‘Monty Python And The Holy Grail’ Turns 40: 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know

Monty Python and the Holy Grail is one of the finest comedic films of all time. You know it and I know it. And this year it turns 40 years-old yet is just as funny as ever. But there is a lot that, despite its amazing 40-year shelf life you probably don’t know about it too.

So nurse your flesh wounds, remember your favorite colour; grab your book of Armaments; yell “ekki-ekki-ekki-ekki-PTANG zoom-boing, z’nourrwringmm!”; cut down the mightiest tree in the forest with a herring; dream of big…tracts of land; and let’s take a look at some intriguing and hilarious things you didn’t know about Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

John Cleese and Terry Gilliam were their own stuntmen

The fight between the Black and Green Knights (played by John Cleese and Terry Gilliam, respectively) was not done with the expertise of stuntmen, but rather by the Python men themselves. They had to learn how to wield heavy swords and perform some light acrobatics – and loved doing it.

Michael Palin’s son was in Holy Grail

That’s right. His infant son played a very important part: the role of Sir-Not-Appearing-In-This-Film. Adorable, no?

Talented ladies finally got their due

Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the famous sketch show the troupe cut their teeth on, had plenty of female parts…but they were all played by men. Holy Grail finally saw female parts being played by females, including Fawlty Towers’ very funny Connie Booth.

It had the tiniest of budgets

Of $400,000. Today, that would be $1.9M. And that’s exactly why Graham Chapman’s King Arthur was the only one who had actual chainmail. (The other knights had spray-painted wool shirts.) And the clip-clopping coconut gag wasn’t just for laughs; it was because they couldn’t afford horses. No shit.

Famous musicians invested in Holy Grail

Of that tiny budget, famous U.K. musicians like Elton John, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd (who were trying to shelter their money from restrictive tax laws) provided over 90% to it and the movie’s distribution.

It made back its budget…and then some

According to Wikipedia, they banked $5 million at the box office. In 2015 money that’d be around $22 (about an eleven-fold increase from its sub-$2 million) budget.

The Japanese version was a bit different

For the Japanese release, the name was changed from Monty Python and the Holy Grail…to Monty Python and the Holy Sake Cup. That is correct – I chose not to italicize that title. Also, the Knights Who Say Ni wanted a bonsai tree instead of a shrubbery. You can’t make this stuff up.

The witch trial scene wasn’t just hilarious to the audience

During the scene Cleese, Palin and Idle had to restrain their laughter. In fact, during it Idle bites down on the blade of the scythe he’s holding; Cleese turns his head to one side quickly (but not quite quickly enough) as he can be seen grinning; and Palin can be seen hiding his laughter.

It caused a bomb threat to happen…34 years later

In London in 2009 a copy of the prop used for the Holy Hand Grenade was found underneath a fire hydrant cover. The bomb disposal squad was called in and realized that everyone was just sort of overreacting.

Some dude figured out the average airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow

Back in 2003, a lad named Jonathan Corum figured this out. And the answer? Drum roll please……the average cruising airspeed velocity of an unladen European Swallow is roughly 11 meters per second, or 24 miles an hour. Not kidding. Check it.