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Friday, October 26, 2012

The Piranha Brothers

I saw this article in the Toronto Sun about a British gangster, Charlie Richardson, who'd just died at the age of 78.

It says that in the 1960's, Richardson, a scrap metal dealer, was also the Torture Gang boss. The story cites ways he punished those who crossed him; one technique Charlie used to enforce his will was to nail people to the floor. His rivals were twin gangster brothers Ronnie and Reggie Kray.

After reading the story I figured that Charlie, Ronnie, and Reggie were collectively the inspiration for The Python's sketch about brutal gangster twins, the Piranha Brothers.

I'm guessing they mixed up the characters to avoid legal action AND personal injury . They were probably too scared to even mention "taking a shirt from Charlie".

I love the irony in Charlie/Dinsdale's profession of innocence at the end of the article. 

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Here's an excerpt from the actual script of Monty Python's episode 14, The Piranha Brothers (with added photos):

Episode Fourteen

Colour code: John Cleese - Michael Palin - Eric Idle - Graham Chapman - Terry Jones - Terry Gilliam - Carol Cleveland

Cut to Presenter at desk in usual grey suit and floral tie.         


Good evening. On 'Ethel the Frog' tonight we look at violence. The violence of British Gangland. Last Tuesday a reign of terror was ended when the notorious Piranha brothers, Doug and Dinsdale (photo of same),after one of the most extraordinary trials in British legal history, were sentenced to four hundred years imprisonment for crimes of violence.

Tonight Ethel the Frog examines the rise to power of the Piranhas, the methods they used to subjugate rival gangs and their subsequent tracking down and capture by the brilliant Superintendent Harry 'Snapper' Organs of Q Division. Doug and Dinsdale Piranha were born, on probation, in this small house in Kipling Road, Southwark, the eldest sons in a family of sixteen. Their father Arthur Piranha, a scrap-metal dealer and TV quizmaster, was well known to the police, and a devout Catholic. In January 1928 he had married Kitty Malone, (old wedding photo) an up-and-coming Eastend boxer. Doug was born in February 1929 and Dinsdale two weeks later; and again a week after that. Their next door neighbour was Mrs April Simmel.
Exterior in street; interviewer and Mrs Simmel. Line of gas men behind.
Mrs SimmelKipling Road was a typical sort of Eastend street, people were in and out of each other's houses with each other's property all day. They were a cheery lot.
Interviewer          Was it a terribly violent area?
Mrs Simmel(laughs deprecatingly) Oh ho......yes. Cheerful and violent. I remember Doug was very keen on boxing, until he learned to walk, then he took up putting the boot in the groin. Oh he was very interested in that. His mother had such trouble getting him to come in for his tea. He'd be out there putting his little boot in, you know, bless him. You know kids were very different then. They didn't have their heads filled with all this Cartesian dualism.
Cut to school playground.
Voice OverAt the age of fifteen Doug and Dinsdale started attending the Ernest Pythagoras Primary School in Clerkenwell.
Pan to show Anthony Viney and interviewer with stick mike.
Interviewer          Anthony Viney. You taught the Piranha brothers English. What do you remember most about them?
He fails to point stick mike at Viney (graham) who answers. However, when the interviewer poses the next question he points the stick mike to Viney as he does so. This continues, with the mike always pointing to the one who is not talking while Viney relates a fascinating tale complete with large riveting gestures.
Interviewer          ...Anthoney Viney.
Cut to presenter.
PresenterWhen the Piranhas left school they were called up but were found by an Army Board to be too unstable even for National Service. Denied the opportunity to use their talents in the service of their country, they began to operate what they called 'The Operation'. They would select a victim and then threaten to beat him up if he paid the so-called protection money. Four months later they started another operation which the called 'The Other Operation'. In this racket they selected another victim and threatened not to beat him up if hedidn't pay them. One month later they hit upon 'The Other Other Operation'. In this the victim was threatened that if he didn't pay them, they would beat him up. This for the Piranha brothers was the turning point.
Cut to Superintendent OrgansSUBTITLE: 'HARRY "SNAPPER" ORGANS'

OrgansDoug and Dinsdale Piranha now formed a gang, which the called 'The Gang' and used terror to take over night clubs, billiard halls, gaming casinos and race tracks. When they tried to take over the MCC they were for the only time in their lives, slit up a treat. As their empire spread however, we in Q Division were keeping tabs on their every move by reading the colour supplements.
PresenterA small-time operator who fell foul of Dinsdale Piranha was Vince Snetterton-Lewis.
Cut to Vince in a chair in a nasty flat.

VinceWell one day I was sitting at home threatening the kids, and I looked out of the hole in the wall and sees this tank drive up and one of Dinsdale's boys gets out and he comes up, all nice and friendly like, and says Dinsdale wants to have a talk with me. So he chains me to the back of the tank and takes me for a scrape round to Dinsdale's. And Dinsdale's there in the conversation pit with Doug and Charles Paisley, the baby crusher, and a couple of film producers and a man they called 'Kierkegaard', who just sat there biting the heads of whippets and Dinsdale sayd 'I hear you've been a naughty boy Clement' and he splits me nostrils open and saws me leg off and pulls me liver out, and I said my name's not Clement and then he loses his temper and nails my head to the floor.
Interviewer          (off-screen) He nailed your head to the floor?
VinceAt first, yeah
Cut to presenter.
PresenterAnother man who had his head nailed to the floor was Stig O' Tracey.
Cut to another younger more cheerful man on sofa.
Interviewer          Stig, I've been told Dinsdale Piranha nailed your head to the floor.
StigNo, no. Never, never. He was a smashing bloke. He used to give his mother flowers and that. He was like a brother to me.
Interviewer          But the police have film of Dinsdale actually nailing your head to the floor.
StigOh yeah, well - he did that, yeah.
Interviewer          Why?
StigWell he had to, didn't he? I mean, be fair, there was nothing else he could do. I mean, I had transgressed the unwritten law.
Interviewer          What had you done?
StigEr... Well he never told me that. But he gave me his word that it was the case, and that's good enough for me with old Dinsy. I mean, he didn't want to nail my head to the floor. I had to insist. He wanted to let me off. There's nothing Dinsdale wouldn't do for you.
Interviewer          And you don't bear him any grudge?
StigA grudge! Old Dinsy? He was a real darling.
Interviewer          I understand he also nailed your wife's head to a coffee table. Isn't that right Mrs O' Tracey?
Camera pans to show woman with coffee table nailed to head.
Mrs O' TraceyOh, no. No. No.
StigYeah, well, he did do that. Yeah, yeah. He was a cruel man, but fair
Cut back to Vince.
Interviewer          Vince, after he nailed your head to the floor, did you ever see him again
VinceYeah.....after that I used to go round his flat every Sunday lunchtime to apologize and we'd shake hands and then he'd nail my head to the floor
Interviewer          Every Sunday?
VinceYeah but he was very reasonable about it. I mean one Sunday when my parents were coming round for tea, I asked him if he'd mind very much not nailing my head to the floor that week and he agreed and just screwed my pelvis to a cake stand.

The episode ends with Luigi Vercotti and his high class escort agency (the Chinese watch  ). He describes Doug as more fearsome than Dinsdale.

"What did Doug do?"

He used ... sarcasm."


Dinsdale's imaginary nemesis Spiny Norman, a giant hedgehog.

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Link to the full TV episode above is here:


Scripts of all Python episodes: 

UPDATE Jan2018: More of lovable Spiny