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When the topic of conversation shifts to the most iconic comedy films of all time, Monty Python and the Holy Grail almost always rears its head. The 1975 film from the British comedy troupe has become famous for its employment of silly humor set against the backdrop of the Middle Ages. While relatively tame by today’s standards, the film evidently went through the wringer with censors back in the 1970s.
A censorship negotiation letter written prior to the film’s release has made its way to the Internet, check it out below:
The letter is written by Mike Forstater, who produced Monty Python and the Holy Grail by in 1975. The censors had wanted the film to lose numerous vulgar phrases and references: as many "shits" as they could possibly omit, "Jesus Christ," "I fart in your general direction," "oral sex," "oh, fuck off," and "we make castanets out of your testicles." By getting rid of all of these, the film would then be able to achieve an A rating instead of an AA rating. For the sake of context, A is essentially the equivalent of a PG rating, while AA is closer to PG-13.
In response to these requests, Forstater negotiated that they would lose the "shits," the "oh, fuck off," as well as the "Jesus Christ," but they would endeavor to keep the rest and still get an A. Anyone who knows the film knows that his negotiations paid off and many of these jokes eventually made it into the movie with a more lenient rating. Don’t believe me? Check out the video below to get educated on the comic mastery that is Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this letter is the continued oddity that is censorship. Sometimes it genuinely seems baffling that there exists a board of people who live to determine a work of art’s decency based on the number of "shits" or fart references. Things seemingly haven’t changed that much, while movies certainly push the boundaries now more than ever, the Motion Picture Association of America continues to nitpick and stifle creative expression. I’m all for keeping things within the boundary of good taste, but imagine if the censors had gotten their way with this letter. Not only would we never have heard some of the most iconic lines in cinema history, but it would have also set a precedent that would have forever altered the censorship of future comedies.