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

More Bad Education Movie details revealed

More Bad Education Movie details revealed

Sarah Solemani, Mathew Horne and Harry Enfield have now all been confirmed to be appearing in The Bad Education Movie.

Vic & Bob confirm 25th anniversary live tour

Vic & Bob confirm 25th anniversary live tour

Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer will tour the country later this year with their Poignant Moments show, celebrating 25 years of their double-act.

Channel 4 announces 6th annual O2 Comedy Gala

Channel 4 announces 6th annual O2 Comedy Gala

Channel 4 has confirmed a sixth year of its Comedy Gala fundraiser in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.

Jack Whitehall confirms Bad Education Movie

Jack Whitehall confirms Bad Education Movie

Jack Whitehall has confirmed that his hit BBC Three sitcom Bad Education is to become a movie. Filming is now underway in Cornwall.

BBC Three to pilot hit live comedy format Funz And Gamez

BBC Three to pilot hit live comedy format Funz And Gamez

Funz And Gamez, the award-winning live comedy show hosted by Phil Ellis, is to be piloted as a TV show by the BBC.

BBC Scotland announces multiple comedy commissions

BBC Scotland announces multiple comedy commissions

BBC Scotland has unveiled its comedy plans for 2015. They include a full series for Two Doors Down, and the return of Burnistoun and Scot Squad.

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.

Paul Whitehouse interview

Paul Whitehouse interview

An interview with Paul Whitehouse and David Cummings, writers of new sitcom Nurse. Read

Sara Pascoe signs book deal

Sara Pascoe signs book deal

Sara Pascoe will write "funny, feminist exploration of the female body", Animal: How a Woman is Made. Read

Matt Lucas interview

Matt Lucas interview

Matt Lucas talks about filming Pompidou, the visual comedy series for the BBC in which he plays an aristocrat. Read

Do you run a funny blog?

Do you run a funny blog?

Do you write a funny blog, curate an amusing website or joke a lot on Twitter? If so, here's a competition: Read

Rare 1980s photo exhibition

Rare 1980s photo exhibition

Rare images of iconic 1980s British comedy stars are to be displayed at the Museum Of Comedy. Read

Tom Little wins competition

Tom Little wins competition

Stand-up comedian Tom Little has won the Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year 2015 competition. Read

I Live With Models interview

I Live With Models interview

The main cast members involved in new Comedy Central sitcom I Live With Models introduce themselves. Read

Getting fit pitfalls

Getting fit pitfalls

Tiffany Stevenson talks us through some of the bad things that occur when you sort out your health and fitness. Read

Idil Sukan photo exhibition

Idil Sukan photo exhibition

Take a look at some of the iconic photos of comedians that feature in photographer Idil Sukan's London exhibition. View

Margaret Thatcher podcast

Margaret Thatcher podcast

Check out our funny new satirical comedy podcast. It's hosted by our former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher! Listen

Craft of Comedy Conference

Craft of Comedy Conference

Llandudno in North Wales is hosting The Craft of Comedy Writing Conference on the 24th and 25th April 2015. Read

Old Comedian Of The Year

Old Comedian Of The Year

The Museum of Comedy has a competition for 'comics who've been around long enough to know better'. Read

Elis James interview

Elis James interview

Crims star Elis James talks about preparing to helm Centrepoint's next Laughing Stock gala. Read

Dick Emery at 100

Dick Emery at 100

On what would have been his 100th birthday, we look at the life and work of character comic Dick Emery. Read

Shaun The Sheep facts

Shaun The Sheep facts

Here's some interesting facts about Shaun The Sheep Movie. For example, there are 1589 'baa' sounds in the film. Read

Valentine's Day puns

Valentine's Day puns

Some pun-based jokes for Valentine's Day from Darren Walsh. Plus some additional themed cartoon illustrations too. View

Valentine's Day sketches

Valentine's Day sketches

A bunch of new sketches from British comedy groups, all of which are related to love and Valentine's Day. Watch

Funny Valentine's comedies

Funny Valentine's comedies

The BBC have released a collection of nine Valentine's-related original short comedy films exclusive to BBC iPlayer. Watch

Lee & Herring podcast

Lee & Herring podcast

Stewart Lee and Richard Herring chat about their 1990s TV show, This Morning With Richard Not Judy. Listen