And an exercise in extremes. Build-up/Dissipate/Surprise/Build-up/Drag-Out/Dissipate. The threat of a creature "so foul, so cruel that no man has fought it and lived" turns out to be a rabbit. That's one turn-around. But a rabbit that leaps impossibly, screeching and tearing out the very sinews and gristle of its opponents. That's another turn-around. We're given an over-the-top (and under-budgeted) cheap-jack Peckinpavian action sequence with puppetry and spurting blood as the berserker-bunny tears through the ranks of the Knights (and "Brave" Sir Robin at this point is very rank), leading to one of the best battle commands in movies ("Run away!"), and my favorite line of the sequence: "That rabbit is dynamite!" The only solution, as it usually is in Arthurian legends and movie epics, is a combination of religion and warfare which, in theory, should be exclusive, but has had so much practice, the two are seemingly inseparable. "Brother Maynard, fetch the Holy Hand Grenade!"
Oh! And love the shot of the Knights seemingly emerging from a skull's nose-holes. Can't decide who might have planned that shot: Gilliam or Jones?
The Set-Up: When last we left Arthur (Graham Chapman) and his Knights of the Round Table, they had encountered Tim the Enchanter (John Cleese), who offered to help them find the Holy Grail by leading them to the carved last words of Olfin Bedwere of Rheged in the cave of Caerbannog, guarded by a creature most foul, most cruel "with great big nasty teeth."
Well, they're there.
[clop clop whinny]
KNIGHT: They're nervous, sire.
ARTHUR: Then we'd best leave them here and carry on on foot. Dis-mount!
TIM: Behold the cave of Caerbannog!
ARTHUR: Right! Keep me covered.
KNIGHT: What with?
ARTHUR: Just keep me covered.
TIM: Too late!
TIM: There he is!
ARTHUR: What, behind the rabbit?
TIM: It is the rabbit!
ARTHUR: You silly sod! You got us all worked up!
TIM: Well, that's no ordinary rabbit. That's the most...
TIM:...foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent...
TIM: ...you ever set eyes on.
ROBIN: You tit! I soiled my armor I was so scared!
TIM: Look, that rabbit's got a vicious streak a mile wide, it's a killer!
KNIGHT: Get stuffed!
TIM: It'll do you a trick, mate!
KNIGHT: Oh, yeah?
ROBIN: You mangy Scot git!
TIM: I'm warning you!
ROBIN: What's he do, nibble your bum?
TIM: He's got huge, sharp-- he can leap about-- look at the bones!
ARTHUR: Go on, Boris. Chop his head off!
BORIS: Right! Silly little bleeder. One rabbit stew comin' right up!
[squeak] The rabbit leaps in the air and attacks Boris, biting off his head.
ARTHUR: Jesus Christ!
TIM: I warned you!
ROBIN: I done it again!
TIM: I warned you! But did you listen to me? Oh, no, you knew it all, didn't you? Oh, it's just a harmless little bunny, isn't it? Well, it's always the same, I always--
ARTHUR: Oh, shut up!
TIM: --But do they listen to me?--
TIM: -Oh, no--
ARTHUR: Run away! Run away!!
KNIGHTS: Run away! Run away!
TIM (exits laughing): Haw haw haw. Haw haw haw. Haw haw.
ARTHUR: Right. How many did we lose?
ARTHUR: And Boris. That's five.
GALAHAD: Three, sir.
ARTHUR: Three. Three. And we'd better not risk another frontal assault, that rabbit's dynamite.
ROBIN: Would it help to confuse it if we run away more?
ARTHUR: Oh, shut up and go and change your armor.
GALAHAD: Let us taunt it! It may become so cross that it will make a mistake.
ARTHUR: Like what?
ARTHUR: Have we got bows?
LAUNCELOT: We have the Holy Hand Grenade.
ARTHUR: Yes, of course! The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch! 'Tis one of the sacred relics Brother Maynard carries with him!
ARTHUR: Brother Maynard!
ARTHUR: Bring up the Holy Hand Grenade!
ARTHUR: How does it, uh... how does it work?
KNIGHT: I know not, my liege.
ARTHUR: Consult the Book of Armaments!
MAYNARD: Armaments, Chapter Two, Verses Nine to Twenty-One.
BROTHER: "And Saint Atila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, 'Oh, Lord, bless this thy hand grenade that with it thou mayest blow thy enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy.'
BROTHER: "And the Lord did grin, and people did feast upon the lambs, and sloths, and carp, and anchovies, and orangutans, and breakfast cereals, and fruit bats, and large --"
MAYNARD: Skip a bit, Brother.
BROTHER: "And the Lord spake, saying, 'First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then, shalt thou count to three, no more, no less.'
BROTHER: 'Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shalt be three.'
BROTHER: 'Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three.'
BROTHER: 'Five is right out.'
BROTHER: 'Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thou foe, who being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it.'"
ARTHUR: One... two... five!
KNIGHT: Three, sir!
[boom] The hand grenade explodes, blowing the deadly bunny up.
Some distance away, the police investigating the previous deaths (and now at the shrubberies of "The Knights who say 'Ni!'") hear the distant explosion and rush forward to investigate.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Words by Graham Chapman, John Cleese , Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin
Pictures by Terry Bedford and Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is available on DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.