Friday, October 2, 2009

Hard but Fair- Doug Piranhna

I was talking to a friend today who reminded me of my great love of a wonderful Monty Python Flying Circus sketch about the Piranha Brothers- Doug and Dinsdale- a pair of crazy criminal brothers (loosely based on the infamous Kray Brothers) who formed a Gang, aptly called "the Gang". The sketch first appeared in the second series of Monty Pythons Flying Circus.

The line in the sketch I can remember is the interview with one of the associates of Doug Piranha ( I think it was Michael Palin playing the associate) who said that Doug was a hard man but he was a fair man and he used the example of how Doug used to nail his head to a coffee table- but it was all right because he deserved it!!

For those not familiar with the sketch here is a summary taken from Wikipedia

The Piranha Brothers were born in the slums of London in 1929, on probation, two weeks apart (with Dinsdale born again a week later). They were found too mentally unbalanced even for National Service, and became extortionists, running a protection racket after several false starts. Having acquired enough money, the Piranha Brothers formed a gang which they called "The Gang". They proceeded to take over night clubs, billiard halls, gaming casinos and race tracks, failing only to acquire the MCC. It is said that Dinsdale was a gentleman; he bought his mother flowers and that he knew how to treat a female impersonator. He also enjoyed nailing people's heads to the floor and to coffee tables, and screwing people's pelvises to cake stands. The local chief constable was in his employ, and would help him threaten others with a thermonuclear device. Dinsdale also possessed a tank. Known associates of the Piranhas included American musical stars, aristocrats, a man named Kierkegaard who bit the heads off whippets and other gang leaders.

Dinsdale was deeply afraid of Spiny Norman, an (apparently) imaginary hedgehog who, he believed, lived in a hangar at Luton Airport and who "was wont to be about twelve feet from "snout to tail", but when Dinsdale was depressed Norman could be anything up to eight hundred yards long." Spiny Norman (created by animator Terry Gilliam) appeared in this sketch growling "Dinsdale" while towering over London landmarks such as Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square; the giant hedgehog made brief reappearances in two later episodes.

Doug was the more feared of the two brothers. Luigi Vercotti, a pimp, claims to have seen grown men pull their own heads off rather than speak to Doug – indeed, even Dinsdale feared Doug. This was largely due to his merciless use of sarcasm, dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and satire. Many of those menaced by the Piranha Brothers denied any ill will toward them, terrified into compliance with a code of silence.

The Piranhas operated their extortion racket for years, brazenly and without fear of reprisal. However, Dinsdale's fear of Spiny Norman proved to be their undoing, as he decided to solve the problem once and for all by detonating his nuclear device at Luton Airport in February 1966. After this, even the Police sat up and took notice of them.

The brothers were finally captured by Superintendent Harry 'Snapper' Organs (played by Terry Jones) of Q Division, who pursued them in a series of disguises including Blind Pew from Treasure Island, the Earl of Gloucester from King Lear, Sancho Panza from Don Quixote, and Ratty from Toad of Toad Hall. However, the Piranha Brothers later escaped, and presumably returned to their life of absurd crime.

A link to the script is here.

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