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MICHAEL PALIN'S PERSONAL BEST

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin
Audio:  Dolby Digital Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  A&E
Features:  "Second Best" Compilation, Quiz, Biography
Length:  55 Minutes
Release Date:  August 30, 2005

"I've been a hunter all my life.  I love animals.  That's why I like to kill 'em!"

Film **1/2

Six Pythons, six different takes on their best work...this time, it's Michael Palin's turn.

Palin, the "nice one", compiled his take on the best of Monty Python's Flying Circus in this video of TV highlights, and perhaps the most curious aspect is the overall lack of sketches in which he stars.  Perhaps Michael would be better known as the "modest one".

With each of the Personal Best discs from A&E, I sit beforehand and consider what I consider to be each member's best work.  I was quite a bit off on this one...and surprised.  The Lumberjack Song wasn't here, nor was The Spanish Inquisition.  One of my favorite Palin bits, Déjà Vu, also was conspicuously absent.

But there are other choice bits of jocularity, starting with Flying Sheep and ending with The Fish Slapping Dance.  Michael himself hosts the DVD at the site of the latter...known for his series of travel programs, it's no wonder he couldn't resist paying a visit!

The best actual Michael Palin bit included is Blackmail, one of my all time favorites...it's a rather twisted take on a game show.  Other welcome inclusions were The Mosquito Hunters, The Chemist Sketch, The Architect Sketch and The Man With a Tape Recorder Up His Nose.  The story of the infamous Piranha Brothers is told, as well as a rather hysterical take on Beethoven.  Some delightful animation from Terry Gilliam is also featured.

Unfortunately, Michael also threw in a pair of the most trying skits the troupe ever attempted (hey, in a four year long run, they couldn't all be high points).  The Cheese Shop always finds my attention wandering, as John Cleese itemizes every cheese known to man (and some I dare say known only to Python fans).  Another is a bit on a composer with a very, very, VERY long name that keeps getting repeated over and over.  It's actually hysterical the first time it's said.  But by the sixth or seventh time, you may be tempted to grope for the remote.

Unlike Eric Idle, Palin didn't venture beyond the original television show for his selections, so no gems from Live at the Hollywood Bowl.  The disc could have benefited from a couple.  It's a pleasant enough trip down memory lane for fans of Britain's legendary bad boys of comedy, but for those who are really into The Flying Circus, this seems a rather uneven and shortsighted compilation. 

Video ***

A&E's digital transfers for this classic Britcom remain impressive, and the best way to date to relieve these shows at home.  Though some filmed footage shows a bit of wear next to the one shot on video, the overall look is clear and clean, with decent color renderings.

Audio **

The audio track is perfectly passable...just jokes and laughter; nothing too demanding.

Features *1/2

The disc features a bio on Palin, a selection of his "Second Best" material (about 11 minutes and pretty funny), and a 15 question interactive quiz.

Summary:

Nobody would expect The Spanish Inquisition to be left out of Michael Palin's Personal Best, but that's exactly what happened.  A mostly entertaining mix of comedy is presented here, but I found this DVD more curious for what was omitted than what was included.

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