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Quest for New ‘Holy Grail' Near an End

12 Oct, 2001 By: Fred Topel

The special edition of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, due Oct. 23 fromColumbia TriStar Home Entertainment, is full of extras aimed directly atPython fans' collective sense of humor. Codirector Terry Gilliam felt it necessary to offer something new to entice fans to buy a new copy of themovie.

“We've always been pretty generous with our fans, I think,” Gilliam says. “It just seems if you're going to recycle the stuff, you might as well add as much as you can to make it feel newer, fresher and have something there that shows we're still alive and not all completelydead.”

Extras include Michael Palin demonstrating how to make horse sounds with a split coconut and Japanese-dubbed versions of two scenes. Perhaps the most bizarre bonus feature is a reenactment of the “Knights of the Roundtable” musical number with LEGO figures.

“Somebody sent me an e-mail earlier this year saying, ‘Check this Website out,' and it was a Japanese site that had scenes from The Holy Grail made out of LEGOs,” Gilliam recalls. “They weren't animated. They were just static. I showed that to John [Cleese] and he [called] LEGOand there were a couple people at LEGO who got excited and did the animated version of it, which is quite wonderful.”

Archival material includes old marketing material and a BBC featurette from 1974. There are no deleted scenes or outtakes beyond the 42 seconds added in this year's theatrical rerelease, because the Python gang always used all the footage they had in the film. Gilliam says theyfound the old material easily. The challenge was creating the new.

“The most difficult stuff was scanning in some of my old artwork and trying to transform it into new animation,” Gilliam says. “That entailed the most work. I had to dig through the drawers and get my old artwork out. So, it's all new stuff basically, using old original material.”

There is a “Follow the Killer Rabbit” mode, but it has little similarity to The Matrix DVD's “Follow the White Rabbit” mode. When the killer rabbit appears, pressing enter on the remote takes the viewer to stillimages of production materials such as prop lists and preproduction sketches.

“The DVD mastering crowd suggested this and we thought it was a terrific idea,” Gilliam said. “It's not an original idea, obviously.”

A new documentary has Michael Palin and Terry Jones returning to locations where the film was shot. Gilliam didn't join them because“Nobody asked me,” he says. “The reality was I was away in Spain working on a film, [the abandoned project The Man Who Killed Don Quixote] so I wasn't around. It's very hard to get more than a couple of us togetherat any one time. I think what's surprising was to watch Mike and Terry hunting for the locations and suddenly seeing them as they really are as opposed to what we have on film. That, to me, was a real joy.

"Somehow, when you dress up a place and shoot it from the right angles, things seem quite magnificent and wonderful. Then you see it in the flesh, like the cave is just a little hole in the ground,” Gilliam said.

In true Python form, the disc also includes a negative review of the film. “That's something we've always loved doing,” Gilliam says. “Letthe world remember the truth, not how history rewrites it. There were plenty of negative reviews. We just thought it bloody right that theyshould be remembered.”

A more traditional DVD extra are the film's commentary tracks. One has directors Jones and Gilliam, the other has Palin, Cleese and Eric Idle talking about aspects of filmmaking. Though the groupings seem deliberate, Gilliam revealed all five people were recorded separately.

“This is the illusion they've created that there are two groups here,” Gilliam said. “In fact, our [Jones' and my] commentary is from theCriterion Collection laserdisc that was done some time ago. A guy named Andr? Jacquemin who does the sound on a lot of our stuff very cleverly made it appear that we were in the same place talking together. It allstrikes me like Rashomon where the events unfold as told by the different participants and they're all different.”

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