And Now for Something Completely Different is a film spinoff from the television comedy series Monty Python's Flying Circus featuring favourite sketches from the first two seasons. The title was originally used as a catchphrase in the TV show.
The film, released on 28 September 1971 in the UK, consists of 90 minutes of the best sketches seen in the first two series of the TV show. The sketches were remade on film without an audience, and was intended for an American audience which had not yet seen the series. The announcer uses the phrase "and now for something completely different" several times during the film, in situations such as being roasted on a spit and lying on top of the desk in a small, pink bikini (much to an onlooking pervert's disgust).
This movie is somewhat similar to the 1974 film "The Best of Benny Hill" which was a film spinoff from the television comedy series "The Benny Hill Show" featuring favourite sketches from the first five years. The difference in both films are that the Pythons recreated all the sketches while Benny used clips from the Thames years and edited them together to make the film.
The film has been rated PG in the UK, the U.S. and in Australia.
Production with Lownes
The film was the idea of entrepreneur Victor Lownes, head of Playboy UK, who convinced the group that a feature film would be the ideal way to introduce them to the US market and make them lots of money. Lownes acted as executive producer. Production of the film did not go entirely smoothly. Lownes tried to exert a lot more control over the group than they had been used to at the BBC. In particular, he objected so strongly to one character - 'Ken Shabby' - that the sketch was removed.
Another argument with Lownes occurred when Terry Gilliam designed the opening credits for the film. Presenting the names of the Pythons in blocks of stone, Lownes tried to insist that his name be displayed in a similar manner. Initially, Gilliam refused but eventually he was forced to give in. Gilliam then created a different style of credit for the Pythons so that in the final version of the film, Lownes' credit is the only one that appears in that way.
The budget of the film was horribly low for the time at only £80,000. This is self-reflexively acknowledged in the film's Killer Cars animation; when the cat first appears and eats the building, an old man (voiced by Eric Idle) mentions "a scene of such spectacular proportions that it could never in your life be seen in a low budget film like this. You'll notice my mouth isn't moving, either". The film was shot both on location in England and inside an abandoned dairy, rather than on a more costly soundstage.
Origins of phrase
The phrase is derived from the kind of phrase used to link items in a TV "magazine show" such as the BBC's Tonight, which alternated current affairs and interviews with lighter human interest material. It was often used on the BBC system, especially during its years of near-monopoly over British broadcast media, as a transition or bridge (or segue) between programs or program segments.
Many of the early episodes of the show feature a sensible-looking announcer (played by John Cleese) dressed in a sensible black suit and sitting behind a sensible wooden desk, which in turn is in some ridiculous location such as behind the bars of a zoo cage or in mid-air being held aloft by small attached propellers. The announcer would turn to the audience and announce "and now for something completely different", launching the show's opening credits starting with second series of the show.
The phrase was also used as a transition within the show. Often it would be added to in order to better explain the transition, for instance, "And now for something completely different: a man with a tape recorder up his nose." In later episodes, particularly the third season, the credits-launching was reduced to a split-second stock footage of the announcer saying "And now..." in a similar fashion as was done with its predecessor, the "It's" man, which appears immediately after. Both were preceded by a nude organist.
- How Not to Be Seen: A government film which first displays the importance of not being seen, then devolves into various things being blown up, much to John Cleese's amusement.
- Animation – Main Titles: Animated by Terry Gilliam which comes after the above sketch.
- A Man with a Tape Recorder Up His Nose: After the main title sequence, a "The End" screen appears, but a stage emcee (Terry Jones) apologises for the cinema overestimation of the film's length and announces an interval. In the meantime, two short films are shown: One starring a man with a tape recorder up his nose...
- A Man with a Tape Recorder Up His Brother's Nose- ...and another starring a man with a tape recorder up his brother's nose (with a brief "stereo" segment at the end of the second film). (In a decided bit of irreverence, the tape recorder is playing La Marseillaise, the French national anthem).
- Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook: After the above-mentioned interval ends, a sketch plays in which a Hungarian immigrant (John Cleese) is arrested after a series of linguistic cock-ups in a tobacconist's, beginning with "I will not buy this record, it is scratched" (believed by the Hungarian to be a request for cigarettes), then turning into various sexual innuendos ("Do you want to come back to my place, bouncy-bouncy?"). The incident reaches a peak as the tobacconist attempts to communicate "6 shillings, please" in Hungarian, and is rewarded with a left hook (presumably the phrasebook also attempts to create havoc for English people trying to speak Hungarian).
- Court: The Hungarian gentleman is swiftly arrested for assault, but is released and the author (Michael Palin) of the fraudulent phrasebook is arrested instead.
- Animation-Hand Plants and Things: An animation by Terry Gilliam depicting cut-out hands as plants and animals.
- Animation-A Barber's Suicide: A barber puts shaving cream all over his head and cuts it off.
- Marriage Guidance Counsellor: The marriage guidance counsellor (Eric Idle) flirts with and makes love to the attractive Deirdre Pewtey (Carol Cleveland), and her husband Arthur Pewtey (Palin) is somewhat depressed by this turn of events. His attempt to "pull his finger out" and end this nonsense fails miserably.
- Animation-man with baby carriage: A man carries a baby carriage that eats the bird lady over and over again, but the carriage is turned around by an irate woman and chases the man.
- Animation-The Statue: After the above animation ends, an animated arm tries to remove Michaelangelo's David's fig leaf, presumably covering his genitals, but an old woman's head is there instead and demands that smut like this will not be shown on screen.
- Wink wink, nudge nudge: The above animation ends and leads into a bar, where Arthur Nudge (Idle) asks another man (Jones) about his wife, with a relentless stream of sexual innuendos. It turns out that he simply wants to know, "What's it like?"
- Self Defence Class A teacher (Cleese) educates his students (Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and Eric Idle) how to defend themselves from anyone armed with fresh fruit.
- Too Silly- An uptight Colonel (Chapman) warns the film not to get silly again after the above sketch. He then tells the director to cut to a new scene...
- Hell's Grannies: ...which is discovered to be about antisocial old ladies. Other gangs referenced are the Baby Snatchers (men dressed as babies snatching people off the street at random) and vicious "Keep Left" signs, at which point the colonel stops the sketch.
- Military March: A military squad does an extremely effeminate chant, which the colonel agains finds silly ("and a bit suspect, I think"), and replaces with a cartoon.
- Animation-Rampage of the Cancerous Black Spot: The animation depicts a prince getting a spot on his face, foolishly ignoring it and dying of cancer. The spot then goes out to seek its fortune and gets married to another spot.
- Expedition to Mt. Kilimanjaro: Arthur Wilson (Idle) goes to Sir George Head (Cleese) to join an expedition to Mt. Kilimanjaro, but the interview rapidly descends into chaos due to Head's unusual case of double vision and another member of the expedition trashing the office. (The scene ends when Sir Head is startled to see the next scene coming, as it presumably looks to him like a young woman with four breasts. ["Good Lord!"])
- Girls in Bikinis: Sexy women are seen in bikinis, ending with John Cleese in a pink bikini and bow tie saying the phrase, "And now for something completely different."
- Would You Like To Come To My Place?: A man (Palin) uses a false excuse to get a policeman (Cleese) to come back to his place.
- The Flasher: A man (Jones) appears to be flashing his naked body to women on the streets. It turns out, when he does the same to the camera, that he is simply wearing a sign that says "Boo!"
- Animation-American Defense: American Defense, Crelm Toothpaste and Shrill Petrol are advertised.
- Animation – "You'll Never Take Me Alive, Copper!": The previous segment abruptly ends when the advertiser for Shrill Petrol (voiced by Palin) is shot off-screen while overstating the effectiveness of his product. The murderer of the Shrill Petrol advertiser hides himself in a trashcan, but is subdued when the police drop a 16-ton weight upon him, which leads to the 20th Century Frog and MGM-spoofing logos that introduce the next item.
- Animation-Conrad Poohs and His Dancing Teeth: The 20th Century Frog and MGM-spoofing logos introduce Conrad Poohs (an animated photograph of Terry Gilliam)and his Dancing Teeth.
- Musical Mice: Arthur Ewing (Jones) has "musical" mice, reputedly trained to squeak at specific pitches. He says they will play Three White Mice, but he simply starts hitting them with mallets and providing the tune himself. His audience is enraged by this and chase him out of the studio.
- Sir Edward Ross: The audience chases Ewing through a TV studio, interrupting a scene where an Tom (Cleese) calls Sir Edward Ross (Chapman) by a number of inappropriate names, such as "Eddie Baby ", "pussycat", etc.
- Seduced Milkmen: A milkman (Palin) gets seduced by a lovely woman (Cleveland) but then gets locked in her closet with other milkmen, "some of whom are very old."
- The Funniest Joke in the World: Ernest Scribbler (Palin), who is shown having just written the joke in the previous sketch and then discarding it, has a sudden inspiration and writes a lethal joke, which is snapped up by the army, translated into German and goes on to become a deadly weapon in the Second World War. An animated man (based on a portrait of Henry VII of England) attempts to apologize for the poor taste of this sketch, but is distracted by a woman flashing her breasts to him.
- Animation-The Old Woman Who Cannot Catch a Bus: As the animated man from the previous sketch chases after the naked woman, an old woman tries to catch a bus, but it drives past. A second bus comes along, but it too drives past. A third bus is flipped over when the woman trips it with her foot
- Animation-The Killer Cars: Cars attempt to stem overpopulation by eating people. Eventually, a giant mutant cat is brought in to scare the cars off. This plan works perfectly, until the cat starts eating buildings. It turns out that the sketch is a story being narrated by an old man.
- Animation-Meat grinder: The mutant cat from the previous animation falls into a sausage grinder. The resulting "product" leads into the hair of Botticelli's Venus!!!
- Animation-Dancing Venus: Venus stands on her shell...until an arm comes out of the water and twists her nipple like a radio knob. Upbeat music plays, and Venus dances wildly until her exertions cause the shell to tip over, leading to...
- Dead Parrot: Perhaps Monty Python's most famous sketch, Mr Praline attempts to get a refund for his deceased parrot, but the shopkeeper (Palin) refuses to acknowledge the parrot's passing on.
- The Lumberjack Song: The shop owner sings about his dreams of being a lumberjack. He also sings about his dreams of being female, however, disturbing his best girl (Connie Booth) and the background singers (Canadian Mounties, causing them to leave and throw fruit at him.)
- The Restaurant Sketch: The employees of a restaurant (Jones, Palin, Idle, and Cleese) react with ever-increasing melodrama to a dirty fork given to a dining couple (Cleveland and Chapman), resulting in their horrible deaths. A punchline is then shown, in which Chapman turns to the camera and says "Good thing I didn't tell them about the dirty knife!"
- Animation-Musical Interlude: A picture of Rodin's The Kiss appears, with the addition of several small holes along the woman's leg. The woman straightens her leg out, and the man plays her like a wind instrument
- Animation-How To Build Certain Interesting Things: Garbage is dropped on a stage and banged repeatedly with a hammer. It takes on the shape of a wheeled arm holding a gun, which rolls into the next scene.
- Bank Robber: A bank robber (Cleese) mistakes a lingerie shop for a bank, and attempts to rob it. He is somewhat put out by his error, and makes do with a pair of panties.
- River Link: Cleese walks through a river to reach his desk and state (for the last time in the film), "And now for something completely different."
- People Falling Out of High Buildings: A worker (Idle) sees people going past the window downwards, but his co-worker (Cleese) is uninterested, until they make a little wager that Parkinson will be next. A man played by Chapman then writes a letter of complaint, but just as he writes "I have worked in tall buildings all my life, and have never once--", he is somehow propelled out of a tall building.
- Animation-The Bug: A bug with human-like features goes to sleep and wakes up as a (effeminate male) butterfly.
- Animation-The Three People: Three people walk in snow singing the title of the next skit, in choral harmony.
- Vocational Guidance Counsellor: Herbert Anchovy (Palin) no longer wants to be a chartered accountant, and harbours dreams of being a lion tamer. The counsellor (Cleese) suggests that Anchovy should instead work his way up to lion taming, via banking, an idea which Herbert initially rejects, until he is informed that the animal he thinks is a lion is in fact an anteater, and that mere stock footage of a lion scares the life out of him. He then desperately cries out that he just wants to see his name in lights, a wish granted by a magic fairy (played by Idle with a moustache).
- Blackmail!: Herbert is initially mystified by his sudden role of hosting the TV show "Blackmail!", but gets into the idea very quickly, and does his new, somewhat questionable duty with enthusiasm and panache.
- The Battle of Pearl Harbor: The silly-hating colonel appears again, and introduces a group of woman (the Pythons in drag) re-enacting the Battle of Pearl Harbour (or rather, beating each other with their handbags in mud).
- Romantic Interlude: A man (Jones) and girlfriend (Cleveland) begin making love, and several suggestive images are shown (an industrial chimney collapsing in reverse, a torpedo being fired, etc.), but the images are in fact only films being played by the man. The woman asks whether he's actually going to do something or just show films all night, and the man replies with "Just one more, dear"
- Upper Class Twit of the Year: Five mentally addled members of the landed gentry go through a challenging obstacle course, with such events as walking along a straight line, jumping over a wall made of two rows of matchboxes and shooting themselves in the head (one twit is so inept that, in an attempt to back up a car, he somehow manages to run himself over!)
- Animation-End Titles: The end credits, rendered in Terry Gilliam's typically absurd style.
- Graham Chapman as Mr. E. R. Bradsure, Man with Tape Recorder Up His Nose's Brother, The Policeman, Prosecutor #1, English Gentleman, Arm, Mr. Harrison, The Colonel, Man being hit by Grannies, Baby Snatcher, Jimmy Blenkinsop, Sir Edward Ross, Joke Brigade Officer #3, German Doctor, Lumberjack, Man with Dirty Fork, Pepperpot, Oliver St. John-Mollusc
- John Cleese as The BBC Continuity Announcer, Hungarian, God, Fresh-Fruit Coach, Granny, Private, Sir George Head, Policeman, Woman being Flashed, Man in Audience of Musical Mice, Tom, Milkman, The Funniest Joke in the World Narrator #1, Joke Sergeant #2, German, Announcer, Mr Eric Praline, Lumberjack, Chef, Bank Robber, Worker, Guidance Counselor, Pepperpot, Vivian Smith-Smythe-Smith
- Terry Gilliam as Old Man shaving, Baby in Stroller, Hand, Michelangelo’s David, Nun, Spot, Toothpaste Uncle Sam, Conrad Poohs, Woman waiting for Bus, Giant Cat, Pepperpot
- Eric Idle as Announcer, Prosecutor #2, Marriage Guidance Counsellor, Old Women, Arthur Nudge, Student, Granny, Documentarist, Reverend, Private, Man being Attacked, Arthur Wilson, Woman being Flashed, The Musical Mice and Conrad Poohs Announcer, Toothpaste Commercial Announcer, It's the Arts Announcer, Old Milkman, Ernest Scribbler's Mother, Joke Sergeant #1, German, Old Man, Lumberjack, Manager, Shop Owner, Worker, Pepperpot, Simon-Zinc-Trumpet-Harris
- Terry Jones as Mrs. B. J. Sligma, Emcee, Cigar Shop Owner, Hungarian, “Goer”, Student, Granny, Daredevil, Private, Flasher, Arthur Ewing, Milkman, Joke Brigade Officer #1, German, Leader of the group of Survivors, Employee, Pepperpot, Brian, Nigel Incubator-Jones
- Michael Palin as D.P. Gumby, Man with Tape Recorder Up His Nose, Ken Shabby, Mr. York, Arthur Pewtey, Student, Granny, Private, Man asking Policeman, Teddy Roosevelt, Milkman, Ernest Scribbler, Funniest Joke in the World Narrator #2, Joke Brigade Officer #2, German, Bevis, Employee, Herbert Anchovy, Pepperpot, Gervaise Brook-Hamster
- Carol Cleveland as Deirdre Pewtey, Narrator, Girl in Bikini, Woman chasing Arthur Ewing, Seducer, Woman with Dirty Fork, Elspet
- Connie Booth as Hand (voice), Nun (voice), Girl in Bikini, Ernest Scribbler’s Mother (voice), Bevis' Ex-Girlfriend
The film did not offer anything extra for British fans, except the opportunity to see the sketches in colour at a time when many viewers still had black and white sets, and indeed many were disappointed that the film seemed to belie its title.
Reviews for American audiences were mixed (mainly because that British humour was unfamiliar to the American viewers at the time) but mostly positive. When it was released on August 22, 1972, the film had little success at the box office and did not do well until a late 1974 re-release, which was around the time PBS started showing the original television episodes. It currently has a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The film originally was on DVD in Region 1 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; however, in 2005, it has been repacked in a new collector's pack called And Now For Something Completely Hilarious! which features the films Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen in Region 1 format from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
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