A Wild West bookshop and an amorous pink knight never made it into “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” alongside the killer rabbit of Caerbannog and the Knights Who Say “Ni!”, but the unused sketches have been unearthed in the private archives of Python member Michael Palin.
The British Library confirmed the find to Variety, which was first reported by The Times of London. The sketches were written for “Holy Grail” but did not make the cut, and include a more conventional ending to the film than the abrupt one that was ultimately chosen because it was considered cheaper as well as funnier.
Palin said that the Pythons – himself, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, and Terry Jones – often produced more material than was needed, and in this case “the story of the knights [of the Round Table] was enough.” An absurdist take on Arthurian legend, the film was directed by Jones and Gilliam and released in 1975.
The Pink Knight sketch was written by Palin and Jones. Reprinted in The Times before going on public display, it sees the knight standing in a “camp pose” and demanding a kiss from King Arthur. “None shall cross this bridge save he who shall give me a kiss,” the pink knight says. Arthur declines, and the pair struggle before falling on one another. A group of passing pilgrims sees them, leading a monk to remark: “You could at least go indoors. You landowners are all the same.”
Palin told The Times that the sketch would probably not be made today. “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,” he said.
The Pink Knight was ditched, but the Black Knight survived to utter the immortal line “Just a flesh wound” after having both arms chopped off in a sword fight with Arthur.
In the Wild West sketch, a news reporter enters what he thinks is a saloon but is in fact “the last bookshop before you get to Mexico.” He asks if another local trading post will have beer. “Not since they started specializing in modern European authors,” the barman tells him.
The original ending had the Camelot crew battle it out against the French and the bloodthirsty rabbit with “a vicious streak a mile wide.” But the scene was deemed too expensive, and so Arthur wound up abruptly arrested by modern-day British police instead.
Palin gave the British Library his archives last June. The majority of the material has been catalogued and is already available in the library’s reading rooms. There were more than 50 notebooks containing drafts, working material and reflections relating to Palin’s Monty Python writing. There were also project files with material relating to his film, TV and literary work, and annotated scripts relating to Python projects.
Archive highlights will be on display in a “Michael Palin, Writer, Actor, Comedian” exhibition in the library’s Treasures Gallery. “There will be scripts, diaries, photographs and ephemera celebrating films like ‘Monty Python’s Life of Brian,’ and also showing less well-known aspects of Palin’s career,” a spokesman for the library said.
“Monty Python and the Holy Grail” has remained popular with sing-along versions and anniversary releases, and was the basis for the musical “Spamalot.”
The archival find comes soon after Cleese took umbrage at comments from the BBC’s comedy boss that the Pythons would not make it on modern TV because they were “six Oxbridge white blokes.” Cleese said the Pythons were diverse for their time and offered his take on why the show is not on air on the pubcaster. “It’s not been shown for 17 years – maybe it’s too funny,” he told BBC radio.