Ad Space – Monty Python and the Holy Grail

You are now entering Ad Space, a realm of commercials, brought before us so we might examine how they work, and discuss why we both love and hate them so. So it is written …

The Product:
Monty Python and the Holy Grail the motion picture

The Promotion:

The Pitch:
This trailer is getting far too silly, let’s keep things moving along …

Movie trailers are a very different type of advertising from other commercials. Most ads, all they can do is tell or show you what makes their product worth having, but movie trailers go beyond that: they can straight up offer you a free sample of the movie.

Not a representative sample of the movie, of course. They’re careful only to show the best moments of the film … or at least those moments that seem the best when viewed with no context (in the case of a comedy, that means lots of one-liners and slapstick). I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of watching a movie, and recognizing all the scenes from the trailer were there, but (for good or ill) a few minutes of spliced together footage that quick-cuts between unconnected incidents … it can’t really be the same sort of experience you get from watching the film.

So I’ve gotta applaud Monty Python and the Holy Grail for breaking from the usual pattern of movie trailers, but in a way that holds true to the spirit of what trailers are meant to do.

Oh, there’s some of the usual trailer stuff in here: exciting shots of people running around, getting hurt, and spouting daff sounding lines. But it’s all presented through the utterly bizarre conceit that the trailer keeps stopping and starting over, as they try out different narrators … before settling on one who only speaks Japanese Mandarin. And who (according to the subtitles) can only offer faint praise or backhanded compliments to the film they’re promoting, and in the end shifts to shilling a Japanese Chinese restaurant instead.

It’s such a random and ridiculous thing to do, breaking apart the structural foundations of movie trailers … which is a perfect sample of Monty Python style humor. This is, after all, a movie that will suddenly shift into oddball animation for a scene or two, have characters acknowledge that the movie couldn’t afford horses, just a guy banging coconuts together to make the sound of hoofbeats, and end with:

King Arthur and their Knights being arrested by the police because, earlier in the film, they randomly murdered a historian filming a framing device for the movie.

You watch this trailer, and you’re going to have a very good idea whether Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a movie for you.