Nerds the world over rejoiced last year when Sideshow Toy launched a series of 12" action figures from the cult film MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL. The idea was insane, but so was the filmand Sideshow had set a precedent by making action figures from Rob Reiner's SPINAL TAP movie. In fact, Sideshow takes comedy seriously: they've produced beautifully crafted action figures not only from these two films but also from YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN and the television shows HOGAN'S HEROES and GET SMART (I can't wait to use my Bob Crane action figure to reproduce scenes from Paul Schrader's AUTO FOCUS).
There's something different about the HOLY GRAIL figures, though. The great thing about MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL is that not only is it one of the funniest movies ever made, it's also a really cool-looking fantasy film. This was Terry (BRAZIL) Gilliam's first movie (he co-directed it with Python's Terry Jones), and you can see the beginnings of the bristling, fiendishly imaginative look Gilliam brought to later efforts like TIME BANDITS, THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN, and 12 MONKEYS. Sideshow put out figures of all the knights of the Round Table and King Arthur (plus Arthur's manservant Patsy) last year and these quickly sold out, but never fear: the company will be putting out a "muddy" version of the main characters late this year.
Two of the most visually striking characters in the film are the Black Knight and Tim the Enchanter. Both are played by John Cleese, probably the most physically adept and popular of all the Python performers. Early on in the film Arthur and Patsy encounter the Black Knight, who confronts the King over crossing a bridge only to have Arthur gradually cut off all his arms and legs in the ensuing sword fight. The nice thing about this scene is that visually the Black Knight is established as an impressive-looking character, with imposing close-ups of his cylindrical, slitted helmet silently facing down Arthurthis makes the ultimate fate of the character (sitting on the ground, armless and legless, screaming "Come back here! I'll bite your legs off!") all the funnier. Sideshow's HOLY GRAIL figures capture the mood of the movie perfectly, with window box packaging full of descriptive text written in a good approximation of Python movie speak. The Black Knight is clothed in an elastic, high gloss knit fabric that really looks like tight black chain mail; on top of that is a black, knee-length frock with the Knight's hogshead coat-of-arms printed on the chest in red. The gun-metal helmet is nicely reproduced, and the eye slit reveals just a bit of eyes, nose and brow molded in black plastic, giving the impression of someone inside there without really revealing anything. The character also comes with a really long, really wicked-looking sword, nicely reproducing a pretty cool prop from the film.
Also just out is Tim the Enchanter, one of the most popular and coolest-looking characters in the film. Tim wears a ragged black and magenta robe and a leather skull cap from which emerge two ram's horns, and with his seven foot staff he whiles away the hours making things explode. The Tim the Enchanter action figure features a beautiful likeness of John Cleese, brows furrowed in concentration as he casts a spell. His mustache and the dark sides of his beard are molded into his face, while the white center of his beard is real hair. In addition to the staff, the figure comes with several magical accessories designed to dangle from his neck: a leg bone and three small containers for magic potions. Tim's robe is cut up and threaded out to give a ragged appearance and there's even some dirt added. The robe is sewn to the inner part of Tim's costume near the bottom of the leg, but you have to tie it around his neck; it would have been nice if the sewn points had been attached to the figure's sleeves somehow but you can do this yourself if you want more of a billow to the cape. At $30-$40 a pop the HOLY GRAIL figures are quite an investment if you want to collect them all, but since most Monty Python fans are crazy anyway, I don't see the problem.