A&E // 1970 // 237 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Nicholas Sylvain (Retired) // November 23rd, 1999
Try some spam, spam, spam, baked beans, Monty Python, and some more spam.
A&E continues to add to the decline of Western Civilization by spewing forth the second season of the original Monty Python's Flying Circus television series on content-laden DVD discs so that we may all collapse with laughter as Rome burns.
This second wave of Monty Python is done very much in the same vein as the first wave, so if you are interested in these discs, I would suggest that you go back and read my review of Monty Python's Flying Circus Set 1 and 2. I will endeavor to note the differences and unique facets of this latest edition. Monty Python seemed to hit their stride in the second season, as the shows have a greater sense of internal cohesion with sketches making references to previous sketches or utilizing common threads. Also, some of the quintessential Python sketches find their genesis here, most notably the not-so-threatening Spanish Inquisition, the physical comedy genius of the Ministry of Silly Walks, and the pop culture absurdity of the Spam sketch.
The sketch highlights (listed on the back of each individual disc) might begin to give you idea about the bizarre wealth that lurk therein. They are:
Set 3, Disc 5: The Ministry of Silly Walks, a New Cooker, the Piranha Brothers, Jokes and Novelties, an enormous hedgehog saying "Dinsdale?," the Semaphore Version of "Wuthering Heights," soft cushions and a comfy chair, Flying Lessons, a Psychiatry Milkman, the Poet McTeague, and Déja Vu. With Graham Chapman as Vince Snetterton-Lewis, John Cleese as St. John Limbo -- poetry expert, Terry Gilliam as Cardinal Fang, Eric Idle as Stig O'Tracey, Terry Jones as Cardinal Biggles, and Michael Palin as Cardinal Ximinez.
Set 3, Disc 6: Live from the Grill-O-Mat Snack Bar, we present the Architect Sketch, How to Give Up Being a Mason, Motor Insurance Sketch with Nude Lady, The Society for Putting Things On Top of Other Things, An Interview with Raymond Luxury Yacht, the Man Who is Alternately Rude and Polite, "Blackmail," and Dung. With Graham Chapman as Raymond Lucury Yacht (pronounced Throatwobbler Mangrove), John Cleese as Ken Clean-air Systems, Terry Gilliam as The Shoplifter, Eric Idle as Brooky, Terry Jones as Mrs. Nellie Air-vent, and Michael Palin as Mr. Devious.
Set 4, Disc 7: Hazardous contents include Killer Sheep, Poofy Judges, Atilla the Nun, Atilla the Bun, The Idiot in Society, Wife Swapping, Mr. and Mrs. Git, Bruces, the News for Gibbons, an Exploding Penguin on the Telly, The Death of Mary Queen of Scots, Naughty Bits and the Man Who Contradicts People. With Graham Chapman as Rev. Arthur Belling -- Vicar of St. Loony Up the Cream Bun and Jam, John Cleese as Arthur Figgis -- Village Idiot, Terry Gilliam as a Viking, Eric Idle as First Bruce, Terry Jones as a Snivelling Little Rat-Faced Git, and Michael Palin as Colin Mozart-Ratcatcher.
Set 4, Disc 8: Infested with Conquistadpr Coffee and Crelm Toothpaste, as well as 'Crackpot Religions Ltd.', Long John Silver Impersonators v. Bournemouth Gynaecologists, a Fish License, an Interview with a Filing Cabinet, an Exploding Version of the Blue Danube, a Man Who Collects Birdwatchers' Eggs, and Spam. With Graham Chapman as Lady Partridge, John Cleese as Mr. Glans, Terry Gilliam as The Cherub, Eric Idle as Arthur Crackpot (Crackpot Religions Ltd., President and God), Terry Jones as Karl Marx, and Michael Palin as Richard III.
Video is on par with the quality of the first set. I did notice an occasional scene or opening that seemed particularly grainy or noisy, but I chalk that up to the source material. On the plus side, I also noticed several scenes that are crisp and flawless, or where the color saturation makes the sketch look far prettier than I ever have seen it.
Audio is the same as with the first set, about as good as we could probably expect from a nearly thirty year old British television series.
Extras are the usual odd mix we now expect for the Python discs. Each disc has its own assortment, including live sketches drawn from the movie Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl or the TV series:
Disc 5 displays Meet the Chaps, py-thon-isms (definitions of Python terms), Gillianimations (some animated sequences from Terry Gilliam's warped mind), Silly Walk Live! (movie), Naughty bits (from the TV series, and needs no explanation!), and a page lauding pythonshop.com.
Disc 6 shows us Meet the Chaps, A Trivial Quest (with TV snippets as rewards), Gilliam's Attic (a few photos with pithy comments), Monty Queries (two TV skits based on quiz shows), Tutor Manners (TV skits based on instructional shows), and a page lauding pythonshop.com.
Disc 7 has Meet the Chaps, more py-thon-isms, more bizarre Gillianimations, Communist Quiz Live! (movie), Pepperpots (TV skits with the Python members all in drag), and the usual pythonshop.com page.
Disc 8 includes Meet the Chaps (I hope you know them by now!), another Trivial Quest, more from Gilliam's Attic, Poofy Judges Live! (movie), Montykarokae (The Lumberjack Song), And Now...the BBC (TV bits, and I needn't tell you what the theme is!), and the last shill for pythonshop.com.
Also, the discs include a "useless tidbit" of trivia for each episode, themed (but static) menus, and animated transitions. In a nice touch, the impatient viewer can skip directly to the individual sketches within a show.
Well, unlike the first set, here A&E has seen the light and sensibly used the preferred Amaray keep case for packaging. So, there is very little here for me to criticize aside from the annoying lack of time coding of the episodes, but one additional point does come to mind. I would have been very interested to see some retrospective material from the surviving members of the Python troupe, reflecting back on the original series and how matters have progressed since then.
A timeless collection of classic comedy, and decent DVDs to boot, these discs are a treat for the soul, and belong on your shelf for a reasonable price ($25 per disc, or $45 for each two-disc set).
Nooo-body expects sketch comedy to be this brilliant, so I order the Defendant most honourably acquitted. A&E is commended for obeying this Court in now using the Amaray keep case, and will have its record expunged if the remainder of the series is so packaged.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 237 Minutes
Release Year: 1970
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Pythonism Glossary
* Art Gallery
* Preview Upcoming Episodes
* Troupe Career Highlights