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TERRY GILLIAM'S PERSONAL BEST

Review by Michael Jacobson

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

“DINSDALE?”

Film ***1/2

The Personal Best series for Monty Python has gotten truly animated, thanks to the edition for Terry Gilliam!

As I hoped, Terry Gilliam’s Personal Best is an all-animated escapade…nearly an hour’s worth of cartoon lunacy from the British comedy troupe’s lone American guy.  Compiled neatly for one program, Gilliam’s zaniness works just as well outside the parameter of the show as within!

It starts with the best intro yet for one of the Personal Best discs, and yes, it includes some brand new cutout animation from Gilliam.  Then the show kicks in for real, and the crazy energy never stops.

Who could forget Killer Cars, or the Killer Cat that saved the city from them?  Or the House Hunters and their crusade against houses that were…shall we say, no longer safe?  There’s Conrad Poohs and his Dancing Teeth, Charles Fatless, and much more.

I’ve always loved Gilliam’s style, and it’s never been showcased better.  The vicious perambulator is a scream, as is the “Sit up straight!” bit.  The dancing Birth of Venus?  A trip, as is the infamous Black Spot bit.  My personal favorite was the high class lady who goes to…um, powder her nose.

Gilliam’s penchant for using anything from photographs to classic works of art in his animation earned him fame and acclaim.  Yet interestingly enough, it was an invention of necessity.  Without cutouts, it would have been impossible for him to create segments as rapidly as the show required.  Eventually, the other Pythons appreciated him enough to start using him for real in their skits.

But don’t look for live action Terry here…it’s all cartoon magic.  And it makes for one of the very best offerings in the Personal Best series.  Imaginative, wacky, and funny…and yes, with Dynamo Tension.

Video **

Owing to some of the crudeness, for lack of a better word, to Gilliam’s approach, some of the animated segments haven’t held up quite as well as Python’s live action skits.  There’s nothing really to complain about, but there are noticeable bits of grain, scratches and other marks here and there.

Audio **

The stereo mix is good enough to suffice…not a lot of dynamic range, but none is really required here.  Occasionally the audience laughter is a little stronger than the film soundtrack, but hey, can you blame them, folks?

Features **

There is a short featurette on Terry Gilliam sharing his memories of his work with Python and doing the animations.  There is also a trivia test and a text bio on Gilliam.

Summary:

Fans of Python animation can rejoice…the Personal Best of Terry Gilliam is an absolute treasure trove of the innovative animator (and future acclaimed director) at his unbridled, zany best.

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