Nearly Complete

Rare pre-Python footage unearthed

A precursor to Monty Python, which was once believed to have been lost forever, is to receive a rare screening next month.

Michael Palin and Terry Jones will take to the stage to introduce their 1969 sketch show, The Complete And Utter History, on London’s South Bank.

The comedy, which aired on ITV, was presented like a news show, with ‘live’ footage from historical events such as the Battle of Hastings.

The original tapes were thought to have been wiped straight after transmission, as video was expensive and storage space at a premium at the time. For several years the only surviving footage were the film inserts which Jones collected.

Three editions have recently resurfaced through the British Film Institute’s Missing Believed Wiped initiative, which aims to recover lost footage from collectors and other sources.

One episode had previously turned up thanks to a filing error. At the times, Jones explained: ‘Somebody turned up a whole program that had been misfiled. All the stuff filed under "Comedy" had been wiped, but this was filed under "History" and so it was still there. But it was quite odd seeing it again, after all those years, and how Pythonic it was.’

Jones and Palin will also take part in a Q&A session at the screening at BFI Southbank on June 25.

The venue will also be hosting a discussion with Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais – the writers of Porridge and The Likely lads, among others – on June 17; as well as a month-long series of screenings to mark the 40th anniversary of Tony Hancock’s death.

More details at the BFI website.

Published: 29 May 2008

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