A&E // 1974 // 180 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Nicholas Sylvain (Retired) // December 4th, 2000
Q: Is there any truth to the rumor that beleaguered President Richard Nixon
secretly funded a fourth season of Monty Python in 1974 to distract America from
the Watergate scandal?
In an event sure to cause great weeping and gnashing of teeth, the foreshortened fourth and final season of Monty Python's Flying Circus comes to disc courtesy of A&E in identical fashion to the presentation of the previous sets.
Having previously reviewed the disc sets of the first three seasons of Monty Python's Flying Circus (as well as Monty Python and the Holy Grail!) I think I am about Pythoned-out with commentary on this comedic troupe, but I can muster up a few more comments.
One of the reasons that the fourth season was the last for Monty Python's Flying Circus was the departure of John Cleese, who left to pursue "other opportunities." Basically, he got bored with the regular grind of writing and performing for the show. His absence is certainly noted, but perhaps surprisingly the quality and overall humor of the fourth season is on par with the series as a whole. Perhaps one reason for the still high level of quality humor is the influence of Douglas Adams (creator of the "Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy" series and many other books). In addition to his undeniable acting contribution as a pepperpot with a missile in Episode 44, he collaborated with Graham Chapman, co-writing the Patient Abuse sketch in Episode 45.
As I have consistently found in the series of Monty Python's Flying Circus discs, the video is quite good for an over 30 year old TV series. Again, the scenes where video quality was lowest (soft picture, loss of shadow detail, and bountiful bits of dirt) were invariably credit sequences or outdoor shots. In addition, the end credits tend to have a heavy degree of digital enhancement shimmering. The scenes shot in studio are usually far sharper, almost totally clean, and more saturated in color. A certain degree of video noise and grain is present, sometimes quite noticeably in dark backgrounds, but nothing to get too upset about. All in all, you should still be very happy.
Audio is the much the same as well, about as good as we could probably expect from limited, aging source material. Dialogue is clearly heard and there are no distracting pops, hisses, or other such sonic flaws.
Extras are exactly as advertised from the other Python sets. Each disc has its own assortment, including sketches drawn from the TV series: Disc 13 reveals Meet the Chaps (bio/filmographies for each cast member, plus a short selection of their work), py*thon*isms (definitions of uniquely Python words), Gillianimations (a short collection of Terry Gilliam's work), Fliegender Zirkus (the International Philosophy soccer match from an episode originally filmed for German TV), and Linguistic Lashings (clips from the series featuring particularly funny diatribes).
Disc 14 contains Meet the Chaps, A Trivial Quest (short trivia games for Gumbys and for Upper Class Twits), Gilliam's Attic (bits of animation debris, for lack of a better term, with wise-ass notes), Life of Python (a clip of a sketch from the 30th Anniversary A&E Biography show), and Babbling Blokes (another sketch clip collection featuring oddly speaking people).
Also, the each disc includes a "useless tidbit" of trivia for every 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.
The sketch highlights are as follows:
Disc 13: And now, your chance to see The Washing of the Montgolfier Brothers, a Musical Courtmartial, a Norwegian Party Political Broadcast with subtitles, the Last Five Miles of the M2, a Documentary on Ants, Poetry About Ants, At Home with an Ant and Other Pets, Ant Communication and Different Endings. With Graham Chapman as Mrs. Mock Tudor, Terry Gilliam as Percy Bysshe Shelley, Eric Idle as the Man Mistaken for Michael Ellis, Terry Jones as Manager of the Toupee Department, and Michael Palin as the Manager of the Complaints Department.
Disc 14: Thrill to the adventures of Mr. Neutron in Mr. Neutron, Mr. Neutron is Missing, Mr. Neutron is Still Missing, and Mr. Neutron is Found. Plus, Love from Epsom, Meet the Most Awful Family in Britain, a Doctor Whose Patients are Stabbed by his Nurse, Father in Law, The Man Who Finishes Other People's Sentences and The Batsmen of the Kalahari. With Graham Chapman as Mr. Neutron, Terry Gilliam as Dr. Rufus Berg, Terry Jones as Mrs. What-a-long-name-this-is-h ardly-worth-typing-but-never-mind-it-doesn't-come-up-again, Eric Idle as Brigadier N.F. Marwood-Git, and Michael Palin as Mrs. Gorilla.
It still peeves me that the episodes are not time-coded, but that's about the worst I can say. As I had hoped in my last review of the Python series, A&E is making up for the lack of background information on the series discs by releasing their "Life of Python" Biography show as part of a 2-disc set (soon to be reviewed by me as well!).
A thoroughly fitting signature for this enduringly funny series, the Season 4 set is a must buy for the Python fanatic ($40 retail). Buy with confidence, or at the very least rent this set and enjoy all of the Python spectacle!
In respect for the ending of this fine Monty Python's Flying Circus collection, the Court requests a moment of silence.
Review content copyright © 2000 Nicholas Sylvain; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 180 Minutes
Release Year: 1974
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Sketch and Animation Galleries
* Trivia Games
* Bonus Sketches
* Production Notes