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GRAHAM CHAPMAN'S PERSONAL BEST

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin
Audio:  Dolby Digital Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  A&E
Features:  See Review
Length:  55 Minutes
Release Date:  February 28, 2006

“What sort of job do you do?”

“I clean public lavatories.”

“Is there any promotion involved?”

“Oh, yeah.  After five years, they give me a brush.”

Film ***

Graham Chapman’s Personal Best rounds out the series of individual discs for the six members of Monty Python.  Even though he passed away in 1989, the other five showed up here to peruse the best work of their late comrade and to reminisce about him.

This program is therefore a little more documentary-like than the others.  And that’s kind of cool.  Despite being a lifelong Python devotee, I learned things about Chapman that I never knew before.  A doctor who chose comedy over medicine, and the only openly gay member of the troupe, Chapman’s contributions were invaluable, and his characters frequently unforgettable.

I have to say for starters that it’s official now…every one of these discs include the Fish Slapping Dance.  Must be some kind of in-joke for the lads.  That aside, there are lots of other wonderful bits here.  A couple of them, including Argument Clinic and the Agatha Christie bit, were cut a little short.  Even the Parrot Sketch is here and a little truncated…doubly puzzling because Graham wasn’t in that one.

But there are laughs galore.  I loved it when Graham wrestled himself in a three-fall match, or when he pondered the penguin on top of the television.  His take as the head of 20th Century Vole was a scream.  He could play delightfully in drag, as in the Mollusk Documentary sketch, or be a perfect straight man as he talks about film in It’s The Arts.

All through the program, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin appear to offer their thoughts and remembrances.  There are funny stories to be had, but their approach on this disc is no joke.  Their words are a testament to Chapman, and definitely serve to keep the comic great’s memory alive.

The flip side is that the new interviews cut a bit into the running time, so there aren’t quite as many sketches here as on the other Personal Best discs.  But what’s here is a joy, and traveling down Memory Lane with the Pythons is a definite treat.  I think Graham would have delighted in the choices of material and the tributes.  And if not…what difference does it make?  He’s dead.

Video ***

“George, there’s a man at the door with a mustache.”

“Tell him I’ve already got one.”

A&E’s presentations of these classic Python bits remain good…considering the age of the shows, there’s really no complaints.  Colors and images have held up pretty well despite the limitations of videotape.  Certain filmed aspects look a little more their age, but overall, the visual offering is nicely done.

Audio **

“Are you being indecisive?”

“No…yes…perhaps.”

The stereo mixes remain suitable…nothing spectacular, but they work well for the programs at hand.

Features **

“I just spent four hours burying the cat.”

“Four hours burying the cat?”

“Yes.  He wouldn’t keep still.”

There are two sketches constituting Graham’s Personal Second Best (one with cannibals at sea, the other the Dennis Moore sketch), a biography, and a trivia game.

Summary:

“I DON’T LIKE SPAM!!”

Graham Chapman may be gone from us, but his ability to make us laugh will live on for as long as A&E supplies us with terrific Monty Python discs.  His Personal Best is a welcome addition to the series, and serves as both comic entertainment and solid reflection back on the life and times of an artist who was taken from us far too soon.

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