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A&E Home Video presents
Monty Python's Flying Circus: Set Four—Volume 7 (1970)

"You know, there are many people in the country today who, through no fault of their own, are sane. Some of them were born sane. Some of them became sane later in their lives. It is up to people like you and me who are out of our tiny little minds to try and help these people overcome their sanity."
- The Reverend Arthur Belling, Vicar of St. Loony-Up-The-Cream-Bun-and-Jam.

Review By: debi lee mandel   
Published: July 16, 2000

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

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (adult themes, full frontal nudity)
Run Time: 01h:42m:00s
Release Date: November 16, 1999
UPC: 733961700503
Genre: television


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

DVD Review

After witnessing the butchery of the series on A&E's most recent televising of this pivotal comedic masterpiece, it is with great joy and enthusiastic applause I say, "And now, for something completely different...."

Disc#7

Episode 20: The Attila The Hun Show
Recorded: 10/2/70
Aired: 11/10/70

Sketches:
Secretary of State Striptease, Vox Pops on Politicians, Ratcatcher, Killer Sheep, The News for Parrots, The Idiot in Society, Test Match and "Take Your Pick"

"That's Mr. Jenkins - he's another idiot. And so you see the idiot does provide a vital psychosocial service for this community. Oh, excuse me, a coach party has just arrived. I shall have to fall off the wall, I'm afraid."
-Arthur Figgis, the Village Idiot (Cleese)

In the title sketch we open with stock footage of barbarian battles as the narrator introduces us to the homey sitcom, "The Attila The Hun Show" about the famous marauder's family in a Suburban London setting. Cleese in braids is a from-your-toes laugh as is the brief entrance of their "Rochester"-style butler. After the opening, we have the segue Attila the Nun, "A simple country girl who took a vow of eternal brutality...." This moves us, oddly, to a hospital scene where a doctor (Chapman) intends to examine his patient (Cleveland) in front of a group of "students" (actually, trenchcoated lechers) as the red lights come on and "The Stripper" begins to play. Cut to Idle and the Peephole Theatre, who emcees as various politicians present their reports in unorthodox fashion.

We transition from that tawdry display through sound byte interviews with political groupies to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Concrete (Jones and Palin) who have called in the ratcatcher (Chapman). He discovers that their problem is somewhat larger than expected—they've got Killer Sheep in their wainscoting...! Idle researches this new strain of deadly ovine and discovers they are the dangerous "Pennine Gang".

A Gilliam piece portraying the crimes of this wooly gang leads us to The News for Parrots wherein Palin delivers: "No parrots were involved in an accident on the M-1 today when a lorry carrying high-octane fuel was in collision with a bollard. That's a BOLLARD and *NOT* a PARROT. A spokesman for parrots said he was glad no parrots were involved."He next introduces a viewing of A Tale of Two Cities adapted for parrots and great silliness ensues.

In The Idiot in Society sketch Chapman reports as Cleese takes us through the history of this village staple, vintage Python hilaria. Test Match shows us various sports that furniture play and the effects this all has on its announcers. And the finale, "Take Your Pick", is a quiz show with curious rewards.

Strongest Moment: A very even episode, tough to say...perhaps in the "Idiot" sketch when Cleese reveals, "I'm a self-taught idiot."
Weakest Moment: Idle's repetitive bit in the laboratory.

Episode rating: 3.5 dead parrots out of 5.


Episode 21: Archæology Today
Recorded: 10/09/70
Aired: 11/17/70

Sketches:
Silly Vicar, (Leapy Lee, Wife Swapping), Mr. and Mrs. Git, Mosquito Hunters, Poofy Judges, Mrs. Thing and Mrs. Entity & Beethoven's Mynah Bird

"Hank and Roy Spire are tough, fearless backwoodsmen who have chosen to live in a violent, unrelenting world of nature's creatures, where only the fittest survive. Today they are off to hunt mosquitoes."
-Narrator, Mosquito Hunters

Opening offers us a variety of programme viewing on the BBC before taking us to the episode's first and longest sketch on the set of "Archæology Today" where Palin hosts his two guests (Cleese, Jones), showing a preference for the taller man. After a bit of silly groveling, an argument leads the host to follow into a subsegment titled: 'Flaming Star - The Story of One Man's Search for Vengeance in the Raw and Violent World of International Archæology', a musical set in an Egyptian dig circa 1920. The host does catch up, and the men attempt to out-heighth each other by stacking people on their shoulders in a fight to the death.

Silly Vicar (Chapman) instructs us in ways to make the sane insane and moves to a couple of unlisted sketches, Leapy Lee (who appears in an "appeal on behalf of the National 'Truss'") and Wife-Swapping. The latter gives us a man determined to exchange last week's bride for a new one. Cleese breaks into this as a football (soccer) coach and moves us briefly through Silly Doctor (also not listed) and again to a Gilliam animation featuring animal gangsters. This ends with a salesman touting the book "How to Raise Gangsters for Fun & Profit" which ends up in the hands of a man at a cocktail party in the next skit, Mr. and Mrs. Git.

Mosquito Hunters follows two brothers as they carry on their "primordial struggle between man and inoffensive, tiny insects," in which Hank (Chapman) explains, "Well, I've been a hunter all my life. I love animals. That's why I like to kill 'em. I wouldn't kill an animal I didn't like." Next is the tickling Poofy Judges (Idle And Palin) followed by Mrs. Thing and Mrs. Entity complaining about how easy some women have it, leading into Beethoven's Mynah Bird, famously funny sketch where the maëstro desperately attempts to compose his 5th Symphony's most famous riff, leaving us to wonder if the chattiest bird might be Mrs. Beethoven....

We leave off with a quick pass back to the Poofy Judges as the credits role.

Strongest Moments: Poofy Judges is classic Python camp:
First Judge (Idle): "Mm. I love the Scottish Assizes. I know what they mean by a really well-hung jury...."
Second Judge (Palin): "Ooh! Get back in the witness box, you're too sharp to live!"
Weakest Moments: Archæology Today is much too long at times to sustain its humor.

Episode rating: 3 dead parrots out of 5.


Episode 22: How to Recognize Different Parts of the Body
Recorded: 9/25/1970
Aired: 11/24/70


Sketches:
Bruces, Naughty Bits, The Man Who Contradicts People, Camp Square-Bashing, Cut-Price Airline, Batley Townswomen's Guild, The Death of Mary Queen of Scots, Exploding Penguin on the Telly and There's Been a Murder

"Number seven: Two inches to the right of a very naughty bit indeed."
- Voiceover (Cleese)

The third episode on this disc is the best overall in Set 4. We open with an orchestral arrangement of "A Pretty Girl" playing in the background as various women in swimsuits pose seductively for the camera, which pans left and ultimately lands on Cleese, reclining on his anchor desk in a similar bikini to deliver, "And now for something completely different...." Cuts to the classic title piece in which various parts of the body are pointed out to us, which returns to pervade the episode. This one ends with "Number eight: The kneecap," which points to the knee of an Aussie in the next scene, Bruces. In this sketch, all the characters are men's men named Bruce, until a guest called Michael arrives to confuse them.

We have another lesson in body bits, ending with, "Number sixteen: The hand." In this case it is the left hand of talk show host Palin, which he removes to reveal a hook as he introduces Norman St. John-Polevaulter (Jones), The Man Who Contradicts People:
Host: "St. John-Polevaulter, why do you contradict people?"
Polevaulter : "I don't!"
We strangely move to find Cleese again at his anchor desk (now in suit), cuddling a cute pink piglet, who offers, "Number nineteen: The nose."

This last body part in question belongs to Chapman as Mr. Raymond Luxury Yacht ("Ah, no, no. My name is spelt 'Luxury Yacht' but it's pronounced 'Throatwobbler Mangrove'.") who is visiting a much-distinguished specialist (Cleese) about his enormous proboscis. The expert is not fooled, and immediately removes the protrusion, which was actually just tied round the back of his head, and then invites his patient to go on camping holiday with him.

"But now the men of the Derbyshire Light Infantry entertain us with a precision display of bad temper," begins the next sketch, Camp Square-Bashing, a campy little number, indeed. It continues in theme into a complex Gilliam cartoon, in which WWI officers in tutus toe dance to "Dance of the SugarPlum Færies" causing a gent to commit suicide. The animation continues to Killer Cars, crushed by a giant Killer Siamese Kitten, stopped by a building-sized Killer Hand.

On to Cut-Price Airline, where a couple (Chapman and Cleveland) attempt to buy tickets to fly to America. Among other frightening cutbacks, it appears a Japanese man called Mr. Kamikaze, who has a fixation on enemy battleships, will pilot their flight. This line enables the scene to take us to Batley Townswomen's Guild's historic re-enactment of the first heart transplant, which takes place on the beach. After being treated to other plays presented underwater, there is Formula 2 racing which is Gilliam again. The driver sees a sign reading "To the pits" leading us to more Naughty Bits.

We are now in the living room of the Pepperpots (Cleese and Chapman), listening to a radio presentation of "...the first episode of a new radio drama series, 'The Death of Mary, Queen of Scots.'" The radio explodes, so the women decide to see what's on the telly, and discover a penguin mysteriously atop their set, beginning my personal favorite dead bird sketch, Exploding Penguin on the Telly. After discussing various aspects of this strange bird in the room and the stamping of zoo animals (including the censor-defeating exclamation, "OOOOH! INTERCOURSE THE PENGUIN!"), the television announcer warns it is time for the penguin to explode.

A few more Body Parts are displayed taking us to a drawing room where something "like a murder but begins with 'B'" has occurred. This last sketch, There's Been a Murder, is a classic bumbling inspector comedy that breaks down into hilarious music numbers as the end credits role.

Our boys are back on track with this one!

Strongest Moments: There are many here, but the prize for me goes to Jones delivering, "Hello! Well, it's just after eight o'clock, and time for the penguin on top of your television set to explode."
Weakest Moments: The underwater adaptations of plays is a bit overlong.

Episode rating: 4 dead parrots out of 5.


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 packaging for the entire series warns us, "Now in glorious digital DVD format so that you, the digital aficionado, can enjoy the original scratches, pops and hisses with crystal clarity." Well enough said. As I mention in my review of the previous disc, there are a myriad of imperfections, although not as grotesque as you might expect, but they some how seem in place and forgivable.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: Again, as long as nothing seems lost, we should be grateful that this series has been preserved. There is hiss in places but really, considering the age and care (or not) given the source materials (low-budget originals), these really hold up well. I believe A&E is still to be commended for presenting this series as well as they have.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Useless tidbits and "pythonisms" (definition of Python terms)
  2. Weblink to pythonshop.com
  3. "Gillianimations"
  4. "Communist Quiz Live"
  5. "Pepperpots"
Extras Review: Again, the usual fare, this time including a couple of quasi-related Gilliam pieces, one featuring detectives entering a man's body through his neck and ending up in unmentionable, slimy places, the other a lesson in how television is bad for one's eyes. "Communist Quiz Live" is just that—the stage version of this popular quiz show sketch. Pepperpots is an excerpt of our ladies in a laundromat, but THIS cat-lover will NOT repeat their conversation here!

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

A spattering of classic sketches in the first 2 episodes and the only minorly flawed third redeems this disc. Again, this A&E set is a blessing and there is nothing like finally having the entire series at our command. Those who decide to purchase the box for Set 4 will rejoice in the laughs gained in this second disc. Recommended, indeed!

 


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