Written by Old Bluffer 15th Apr 2007
Plague Collection day in Arthurian Britain is a worrying time for anybody who looks a bit poorly. So, when Eric Idle's dolorous cry of "Bring Out Your Dead!" is heard, any filthy peasant with enough energy and sense desparately tries to crawl away to safety.
The peasant in the background manages to crawl halfway into a basket but the one in the foreground isn't as fortunate and has to be content with sticking his head into the mud.
The Plague Cart Officials you see, are an early form of Public Santitation Services, and for the princely fee of ninepence they will take away diseased corpses so that the rest of the village can live out their cheery existences in a clean and safe environment (as you can see by the pictures on this page).
These English binmen actually seem a bit cleaner than their modern counterparts.
As with any system though, there is more corruption here than mere plague contagion. So, when he spies the Plague Cart, John Cleese takes the opportunity to get rid of a presumably annoying elder relative.
The gentleman in question however is less than keen to be dumped amongst the decaying cadavers on the cart, and insists in a quavering voice "I'm *not* dead!".
"'Ere. He says he's not dead." says the Plague Official suspiciously (he is clearly an expert in his field, and knows a corpse isn't dead when it tells him it isn't).
John Cleese tries his best to deny this, and when that doesn't work, to claim that he's so near to death that it doesn't actually matter with lines such as "He will be soon. He's very ill."
His attempts aren't helped by the increasingly desperate cries from the poor old fellow on his shoulder.
"I'm getting better!"
~ "You're not. You'll be stone dead in a few minutes."
The official is something of a jobsworth, and like all civil servants falls back on bureaucracy when faced with an unorthodox situation.
"I can't take him like this. It's against regulations!"
All the while, the Old Man continues to squeal:
"I don't want to go on the cart."
~ "Don't be such a baby."
"I feel fine! I think I'll go for a walk."
~ "You're not fooling anyone you know."
Changing tack, the Heartless Peasant appeals to the official's reasonable nature.
"Well, can you hang around a couple of minutes? He won't be long."
But the official is a busy man, and he won't be back at this village until next Thursday.
This is most inconvenient to the peasant, as presumably he's already made plans for what to do with his relative's hovel.
"Isn't there anything you could do?" he pleads, with a knowing expression.
The plague official shifts about a bit nervously, and glances around to make sure nobody is watching. The peasant looks equally furtive.
The poor old man suddenly breaks into song, singing "I feel happy... I feel happy!" - but these are sadly his last words as the officlal has reached a decision, and, satisfied that nobody will see, he lifts his government-issue triangle beater and bonks the old man hard on his head.
Euthanasia, medieval style.
"Thanks very much" says the peasant, handing over his ninepence.
"That's all right." says the offical, "See you on Thursday."
Editor Note: I'm categorising this as "Family" even though that isn't explicitly made clear in the film. My reasoning is that there's no way John Cleese is going to stump up ninepence to get rid of some random old man, so I reckon it's either his dad or uncle and he either wants the inheritence or is just fed up of the old fellow hanging around all the time! - Old Bluffer