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A&E Home Video presents
Monty Python's Flying Circus: Set Four—Volume 8 (1970)

"Well, what've you got?"
- Customer at a café (Idle), asking the question that launched a thousand cans of potted meat

Review By: debi lee mandel   
Published: July 27, 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 (full frontal nudity)
Run Time: 02h:15m:00s
Release Date: November 16, 1999
UPC: 733961700503
Genre: television


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

DVD Review

Toothy Film Director (Chapman), who has protuberant ivories and sees nothing wrong with the toothy actors he's cast in his movies. We go next through some "pop vox" footage about toothy films until someone introduces the concept of Crackpot Religions. This skit features Idle in his sleazy mode, offering wild giveaways in exchange for conversions. We see other sects, led by the Archbishop of Gumby among others, until we get to Gilliam's version of a TV Evangelist.

And now—How Not To Be Seen, a hilarious sketch that leads to total meltdown.... The episode closes on Palin as he hosts a series of people trying not to be seen.

Strongest Moments: The entire title sketch is a riot.
Weakest Moments: Job Hunter is a bit of a thud.

Episode rating: 3 dead parrots out of 5.




Episode 25: SPAM
Recorded: 6/25/70
Aired: 12/15/70

Sketches:
"The Black Eagle", Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook, Communist Quiz, Art Gallery Strike, "Ypres 1914", Hospital for Over-Actors, Gumby Flower Arranging and Spam

Having read something pertaining to the game Starship Titanic (for which Jones wrote the novelization), Douglas Adams said that this was the role Terry Jones was born to play—the voice of the parrot. I beg to differ, and remind him of the SPAM lady.

"Well, there's egg and bacon; egg, sausage and bacon; egg and spam; egg, bacon and spam; egg, bacon, sausage and spam; spam, bacon, sausage and spam; spam, egg, spam, spam, bacon and spam; spam, sausage, spam, spam, bacon, spam, tomato and spam...."
- Waitress (Jones)

Classic, over-the-top sketches make this episode one of the most popular with fans. It opens with the titles for a film called "The Black Eagle", which I recall from the original broadcast made us grab for the TV Guide to see what happened to that night's MPFC programming! The titles finish and some men disembark from their longboat, creeping onto the rocky shore until the camera pans to Cleese at his desk, "And now...."

"My hovercraft is full of eels," proclaims a misguided customer (Cleese) at a Tobacconist's in Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook. His misspoken request dissolve into lewd insults that leads to a court case against the phrasebook's publisher (Palin). We segue with a Gilliamation, complete with 2001 theme. It ends with the Earth transforming to a globe, our introduction to a program called World Forum. Here, Idle heads a panel for Communist Quiz, which includes the great leaders Marx, Guevara, Lenin and Mao. This is a very amusing sketch also included in the act Live at the Hollywood Bowl.

After a brief animation we cut to Ypres 1914 (part one), a film set meant to be about the Great War, until the director (Jones) breaks in and tosses out misdirected extras costumed incorrectly and demands "camera three" go to the next scene. In a gallery, 2 men remark on a large Titian painting when they are strangely interrupted by a man who has stepped out of Turner's "The Hay Wain" to rouse up other famous figures for Art Gallery Strike. This sketch naturally passes through a brilliant Gilliam piece wherein figures step out of paintings to join the strike in droves.

We finally return to the abandoned Ypres 1914 with only appropriate actors in place. This is a very funny piece about 5 men with supplies for 4. Cleese, a crazed, shell-shocked, armless Chaplain goes into a long overly dramatic speech and is rushed from the scene by ambulance to a "Hospital for Over-Actors". This scene transitions through an animation that ends on a bouquet of pansies, and goes on to the brief, hysterical Gumby Flower Arranging sketch.

The final action of the scene above (say no more, say no more) is our segue to the legendary SPAM sketch. A man (Idle) and woman (Chapman) enter a café where the waitress (Jones) greets them. There is another table on the set occupied by Vikings. The man asks what's available, and the waitress begins to recite the menu, a cornucopia of SPAM. The Vikings start up a rousing song dedicated to everyone's favorite potted meat food product and the rest of this sketch is history.

A brilliant episode, made up of solid comedy bits that add up to make this a classic. One of their finest episodes, the closing credits include nicknames that read like an IHOP menu.

Strongest Moments: The exasperated screech of Chapman as he implores, "I don't like SPAM!"
Weakest Moments: There's an inexplicable pan past a magician sawing a woman in half in the midst of the Art Gallery Strike animation that, for me, misses its mark.

Episode rating: 5 dead parrots out of 5.




Episode 26: Royal Episode 13
Recorded: 10/16/70
Aired: 12/22/70

Sketches:
The Queen Will Be Watching, Coal Mine, The Man Who Says Things in a Roundabout Way, How to Feed a Goldfish, Insurance Sketch, Hospital Run by RSM, Exploding Version of the Blue Danube, Girl's Boarding School, Submarine (not listed), Lifeboat and Undertaker's Sketch

"Hurry up ... right! Now, I know some hospitals where you get the patients lying around in bed. Sleeping, resting, recuperating, convalescing. Well, that's not the way we do things here, right! No, you won't be loafing about in bed wasting the doctors' time. You—you horrible little cripple. What's the matter with you?"
- Drill Sergeant/Doctor (Cleese)

Another solid entry in MPFC history. Cleese is informed that HRM the Queen will be tuning in to the episode, after she finishes watching The Virginian, which inspires a unique title sequence full of true British Majesty, ending with the Royal Seal squished by the Foot. We are then concerned with a dispute taking place in a Welsh Coal Mine, which turns out to be foul-mouth miners arguing over the dates and details of the Treaty of Utrecht. A hand-carriage conveying "A Frightfully Important" man enters and leads to Palin reading the news.

The next sketch has Jones hosting guest Chapman, who is The Man Who Says Things in a Roundabout Way. Next Jones hosts Idle as "the man who only speaks the ends of words", adding "the man who only speaks the beginnings of words" (Cleese) and rounding out with Palin as...well, you can guess. A dragon animation follows that plays like an advert, and various other commercials follow, taking us into a sketch about How to Feed a Goldfish. This ends with an apology/disclaimer, enough said.

Our next is an adventure into a park where we hear lovers giggling in the shrubbery. Beyond is a birdwatcher deep in his task, whilst Jones steals the eggs the naturalist has gathered. We cut to Jones with his collection of stolen ova, a very funny scene in which he interviews himself. An equally amusing bit follows with a race of pigeon-fanciers who behave like pigeons.

Insurance Sketch begins with a title graphic made more familiar later as the image used for Life of Brian. The agent (Cleese) has insisted his potential client (Idle) bring in a 12-gallon specimen to "see if he's serious". Suddenly informed that the Queen has now tuned in, all stand as "God Save the Queen" plays. She appears to quickly switch over to News at 10, so we switch to Hospital Run by RSM.

At an ICU, patients in various states of bandaging are forced to fall-in and then put to their paces. There is a simple but tremendously funny sight gag as a completely bound fellow attempts jumping jacks. We are treated to several other unusual hospitals, including one that helps "people who have to link sketches together." This links us to the visual classic Exploding Version of the Blue Danube (note as you watch that the music never changes!) which links to a darkened girls' dormitory (with all male voices). When the lights eventually come on an extremely nonsensical scene is exposed, and we quickly go to Submarine, a very funny Pepperpot skit ("Stand by to fire Mrs. Nesbitt!") that inspires a complaint letter that states "The British Navy is one of the finest and most attractive and butchest fighting forces in the world."

This sails on to Lifeboat where we find all five Pythoners adrift on the open sea. This begins a theme that carries through to the end of the episode—the charmingly amusing world of cannibalism. As the desperate men decide who'll eat whom, we come to the Undertaker's Sketch....

Other Python fans may correct me, but I believe this episode has something none other does: audience participation. We see the studio audience stand when the Queen tunes in, and they are VERY present in the last sketch as they heckle and jeer and finally mob the stage in protest to the concept of cannibalism!

Strongest Moments: Hands down for me, the mummified man attempting jumping jacks, it is just too silly.
Weakest Moments: The concept of the title, the tuning in of the Queen is not rendered well.

Episode rating: 4 dead parrots out of 5.


Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: There are many disturbances over the various episodes on this disc, but nothing stand out or unacceptable. There is some dirt, scratches and graininess but this is due to the source material, its age and condition. Perhaps I am just too happy to have these digital transfers to make much noise about little things.

Image Transfer Grade: C+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: A&E has done a very good job with the source material available. The Dolby Stereo is sufficient, although the audio is a bit muffled in places, it has held up well enough over time.

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
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. Gilliam's Attic and A Trivial Quest
  4. "Poofy Judges Live" and "And Now...The BBC Live"
  5. Monty Karaoke
Extras Review: As well as including an extra episode on every 4th disc (it seems an A&E standard), they've tossed in some extra extras, 7 instead of the standard 5.
- Gilliam's Attic is the same silly "behind-the-scenes photos" included on Disc #6.
- The trivia quizzes are "For Gumbys" and "For Upper Class Twits", - different questions than those posed in the Disc #6 version.
- "Poofy Judges Live" is from their Hollywood Bowl extravaganza (actually funnier than the original!) featuring Palin and Idle.
- "And Now...The BBC Live" is a preview of this sketch.
- Monty Karaoke features a sing-a-long to everyone's favorite Lumberjack song.

A nice group this time, with lots of fun from the whole gang. I still would like to see interviews and commentaries, but I will probably be an ex-human before this happens.

On my third disc and I haven't yet mentioned the efforts put out for the menu design—shame on me! It begins with a fabulous Gilliam-esque animated intro, and is a well-conceived, true to Python design, complete with sound effects and easy navigation. Great work, A&E!

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

This disc is top-notch Python stuff, an obvious have-to-have for longtime fans and a nice introductory choice for the uninitiated. Tell your friends!

 


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