Sam Peckinpah's "Salad Days" is a Monty Python's Flying Circus episode from season 3 (episode 33).
In a fine example of the Python team's fondness of the 'double spoof', this third series sketch targets both the genteel stage musical Salad Days and the work of the controversial American film director Sam Peckinpah. This sketch occurs immediately following the famous Cheese Shop sketch.
After a preamble by Eric Idle (impersonating the British film critic Philip Jenkinson), who praises Peckinpah's predilection for "violence in its starkest form" (while constantly sniffling, despite persistent pleas from the onscreen captions to stop), we are treated to a clip from Peckinpah's latest project, an adaptation of the aforementioned musical.
Well-dressed, well-spoken, upper-class youngsters frolic in an idyllic garden around an upright piano, responding enthusiastically to Michael Palin's suggestion of a game of tennis. Things go awry when Palin is struck in the face by the ball, causing blood to seep through his fingers. He reflexively flings his racquet out of shot; we then see that it has become embedded in the stomach of a pretty girl (Carol Cleveland), who faints, tearing Eric Idle's arm off in the process. Idle staggers across to the piano and slams down the lid, severing both of the pianist (John Cleese)'s hands. The piano then collapses in slow motion, crushing a screaming woman to death. Somehow Graham Chapman gets impaled by the piano keyboard, which slices off a woman's head when he turns around. The sketch then cuts back to the studio, prompting Idle to smugly remark "Pretty strong meat there from [sniff] Sam Peckinpah!" before he is gunned down in slow motion, with much spurting blood (and the caption "Tee Hee"). The end credits roll over his dying agonies, before a serious-sounding Cleese reads an apology to everyone in the entire world, which is then denied by a frivolous-sounding Idle.
This is followed by a deliberately tranquil final scene of waves crashing against a shore. Cleese briefly walks into shot in a Roundhead costume, explaining that the scene was added to fill in time and apologising for the lack of any more jokes.
Robert Hewison's book, Monty Python - The Case Against, contains extracts from a BBC viewer's panel's response to the show, and naturally there were complaints that this particular sketch was "over the top", "horrific", and "sick".
- Sam Peckinpah's "Salad Days" script
- Sam Peckinpah's "Salad Days" without the intro or outro by Eric Idle
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