Series 2, Episode 18: Boxer Documentary
KEN CLEAN-AIR-SYSTEMS John Cleese
VOICE OVER Michael Palin
MANAGER Graham Chapman
MRS. CLEAN-AIR-SYSTEMS Eric Idle
MOTHER Terry Jones
TRAINER Michael Palin
MAUREEN Carol Cleveland
PETULA Connie Booth
COLONEL John Cleese
CRITIC Terry Jones
(Film of a boxer (Ken Clean-Air-Systems) in training, running along a country road. All this is shot in ‘Man Alive’ style: plenty of hand-held documentary work. Sound of boxer’s feet on the leaves and heavy breathing.)
Voice Over: (MICHAEL) This is Ken Clean-air Systems, the great white hope of the British boxing world. After three fights – and only two convictions – his manager believes that Ken is ready to face the giant American, Satellite Five.
(Cut to manager being driven in Rolls. Superimposed caption on screen: ‘MR ENGLEBERT HUMPERDINCK – MANAGER’)
Manager: The great thing about Ken is that he’s almost totally stupid.
(Cut back to Ken jogging, the early morning sun filtering through the trees.)
Voice Over: Every morning, he jogs the forty-seven miles from his two-bedroomed, eight-bathroom, six-up-two-down, three-to-go-house in Reigate, to the Government’s Pesticide Research Centre at Shoreham. Nobody knows why.
(Cut to Ken’s wife, a young married with her head in a scarf and curlers, hanging out the washing in a council estate. Caption appears on screen: ‘MRS. CLEAN-AIR SYSTEMS’)
Mrs. CAS: Basically Ken is a very gentle, home-loving person. I remember when one of his stick insects had a knee infection. He stayed up all night rubbing it with germoline and banging its head on the table.
(Cut to Ken’s mother – an old lady in a wheelchair. Hand-held big close-up against the sky. Caption on screen: ‘MRS NELLIE AIR-VENT, MOTHER’)
Mother: Oh he was such a pretty baby, always so kind and gentle. He was really considerate to his mother, and not at all the kind of person you’d expect to pulverize their opponent into a bloody mass of flesh and raw bone, spitting teeth and fragments of gum into a ring which had become one man’s hell and Ken’s glory.
(The wheelchair moves away and we see that it is on top of a car. Cut to extenior of a semi-detached house. Night.)
Voice Over: Every morning at his little three-room semi near Reading Ken gets up at three o’dock (light goes on) and goes back to bed again because it’s far too early.
(Light goes out. Close-up alarm clock at 7.05. General shot of room, Ken coming out of bathroom pulling his track-suit on.)
Voice Over: At seven o’clock Ken gets up, he has a quick shower, a rub-down, gets into his track-suit, and goes back to bed again.
(shot of trainer running) At 7.50 every morning Ken’s trainer runs the 13,000 miles from his two-room lean-to in Bangkok and gets him up.
(General shot of room to show his trainer standing over the sleeping Ken. He holds a large mallet and a steel peg.)
Trainer: I used to wake Ken up with a crowbar on the back of the head. But I recently found that this was too far from his brain and I wasn’t getling through to him anymore. So I now wake him up with a steel peg driven into his skull with a mallet.
(Cut to the empty kitchen, shot from ground level. The camera pans across to show plate of food under an upright chair, and then pans across the room to the kitchen cupboard; Mrs. Clean-Air Systems at the sink.)
Voice Over: For breakfast every day, Ken places a plate of liver and bacon under his chair, and locks himself in the cupboard.
(Cut to gym. Manager standing beside ropes of the ring. Again a hand-held ‘Man Alive’ type interview, with camera noise and all.)
Manager: Well, he’s having a lot of mental difficulties with his breakfasts, but this is temperament, caused by a small particle of brain in his skull, and once we’ve removed that he’ll be perfectly all right.
(Close-up alarm clock. Hands at 8.30)
Voice Over: At 8.30 the real training begins. (General shot of room. Ken asleep in bed) Ken goes back to bed and his trainer gets him up.
(The door bursts open but we don’t stay to see what happens. We cut immediately to outside of the house. His trainer pushes Ken out. Trainer goes back into the house (obviously to Ken’s wife). Cut to Ken jogging through town. Hand held Ken finds his way blocked by a parked car. He stops and looks very puzzled, then instead of going round it turns and runs back the way he has come.)
Voice Over: At 10.30 every morning Ken arrives at what he thinks is the gym. Sometimes it’s a sweetshop, sometimes it’s a private house. Today its a hospital.
(Ken turns into the gates or doors of a hospital. There is a slight pause, and a white-coated doctor arrives at the door and points right up the street.)
Doctor: Urn, straight down there. Straight down there.
(Ken follows his finger and looks very hard in that direction. When he is satisfied that Ken has understood where he is pointing, the doctor retires back inside. Ken turns and watches him as he does this, then turns and sets off in the opposite direction. Cut to a shot of a roadside diner.)
Voice Over: For lunch Ken crouches down in the road and rubs gravel into his hair. (Pan down to roadside to reveal Ken just finishing rubbing gravel into his hair; he stands up and hops over a railing to a riverside where a bed stands) But lunch doesn’t take long. Ken’s soon up on his feet and back to bed. (Ken hops into the bed) And his trainer has to run the 49,000 miles from his two-bedroom, six-living-room tree-house in Kyoto to wake him up. (Trainer runs into shot, pauses by bedside and turns to camera. He has large plumber’s bag.)
Trainer: Hello. When Ken is in a really deep sleep like this one, the only way to wake him up is to saw his head off.
(Cut to stock close-up of punchbag and glove smashing into it. Continual hitting and impact-bang-bang-bang-bang throughout.)
Voice Over: What is he like in the ring, this human dynamo, this eighteen-stone bantam weight battering-ram? We asked his sparring partner and one-time childhood sweetheart, Maureen Spencer.
(Cut to medium close-ip of Maureen, very busty in boxing gear and
Maureen: Well, I think that if Ken keeps his right up, gets in with the left jab and takes the fight to his man – well, he should go for a cut eye in the third and put Wilcox on the canvas by six.
(She goes back to sparring and we see it is she who is hitting the punchbag. Remaining on her we hear the voice Over.)
Voice Over: Ken’s opponent in Tuesday’s fight is Petula Wilcox, the Birmingham girl who was a shorthand typist before turning pro in 1968. (Cut to typical teenage girl’s bedsit. Pin-ups of popstars on the walls. Teddy bears on the bed and gonks. Petula Wilcox is siuing up on the bed knitting.) She’s keen on knitting and likes Cliff Richard records. How does she rate her chances against Ken?
Petula: Well, I’m a southpaw and I think this will confuse him, particularly with his brain problem.
(Cut to the ring. Floodlight. The night of the big fight. Murmur of a huge crowd. Excitement, cigar smoke rising in front of the camera. Bustle of activity all rouns In medium close-up the master of ceremonies walks out into the middle of the ring, and takes the microphone.)
Master of Ceremonies: My lords, ladies and gedderbong… On my right, from the town of Reigate in the county of Kent, the heavyweight… (unintelligible) Mr Ken Clean-Air Systems!… (applause, cut to Ken’s corner; Ken raises his arms above his head) and on my left! Miss Petula Wilcox.
(Superimposed caption appears on the screen: ROUND 1 For the first time we see Petula dance out into the middle of the ring, frail and lovely in a white muslin dress, with a bow in her hair and boxing gloves. The referee bring them together, cautions them and then they separate. The bell goes. As speeded-up as we can manage and with the same stupendous sound effects as for all-in cricket, Ken belts the hell out of Petula. While this goes on, we hear a few voice overs.)
Colonel Type: I think boxin’s a splendid sport – teaches you self-defence.
Critic: Obviously boxing must have its limits, but providing they’re both perfectly fit I can see nothing wrong with one healthy man heating the bring daylights out of a little schoolgirl.
Voice: It’s quick and it’s fun.
(Boxing match is still in full swing as we cut away to the Grillomatic snack bar. )