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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Music > Political > Charity > The Secret Policemanís Balls (Shout! Factory DVD Set)

The Secret Policemanís Balls (Shout! Factory DVD Set)


Picture: C†††† Sound: C+†††† Extras: B-†††† Films: B



Amnesty International is a good organization that has been monitoring human rights abuses, especially where political prisoners are involved.This takes many to join in and also to contribute financially somehow as there has to be funding to keep anything afloat.Back in 1976, a fund raising special called Pleasure At Her Majestyís inadvertently launched a series of fundraising concert events that led to feature film releases.With five to date, Shout! Factory has collected them all in the new DVD collection The Secret Policemanís Balls.


Beginning with that first show, the tone was set with great comedy and comedy casts, plus music guests.As these shows became more successful, the music was upped and eventually overtook them until John Cleese directed the most recent one, bringing it back to its comedy roots.The films are:


Pleasure At Her Majestyís (1976)

The Secret Policemanís Ball (1979)

The Secret Policemanís Other Ball (1981)

The Secret Policemanís Third Ball (1987)

The Secret Policemanís Biggest Ball (1989)



Many Monty Python members, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore show up for the initial film, all but Moore return for the second film and are joined by Rowan Atkinson, Eleanor Bron, an in amazing form Pete Townshend and the guitarist John Williams doing his unforgettable theme to The Deer Hunter.The third film received the greatest distribution in the U.S. and has Sting, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Bob Geldof and even Phil Collins joining Cleese, Atkinson and Palin.The fourth features Geldof joined by the comedy team of Stephen Fry & Hugh (House, M.D.) Laurie plus an amazing line-up of musicians including Kate bush, David Gilmour, Joan Armatrading, Nik Kershaw, Jackson Browne, Paul Brady, Mark Knopfler, Chet Atkins, Lou Reed, Duran Duran, Ben Elton, Youssou NíDour and Peter Gabriel.


The all comedy recent (1989) show includes Cleese, Fry & Laurie, the return of Cook & Moore, Robbie Coltrane, Adrian Edmondson, Lenny Henry and the team of Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders before Absolutely Fabulous hit.These lists are by no means complete, but it gives you the idea of how rich in talent these shows are and why they are all must-sees.Add the extras and this is a terrific set, especially for such a good and vital cause.



The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on the later shows are about on par with the 1.33 X 1 image on the original and analog videotaped 1989 show, which is not as good as it could be and the last time Amnesty is going to be able to use these transfers before they need High Definition versions, save the Ď89 show.The Dolby Digital sound on all the films is increasingly better, but only slightly and also need some work.They are monophonic, then become stereo.The combination is watchable, but not always optimal.Extras include a ďTop SecretĒ file with text and images on the series, optional intros by co-creator Martin Lewis made for this set, a documentary on the films entitled Remember The Secret Policemanís Ball?, long unavailable sequence from the U.S. releases, rare performances not in the theatrical cuts, rare promotional TV spots, trailers and news footage.



-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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