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A&E Home Video presents
Monty Python's Flying Circus: Set Five—Volume 10 (1972)

"This week, I'm going to tell you what to do if there's an armed communist uprising near your home when you're having a party. Obviously, it'll depend how far you've got with your party when the signal for red revolt is raised. If you're just having preliminary aperitifs, a dubonnet, a sherry or a sparkling white wine, then your guests will be in a fairly formal mood, and it'll be difficult to tell which are the communist agitators. So the thing to do is to get some cloth and bits of old paper, and put it down on the floor and shoot everybody. This will deal with the red menace on your own doorstep."
- Veronica Smalls (Eric Idle)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: May 18, 2000

Stars: Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam
Other Stars: Carol Cleveland
Director: Ian McNaughton

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (Full-frontal nudity, rude humor, language)
Run Time: 01h:28m:41s
Release Date: May 02, 2000
UPC: 733961700824
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A B+B+C C+

DVD Review

True confessions: I suffered from a deprived childhood. No, there was food on the table and clothes on my back, but we lived out in the hinterlands of northern Wisconsin, where there was no public television and no chance to see Monty Python when it invaded the U.S. Thus my first exposure to the madness that is the series Monty Python's Flying Circus came after I was more or less an adult, in college. So, I don't have the resonances and warm fuzzies that other reviewers here might have about these episodes. Seeing some of these programs for the first time thirty years after they were originally aired is a little disorienting, but the absurdity of the Python world is so prevalent that the programs have really aged quite well.

All right, on to the episodes, or a pig'll bite me bleedin' head off!

Episode 30 Blood, Devastation, Death, War and Horror
Recorded: 12/11/71
Aired: 11/9/72

"A shroe, a shroe, my dinkgom for a shroe!"—"Eric Idle

This episode from midway through the third season of Python is pretty good. We begin with the man who speaks only in anagrams, and the running joke of anagrams goes through the entire program, as does a pair of pantomime horses, first seen getting sacked by a merchant banker. Of course, first, they must duel to the death to see who retains his job. This segues into the life and death struggles between sea lions, between limpets, and between an ant and a wolf. We then turn to the Mary Recruiting Office...I mean Army Recruiting Office, where Graham Chapman gives us another turn as the stuffy soldier. Eric Idle is the recruit, who finds his lines are minimal and then travels from sketch to sketch where Chapman tries to convince Idle that his part really is quite funny. There is a very extended bit of animation by Gilliam, featuring a house which first devours its occupants and then begins cruising the streets looking for more people to eat. This seems to be the beginning germ of the short The Crimson Permanent Assurance which opens The Meaning of Life. This animation turns into a program entitled "The House-Hunters," featuring two Gilliam-animated game hunters who are pursuing houses which are too dangerous to stand. Michael Palin then demonstrates with gestures when he is merely pausing and when it's really the end ("No, no, sorry, just demonstrating.") We conclude with The Pantomime Horse as a Bond-like Secret Agent. I laughed pretty solidly throughout the episode.

Strongest moment(s): The best bit is the satire of James Bond (complete with the opening gun-barrel shot) starring one of the pantomime horses as a secret agent.

Weakest moment(s): The wandering bit between sketches with Chapman and Idle is pretty lame and pretty well foreshadows the inability of the troupe to come up with an ending for Holy Grail.

Episode rating: Four dead parrots out of five.


Episode 31 The All-England Summarize Proust Competition
Recorded: 4/24/72
Aired: 11/16/72

"And being herded into endless Hotel Miramars and Bellevueses and Bontinentals with their international modern luxury roomettes and their Watney's Red Barrel and their swimming pools full of fat German businessmen pretending they're acrobats and forming pyramids and frightening the children, barging into the queues, and if you're not at your table spot on seven, you miss your bowl of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup, the first item on the menu of international cuisine... (etc., etc., etc.)"
-Eric Idle

Even though the third season of Monty Python is not considered to be the best, this episode is nonetheless one of the great gems of the series. Opening with the "All-England Summarize Proust Competition" (unfortunately, the naughty bit with Graham Chapman remains censored as it was by the BBC....you have to read his lips to get the joke about his hobbies), the show continues with the "Hairdressers on Mt. Everest," which segues into the "Fire Brigade" sketch and the on-and-on-and-on-going telephone gag (Yes....Yes....Yes...Yes...Size eight...). We also receive party hints from Veronica Smalls and pay a visit to a language laboratory. The episode then climaxes with the classic "Travel Agent" sketch with Eric Idle as Mr. Smoke-Too-Much (who cannot say the letter 'c') and his endless rant against tourists. Mrs—Miss—Anne Elk (John Cleese) also makes an appearance to tell us her new theory of brontosauruses, which is her theory, the theory which belongs to her, about brontosauruses. This episode is a real classic gutbuster and thus scores five dead parrots out of five, and I'd even throw in an extra Gumby for good measure. One of the best programs of the entire run.

Strongest Moment(s): The Proust Competition and the Travel Agent Sketch

Weakest Moment(s): The telephone gag, until it's repeated for about the third time, at which point it just gets funnier and funnier.

Episode rating: Five dead parrots out of five.


Episode 32 The War Against Pornography
Recorded: 1/21/72
Aired: 11/23/72

"And, may I take this opportunity of emphasizing that there is no cannibalism in the British Navy. Absolutely, none. And when I say none, I mean there is a certain amount, more than we are prepared to admit." -Graham Chapman

This program is a bit weaker than the other two. We begin with the "Tory Housewives Clean-up Campaign," which gives the group the opportunity to dress in drag en masse (is that a youngish Margaret Thatcher I see in one of the Gilliam animations?). The highlight of the episode is the visit of Mr. Gumby (Michael Palin) to the Gumby Brain Specialist (John Cleese) and the rest of the troupe as Gumby Brain Surgeons; I'm not sure why this bit is so amusing but I laughed pretty much nonstop through it. Terry Jones breaking through the wall as the Gumby anaesthesiologist pretty much capped it off. I had to stop the disc at this point to recover myself. Unfortunately, the program goes downhill from there. We have a "live" documentary on molluscs, and a report on the minister reports, which takes a poke at the proliferation of ministers, such as "the minister for being frightened by any kind of farm machinery." There's a Tuesday documentary which turns into a children's story briefly; subtitles comment on and deny the narrator throughout. Terry Jones takes a soccer ball against the head as the program turns into the match of the day, consisting of slow-motion films of soccer players hugging each other. We then have an apology for the way politicians are represented as squabbling little toadies and ulcerous little self-seeking vermin with excessive addiction to alcohol and perverse sexual practices. This vignette suddenly transfers to an expedition of the royal navy to Lake Pahoe, which is in a basement. The "Lake Pahoe" sketch really doesn't come off very well, though the bit about the Royal Navy officers being named after 1940's Hollywood actresses is pretty amusing in a Dadaist way. We close with a debate on the Magna Carta, which turns into "the silliest sketch we've ever done," and the participants conclude by walking off. Though it has its moments, this episode is far inferior to the other two on this disc.

Strongest Moment(s): The Gumby brain specialist

Weakest Moment(s): Where to begin....the Minister reports, the Tuesday documentary, the Match of the Day, Lake Pahoe, the Silliest Sketch all pretty much fall flat. Only the Gumby brain specialist saves this episode from disaster.

Episode rating: Two and one-half dead parrots


The running time is slightly under 90 minutes, a far cry from the 102 minutes claimed on the keepcase. I do wish, for the sake of my rapidly-vanishing shelving space, that A&E would have put 6 episodes on a dual-layered disc.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The disparity between material which the Pythons filmed on a set and on location is huge in this volume. The location material is grainy, dark and murky. The set material all looks crisp and clean, as if it were shot yesterday. It's too bad the producers couldn't have sprung for some quality equipment. The picture quality is certainly acceptable for a 30-year-old television series, and is significantly better than the image on the programs from the first season of the show. All in all, as good a quality as can be expected from the source material.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English Monoyes


Audio Transfer Review: The sound is surprisingly good for 30-year-old mono. The audio is DD 2.0 mono. Occasionally the laugh track seems to be mixed a shade loud since it tends to drown out the performers. The range is good and doesn't sound very compressed (the Liberty Bell march theme is, as always, tinny sounding, but this is, I think, intentional). There is practically no hiss or noise to be heard.

Audio Transfer Grade: C

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Production Notes
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
0 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Gillianimations
  2. Trivia games
  3. Live version of "Travel Agency" sketch
  4. DVD-ROM web access to Pythonshop.com
Extras Review: We have the usual set of extras on this disc, including the same bios of the troupe members. There are some neat bits of Gilliam animation and two brief trivia tests, each featuring excerpts from other discs in the series. We also get a live version of the "Travel Agent" sketch from Live At The Hollywood Bowl; I would have preferred some other sketch that didn't duplicate the content of the main program, which is brief enough as it is.

The menu is easy to navigate, although the option to play all three episodes at once only plays episodes 30 and 32. Perhaps this is a problem with my disc, since it was a floater from the keepcase when I received it, rattling about in the mails.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

Another mostly solid entry in the series from A&E, in about as high a quality that the source material will reasonably permit. Plenty of rude humor and as many Gumbies as you can stand!

 


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