top notch.
Video quality is as good as can be expected for this film given its budget and age. A great deal of attention appears to have been paid to cleaning up the original transfer, as scratches and dirt are virtually non-existent. There is no granularity in the film whatsoever, and colours have been rendered very well. Video quality still suffers from the quality of the original film equipment used, with contrast and blurriness still detracting from viewing, but I don’t think that anyone can expect any better.
Menus are done in typical Python style, and are wholly unremarkable, although somewhat annoying for the time that they take to transfer you between selections.
Special features are the bread and butter of the DVD presentation. On Disc One, of particular note are the “Killer Rabbit” feature, and the “Subtitles for People Who Don’t Like the Movie.” With the Killer Rabbit turned on, periodically throughout the film a white rabbit icon will appear, either normally or dressed as an accountant. Selecting the rabbit will take you to a static screen; if it is the accountant rabbit, the screen will contain humorous notes from the film’s accountants, if it is the normal rabbit, you’ll be taken to the “Mind of Terry Gilliam” for brief background excerpts on the current scene. The “Subtitles for People Who Don’t Like the Movie” adds Shakespearean English subtitles to the film that loosely follow the dialog in a very humorous way.
The second disc features a miscellaneous collection of stuff related to the film. You’ll find scenes rendered in Lego, scenes from the movie dubbed in Japanese, cast & crew info (quite detailed, and linked to pictures), and a pile of other stuff. A lot of it I would classify as filler; the “How to Use Your Coconuts” and “Location Recce” features, for instance, I didn’t find particularly amusing. Keep in mind, however, the I’m hardly the biggest British Comedy fan; Python aficionados will likely find more value in these.
Well, I think I summed it up adequately at the start: If you are a Python fanatic or buying your first copy of this film, it’s worth the extra three or four dollars to get the SE version. If you already own the 1999 release and are not a lunatic Python fan, don’t bother as the value of the extras depends on fanaticism, and the video and audio aren’t so amazing as to make an appreciable difference in your viewing experience.
Special Features List
- “Follow The Killer Rabbit” Feature
- High definition widescreen presentation
- Theatrical trailer(s)
- Shakespearean Subtitles
- On-Screen Screenplay
- Extra 24 seconds of content
- Join Michael Palin and Terry Jones in their special documentary: The Quest for the Holy Grail Locations
- How To Use Your Coconuts (an educational film)
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail In Lego
- “On Location with The Pythons”. Genuine 18 min. location report made in 1974 by BBC Film Night.
- A Load of Old Rubbish