Review of Best Of Monty Python`s Flying Circus: Vol 1, The
"With a melon ?"
At last, some digital Monty Python. Ok, first a confession. I am a huge Python fan ok ? I`ve got all of the episodes on VHS, plus the films, and the scripts and other books. There`s just something about the humour that really clicked with me.
So, the BBC give us "The `Best` of Monty Python" with a selection of sketches from the first series (13 episodes, transmitted between October 1969 and January 1970). If you were asked to choose the best of the first series, doubtless some of these sketches would be in there, and some wouldn`t. Everyone will choose something different.
The BBC had a hard job on their hands, but have done quite well in selecting an hour and a half of material from the seven and a half available to them.
It`s a 30 year old television programme. What do you think ? 30 year old 4:3 footage is not a DVD`s best friend, but this comes out quite well. Some colours are a bit washed out, and there is some grain and a few artefacts.
Overall though a good job, and it probably won`t look any better. An improvement on my worn out VHS copies certainly !
It`s a 30 year old television programme. What do you think ?
The sound comes out quite well, all things considered. It`s basically a 30 year old mono track and there`s not much more to say about it. The main thing is that you can hear the jokes perfectly !
On to the extras. A mixed bag here. On the plus side, you do actually get some extras. On the minus side, they`re not perhaps as good as they could be.
First the menus - excellent animated menus, using plenty of stock Gilliam characters and zany sound effects. Top marks for these. You also get a "jump to a sketch" menu, which features video clips of the relevant sketches. You have to know your Python to select the ones you want !
There are text based biographies, which are ok, but nothing new (not to a die-hard Python fan anyway !)
There`s a photo gallery featuring some old black and white promo shots. Not the most exciting feature !
The Palindromes section is amusing, but you won`t watch it more than once. I`ll say no more (say no more!) so as not to spoil it.
The Radio Times section is a little pointless as it just shows a clip of the original Radio Times when the first episode aired.
The last extra is the Sing-a-long, so you can sing to the Lumberjack Song. Some of us already know the words, but this is a fun feature.
This might sound ungrateful, because at least there is some Python on R2 DVD (and think of all the great shows that we don`t have yet), but time for a bit of a rant.
Why is it that a classic British comedy, perhaps one of the funniest programmes ever, is only available in a small selection of sketches in the country of its birth ? Ok, so there are plenty of reasons, and most of them valid if you are a member of BBC Worldwide. It was a new media, we were just testing the market etc. etc.
But it`s a funny situation that we find ourselves in. The entire series (all 45 episodes) is now avaiable (ok the last 6 are coming out in September 2000) in Region 1. But we have to make do with 90 minutes. A pretty good 90 minutes granted, but still only 90 minutes.
Yes, I am grateful for Python on R2. And yes, some of the sketches are my favourites. But I wanted more, more, more. At least we do get classics like "Storytime", "Crunch Frog" and "Restaurant Sketch".
But they`ve chopped some of the sketches up. The flying sheep sketch has lost the wonderful ending with Cleese and Palin as french "sheep-aircraft" designers, bouncing manically around the studio. Some of the sketches aren`t as funny when taken out of the context of the episode itself.
But enough of my ranting. The comedy is here, it`s as funny as ever and if you don`t have a multi-region DVD player it`s all your getting (so you`d better go and get it). Perhaps this is not so bad if you`re not a massive Python fan.
If you are a massive fan, then you`ll probably be wanting to get the R1 DVDs instead so you can own "Architect Sketch", "Arthur `Two Sheds` Jackson", "Cardinal Richelieu", "Army Protection Racket" and more besides !