by Hans ten Cate
Thursday, 21 December 1995

About 12 years ago, independent filmmaker Michael Mileham was talking to Graham Chapman... in fact he was talking to Eric Idle and John Cleese as well. Not to mention a bevy of other world reknown comedic actors and actresses on the set of "Yellowbeard." For several months, Michael and a small film crew traveled, ate, housed, and talked with the cast and crew of "Yellowbeard." The results of their escapades became a 45 minute documentary film called Group Madness: the Making of Yellowbeard.

The documentary film itself has remained in relative obscurity for some time. The only mention of it was found in Douglas L. McCall's book. And now Python fans can buy this rare 1983 film on video from the independent filmmaker himself! Why sell this rare film on video after twelve years? Upon asking Michael, he replied: "many of my friends that were in 'Group Madness' have since passed away: Marty Feldman, Graham Chapman, Harry Nilsson, and my best friend Peter Cook. It's... a desire to let people see a little more of these great talents. I want to help continue the legacy of these great people."

Michael Mileham came upon the idea of "Group Madness..." after consulting on the editing of "The Making of: Raiders of the Lost Ark." Says Mileham, "[we decided to] make another 'behind-the-scenes' documentary. About then the 'Yellowbeard' film came to my attention. Hooks are important for good behind-the-scenes documentaries and this film had comics, more comics in it than any film since [1963's] 'Its a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.'" So Michael presented the idea to the producers at Orion Pictures and and it wasn't long before Michael and a small crew were on their way to Rye, England, a small seaport city on Britain's East Sussex coast.

In a way, it was somewhat of a homecoming. Michael Mileham was born in England and became involved in the film industry not long after. For one, his godmother was Jessica Tandy. The award-winning actress helped Michael and his mother immigrate from England in 1954. While serving in VietNam as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, Michael became involved in a BBC documentary, "A Face of War," which would later go on to win an award at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival as Best Feature Length Documentary. Michael's involvement in the documentary was purely by accident. The original BBC cameraman became injured and Michael, who got along famously with these chaps from Britain, helped with additional camera work.

After returning to the United States, and after becoming the only British subject to have earned three Purple Hearts in VietNam, Michael saw the film to which he had contributed and was immediately inspired. He attended film school and later formed a small production company which produced a number of music videos for such artists as Cat Stevens, Ringo Starr, Dolly Parton, and Rick Springfield. Michael has worked on 130 film projects since; producing, writing, directing, and editing much of his own work. Michael Mileham is currently working on "The Jungle of Jules Levine," a film written, directed, and lensed by Mileham, starring Elliott Gould.

And then there's "Group Madness...," the irreverant documentary film which shows some of the behind-the-scenes antics of the "Yellowbeard" cast. "Shooting the documentary was the easiest and most enjoyable experience I've ever had in the film business," recalls Michael. The group followed the "Yellowbeard" cast and crew from Rye to Herfordshire, England and later to Zihuatanejo, Mexico, some 130 miles north of Acapulco. "Once I had convinced the production staff of 'Yellowbeard' that my crew and I had to be housed with the cast, my film was as good as made." The documentary features each of the principal cast members in turn, including the Pythons and director Mel Damski. "The cast preferred working with us because they could make up their own lines," says Mileham, "something that was denied them by 'Yellowbeard''s director and producer."

"Group Madness" was later syndicated to 75 television stations in the United States upon the release of "Yellowbeard" in 1983. The film was shown only once on television, pre-empting "Saturday Night Live," and hasn't aired since then. "I want to help continue the legacy of these great people and put money together for more funny films, especially a script Peter Cook and I wrote last year, 'It Sucks.' Half of the money from the sale of 'Group Madness' will go toward that super low budget comedy. Then I want to get rich and take over the world."

And what of the Pythons? Well, Michael is certainly not short on stories. "Generally, Graham was kind, gentle, intelligent, and gay. We became close friends and partners. He kept his sexual preference to himself. Eric is an extremely talented good person who recently gained my great respect for giving Peter Cook the highest praise. John is a delightful inigma, very quiet and studied, whose manager (David Wilkinson) is a gem... I am humbled by their enormous talents."

Group Madness: The Making of Yellowbeard can now be bought from the original filmmaker for $30 (U.S.). To order this "Pythomentary," write to or send checks to Michael Mileham at P.O. Box 1388, Idyllwild, CA 92549 or you can even e-mail him at DigiFilmA@aol.com. Half of the proceeds will go to the production of "It Sucks," a film co-written by Michael and famed British comedian Peter Cook. Purchasers will become shareholders!

Michael Mileham also now has his own web page at