Monkee Python: Micky Dolenz directs Michael Palin and Terry Jones in ‘The Box’

Micky Dolenz directing the final episode of ‘The Monkees’
After the Monkees, after Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart, after the stage show of Harry Nilsson’s The Point!, Micky Dolenz spent a few years working as a TV director in London. He nearly made a career out of it. Dolenz was behind the camera of the robot sitcom Metal Mickey (namesake of Suede’s second single), the British version of Fernwood 2 Night (LWT’s For 4 Tonight), and the Bill Oddie series From the Top.

Dolenz also directed the TV film of a one-act play by Michael Palin and Terry Jones. The Box was based on Buchanan’s Finest Hour, the second of two short plays that made up Palin and Jones’ Their Finest Hours. A footnote in Palin’s diaries gives these plot summaries:

Underwood’s Finest Hour is set in a labour room with a mother straining to give birth and a doctor straining to listen to a particularly exciting Test Match. Buchanan’s Finest Hour is about a marketing idea gone awry. The cast, including the Pope, are trapped inside a packing crate throughout.

Watch ‘The Box’ after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall
06:13 am
On location with ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’

At the end of April 1974, the Monty Python team arrived in Ballachulish, Scotland, for a month’s filming on their second feature Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

After more than a year of careful planning, writing and lengthy negotiations, the Pythons (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin) hoped to make a “really good comedy film” that could stand alone and wouldn’t rely on the success of their TV series.

In his diary, Michael Palin detailed the film’s progress from initial idea to finished product.

Monday, March 5th [1973]

A Python meeting at Terry’s. The first time since the third LP in September that we have all contributed to a creative enterprise—in this case the second Python film. It was in many ways like a typical Python working day. Graham arrived late, and Terry made the coffee—and there was the usual indecision over whether to have a small lunch in, or a blow-out at one of Camberwell’s few restaurants…

But for me, the most heartening thing of all was the quality and quantity of the writing that Python has done over the last week… Today we proved that Python can still be as fresh as three years ago, and more prolific.

The team were also working on a stage show, a new book, another TV series (this time without Cleese) and their own projects. In amongst all this, each Python had to find time to work on the film script.

Tuesday, November 27th [1973]

Worked at Terry [Jones’] in the morning. A very poor session. We both wrote 75% tripe, and seemed unable to summon up excitement or concentration about the film. The most I could manage was a sketch about Galahad having smelly breath.


Tuesday, January 15th, London [1974]

Python meeting at T. Gilliam’s… There was some fairly bitter debate over timing of the film and rewriting. In the end, after the personal differences had been aired, we got down to some fast and efficient business, dates were agreed and there was a very useful hour’s discussion of the film. An idea I had for the gradual and increasing involvement of the present day in this otherwise historical film was adopted as a new and better way of ending it…

With the script finished, casting and locations chosen, the filming was scheduled to commence in the spring with Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam co-directing.

Tuesday, April 30th, Ballachulish

First day of filming. Woken at 6.45. Sunshine streaming through the curtains. Into chainmail and red-cross tabard. A difficult day today—the Bridge of Death scene where Eric and I die and Lancelot is arrested by the police…

Camera broke midway through first shot.

The day is hastily rearranged and, from having been busy, but organised, it is now busy and disorganised… Graham as King Arthur got vertigo and couldn’t go across the bridge. He spent the day unhappily cold and shaking. Eric and I and John sat around listening to stories from the Mountain Rescue boys about how many people perish on these spectacular mountains each year. Five or six deaths usually.

Terry J comes up to me in the afternoon and says he’s ‘a bit worried about Terry G’s priorities in choice of shots’—we run two and a quarter hours overtime, until nearly 8.00. Everyone in the young unit seems happy enough.


Wednesday, May 1st, Ballachulish

Lunch with Mark [Forstater, producer], Eric and John, who is trying to read a book of philosophy and is constantly rather cross—but quite fun. He continually goes on about the ‘bovine incompetence’ of the waitresses—who are no Einsteins, but good-hearted Scottish mums.


Thursday, May 2nd, Ballachulish

Eric and I have another lazy day at the rest home for officers, while Graham and Terry are finding the Castle Aaargh! We go to the location about 2.00, and they still haven’t had a lunch break.

Graham is getting shit poured all over him. He’s taking a great deal of punishment in these first few days of filming.

Friday, May 3rd, Killin

A slow day’s filming, it seems. Rather a lot of worried faces when we run into overtime again…

Julian [Doyle] took me aside after filming today as we walked down the hillside and said he was worried that the way things were being shot this week was putting a big strain on the budget (almost the entire £1,000 allowed for overtime was spent in this first week) and there would have to be some compromises by the Terrys somewhere along the line.


Saturday, May 4th, Killin

A good day’s filming at last. Even John and Eric aren’t grumbling, even tho’ we go into overtime again.

Monday, May 6th, Killin

John and I talked about life. I sympathise quite a lot with his urge to be free of the obligations and responsibilities of the Python group—but I feel that John is still tense and unrelaxed with people, which compounds his problems. He has more defences than Fort Knox.


Tuesday, May 7th

Today we shoot the Camelot musical sequence. A long and busy day for 50 seconds’ worth of film…

We pass the afternoon with a game of football. Despite the chainmail, some quite good moves.


Thursday, May 9th

Amazing how much eating one does on filming. If you get up at 7.15 it is nice to have a cup of coffee at least before going to over to the Doune Rural Hall (headquarters of the WI [Women’s Institute]) and, with a full breakfast menu available, I am quite often tempted to a kipper or even a piece of toast. Then, at 10.30 on set, there is more coffee and soft, delicious bap rolls with sausages and scrambled egg. Ron Hellard supplies a gargantuan lunch with much pastry and potato, which is also hard to resist. At around 4.00 tea/coffee and cakes (v. good home-made currant buns) and, after a drink back at the hall at the end of the day, and a look at the rushes (shown extraordinarily enough, in the Silver Chalice Bar!), there is a four-course set meal at the hotel. Consumption is about double what one eats at home.

Saturday, May 11th

John is doing the Taunter on some artificial battlements at the back of the castle. He’s getting very irritated by TG’s direction of his acting. TG tends to communicate by instinct, gesture and feeling, whereas John prefers precise verbal instructions. So TJ has to take over and soothe John down.

Monday, May 13th

The day of the Mud-Eater. Clad in rags, crawling through filthy mud repeatedly and doggedly, in a scene which makes the flagellation scene from Seventh Seal look like Breakfast at Tiffany’s.


Friday, May 24th

...filming is an appalling process for reducing an actor to the role of machine.

In the Knights of Ni, for instance, I was to do close-ups first. directly in front of me are a group of anoraked people squatting down, far more preoccupied with their equipment than me. Someone reads the lines off in a flat voice, which gives you little encouragement. An eyeline keeps you looking at no one at all. Two huge white polystyrene reflectors enclose me on either side—it feels like acting in a sandwich.

Wednesday, May 29th

John, dressed as a magician, spent much of the morning on the narrow top of an extremely impressive pinnacle of slate, across the quarry from us.

Twice the cameras turned. Twice John, towering above the green and pleasant vistas of the Trossachs, gave the signal to summon forth mighty explosions. Twice the explosions failed, and John was left on this striking but lonely pinnacle. He kept in good form, reciting his old cabaret monologues across the quarry, but it was a hard start to the day for him—and he was cold and subdued by the time he came back.

Friday, May 31st

The long and wordy Constitutional Peasants scene. Feel heavy dull and uninspired—wanting above all else for it to be the end of the day…

Terry Bedford [camera] is angry because Mark [Forstater, producer] has been trying to economise by buying old film-stock. Some of the film which has arrived today is six years old. Terry will not use it—in fact he threw a can into a nearby moorland stream—so we have 1,000 feet on which to do this entire scene…

I’m almost too tired to enjoy fully the elation at the end of the day, when the filming, or my part of it anyway, is finally completed. Want to jump up and down, but can’t. So I just stand there looking out over the Scottish hills, all grey and dusky as evening falls, and feel wonderfully free.

Extracted from Michael Palin’s Diaries: 1969-1979 The Python Years.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail was released in April 1975 and proved incredibly successful, hailed as one of the greatest comedies ever made, making millions in profit, and spawning Eric Idle’s multi-award-winning musical Monty Python’s Spamalot.

H/T Vintage Everyday

Posted by Paul Gallagher
09:48 am
‘All of my films have really been statements about America’: The wonderful world of Terry Gilliam

‘All of my films have really been statements about America, strangely enough,’ said director Terry Gilliam in this documentary about his work and career, made for The South Bank Show in 1991.

If you look closely at them, or I sit and try to describe them in some way, they’re all me reacting to that country I left. They’re seen through the eyes of somebody who lives in Britain, who’s been affected by this world, but they’ve all been messages in film cans back to America.

They’ve been disguised with the Middle Ages and the Eighteenth Century and everything, but it’s about that. This one [The Fisher King] has no disguise—that’s what’s interesting about it. It’s there, it’s naked, this is the world.

Gilliam concludes the interview by dismissing any possibility of complacency in light of the success of The Fisher King .

Let’s say this film is successful and America is going to offer me money, there will be that tendency to say, “Oh, I’ll make more like this.” It’s easier to make films like this because I don’t have the same battles and I hope the perverse side of my nature is still there to rescue me from this, because I think that’s what’s kept me going is the sheer perverseness and because the easy path is that way…(Makes hand gesture) [and] I don’t do it

I think I’ll know when I’m really middle-aged when I go that way. If the next film is an easy film—you know it’s over. You’ll know he’s middle-aged, he’s fat, he’s a slob, he’s given up the battle.

As if that is ever going to happen, Mr. Gilliam!

Watch Terry Gilliam’s latest film ‘The Wholly Family’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
11:55 am
Monty Python on the Yorkshire Moors: Seldom seen interview from 1973

An early interview with some of the members of Monty Python (John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin), recorded during filming on the Yorkshire Moors - “Of course it’s changed a bit now. They’ve put the rocks in, haven’t they? That used to be the bathroom over there,” quips Palin, while Jones seeks attention by falling over, and Chapman sips his G&T. Filmed for the BBC regional news program Look North, this was originally broadcast on May 23rd, 1973.

Previously on Dangerous Minds

‘Away From It All’: Little-known Monty Python ‘travelogue,’ 1979

‘Sez Les’: What John Cleese did after ‘Monty Python’

Monty Python vs. God


Posted by Paul Gallagher
06:29 pm
Monty Python vs. God

In 1979, Michael Palin and John Cleese were invited onto a chat show, Friday Night, Saturday Morning, to discuss the controversy surrounding the latest Monty Python film, Life of Brian.

The film had outraged Christians across the world, who erroneously believed Brian was a blasphemous representation of Jesus Christ. In America, thousands turned out to demonstrate against Brian, waving banners that read, “Jesus was nailed to the cross not Screwed,” and singing “Kum Ba Yah”.

When the film arrived in the UK, there were similar candle light vigils and councils opting to ban the film from local cinemas, rather than face the ire of Nationwide Festival of Light, a prudish, busy-body Christian group, who foolishly believed they knew what was best for all the British public.

As Life of Brian was released, Cleese and Palin agreed to debate the film with professional Christian and hypocrite, Malcolm Muggeridge, and Mervyn Stockwood, Anglican Bishop of Southwark, who had the look of man who might enjoy yodeling up an altar boy’s arsehole. It was agreed the four would meet in the no-man’s land of the BBC’s chat show Friday Night, Saturday Morning, which was hosted by a variety of presenters (most successfully by the great god Ned Sherrin), but on this occasion by Tim Rice, yes that Tim Rice.

It was a brutal schoolyard battle, with most of the bullying coming from God’s defendants. At one point, the prissy Muggeridge turned to Palin and said:

Muggeridge: “I started off by saying that this is such a tenth-rate film that I don’t believe that it would disturb anybody’s faith.”

Palin: “Yes, I know you started with an open mind; I realise that.”

Neither of the Pythons seemed prepared for the Bishop’s and Muggeridge’s well-rehearsed outrage, which was a shame, and they gave their counterparts too much respect. Palin later noted in his diary:

“He began, with notes carefully hidden in his crotch, tucked down well out of camera range, to give a short sermon, addressed not to John or myself but to the audience. In the first three or four minutes he had brought in Nicolae Ceauşescu and Mao Tse-tung and not begun to make one point about the film. Then he began to turn to the movie. He accused us of making a mockery of the work of Mother Teresa, of being undergraduate and mentally unstable. He made these remarks with all the smug and patronising paraphernalia of the gallery-player, who believes that the audience will see he is right, because he is a bishop and we’re not”

I saw this show when it first went out, and I knew then it was a moment in TV history - a major cultural shift, when the accepted (and interfering) role of religion in public life was shown to be no longer relevant, or acceptable.

More from Python vs. God, plus trail for ‘Holy Flying Circus’, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
05:10 pm
Germaine Greer in ‘Darling, Do You Love Me?’

Before writing her revolutionary feminist text The Female Eunuch, Germaine Greer tried her hand at becoming a TV personality. In 1967, she briefly appeared alongside Michael Palin and future Goodies, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie in Twice a Fortnight. She then co-hosted the comedy series Nice Time in 1968, with DJ Kenny Everett and Jonathan Routh. Alas, neither made her a star.

In 1968, Greer also starred in this odd little film, Darling, Do You Love Me?, written and directed by Martin Sharp. In it, Germaine played an over-bearing, vampish female, who demands of a rather sappy, little male, “Darling, do you love me?” After much shaking, cajoling and strangulation from Greer, the man eventually says, “I love you,” and dies.

What are we to make of this? How love makes us needy? Or, perhaps, the old adage, if at first you don’t succeed..? For Greer did try and try again, until writing her landmark book. No more TV comedy after that, though she did pop-up in George (007) Lazenby’s 1971 movie, The Universal Soldier.  One can only wonder what would have happened if Nice Time had been a hit.

With thanks to Ewan Morrison

Posted by Paul Gallagher
01:18 pm
The ‘Ripping Yarns’ of Michael Palin & Terry Jones

After Monty Python’s Flying Circus ended in 1974, the BBC wanted to find other avenues for their team of talented comedy writers and performers.  One of the first ideas, was a proposal for a Michael Palin series. Palin was keen to try something different, but was unwilling to take-on any planned project without his writing partner and fellow Python, Terry Jones. With an offer to make a pilot, the pair came up with Tomkinson’s Schooldays, a hilarious spoof on Tom Brown’s Schooldays.

Partially inspired by Palin’s own experiences at public school, the show starred Ian Ogilvy as the School Bully, Gwen Watford as Mummy, Jones as the Headmaster, the Bear and Mr Moodie, and Palin as Tomkinson and in a selection of other roles. The pilot proved a major hit, and led to a series of Ripping Yarns - each a brilliant single story episode, with an all-star supporting cast (including Denholm Elliott, Joan Sanderson, Roy Kinnear, Judy Loe), covering such derring-do tales as bank robbers (The Testing of Eric Olthwaite), POWs (Escape from Stalag Luft 112b), Agatha Christie-type whodunnit (Murder at Moorstones Manor), stiff upper lip heroes (Across the Andes by Frog), and misadventure on the high seas (The Curse of the Claw).

A second season was commissioned, but only 3 episodes were made, as budget costs and a lack of nerve from the BBC unfortunately led to Ripping Yarns cancellation. This BBC documentary, directed by Maria Stewart for the Comedy Connections series, gives a fascinating and revealing insight into the making of one of British TV’s finest comedy shows.

More on ‘Ripping Yarns’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
07:40 pm
Palin 2012
05:15 pm

Thanks Missy Büttner !


Posted by Brad Laner
05:15 pm