Release Date(s)2009 (October 27, 2009)
Studio(s)Eagle Rock/IFC (Vivendi)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: C
- Extras Grade: B
I could be wrong, but I suspect that there are probably few guys my age in America who aren’t fans of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. If you were a teenager in the early 1980s in this country, and had a lot of male friends, someone in your group was bound to have discovered Python at one point or other and told the rest of you about it.
Simply put, Python was just about the best thing any teenage boy could ever discover short of Playboy magazine. Hell, better even! There you’d be, flipping channels one day, and you’d suddenly come upon a giant cartoon foot dropping into the TV screen with a fart noise. That would certainly command any teenage boy’s attention for a moment, and so you’d watch a bit more. Within moments, there’s be John Cleese silly walking. And then Michael Palin talking like a Gumby. And Spam and dead parrots! And boobs! Then, in the middle of it all, there’d be a Proust joke. Your first thought was, “Who jokes about Proust?” But then you’d realize, “Well, why the hell wouldn’t you joke about Proust?!” So you’d promptly go and look up Proust in order to get the joke, and maybe you’d read a little bit and actually learn something. And then you’d laugh yourself out your chair. There was nothing else like it on television at the time – certainly not on PBS. Python was just the best. The Best. And it’s still The Best – still the damn funniest thing ever, and it still sets the bar for comedy even after all these years.
Eagle Rock’s 6-part documentary (as seen on IFC) examines the history of the Pythons from their theatrical college beginnings to their early comedy influences, on to the origins and early days of the classic BBC series itself, and beyond to the films. There’s a whole episode about the making of The Holy Grail, for heaven’s sake! Life of Brian is covered too, as well as the live comedy tours, the death of Graham Chapman and what the rest of the Pythons are doing today. The series features in-depth interviews with all of the surviving Pythons (don’t worry – Chapman is represented by extensive archival interview footage), as well as many other British and American comedians. It’s illustrated with tons of footage from the series and films, as well as photographs and rare behind-the-scenes film footage. There are great stories, fascinating insights and revelations, and plenty of laughs. You may be surprised to learn that Elvis was a huge Python fan, having once rented out an entire theatre to screen Holy Grail for his Memphis mafia entourage. He apparently used to quote the film and the show frequently to his friends and family. Now, there’s is just something cosmically right with the Universe about the idea of Elvis quoting the Dead Parrot sketch. How do you not love that?
The series’ video quality on Blu-ray (from Eagle Rock via Vivendi) is surprisingly good. All of the film footage and newly shot interviews are in full HD and look terrific, and even the original series footage used here looks surprisingly good. (So good, in fact, that I’m intrigued at the idea of seeing the series released in its entirety remastered on Blu-ray.) The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (LPCM 2.0 stereo is also available). Given the documentary nature of the program it doesn’t exactly dazzle, but the mix sounds fine and is as good as it needs to be. In terms of extras, Disc Two offers 49 minutes worth of outtakes and 66 minutes worth of extended interview clips, all in HD. You also get a gallery of Terry Gilliam animation artwork and illustrations, which is a nice touch. Best of all, however, you get 24 minutes worth of classic Python sketches upconverted to HD so they look better than ever. Included are such gems as Dead Parrot, the Spanish Inquisition, the Fish Slapping Dance, the Ministry of Silly Walks, the Lumberjack Song, the Cheese Shop and Spam. Delightful all!
If ever I find myself in need of a good laugh, I pop in Holy Grail and it never, ever fails to deliver. Eagle Rock’s Monty Python: Almost the Truth – The Lawyer’s Cut is a treat for any fan of the Pythons. It’s six hours of great stuff – everything you ever liked or wanted to know about Monty Python and then some. For fans at least, this Blu-ray is very highly recommended.
- Bill Hunt