Every fan of MONTY PYTHON AND HOLY GRAIL has fond memories of the killer rabbit, the Knights Who Say “Ni!” and the debates about the air velocity of swallows. But, how different would the world be if the movie also included an “amorous Pink Knight” and a Wild West Bookshop? That was almost the case, as a bounty of unearthed HOLY GRAIL material has surfaced courtesy of Michael Palin’s archives.
The Times of London (via Variety) got the scoop that the British Library, which houses Palin’s private archive, has found unused material for HOLY GRAIL including new sketches, ending and a delightful new character. Much like any changed or deleted scenes in movies, some were cut or changed for story purposes, financial reasons or simply because they decided on a funnier option.
One bit from Palin and Python member Terry Jones finds King Arthur (Graham Chapman) encountering a Pink Knight (much the like Black Knight Arthur fights in the finished movie) in a “slightly camp pose” and who demands a kiss from him. The Pink Knight won’t let Arthur cross the bridge without his kiss, and the two men end up struggling and falling on one another.
Palin told The Times that such a sketch probably wouldn’t work today, saying, “When we were writing Python in 1973, there was much more homophobia – or, rather, not homophobia exactly, but awkwardness of dealing with the whole subject of homosexuality.”
After moving on from that hilarity, try reimaging the classic ending where Arthur gets arrested when trying to charge a castle with his army. That whole bit was almost entirely different, and possibly much less hysterical. According to the early drafts the scene was meant to end with a big battle between armies and other characters, but it was altered for budget reasons, and because the more unconventional ending was much funnier.
Another sketch – much more in line with something you would see in FLYING CIRCUS or MEANING OF LIFE – took place in a Wild West setting where a reporter, thinking he’s gone into a saloon, has stumbled upon “the last bookshop before you get to Mexico.” When asked if there’s another place he can grab a drink, he’s told, “Not since they started specializing in modern European authors.” The bit continues, with bandits coming in demanding a copy of “Black Beauty” only to get mad when it arrives in poor condition.
Though these scenes sound funny in their own right, in trying to imagine them they do seem to hold up the story or come off as a bit too random. The bookshop scene sounds like a genius bit, but where would it have fit in? And the Pink Knight sounds like classic Python, but how many whacky knights does Arthur have to encounter, especially after the comic inspiration that was the Black Knight? HOLY GRAIL is as perfect as perfect can get, so I’m glad the group cut and changed what they did.