..

MONTY PYTHON LIVE!

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin
Directors:  Various
Audio:  Dolby Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  A&E
Features:  See Review
Length:  270 Minutes
Release Date: 

“They’re a typical Hollywood audience!  All the kids are on drugs, and all the adults are on roller skates!”

Film ****

When Monty Python took over the Hollywood Bowl back in 1982, it was a terrific triumph for the bad boys from Britain, blending new and old material into a comedy show that had the audience howling.  Yet Live at the Hollywood Bowl is only ONE of FOUR programs on A&E’s double disc offering Monty Python Live!

Slip in disc one, and you’ll be treated to the legendary live show, where Pythons Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle and Michael Palin ran amuck on the stage (and off), peppered with film clips and Gilliam’s incomparable imagination.  Even old favorites like “The Lumberjack Song” and “The Argument Clinic” feel fresh in the live setting.  Other favorites include “The Philosophers Song” sung by the Australian Bruces, the Pope confronting Michelangelo over his artistic license with the Last Supper, and skits that brought the fellows off the stage and into the audience, much to the delight of the crowd.

It’s a great live show, especially for the die-hard Python fans, but as mentioned, it’s only the start.  Disc one also features “Live at Aspen”, a Comedy Festival tribute to the team filmed in 1998 and featuring host Robert Klein.  It’s filled with memories, vintage clips and laughs galore, including late troupe member Graham Chapman…well, making an ash of himself.

The second disc starts off with one of my all time favorite Python videos, Parrot Sketch Not Included.  It’s a wonderfully assembled collection of some of the best moments from Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  You’ll see “The Ministry of Silly Walks”, “Spam”, “The Spanish Inquisition”, “The Fish Slapping Dance”, and much more…except, of course, for the Parrot Sketch (truth in advertising).

Last, but not least, the second disc features Monty Python’s first ever show written and performed for German television…in German, with original subtitles.  It’s 45 minutes of both new and translated material with no laugh tracks, and is a real treat, especially if you’ve never seen cows performing The Merchant of Venice.

A&E has been doing a great service to fans of Python and DVD by making the original Flying Circus episodes available, not to mention the very good double disc set documentary set Life of Python.  Monty Python Live may be their crowning achievement.  Any one of these programs would be worth buying on DVD, in my opinion…to have all four together in one special set is quite a treat for fans of this legendary comedy team

Video **

Video quality is kind of hard to judge, given the various source materials involved in compiling this two disc set.  Live at the Hollywood Bowl was originally filmed on video and transferred to film, and that’s pretty much what it looks like…DVD doesn’t help much.  The Aspen special, which is the most recent, looks much better, with more natural coloring and better detail.  Parrot Sketch is again a hodgepodge of source materials, and considering the age and rarity, the German episode looks quite good.  Overall, it’s good enough, and Python fans should be content.

Audio **

Likewise with the audio, how does one judge?  Hollywood Bowl didn’t have the best sound recording to begin with, though the dialogue (and therefore, the jokes) are clear enough.  Everything else fares better, but overall, the sound is perfectly suitable…just not remarkable.

Features **1/2

Each disc has a small handful of extras…disc one contains filmographies for the troupe member’s post-Python work, plus a printed dictionary of Python-isms (to impress your friends).  Both discs feature a short collection of brief Circus skits called “Bleeding Critics”, some of which are quite amusing.  Disc two contains a few more of these skits under the name “Confusing Musings”.  Each disc contains the same animated menus a la Terry Gilliam with sound.

Summary:

Monty Python Live is a must have for any Monty Python fan…it’s arguably the best single collection of material yet release on DVD.  A&E’s generous assembly of four classic Python performances make for a good four and a half hours of laughs and memories.  Enjoy!