Monty Python

What could I possibly say that would make a difference to Monty Python fans? Nothing. It would be impossible to try and sum up here what Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin have done for comedy. Brilliant writers and performers (and eventually directors), the Monty Python troupe redefined British humor.

They took the starch out of the stuffy shirt approach to comedy and infused their humor with biting wit and daring. Monty Python never shied away from provocative or controversial subject matter. From their television show to their films, Monty Python found humor in hypocrisy and everyday life. They took on religion with a fervor, upsetting the apple cart every chance they got. Their “Monty Python and the Life of Brian” literally created mass hysteria in churches worldwide. No strangers to controversy, the Monty Python troupe seldom went for the cheap shot. Even though they tackled topical subject matter, they did it with satirical writing and a certain “wink wink, nudge nudge” approach that kept the censors at bay. The first time I saw “Monty Python” was on KCET, a public television station broadcast out of Los Angeles. They used to play the series late Friday Night without cuts. That meant we got to see all of the dirty little bits. All of those dirty little bits and more have been restored for the DVD release, which is an impressive collection for fans of the troupe. Arts & Entertainment Home Video has done a exemplary job of putting the series on DVD. Currently there are two, two-DVD collections available, compromising the first 13 episodes of the series. Each DVD contains three episodes and extras (read below). Instead of getting into specifics, or waxing eloquently about each of my favorite episodes, I thought it best just to list them. Besides, if you’re reading this, you are probably familiar with the material. Here’s the line-up:

DVD #1: Wither Canada, Sex & Violence, and How to recognize Different Types of Trees from Quite a Long Way Away (this episode includes the original “nudge nudge, wink wink” sketch)

DVD #2: Owl-Stretching Time, Men’s Crisis of Identity in the Latter Half of the Twentieth Century (with the “Silly Job” Interview Sketch), and It’s the Art.

DVD #3: You’re No Fun Anymore, Full Frontal Nudity (Dead Parrot Sketch), The Ant-An Introduction, and a bonus episode called “Untitled.”

DVD #4: The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Goes to the Bathroom, The Naked Ant, and Intermission.

More episodes and Box Sets will follow….


VISION: [ X ] 20/20 [ ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind

Monty Python has never looked better. The live images are sharp and vivid, a real change of pace from the bleached-out and grainy images that compromise the tapes in syndication. There is actually depth of field in the frame, with nice attention to detail. Flesh tones actually look real, while color and saturation are strong. Some wear and tear on the prints, and the animated segments look dirty. No real compression artifacts issues.

HEARING: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf

Even though it is delivered in Dolby Digital mono, the soundtrack is delicious. Crystal clear dialogue mix takes center stage, while the front sound field is loaded down with sharp musical cues and ambient noise. No real hiss or distortion.

ORAL: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Poor

Closed captions in English for the hard of hearing.

COORDINATION: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Clumsy [ ] Weak

Arts & Entertainment has done a wonderful job of mastering the Monty Python DVDs. They could have just tossed us a bone. Instead, they load down the discs with hilarious main menus, plus additional extras that reminded me of the “Monty Python” CD-ROM I used to play. After sitting through the wacky opening, click on the Loony Bin pig for some more fun. The extras include an introduction of each of the players entitled “Meet the Chaps,” which includes one of their most famous bits. Since each disc contains different material, here’s the line-up based on each disc.

DVD #1: Meet the Chaps, plus here you’ll also find a mini-encyclopedia of “Pythonsism,” those clever little words the troupe uses, such as “cashectomy,” a noun meaning the total removal of all monies from the patient. In Gilliam’s attic, take a gander at some of the unusual animation from director Terry Gilliam. You’ll be given the opportunity to click here, and by all means get that thumb ready. As a bonus, you also get the infamous “Nudge Nudge, Wink Wink” skit performed live at the Hollywood Bowl. Since “Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl” isn’t currently available on DVD, this is your only chance to own it. The Looney Bin also contains a montage of “Silly Occupations,” including the “Homicidal Barber” and “Burglar/Encyclopedia Salesman” sketches. Fans will appreciate the DVD-ROM link to the Monty Python web site. Finally, the icing on the cake. When you click to a certain episode, you will be taken to another menu that gives you several choices. You can either play the episode, or jump directly to your favorite sketches in the episode (you’ll be provided with a menu). You can also choose another episode from this menu, or dig up some juicy, useless tidbits on the show.

DVD #2: Meet the Chaps, plus a hilarious trivia game called “A Trivial Quest.” There is also more of Terry Gilliam’s clever animation, and the live “Crunchy Frog” sketch from the Hollywood Bowl appearance. Historical figures take a ribbing in “Hysterical Figures,” including Attila the Hun. DVD- ROM links to web site.

DVD #3: Meet the Chaps and the same “Pythonisms” from DVD #1. More Terry Gilliam animation, plus the live version of the “Lumberjack” song from the Hollywood Bowl appearance. Click on the talent show icon and you’ll get the hilarious “The Semaphore Version of Wuthering Heights.” DVD-ROM links to web site.

DVD #4: Meet the Chaps, and two new rounds of “Trivial Quest,” a game that is just as much fun to lose as it is to win. Included here is the same “Gilliam’s Attic” on DVD #1. Python Olympics contains a couple of clips from sports-related episodes, while the DVD also features two clips from the Hollywood Bowl show, one a Karaoke version of a Python song and the “Albatross” sketch. There are also the usual DVD-ROM links.

PROGNOSIS: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Fit [ ] Will Live [ ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal

These discs belong in a time capsule.

VITALS: $34.98 Each 2 Disc Set/Not Rated/4 Discs/441 Minutes/Color/Keepcase/ #AAE-70044/#AAE- 70041




HMO: Arts & Entertainment Home Video

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