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When Monty Python filmed in Exeter and East Devon councillors withdrew it from circulation

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: December 03, 2013


Monty Python in Exeter. Photo by Exeter Memories

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THE reunion of the original Monty Python comedy team has raised an old and dusty question - can you watch their most famous film at the cinema.

Life of Brian created quite a stir when it was released in 1979 with the film, about a man born on the same day as Jesus Christ who finds himself in bizarrely parallel situations to the Messiah, being denounced by religious groups for being blasphemous and disgusting.

Such was the furore that it was withdrawn from circulation by distributors in East Devon after district councillors refused to allow it a AA certificate.

It managed to be screened in Exeter but only after petitions signed by hundreds calling for their banning were turned down by the city council.

It is thought the ban remains - although no one is too sure if it has any weight.

Pressed on the question by the Echo an East Devon District Council spokesman said: “No one expected the Spanish Inquisition!

“Given that several decades have passed since the original ban we really can’t say whether it would still be enforceable.

“ Social attitudes have changed since that time and the film is available online and via DVD for anyone to watch at home. The issue of whether it could be shown at the Radway Cinema, Sidmouth, would only crop up if the cinema was planning to screen it.

Exeter City Council has a policy of allowing all movies passed by the British Board of Film Certification to play in city cinemas.

Five years before the Life of Brian, the Monty Python Flying Circus team were in Exeter to start film parts of series four, their last.

According to the respected website Exeter Memories some of the actors, including John Cleese, stayed at the White Hart Hotel in South Street .

They filmed in the following at the old Eastgate House; High Street by Lloyds Bank; Cowick Street and the Clock Tower Cafe (for an Up Your Pavement sketch);Thornton Hill; Higher Kings Avenue for a Mr Neutron sketch in which women put out scrap missiles and bombs for a horse drawn rag and bone cart to take away; 27, Higher Kings Avenue was also the location for the opening of the new post box sketch in Ryslip.

Exeter Memories report that the filming in Higher Kings Avenue is remembered by Penny Beeby who lived in the house in 1974.

“As a young thing of 17 doing “A” levels, it was very exciting to hear that the Monty Python team would be filming a series of Monty Python locally and wanted to use our road for some scenes – this meant the road was closed for some days – setting up, filming, taking the set down etc. When the set/ crew arrived I cheekily (and at the time quite bravely for me!) went up to some of the crew and asked the director if our house could be used in a scene (it was not in the original script) and thus the scene with Terry Jones took place. The crew were very friendly and were happy to change their scrip to include our house and drive (they did not come inside).

“They also asked my mother if she would like to be in a background scene where there was a platform erected by the crew in the middle of the road and where a number of the public were needed for background shots. Sadly my mum said no – because she did not want to look silly in front of millions of people! At the time I was quite a celebrity amongst my friends as everyone recognised the house when the series went out.

“The series is still put out occasionally and I always like to see the scenes set locally in Devon and to see “My” house on the Monty Python show – which at the time had a big cult following and was popular with a large audience.”

Python film in Exeter:

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