In art, certain themes are evergreen. They never go out of date. Among them are love, death, and the intrinsically dehumanizing nature of corporations.
In 1983 Monty Python tapped into one of the Great Themes with their short film The Crimson Permanent Assurance. It tells the story of a group of elderly accountants, “strained under the oppressive yoke of their new corporate management,” who rise up against The Very Big Corporation of America and set sail on the high seas of international finance as a marauding band of pirates.
The film was originally conceived by director Terry Gilliam as an animated sequence for inclusion in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, but as the idea grew he talked the group into letting him develop it into a live-action film. The Crimson Permanent Assurance was eventually shown both on its own and as a prologue to The Meaning of Life. The title was inspired by the 1952 Burt Lancaster adventure film The Crimson Pirate. The cast is made up mostly of unknown actors, but if you watch closely you’ll catch a glimpse of most of the Python members. Gilliam and Michael Palin have cameo roles as window washers, and Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Graham Chapman appear very briefly at the beginning of the boardroom scene.
The Crimson Permanent Assurance is a delightful little film–and just as relevant now as ever, a reminder of the utter absurdity of the claim that “corporations are people too.”
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