The Lost Monty Python Cartoon

permalink         categories: entertainment         originally posted: 2007-03-18 07:58:57

Last summer I was showing my oldest nephew some Monty Python. Specifically, I showed him episode 24: How Not To Be Seen. It's a corker of an episode, full of great sketches—a playwright who is fascinated by train timetables (and his commenter), Conquistador Coffee, a movie director with gigantic teeth, a survey of ludicrous religions, and of course the eponymous sketch.

At the very end of the episode, just after the end credits, an announcer (played by Eric Idle) says:

For those of you who may have just missed "Monty Python's Flying Circus," here it is again.
This is followed by a thirty second montage of the whole episode, assembled from snippets only three or four frames in length.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I spotted two frames that weren't in the episode.

Ending the sequence of sketches about religion, and providing a segue (what the Pythons called a "link") to the "How Not To Be Seen" sketch, is a Terry Gilliam cartoon seemingly called "Cartoon Religions Ltd". It features a saintly-looking televangelist who assures viewers of his honest, faithful intentions—but whenever he smiles too widely, the top of his head pops off, revealing a devil inside, wallowing in muck. After this happens twice, the evangelist nails down the top of his head—then smiles broadly, seemingly pleased that the top of his head has finally stayed attached. The cartoon then abruptly ends and the show immediately launches into the "How Not To Be Seen" sketch.

Here's what we see of that sequence during the montage (click on any thumbnail to see that image full-size):

First we see the Cartoon Religions Ltd televangelist.
Next we see him with the top of his head popped off, revealing the devil inside.
But then! This frame does not appear in the episode! It appears to be a British telephone line repairman, paused in thought.

My brother-in-law informs me the source photo for the "repairman" is of a British WWI infantry captain. Says he:

The brown item suspended from his neck is either an officer's haversack or a gas mask bag. His rank is visible on his left cuff; three pips indicating a captain.
And here is the meat of the lost segment. This is clearly the same scene as the previous frame, only zoomed out. In the background we see Jesus Christ crucified on a telephone pole, with some other mostly-nude men (probably male models cut from magazines) similarly positioned on other nearby poles. In the foreground we see what is presumably Satan, popped out of a chasm, dressed perhaps as a carnival barker.

There are three signs placed near Satan. They read as follows:




There's something behind the middle sign, but I can't quite make out what it is; perhaps it's the skull of a ram, perhaps it's just a dead tree.

The next frame of the montage returns to footage aired in the episode, the beginning of the "How Not To Be Seen" sketch.
Why was the cartoon cut? I don't know for certain, but it seems extraordinarily likely that it was cut by BBC censors; showing Jesus Christ crucified on a telephone pole, surrounded by models in much the same position, was surely seen as going "too far", even for Monty Python. Still, I find it delightful that they neglected to remove it from the ending montage!


They say you can find anything online these days. Well, I did a little web crawling for more information on this lost cartoon, and I only found one other reference to it. It's mentioned as "Trivia" in the Wikipedia entry for How Not To Be Seen. That section currently reads as such:
Originally there was about another 30 seconds of cartoon at the end of the "Crackpot Religions Ltd" piece which led into the start of "How Not To Be Seen". It featured Christ being crucified on a telephone pole and a Yiddish Satan. It was removed and is now offcially lost. Also a reference to cancer in the "Conquistador Coffe Campaign" sketch was also removed.
No references are cited, so one is left to wonder where the submitter got this information. Not that I'm disputing it. I'm sure I'm not the first person to notice these remaining frames; it's entirely plausible that it was brought up in an interview long ago, and was discussed to death.

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