Michael Palin and Terry Jones re-film lost scenes

Saturday 16th November 2013 @ 3:47pm

The Complete And Utter History Of Britain. Image shows from L to R: Michael Palin, Terry Jones. Image credit: Network DVD.Michael Palin and Terry Jones have just re-filmed lost material from their 1969 sketch show The Complete And Utter History Of Britain.

The Monty Python stars filmed scenes in a studio to help make a forthcoming Blu-ray and DVD release of the comedy more complete.

The Complete And Utter History Of Britain, written by Palin and Jones for broadcast on ITV in 1969, is notable in that it was one of a handful of series that helped form the template for Monty Python's Flying Circus.

The format was presented in documentary style, and purported to show viewers footage from the past. The historical-themed sketches included William the Conqueror engaging in post-battle analysis, Samuel Pepys presenting a TV chat show, Richard the Lionheart relating his exploits in the Crusades in the manner of a laddish holidaymaker and an estate agent trying to sell Stonehenge.

A six-part series, covering almost the entirety of British history in chronological order, was broadcast by London Weekend Television, however, as was the case with many programmes of the time, the expensive master video tapes were later wiped so they could be re-used.

For many years almost the entire series was believed to have been lost. Jones had always kept the location-filmed sketches, on their original film elements, in his own private collection, but the other completed episodes, recorded in front of a studio audience, were believed wiped. However, in recent years a home-recording of the second episode has been discovered.

Two alternate versions of the first episode were also discovered. The series had been written and filmed as seven episodes, but LWT bosses insisted on editing highlights from the first two programmes into one single episode, making the series 6 editions in length. Director Maurice Murphy was so incensed by this bastardisation that he personally kept copies of both original episodes.

Network DVD, who are currently putting together a release of the surviving material, have revealed that they have collaborated with Palin and Jones to re-film lost links. The comedy actors, dressed in suits, worked with the original scripts to re-create the linking scenes between sketches.

Originally intending to release a standard DVD of all surviving material, Network founder Tim Beddows explained in a blog post: "After reviewing the assets we did have to play with, we decided to massively improve the release and have ourselves some fun in the process.

The Complete And Utter History Of Britain. Michael Palin. Image credit: Network DVD."Despite the loss of a number of complete episodes, Terry Jones had the foresight in 1969 to retain the film insert sketches that would have formed part of the now-missing episodes. Apart from the odd BFI screening, these sketches haven't been seen since broadcast, criminally so because they are as funny as the best Python shows that soon followed."

After beginning restoration of the Jones's film footage to modern high definition standard, it became clear to Network that additional work would be needed to make the episodes watchable. Beddows explains: "It became apparent that [the filmed sketches] would need some (actually, a lot) of additional work. Firstly, they were originally played in live in front of a studio audience and that process also included cueing in sound effects and music that are no longer part of the soundtrack accompanying the film we have. Without them some of the jokes just don't work.

"Then there was the problem of a lack of continuity. Funny as these sketches are, taken out of the context of the original programmes of which they were part, in isolation they come across as a series of unconnected bits of pieces that, presented together, could be mistaken for a lost Python show. As great a prospect as that might be, that's not we set out to achieve."

The producers soon decided the best way to preserve the lost, chronological documentary style was to re-film some of the original linking segments: "Luckily, as well as the film material, Terry kept all the original scripts in various forms and, after referring to them, we realised that we could do some reconstruction work by extracting the pieces of narration that prefaced the sketches in the original shows.

"And so last Friday we headed down to the studio with Michael and Terry to film some new old linking material that will ultimately bind the feature together. Better still there is a recreation of a sketch that was completely superfluous to this project and some entirely new material as a conclusion."

The Complete And Utter History Of Britain. Image credit: Network DVD.Work is on-going to finish restoration on the programme, with a currently planned release date of Monday 31st March 2014. You can pre-order the DVD now.

Network DVD also revealed today that they have plans to bring out a Blu-ray edition too, saying: "We've now decided that the quality of the restoration of both the film material and new material warrants a Blu-ray release, something we never envisaged when we started out."

Details of the Blu-ray release and pre-order information are expected to be revealed later this year.

Further but un-related news related to the Monty Python group is expected on Thursday. Eric Idle, who has flown into the UK, cryptically posted on his Twitter account: "All will be revealed next Thursday 21st. Python fans should stay tuned", adding "I will tweet the big news the minute I am able. 21st 12 noon. Press Conference in UK. All good."

Below is a video featuring the The Complete And Utter History Of Britain titles and the Stonehenge estate agent sketch:


Our Guide to 'The Complete And Utter History Of Britain'

 

Latest News

Sky orders another three series of A League Of Their Own

Sky orders another three series of A League Of Their Own

Sky has struck a long-term deal with the producers of James Corden's sports-based panel show A League Of Their Own, keeping it on air until at least 2017.

Miranda Hart tipped to host The Generation Game revival

Miranda Hart tipped to host The Generation Game revival

Miranda Hart is reportedly being lined-up to host a new version of The Generation Game.

Darren Boyd stars as midwife in ITV sitcom The Delivery Man

Darren Boyd stars as midwife in ITV sitcom The Delivery Man

Spy and Green Wing star Darren Boyd will play a midwife in The Delivery Man, a new sitcom pilot for ITV.

Katherine Parkinson to star in ITV sitcom pilot

Katherine Parkinson to star in ITV sitcom pilot

Katherine Parkinson, Stephen Tompkinson and Ralf Little are to star as mismatched housemates in a brand new sitcom pilot for ITV.

Julia Davis creates new pilot for Channel 4

Julia Davis creates new pilot for Channel 4

Julia Davis has written and is starring in a new pilot about a breakfast TV host for Channel 4, called Morning Has Broken.

Dom Joly to re-make Trigger Happy TV in America again

Dom Joly to re-make Trigger Happy TV in America again

Dom Joly is reportedly to attempt a second remake of Trigger Happy TV for American audiences.

Get More News

In The Press

In The Press

The latest press clippings from the newspapers and various internet blogs.

Newsletter

Newsletter

Subscribe to our mailing list to get news and more in your inbox every Monday.

Twitter

Twitter Feed

You can follow us on Twitter too. We post the latest news and gossip every evening.

RSS Feed

RSS Feed

Subscribe to our RSS feed to get our headlines in your news reader software.

Trying Again interviews

Trying Again interviews

Chris Addison, Jo Joyner, Charles Edwards, Alex Macqueen and more talk about Sky's Trying Again. Read

David Mitchell's new book

David Mitchell's new book

David Mitchell is currently compiling a new humorous book titled Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse. Read

Holli Dempsey interview

Holli Dempsey interview

Holli Dempsey, who plays Vicky in Derek, talks about her role. Is she like her character in real life? Read

The John Dredge Show

The John Dredge Show

Series 3 of John Dredge's critically acclaimed surreal sketch show podcast is now here. Check it out. Listen

Roisin Conaty interview

Roisin Conaty interview

Roisin Conaty introduces GameFace, her Channel 4 sitcom pilot about a woman muddling through life. Read

Fancy Meeting You Here

Fancy Meeting You Here

A look at Fancy Meeting You Here, the roving comedy show in which stand-ups offer free museum tours. Read

TV Comedy Preview

TV Comedy Preview

New TV shows to look out for this week include Warren United, Derek, Trying Again and GameFace. Read

Josie Long podcast

Josie Long podcast

This week's episode of Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast has stories from guest Josie Long. Listen

Babylon series now filming

Babylon series now filming

Six episodes of Channel 4's police-based comedy drama Babylon are now being filmed in London. Read

Marcus Brigstocke interview

Marcus Brigstocke interview

A snapped heel, torn cruciate and broken relationship - 2014 has been turbulent for Marcus Brigstocke. Read

Chris Addison podcast

Chris Addison podcast

A podcast in which Chris Addison talks about his career, and how they made the new sitcom Trying Again. Listen

Jason Lewis interview

Jason Lewis interview

Jason Lewis introduces Sniggers With Attitude, the sketch show he has made for TV channel London Live. Read

Al Murray's new tour

Al Murray's new tour

Al Murray has announced a new Pub Landlord UK tour titled One Man, One Guvnor: 20 years at the lager top. Read

Underbelly Festival returns

Underbelly Festival returns

The Udderbelly Festival is back on London's Southbank until the 13th July. Lots of comedy on offer. Read

Want Doc Brown as a mentor?

Want Doc Brown as a mentor?

Comedian Doc Brown will be offering free mentorship and career guidance via the Noise Festival website. Info

Tommy Cooper drama photos

Tommy Cooper drama photos

Photos from ITV's new drama focusing on Tommy Cooper. The comic is portrayed by David Threlfall. View

A Seance For Thatcher

A Seance For Thatcher

'Bile merchant' Nathaniel Tapley has written this to explain why he's doing a Margaret Thatcher seance. Read

History Of Britain on DVD

History Of Britain on DVD

We take a look at the definitive box set of Terry Jones and Michael Palin's historical documentary spoof. Read

Bath Fest's New Act winners

Bath Fest's New Act winners

Archie Maddocks and Paul Revill won at Bath Comedy Festival's 2014 New Act of the Year competition. Read