Monty Python Episode 24 - The Missing Bits

(or, How Not To Be Seen)

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Show 11 of Series 2 of Monty Python's Flying Circus has long held a particular fascination for dedicated Pythonists. It closes with a montage of clips taken from the entire show - which includes two frames of an animation sequence edited from the show, as shown here:

Recently, whilst cataloguing some BetacamSP tapes of episodes of "One Step Beyond" provided to the TV station I work for, I came across an odd title: "Chinese Ad Men". It didn't appear in the "One Step Beyond" episode guide, so I checked the tape. I was quite surprised to find it was a transfer of a monochrome 16mm kinescope of Episode 24 of Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Aside from marking it as "Not to be broadcast under any circumstances", I thought little of it until a chance question arose on the Missing Episodes forum a day or two later asking whether any b/w kinescopes of Python existed. When I replied that, by an odd coincidence, I just happened to have a copy of one here, the further question arose, did it have the censored bits in it? I checked... and this is what I found.

NOTE: Material which has been cut is in italics.

Missing Sequence #1

From the Conquistador Coffee sketch which opens the show.

Cleese: ...and athlete's head - from the House of Conquistador.

Idle: It was a soft sell, sir.

Cleese: Finally, these tactless references to leprosy and terminal cancer.

He sits down behind his desk

Cleese: Why, Frog?

Idle: S. Frog, sir.
Cleese: Shut up!

TOTAL CUT = 0'05"

Missing Sequence #2

This is a rather longer sequence, from the end of the Crackpot Religions sketch.

Cartoon Vicar: We want you to think of us as your friend.

The vicar smiles widely. The top of his head comes off again and a devil pops out. The vicar nails the top of his head on and smiles.

Cartoon Vicar: Now, as I was... oh.

A phone rings - the vicar answers it.

Cartoon Vicar: Hello? What? I can't hear you!

Cut to a solider up a telegraph pole with a field telephone.

Solider (Terry J): Hey, Ally, we've got a bad connection on line 422! Can you switch the points over?

Pull out to reveal the telegraph poles are crucifixes - with Jesus on one of them.

Solider: No, no, that's still not got it, no, no, over this way.

Clap of thunder - the ground shakes and splits open.
With a fanfare, Satan himself pops his head out of the crack, surrounded by recruitment signs.

Satan (Idle - Jewish accent): Did somebody call? [pause] Oy, did I pick the wrong moment for sales talk-up![?] Terribly sorry, my fault.

Satan shrinks, turns into a bat, and flies away.

Satan: Excuse me, please.

Cut to shot of a woodland clearing. The bat flies across it and exits the frame.

Cleese (VO): In this picture there are forty people. None of them can be seen.

TOTAL CUT = 0'33"

Oddly, there seems to be a section missing from the 16mm print, during the Crelm Toothpaste / Shrill Petrol animation. It concludes with the line "Crelm Toothpaste goes on to win with 100% protection" and cuts immediately to the start of the Railway Timetables Murder sketch, eliminating the Shrill Petrol black card/white card bit altogether - an omission of roughly 0'30". Whether this is an edit to this particular print or whether all prints were like this is unknown.

Matthew K. Sharp
12 July 2003

Postscript - 23 July 2003
An American film collector has subsequently found an actual film print of this episode (possibly the same print used to make the video transfer) and has arranged for it to be returned to the BBC.
It appears the kinescope was made for AFRTS - the Armed Forces Radio & Televison Service (the part of the US Army which supplies entertainment for the troops). There is no sign of a splice in the print removing the Shrill Petrol animation, so it seems this may be deliberate edit made before the episode was circulated.