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A&E Home Video presents
Monty Python's Flying Circus: Michael Palin's Personal Best (2005)

"I've been running a successful escort agency."
- Michael Palin

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: August 31, 2005

Stars: Michael Palin
Other Stars: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (adult humor)
Run Time: 00h:56m:35s
Release Date: August 30, 2005
UPC: 733961732573
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ A-BC+ C+

DVD Review

I can never get enough of Monty Python's Flying Circus, and each and every DVD release of the show is another opportunity to revisit some of the funniest moments in television history. If you already own the seasonal boxed sets of the show, having a "greatest hits" DVD might not sound that appealing, but the hand-picked nature of these clips make this Personal Best series a worthwhile purchase for any rabid Python fan.

The Python that's choosing these clips, Michael Palin, introduces them as well. Palin comes to us from the site of the classic sketch "The Fish Slapping Dance," which has thankfully been included here, closing out the collection. Some of Python's (and Palin's) best are sandwiched between that skit and "Flying Sheep," with the most welcome inclusion being "The Mosquito Hunters."

In Eric Idle's Personal Best, the host chose skits from both the TV show and the legendary Hollywood Bowl performances. Palin chooses to stick to the TV pieces, continuing with bits like "The Chemist Sketch," "The Man with a Tape Recorder Up His Nose," and "Blackmail." He doesn't spend as much time introducing the disc as Eric Idle does for his collection, but it's always nice to see these beloved comedians, and to find how well they've aged.

It's also great to see some of Terry Gilliam's brilliant animation here. This integral part of the Python mystique was often overlooked and deserves similar praise to that of the actual live-action skits. Even though Gilliam has gone on to bigger and better things, directing some of the most inventive films of the last 20-plus years, it is easy to see the roots of his unique artistic vision in his early cartoons.

There are some pieces that I think could have been swapped here. While there are many fans of "The Cheese Shop," it's never been one of my favorites, however, not having "The Lumberjack Song" among Palin's favorites makes this seem incomplete. Still, this is called "personal best," so he did have the final say in what stayed and went, so we have no choice but to honor his decisions.

I am amazed at the number of sketches in this collection that don't feature Michael Palin at all. It says a lot about Palin as a person and an artist in that he didn't have to be in each and every bit that's featured on his own DVD. I just can't get over the lack of "The Lumberjack Song," as it was Palin's defining moment as not only a member of Monty Python, but as a comedian in general.

Despite the high-quality humor in Michael Palin's Personal Best, it's still hard to recommend this disc to those who own A&E's bigger, complete collection of episodes. Still, this is a great way to just throw in a single disc and enjoy a disjointed collection of the funniest work that sketch comedy has ever had to offer.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: Each skit is presented in it's original full-frame image, and things look as if they have been restored quite a bit. The footage is very clean, with very little dirt, grain, or other print flaws. The only video aspect that isn't very impressive is a lack of vibrancy, a source issue.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Each piece is in Dolby Digital 2.0, with the most important aspect of these shows, the dialogue sounding crisp and clear regardless of the material's age. The rest of the front-centric sound is always easy to hear and is blended in well with the dialogue.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Michael Palin's Personal Second-Best
  2. Trivia Game - Questions written by Kim "Howard" Johnson
Extras Review: Michael Palin's Personal Second-Best is over 11 minutes of clips that didn't make the cut for the feature program on this DVD. There's great stuff here, including John Cleese playing Beethoven, who is becoming increasingly annoyed at all of the distractions in his life.

A Trivia Game can also be played, featuring questions by Kim "Howard" Johnson. These slightly challenging questions are fun and will have you paying closer attention to each skit if you don't know the answers already.

Michael Palin's Biography is a short, textual life story, as well as a filmography for the actor.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Python fans looking for a different, yet not necessarily new, fix, should look no further than A&E Home Video's Michael Palin's Personal Best DVD. Impressive audio and video presentations, as well as a few nice extra features make this worth a look (if not a purchase for those who own all of the Python DVDs already).


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