Python’s Flying Circus - Eric Idle’s Personal Best + Michael Palin’s Personal
Sound: B Extras: B- Programs: B+
(Scores valid for both discs)
Monty Python’s Flying Circus has
legs. 12 of them. And they’ve carried the series — and its
stars — to fame and fortune.
Eric Idle has had a decent career since Circus
wrapped up through the present when he oversaw the formation of Tony
Award-winning Broadway musical Spamalot. Terry Gilliam has enjoyed one of the most fascinating careers
filmdom has seen over the past 20 years with such classics as Brazil, 12
Monkeys, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Michael Palin has cultivated a reputation
for globetrotting and documenting his adventures. Graham Chapman, before his untimely death, was acting and working
steadily. Terry Jones’ name pops up in
writing and directing credits from time to time. John Cleese, well, no one really knows what happened to him.
But while the Pythons have utilized the talents cultivated
on the BBC in the ‘60s, another force has been mining Flying Circus for
wholly different reasons: marketing. A
year hardly goes by without some newly repackaged Python material, be it an
updated special edition of one of their films or a re-release of Flying
Circus itself. This year has seen
not only a re-release of the entire series in box set form—at least the second
such box in the DVD format — it also has seen the release of six individual
volumes of Flying Circus material under the Personal Best banner,
one disc for each Python.
The Personal Best discs represent an interesting
entry into the Pythons’ home video lexicon.
One on hand, they are extremely satisfying. The Eric Idle and Michael Palin discs, for example, cull many of
their best clips from the show together in a nearly hour-long program. Spanning the entire series, and even the
Pythons’ live show at the Hollywood Bowl in the early ‘80s, the Idle and Palin
discs are extremely satisfying overviews of their Flying Circus CVs.
On the other hand, however, they are merely
overviews. The Pythons’ skills worked
best on Flying Circus because it was part of a whole. One sketch bled into another, which bled
into another, and so on, and what these Personal Best sets do is take
the parts out of context. In some
instances, you can actually see the beginnings of the next sketch, only to be
thrust into an entirely different sketch from a different episode. It’s not a deal breaker as far as enjoyment
from the sets goes, but it does dampen the experience, which is a shame because
the Pythons—at least Idle and Palin, anyway—filmed new intros and outros for
these sets that perfectly capture their Python sensibility. So when taken with the iffy nature of the
main programs, the nifty openings and closings merely balance off the problems
of the programs themselves rather than prime the pump for an excellent romp
through Python land.
That said, though, everything on these sets is nice to
look at. The 1.33 X 1 video is clean
and crisp, with the lone exception being those Hollywood Bowl segments. In those, the video can be a bit on the
muddy side and difficult to watch.
Audio-wise, the Dolby Digital 2.0 sound quality of the discs is very
good, with original mono being stereo boosted for this series. Clear and precise, the programs aren’t
hampered by any distortion from poor audio sources, including the Hollywood
Bowl segments, interestingly enough. And on the extras side, both discs come
with “Personal Second-Bests,” which is about 10 minutes of extra sketches, and
a 15-question trivia game that utilizes the DVD remote. Both are fun additions that are nice
inclusions on sets that would probably have remained barren as far as extras go
if released by another company.
Overall, these aren’t bad sets, simply underwhelming. Stated on the back of the DVD is, “For the
PYTHON lover, they’re concentrated joy. For the novice, a dangerously addictive
substance to be administered with care.”
That’s at least half right.
These sets are designed for people totally new to the Python universe. Die-hard fans will likely have these
sketches already, though they might be interested in the new openings and
- Dante A.