Monty Python and the Holy Grail on Blu-ray
Your father smelt of elderberries
Review Round and round we go the video format bush. First you recorded it off the telly. Then you bought it on VHS. Finally, you acquired a perfectly brilliant version on DVD. And now, finally again, Sony Pictures has found yet another way for you to part with your money for the love of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Repeat performance: Monty Python and the Holy Grail gets the Blu-ray treatment
Depending upon your age, you may not have spent your way through all the formats, but that excellent two-disc DVD release from 2002 was bought by many. So let's see what you get on Blu-ray that you don't already have in your video library.
First, don't expect marvels from the additional resolution that Blu-ray affords. I saw the film in a cinema in the mid-1970s and I remember being disappointed even then at the poor visual quality. The cash-strapped Pythons must have chosen the cheapest film stock in the shop.
You've got mail
Sure enough, Blu-ray reveals occasional glints on polished metal and I think I noticed some colours that weren't green and brown like the rest of the film. However, a hasty shoot using cheap stock during a period of relentless overcast days is never going to make for a dazzling visual result. In fact, even the rostrum animations look grainy.
If the film quality wasn't bad enough, the sound is dreadful. Appalling on-location audio is something that afflicted Holy Grail  and Life of Brian  alike, so it's no surprise that there's little that could be done to fix it 37 years later. To give Sony Pictures some credit, the faked-up stereo is passable, although you can choose to listen to the soundtrack in its original glorious mono.
I have to push the pram a lot
In all honesty, I can't say the Blu-ray offers an audio-visual experience any better than the 10-year old DVD release. So the only differentiating factor has to be the Blu-ray extras. I advise caution here because the extras on the disc do not tally with those listed by Sony Pictures in its press releases.
Naturally, this Blu-ray version inherits several of the better extras from the DVD. These include two separate commentaries – one by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, the other by John Cleese, Eric Idle and Michael Palin – plus a mini documentary in which Michael Palin and Terry Jones revisit the film locations, shot in 2000.
I told them we've already got one
Also included are the famous Lego Knights dancing the Camelot song, two Japanese-dubbed scenes (the first castle taunting and the knights who say 'Ni!'), a BBC Film Night on-location report from 1974, subtitled singalong versions of the three main songs, the US cinema trailer and the unfunny mockumentary How to use your coconuts.
Are you suggesting coconuts migrate?
Thankfully, the Blu-ray version comes with several new extras – 30 minutes' worth, apparently. There is a bunch of outtakes and extended scenes which, to be honest, are interesting because they are introduced and explained by Terry Jones but they are not particularly amusing in themselves. A somewhat pointless subtitling option, in which the script is replaced by quotes from Henry IV Part II, failed to raise a titter in my household.
What are you going to do? Bleed on me?
A small gallery of stills has been thrown in, too. But the real treat is a heap of previously unseen Holy Grail animations – a mixture of demos, tests and clips that were cut from the film – with endearingly confused explanations from Terry Gilliam himself. The clips might seem a little repetitive but if you value animation, this is like rediscovering a lost treasure.
If you own an iPad and you're a Python fan, you may already have downloaded the official Monty Python and the Holy Grail app known as The Holy Book of Days . If so, and your Blu-ray player is connected to your home internet router, you can use the iPad app to control playback of the Blu-ray over Wi-Fi. This allows you to skip to particular scenes (on your TV), then pause the film while on you peruse (on your iPad) outtakes, scripts and Michael Palin's diary for those days of the shoot.
Oh look, he's buggered off
Cynics would call this an obvious cash-in: the app doesn't come free with your Blu-ray purchase. However, I thought it was charming and added to my enjoyment of both the app and the film. Everyone in the house wanted to have a go.
Sony Pictures lists a whole bunch of other extras such as Elephant & Castle and Meanwhile, King Arthur & Sir Bedevere... but they weren't on my disc. Perhaps they were dropped at the last minute and no-one told the PR people. I don't think it's a matter of territories because this Blu-ray has been designated for regions A, B and C, which effectively means you can watch it on any Blu-ray player in the world.
Castle-to-ground missile technology for the medieval Olympics
On a tech note, do not try to play the disc on an external USB Blu-ray player attached to your computer: the copy protection only allows it to be played through video connections such as HDMI. On another tech note, activating the BD Live feature from the disc takes you to an on-line page advertising The Smurfs 3D film. I don’t think this is a joke, but that someone simply hasn’t got around to pointing the link to something Python-related. Get on with it!
For those who absolutely must have everything Python-related, this Blu-ray release adds a few more bits and pieces to your collection. The less fanatical should find themselves satisfied with a copy of the old but first-rate two-disc DVD, which is sold everywhere for a tenner or less. But if you are a Holy Grail virgin (A spanking! A spanking!) or almost-newbie who doesn't already have a decent copy of the film, the Blu-ray version is unquestionably the best with the most complete extras... until the next version comes along. ®