Category: Entertainment Seller:Melcher Media Requirements: iOS 4.3 or later. For Blu Ray-enhanced features, Web-enabled Blu Ray Player, Blu Ray copy of Monty Python and the Holy Grail Compatibility: iPad only File Size: 1.02GB Version Reviewed: 1.0 Price: $4.99 Age Rating: 9+
Monty Python and the Holy Grail may be the nerdiest movie ever made. Certainly it was one of the most beloved by nerddom, and when I was growing up a rite of passage was memorizing every line of the film. The film recently came out on Blu Ray, and along with it came The Holy Book of Days, an iPad app that presented a deluge of information about the making of the movie, with personal reflections from the cast, video outtakes, diary entries, and even new footage of Terry Jones and Michael Palin revisiting locations from the shoot and sharing memories.
By all accounts, it was a difficult shoot; 28 days on a limited budget with two co-directors who’d never directed a film before. Still, the Pythons were one of the greatest comedy teams ever, and they managed to pull together a very silly film that still holds together. But this is not a review of the film, rather the app, which attempts to give you a taste of what the shoot was like.
Here’s how it breaks down:
You can view the information in one of two ways: following the continuity of the film, or as a record of how the film was put together. I highly recommend the latter, as it gives you a better idea of the flow of the shoot, as the team figures out what’s working and what’s not, struggles to overcome difficulties, and just generally gets fed up with each other.
Each day of the shoot gets its own “page” in the app, describing what part of Grail they were working on and where they were, and providing short remembrances from the cast. Along the side (and sometimes embedded in the page itself), will be special, additional material related to that day’s shoot (though not every day has every type of bonus material), like candid shots (wink wink nudge nudge).
The shooting script for the film is presented, along with notes, additions, and cuts. You can also play the “floor tapes” recorded during the shoot to give you an idea of how the script sounded.
Possibly the most insightful document of what it was like to be on location are transcribed entries from Michael Palin’s diary, who speaks frankly about how tough the shoot was, with long days spent in the mud and rain, waiting for special effects to be set up, but also about the camaraderie between the cast and crew. Palin doesn’t have an entry for every day, but when he does, it’s always the best element.
For hardcore film nerds, the app recreates the continuity reports for the day’s filming, which describes in detail what was shot, and how it should be used when making the final cut. This is in contrast to the script, which was an ideal version of what would be shot. Palin’s diary often bridges the difference between these two, talking about what had to be changed for practical reasons (money, time).
Not so much a “blooper reel” as unused, b-roll, or unedited footage from the film, where you’ll hear the directors (Gilliam and Jones) off-screen giving direction, or an assistant director reading lines for the actors to react to. It’s interesting if you want insight into how a film is put together from lots of little pieces, rather than the illusion that everything happens at once, using multiple cameras.
Actor Michael Palin and actor/co-director Terry Jones went back to several locations, giving remembrances and recreations of how they used the locations (turning a great hall, for instance, into a corridor by having Palin creep along it and, well, not showing how big it was. While Palin and Jones are charming as always and game (recreating the “horse riding” pantomime on a hill), the clips are very short and offer little insight to the making of the film. They feel more like a taste of a much longer documentary.
As I do not have a web-enabled Blu-Ray player, I wasn’t able to test out those features, which allow you to jump from the book (on your iPad) and see how the finished film turned out (on your player).
The Holy Book of Days is best thought of as a set of additional features to the film. Which is, of course, what it is, though one you have to pay for separately from the Blu Ray it was released with. As a diary of the making of a comedy classic, it gives some thoughtful, though not terribly deep, insight into what the making of the film must have been like for a group of seasoned television performers who lept into the deep end with a film and came out with a treasure. This is an app that obsessive Python fans will love, but if you’re not an obsessive Python (and I don’t know any other kind), you probably won’t understand what all the fuss is about.