The thing that drives me crazy is when… [wait!] There are two things that drive me crazy, no, three There are three things that [oh, shut up!] Amongst the many things that drive me crazy are…
(Five points if you get the reference, if not , click here .)
I burned a fair amount of time today on YouTube, watching videos like Kids React to the Beatles and Do Kids Know Beatles Songs?. Now, as you might or might not know, George Harrison was friends with Eric Idle of Monty Python, so link led to link and I eventually ended up watching some clips from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
And that’s when I found it! The original ending I’d been looking for! The one you’ve likely been denied unless you were lucky enough to see the movie back in the 70s when it first came around. The one that reflects the same kind of brilliance you need to conceive a 3 sided record (“Matching Tie and Handkerchief“).
Let me tell you about it.
My younger brothers and I and some friends saw the Python’s “And Now for Something Completely Different” at a seedy little theatre on 8 Mile in Detroit, somewhere west of Telegraph Road. We loved it, it was exactly our kind of humor.
This was our first exposure to the Pythons as the movie was released before the television series was run on PBS. We were laughing so hard we were crying, stumbling over our feet. We barely made it to the car and repeated our favorite sketches over and over all the way home. (We did this with a lot of our favorite comedies, including, notoriously, Smoky and the Bandit.)
So, when “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” was released in 1975, we were right there at the front of the line. If memory serves, we saw it at the same theatre. The film was great but what really stuck out to me was the ending.
You’ve seen most of it, I’m sure. King Arthur’s knights are charging downhill toward the beach, intent on attaching the French castle and capturing the Grail. They’re interrupted at the last moment by a police car that screeches to a halt and blocks their path. Arthur and Bedevere are arrested and thrown into a van as one of the policemen raises his hand and blocks the camera.
“All right, sonny, that’s enough” is the last thing we hear as we see some bits of undeveloped film, then the screen goes to full white. The curtains close and the audience gets up and starts making its way out of the theatre.
At least, that’s how it happens now. But that’s not how it happened the first time I saw it.
After the policeman pushed the cameraman back and the screen went to white, the curtains stayed open. And the music from the Intermission came back on. And it kept running. And everyone just sat there, waiting to see what would happen next.
My brothers and I were among the first to get it. We started laughing, then we quieted down and sat there for a long time, waiting for the rest of the audience to get it.
It was sheer brilliance.
Terry Gillliam and Terry Jones had devised a way to keep the entire audience staring at a blank screen, listening to looped organ music, waiting for…nothing. Each audience had to make up its own mind when to get up and leave. I don’t remember how long we stayed there, but it was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in a theatre.
If you want to get some idea of what it was like, watch these two YouTube videos back to back: the police scene and then the closing music. It isn’t the same experience, but at least you’ll know what I’m talking about. (There’s even a 10 hour version, in case you’re interested.)
The movie comes around periodically to theatres and I used to sometimes ask the manager: “are you going to play the whole ending? You know, the way it was the first time?” They always say “yes” but they never do.
I’ve stopped asking. But I never stop hoping.