In just about any estimation, Monty Python and the Holy Grail is one of the funniest film comedies of all time—it earns a prestigious place on our own list of the 100 best film comedies for that very reason. Iconic and quotable in spades, each scene plays out like a perfectly crafted comedy sketch, in the sort of way that only the Pythons seemed capable.
Now, however, a few long-lost potential scenes from Holy Grail have made their way back to the light. Unearthed in Michael Palin’s script notes from the Monty Python Archive are several scenes for the film that were either never filmed or cut from the final edit, and they even include an entirely different ending! That archive, currently housed at the British Library in London, will be going on display to the public later this month, so we can probably assume that there’s a promotional angle to this discovery. Still, it’s fascinating to see what could have been, int he form of several new scenes written by Palin and Terry Jones.
The biggest of the new scenes is the different ending. Holy Grail famously ends in abrupt, disruptive fashion when Arthur and his knights are arrested by the police just before a huge battle can break out. It’s a distinctively “Python-esque” moment to pull the rug out from under the audience, but it likely left some audience members cold at the time. The script notes, however, reveal that a large battle scene indeed was originally planned, but the ending was changed to save on costs after the film went over budget. The original battle would have included the knights of Camelot, the insolent French, and also apparently the return of the killer rabbit of Caerbannog, thought deceased thanks to the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.
Palin’s script notes also suggest that the famously indestructible Black Night would have been joined by another chromatic fellow known as the “Pink Knight,” who would have demanded that King Arthur could only kiss a bridge after he gives him a “kiss on the lips.” According to Palin, the entire segment was meant to highlight Arthur’s “very old-fashioned and defensive attitude” toward homosexuality, but was ultimately discarded for being too similar to the Black Knight scene. Given Palin’s statements, one can only imagine he’s glad that the group didn’t go forward with that particular scene.
“When we were writing Python in 1973, there was much more homophobia — or rather not homophobia exactly, but awkwardness of dealing with the whole subject of homosexuality,” he told The Times.
There was also one more scene that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the rest of the film, concerning a man dying of thirst trying to obtain water from a saloon that has been converted into a bookstore … but this can hardly be considered unusual, given that it’s Monty Python we’re talking about.