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LIFE OF PYTHON

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin
Directors:  Various
Audio:  Dolby Digital Stereo
Video:  Standard 1.33:1
Studio:  A&E
Features:  Trivia games, website promo, clip from the first German episode
Length:  168 Minutes
Release Date:  October 31, 2000

Film ***1/2

The best comparison I can make of Monty Python is to the Beatles.  Both were legendary British groups, and though they worked in different fields of entertainment, the Pythons revolutionized and forever changed the face of comedy the way the lads from Liverpool changed music.  They became an assembly of superstars and household names, yet despite that fact, none would ever be as well known for what they did individually as they would for what they did as part of the group.

A&E is the studio who brought DVD fans the entire Monty Python’s Flying Circus television show in a series of attractively packaged double-disc sets.  Now, they bring us one more to complete the Python experience:  Life of Python.  This two DVD set is bound to be a real treat for all Python fans, as it includes, among others, a very good documentary featuring fresh interviews with the surviving members, insights into their development and creative processes, the entire ‘lost’ second German episode of the show, a look at their most popular musical numbers, the group’s contribution to the BBC’s May Day Festival special (not seen since the original broadcast), and, oh yes, a few brand new skits sprinkled here and there by the remaining members!  Yes, Python works together again at last, if only for a few fleeting moments.

The centerpiece of disc one is “It’s…the Monty Python Story”, a BBC production that documents the group’s rise to fame on British TV and eventually the movies.  All surviving members are interviewed, and we even get a glimpse at Graham Chapman’s funeral service, which naturally erupts into Python levity instead of being a solemn occasion.  The second program, “Pythonland”, follows Michael Palin on a trip to some of the locations used in the troupe’s memorable skits.  This is followed by the aforementioned lost May Day Special and “From Spam to Sperm”, hosted by Meat Loaf, which looks at the Pythons’ contribution to music.  This is all wrapped up by a hilarious South Park tribute to Monty Python, which starts as a spoof of the famous parrot sketch and ends up ingeniously poking fun at Terry Gilliam’s unforgettable animation style.

Disc two boasts the lost German episode #2 (in English), which is hysterical.  You won’t forget the philosophical football game, or the story of Happy Valley, where the people are always happy, or else! 

If you love Python, this two disc set is a real treat.  It shows you the ins and outs of some of the famous sketches and films, takes you up close and personal with the members of the troupe, gives you some hysterical and hard to find goodies, and shows the boys together again, doing what they always did best.

Video ***

No real complaints…this looks about as good as an old television show could look, and in some cases, considerably better than re-runs of the Flying Circus you might have caught on late night TV over the years.  There are some natural limitations owing to the videotape sources, but nothing bad or distracting, and nothing that could be considered a transfer flaw. 

Audio **

Likewise, this is a serviceable Dolby Stereo mix, which sounds fine, but is unspectacular by nature, and if it occasional hints at its age, that’s to be expected.  There certainly are no issues of clarity or distracting noise, so you can consider it an adequately satisfying experience.

Features **

In a set as full of material as this is, it’s difficult to ascertain what the features are, if any, but I think you can count the website promo, two trivia games, and the clip from the troupe’s first German episode as bonuses, because they aren’t listed on the box.

Summary:

Like Python?  Try Life of Python, a terrific double-disc compilation of rarities, information and treats to those of us who know all the words to the Lumberjack Song or can recite the Spanish Inquisition sketch verbatim.