"Full speed ahead, Mr. Cohen!"
October 26, 2013 12:21 PM   Subscribe

Terry Gilliam fans are patiently waiting for the release of "The Zero Theorem", his first film in four years. In the meantime, let's go back thirty years ago to the moment that Gilliam really found his footing as a director in between the filming of "Time Bandits" and "Brazil". It all concerns a bunch of elderly accountants...

"The Crimson Permanent Assurance" was originally conceived as an animated sequence to go in the middle of "Monty Python and the Meaning of Life". It would soon transform into a live action production that was much bigger than the Python's had planned. The result not only wowed audiences, but also stands a sterling example of Gilliam's fantastical sensibility and sense of humor. Paste magazine has a nice look back at the film and it's place within Gilliam's filmography, and you can, of course, watch it on YouTube

Bonus:
The Crimson Permanent Assurance in LEGO!
Fan-made blueprints!
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI (36 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
Amazing and at the same time confusing for those of us expecting The Holy Grail.
posted by tommasz at 12:39 PM on October 26, 2013


Oh man. This looks terrific.

"The Meaning of Life" never did it for me, I'm afraid, but Gilliam is a brilliant director.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:58 PM on October 26, 2013


For years, every time I bicycled into the skyscrapers of downtown, I'd think of the Crimson Permanant Assurance sailing towards greatness.
posted by egypturnash at 1:00 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


At first glance, the snarky part of me that's lost hope in Gilliam after Parnassus just wants to say "Jean-Pierre Jeunet called and he wants his everything back." But, honestly, if Gilliam has given up pounding in every goddamn nail with his lovingly-rendered CGI hammer -- as it seems, based on the trailer -- I'm going to hold out hope and probably see this in the theater.

Also, giving Christopher Waltz his big break is as wonderful a contribution to English-language cinema as many other things Tarantino has done.
posted by griphus at 1:05 PM on October 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


I love the Macrovision (VHS) anti-piracy technology logo at the very end. Those were the days.

There's a mssing bit where the corporate suits are sitting around the boardroom table, droning on about whatever, when one suddenly stops, points out the window, and asks if anyone has noticed that building before. The pirates attack at that moment.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:16 PM on October 26, 2013


let's go back thirty years ago to the moment that Gilliam really found his footing as a director in between the filming of "Time Bandits" and "Brazil".

sorry, but he had his footing with Time Bandits. Which isn't to take away from the Crimson Assurance sketch. r

Also, that bit around the boardroom trailer happens much later in the movie (things having gone non-linear) ... at the end of this brilliant sketch which is arguably the cold heart and soul of the movie.
posted by philip-random at 1:24 PM on October 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Apart from too much Robin Williams giving a very good impression of himself not having given up coke, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is very underrated. Yeah, it's probably not the best of the not entirely intentional trilogy* but it not only withstands repeated viewings but gets better with them.
*“It was only at the making of Baron Munchausen that I kind of realized what was going on here about the child, the man and the old man, so I took full credit for having done a trilogy,” he admits with a laugh. “I never think about these things. It’s only later that I’ve discovered what I’ve done because someone points out the obvious."
But yeah, The Crimson Permanent Assurance is Gilliam playing to his perfect strengths. His early effort Jabberwocky does as well, and is a great favorite of mine as probably the most realistic depiction of the dark ages ever made up until that point.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:28 PM on October 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


(philip-random, another thing to love about that scene is it recapitulates (splunge) Graham Chapman at the head of a boardroom table full of underlings all doing that wonderfully bad American accent.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:34 PM on October 26, 2013


"The Crimson Permanent Assurance" was originally conceived as an animated sequence to go in the middle of "Monty Python and the Meaning of Life".

I'm a little confused, didn't it end up in the film? I swear that's where I saw it...unless it was an extra on the disc or something (but I started watching that film years before, on VHS, so I don't think so). Is there a director's cut or something?

ETA: okay after RTFA it appears it's there, but before the film not integrated into it
posted by trackofalljades at 1:35 PM on October 26, 2013


I'm a little confused, didn't it end up in the film?

Yes. It's the first 15 minutes (though it's styled as a separate short), with a callback at the very end IIRC. And it's live-action.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:36 PM on October 26, 2013


It was played in theatres in the manner of an old-skool short subject before the main feature. In fact it was certainly on the same reel -- none of this projectionist having to queue it up first stuff like a real short subject would have been.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:37 PM on October 26, 2013


If the director of "Time Bandits" (one of my favorite movies) had not yet really found his footing as a director he sure fooled me.
posted by jfuller at 1:50 PM on October 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


I had forgotten how long it is. And, I think 2008 would have never happened with the bold staff of the Crimson Personal Assurance Company on the watch....
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:10 PM on October 26, 2013


2008 would have never happened with the bold staff of the Crimson Personal Assurance Company on the watch....

if only they had listened to the "round earth" skeptics.
posted by ennui.bz at 2:14 PM on October 26, 2013


"Jean-Pierre Jeunet called and he wants his everything back."

Um, I think he was borrowing it...
posted by Artw at 2:38 PM on October 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


One of my favorite details is that the crew of the Crimson Permanent Assurance have constructed their weapons with office supplies. Those paper spikes are deadly.

Now somebody fetch me an exotic cheroot.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 2:40 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh I want to see this, and I haven't always felt that way about Gilliam's recent films. This looks like the most Gilliam movie Gilliam has made in decades.
posted by zardoz at 2:56 PM on October 26, 2013


Gilliam's got a newish (2011) short available for one-off streaming on his own website at a cost of £1.99 (about $2.80). It's called The Wholy Family, and you can find it here: http://terrygilliamweb.com/.

Maybe he can show this as a short preceding his next feature?
posted by Paul Slade at 2:57 PM on October 26, 2013


"Jean-Pierre Jeunet called and he wants his everything back."

Um, I think he was borrowing it...


yeah, Griphus, I'm with you on the rest of your comment, but that's about as misguided a dismissal as I've come across of late.
posted by philip-random at 3:07 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did you guys notice the cameo from Max Headroom as the businessman that voluntarily leaps out of the window?

Pretty great. Thanks for posting it.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 3:11 PM on October 26, 2013


I… I have a confession to make. I watched Time Bandits for the first time on Friday night and… well, I got a sort of Dark Crystalesque feeling of "there are some great ideas here, but it has trouble feeling like a cohesive whole."

Am I dead inside, or just a terrible person?
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:08 PM on October 26, 2013


Am I dead inside, or just a terrible person?

Both!
posted by Tomorrowful at 4:17 PM on October 26, 2013 [10 favorites]


Um, I think he was borrowing it...

yeah, Griphus, I'm with you on the rest of your comment, but that's about as misguided a dismissal as I've come across of late.


I guess I'm more bitter about Paranassus than I thought I was.
posted by griphus at 4:26 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


For Terry Gilliam fans, Lost in La Mancha is an a must see documentary.
posted by mcstayinskool at 4:39 PM on October 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


...and streamable.

I'm not bitter about Imaginarium, but I admit I couldn't get through it twice. I prefer the less-exuberant, more naturalistic (in their own ways) films such as Brazil, or The Fisher-King, but then I also found Tideland a little baffling.

I will say that following the 2008 financial crisis I find Crimson Permanent Assurance a great deal more satisfying. Take that, greedy financial executives ably played by Matt Frewer and a guy that looks like Bryan Cranston!
posted by dhartung at 4:46 PM on October 26, 2013


from Wikipedia: "A later iteration of the project, starring Billy Bob Thornton, Jessica Biel and Al Pacino and directed by Terry Gilliam, was set to begin production in 2009, but Thornton vetoed filming in London because of his phobia of antiques."
posted by oulipian at 4:48 PM on October 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Cursed by god!
posted by Artw at 4:49 PM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


After Brazil, I could never watch movies again....so...
posted by eggtooth at 4:54 PM on October 26, 2013


You think it's a movie?
posted by Devonian at 6:02 PM on October 26, 2013


His early effort Jabberwocky does as well, and is a great favorite of mine as probably the most realistic depiction of the dark ages ever made up until that point.

Yeah, the line I usually use to describe is that the theme and primary starring role of Jabberwocky is squalor. It's so amazingly lovingly realistic in its depiction of all manner of dirt, grime, muck, stain and slop that it's kind of off-putting.
posted by JHarris at 6:08 PM on October 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's almost worth going back to school for a couple of years to get my teaching ticket so I could teach high school history, the so-called Middle Ages in particular. My entire course would consist of studying two movies ...

Jabberwocky and Python's Holy Grail.

Because it's pretty much all there. Every myth eviscerated. Every reality exposed. As a friend once put it, I don't think they needed satire in those days. They were living in it, mixed up with all the shit.
posted by philip-random at 6:24 PM on October 26, 2013


I love the the filth!
posted by Artw at 6:25 PM on October 26, 2013


One of my favorite details is that the crew of the Crimson Permanent Assurance have constructed their weapons with office supplies. Those paper spikes are deadly.

That, sir, is a spindle. Of "do not fold, mutilate, or spindle" fame. Once common, I have not had cause to use one for decades. Ah, the offices of yesteryear...
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:45 PM on October 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


I was delighted - DELIGHTED I tell you - to have not only a nod to The Crimson Permanent Assurance in the latest Charles Stross novel - but that it was an ACTUAL PLOT DEVICE.
posted by Thistledown at 4:50 PM on October 27, 2013


Spindle derail: So...it was okay to make big holes in the center of paper records? Wasn't there a concern that could make it hard to read?

I'd heard the fold, mutilate or spindle thing, but I assumed that spindle was just a synonym for mangling.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:41 AM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Back in the old days, when every newspaper used paper throughout its production process, editors would keep an upright spike like this on their desk to impale sheets of copy which they'd decided not to use. It a was simple, effortless (and very satisfying) way of disposing of this copy, but offered the reassurance that it could always be retrieved later if absolutely necessary.

This device was always called The Spike in newspaper offices, and spawned an associated verb. If you'd had an article rejected for some reason, you would complain to colleagues that it had been "spiked". Legend has it that one drunken sub-editor once spiked himself by collapsing face-forward onto his own desk, impaled his forehead and expired on the spot. It's what he would have wanted ...
posted by Paul Slade at 9:24 AM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


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