on June 30, 2002
I just couldn't bring myself to give this set 5 stars. I wish it were possible to give it 4 1/2 stars.
First of all, it's true, the episodes are not 100% complete, however, many people, in my opinion, have been over-reacting about the cuts. Actually, the A&E DVD #1 has a sketch in the 2nd episode called 'The Wacky Queen', which was edited out of the show after the first broadcast & was never shown again on TV in the UK or abroad, as far as I know. Seasons 1 & 2 have no cuts, at least none that I spotted when comparing the DVDs to the synopsis in the Monty Python books by Jim Yoakum & Kim "Howard" Johnson. There is a slight edit of one word in the 5th episode of the 3rd season during the 'Summarize Proust Competition' which the BBC made to the episode before broadcast. Broadcasts outside of the UK had the uncensored version of the sketch. Unfortunately, A&E got a censored master. In the 7th episode of the same season during the 'Biggles Dictates a Letter' sketch, there is a slight glitch which can be blamed on slopply mastering on A&E's part. It doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the sketch very much. The episode that appears to be worst hit is the 12th episode of season 3. A&E goofed when they included 'Party Political Broadcast' on the box to this episode. The sketch was edited from the master tape and hasn't been seen since the original broadcast in 1973. This material is very probably lost forever. The very end of this episode, which has a trailer for Dad's Doctors & Dad's Pooves, is also missing from the episode. This was probably sloppy editing on the part of A&E video as the episode does a fade to black with the BBC TV logo then fades up again with the BBC TV logo again and the 'Dad's...' trailer. The person transfering the episode, who probably had no familiarity with Python thought that it wasn't part of the episode or something. A&E should have hired one of the US Python experts like Kim 'Howard' Johnson, Jim Yoakum, or David Morgan to oversee the A&E transfers so these mistakes might have been prevented. As far as I know, the cuts I just mentioned are the only ones that have been made to these DVDs. Not that much, in my opinion. Certainly not enough to bring this set all the way down to one star. Some have also complained that this set didn't include the German episodes 'Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus'. These episodes were produced for German TV & not for BBC TV. In fact, the 1st one, which was done in German, was never shown on British TV. This set does contain all 45 episodes that were produced for BBC television. A&E has released the 2 German episodes. The first one, in German with English subtitles, is in the set 'Monty Python Live' and the second one, shot in and in English, is in the 'Life of Python' set.
Yes, yes, the quality of the picture and sound is not perfect, but still better than any TV broadcast that I've seen. I suspect that the quality of the shows as broadcast wasn't terribly impressive. BBC Television only started broadcasting in color in 1969 (the year Python started) and it was still new technology to them. The sound is Mono. The BBC didn't go to Stereo until 1988! To do some kind of stereo remaster, one would need access to seperate dialogue, sound effect, and music tracks, which I'm sure don't exist with the Pythons or the BBC. Such a thing did exist for Holy Grail, which is why Columbia was able to do a remastered Stereo soundtrack. Furthermore, each show had a budget of $6000. These shows were done on a shoestring and the BBC probably didn't have state of the art equipment, being a Government funded broadcaster.
I love Monty Python, and these 45 shows changed the face of comedy. There are a few, very few, bits missing.
If you love Python, you should buy it. Some fans have over-reacted way too much about the missing material. If something like the Lumberjack Song, or Parrot sketch, or Cheese Shop, or Nudge Nudge were cut, that would be reason for outrage. Not for the few fairly minor missing bits. Over 24 hours of pure fun.
on May 28, 2006
As some of the other reviews have pointed out, some bits from the original series are missing or dubbed over. Those writers noted changes in the Summarizing Proust and Australian Philosopher sketches. Add to that list the removal of most of Terry Gilliam's religious animations from the "Not Being Seen" episode. (The show ends with a fast-forward summation of the episode and you can see a glimpse of what was expunged.)
I saw all of these episodes uncensored in Canada when they were originally broadcast -- now 35 years later A&E decides what we can and cannot see, even as we pay to own the set. It's disturbing for many reasons that BBC comedy that pushes the boundaries with religion and philosophy is wiped clean by the hand of A&E.
on July 27, 2002
This is a set of 14 DVDs which contain all 45 episodes, every sketch you know and love (all 4 seasons, 1969-1974) of the ground-breaking Monty Python's Flying Circus starring Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. It comes in a neat and pretty orange and pink box that's roughly 5.5 x 8.5 inches. In terms of digital format there are some minor blemishes but this show dates back to 1969! Get a grip! Its almost as if the presenters new that people would be complaining about this and wrote on the DVD cases - "...enjoy the original scratches, pops and hisses with crystal clarity." The bigger complaint you will hear or read about is the fact that somethings (mostly a word or two) have been censored from the original episodes. I admit there is nothing sillier than censoring a completely normal word and yet leaving the topless woman in, but this is a minor detail to having the entire series at the push of a button. I'm not about to hunt down all the VHS tapes just so I can have a few (and I do mean a few) words. I also don't plan on aging a decade to see if they will bring out another set. If you love this show, I don't recommend you do that either. This will be the definitive set for quite some time, if not until the next new format arrives, so why wait? Start the lunacy right now! Here are the episode titles and corresponding DVDs. Why? Because I care, silly.
DVD 1 (1-3): Wither Canada, Sex & Violence, How to recognize different types of trees from quite a long way away
DVD 2 (4-6): Owl-stretching time, Man's crisis of identity in the latter half of the 20th century, Its the arts
DVD 3 (7-9): Youre no fun anymore, Full frontal nudity, The Ant-an introduction
DVD 4 (10-13): Untitled, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra goes to the bathroom, The Naked ant, Intermission
DVD 5 (14-16): Face the press, The spanish inquisition, Deja Vu
DVD 6 (17-19): The Buzz Aldrin show, Live from the grill-o-mat, Its a living
DVD 7 (20-22): The Atilla the Hun show, Archaeology today, How to recognize different parts of the body
DVD 8 (23-26): Scott of the Antarctic, How not to be seen, Spam, Royal Episode 13
DVD 9 (27-29): Whicker's world, Mr. & Mrs. Brian Norris' Ford Popular, The Money Programme
DVD 10 (30-32): Blood Devastation Death War & Horror, The All England summarize Proust competition, The war against pornography
DVD 11 (33-35): Salad days, The cycling tour, The nude organist
DVD 12 (36-39): E. Henry Thripshaw's disease, Dennis Moore, A book at bedtime, Grandstand
DVD 13 (40-42): The golden age of ballooning, Michael Ellis, The light entertainment war
DVD 14 (43-45): Hamlet, Mr. Neutron, Party Political Broadcast
on May 3, 2006
A&E released this series a long time ago, back before sets like The Simpsons came out and set new standards for TV DVD collections. It was passable, at the time, for them to include only 3-4 shows per disc and lukewarm Extras, but these days... not so much.
Thus, I was a little disappointed when they re-released the Season set a few months ago, and it turned out to be the same thing, only in thinpacks. Don't get me wrong, the slim cases are nice, but I really wish they had gone the distance and repressed the DVDs, and put 6-7 episodes per disc, cobbled together some commentary tracks from archived recordings, and at the very least fixed the mistake where they deleted a skit from the end of one of the episodes.
Instead, we still have DVDs that are looking rather outdated, complete with a really long, unskippable intro that's the same on every disc, and "Special Features" that are mostly redundant. Why include clips from the episodes when we could just watch the episodes? Not to mention that we know A&E can do better now, as seen by their work on the Kids in the Hall DVDs and other sets.
As you can see, this is just a review of the DVD set. As for Python itself, there not much I can say that hasn't been said already. I give the material SIX stars, and the DVD set three stars, which averages out to four. I am a little disappointed, but this remains a must-buy for fans of Python.
on September 22, 2005
4.5 (almost 5!) Stars
Take a fantastic set of shows from an excellent British series, add two more discs of the troupe doing the classic bits live, and give it to the customer for practically the same price and you've got something for every Python fan.
First, my review of Monty Python's Flying Circus. I love the show. I think it is groundbreaking in its style and is still incredibly funny today. However, a type of humour doesn't appeal to 100% of the people and this is British humour so I know it won't appeal to a larger percentage. That being said, if you like British humour or sketch comedy, you will probably like Monty Python's TV show.
But, I am here to review the DVD set more than anything since that is what you are considering to buy. I am no Python expert so I can't tell you every little nook and cranny that should or should not exist on this collection. Like most box sets, it is missing something here and there and some of the other reviews point this out. For the most part, unless you are saturated in Python lore, you will not notice.
What you get is every episode put out on the BBC and I think they did a fine job working with the product. This isn't digital transfer so there are limitations. All of the skits I knew were on there, many that I had forgotten and many that I hadn't seen broadcast in the U.S. It is great to see them one after another in their original form. It is also great to have them all together in one box. If you are looking to find just a few specific skits or episodes, you may only need one disc or one of the smaller sets. But the price adds up if you get several, making the box set worth it.
The extras give some nice insight into the making of the series through some written blurbs about each episode and they have spliced together some thematic skits and animations. You can test your trivial knowledge of the Pythons and you can learn some history of the players. Also, some of the skits that they later performed live are available in the extras. The menu, as expected, is also well done using Terry Gilliam's animations.
However, the chaptering of the discs isn't real obvious so if you are searching for one skit, it may take some work to get there. Also, the packaging doesn't list all of the skits on each disc and in each episode so if you haven't memorized the series completely, you will have to go online to find that resource.
The boys went all out when putting extras on Holy Grail and I wish there was a bit more to this set. I would love commentary or interviews or a documentary or something. It would be quite a chore for this much but even a little bit would be nice. Otherwise, this would rate 5 stars as a DVD set. With the additional discs, it comes even closer than the last set.
For me, though, I'm very happy having the episodes to watch whenever I want, whenever the mood strikes me. Some of the gems are the lesser known skits that aren't part of the public consciousness. Again, you don't need to be a Pythonphile to enjoy this set, just someone who really likes the show and the humour.
on December 27, 2008
For those who are on the fence about this set, I have to say I highly recommend it. Yes, most of the material has been released before, but the two new discs, along with the very compact new packaging, make this a must-have in my opinion. Each of the two new documentaries are an hour long, but to me they felt like two hours each. I don't mean that in a bad way... they are just chock-full of rare footage and new revelations, so I got more out of them than what you'd normally expect out of an hour-long DVD featurette.
Before The Flying Circus is completely black-and-white, but given that the bulk of the vintage film clips would be b&w themselves, leaving the new interviews in color would be rather jarring, since every five minutes or so it'd cut back to b&w film. Python Conquers America is in full-color, which is just as appropriate, and watching both back-to-back (in chronological order) makes each seem stronger. Terry Gilliam's quite detailed description of each of the four different title sequences appears on the "Before The Flying Circus" disc, as does the long-lost "Political Choreographer" sketch, both in full color.
For those like me who don't have time to watch every single disc before deciding whether to sell/trade their existing sets, I have checked the data size and creation date/time of each disc. Apart from DVD 12, all of the 14 main discs are identical to the original Mega Set (including DVD 1 being listed as a "fix", which may have happened before the original set hit store shelves). The data size for #12 is the same as the original one, but the creation date is from 2008 and for some reason the DVD-ROM content is missing. That means the link to [...] won't work, but there doesn't seem to be any other alterations to the disc.
I did notice that the disc artwork lists the first episode as "L. Henry Thripshaw's Disease" rather than "E. Henry..." as it's supposed to be, but the menu on both versions simply calls it "Henry Thripshaw's Disease". My best guess is that there was a very minor correction that needed to be made, whether in the navigation of the menus, a typo in someone's filmography or a wrong answer to a trivia question. I'm fairly confident that there's no significant difference in the new #12, and whatever may have changed is probably an improvement. The only potential worry would be if something was censored on the disc. The opening sketch is the Tudor Job Agency, so I thought there may have been something in the background that needed to be blurred out (an underage model, obscene material, etc.), but I didn't notice anything like that. It's possible that a word or two may have been dropped out of the audio track, but I've not had time to listen that carefully.
The contents of the two discs of Monty Python LIVE! are also identical to the originals at the data level, although the disc art has been updated a bit for this new set. As for the Personal Best specials, the six episodes are now on 3 dual-layer (NOT double-sided) discs rather than six individual single-layer ones. I did notice that each program is missing approximately 50MB of data as compared to the original DVDs, but the "Holy Grail" DVD trailer found on the individual "Personal Best" DVDs has been dropped, which could account for some of that. All the extras seem to have been ported over.
All in all, even if you have one of the previous sets, I would recommend buying this set and selling off the old one(s), partially for the great new documentaries, but also because the packaging for this set is the best yet, and one of the nicest sets I've ever owned. As has probably been mentioned elsewhere, the discs are in two separate fold-out "Digibook" packages. One minor gripe is that each pair of discs overlap, meaning that to get one out, you often have to remove the one in front of it (they don't actually touch). This is much better than some recent sets that put the discs in fragile cardboard pockets that could scratch them.
UPDATE: The two bonus discs are now being released on their own in a package called Monty Python: The Other British Invasion, so anyone who has the original 14-disc set and Monty Python LIVE or the 16-Ton (and 16-disc) Megaset plus all the Personal Best DVDs in one form or another really no longer has a reason to buy this set unless they want the much more compact packaging. I'm still glad I bought mine, but if the bonus discs had been released right away I probably would have kept what I had and just bought the two new discs. I suppose that's why they waited... either that or it was never intended and they're only releasing them separately now due to public demand.
At any rate, the set is still well worth the money, but it now bears thinking about when all you really have to do is buy another 2-disc set.
on October 4, 2000
This collection of 7 sets (14 DVDs total) of Monty Python's Flying Circus episodes (#1-45) is a must for any fan of Python, or British humor in general! It will keep you rolling in the aisles for years! It includes ALL the classic episodes and skits (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink... The parrot sketch, The Spanish Inquisition, Marriage Councelor, Spam, and ALL the rest in a beautifully restored digital format. It also includes outtakes from their later live performances, behind the scenes info, trivia, special programs for computers with DVD drives, and more! I can't recommend this enough! Plus, since you're getting all the sets in one bundle, you can save a bunch of money. Rediscover how all the episodes are so cleverly interwoven with the theme of the evening (How not to be seen, etc.), and brilliantly come full circle by the end of the episode. I have every Python CD and DVD made, and couldn't survive without this set! Buy it, watch them often, and enjoy!
on June 30, 2001
A&E made more than their share of sloppy and easily preventable mistakes when mastering this collection. Aside from the unwanted edits that were mentioned by a previous reviewer, I have found this set to have a relatively alarming (if not totally pervasive) quantity of momentary digital glitches, particularly in the audio. These are NOT problems with the source tapes, as can be verified by watching earlier releases of the same episodes on VHS or even on PBS. Since my career is in digital audio, I can tell that they were "generated" during the process of transferring to the digital medium.
A&E didn't bother to restore any of these episodes, and I can't blame them, but I do have to object to the fact that they apparently just threw these onto DVD so hastily without pre-screening the results of the conversion process. One almost suspects that this conversion process was performed largely unattended.
In addition, there are other confusing and ridiculous errata-- such as the episode "Intermission" showing up as "It's the Arts" when the DVD is stuck in the deck, even though the back of the case is labeled correctly.
Dear Sirs: I also feel I should complain about the patronizing and extraordinarily annoying menu titles ("Main Bloody Menu," etc.) and, along similar lines, the totally worthless "extras."
I'm glad these are out on DVD, and I'm glad to have the "entire" set at my digital disposal after wearing out my ten-year-old VHS tapes... but I can't help but suspect that A&E or the Pythons themselves are hoping to cash in on this series yet one more time at some later date, when they do a full restoration and fix their first set of grievous errors. Call me picky, but when I plop down close to 2 bills for a set of "historically significant" DVDs, I expect perfection... especially when this set was the only reason I purchased a DVD player in the first place.
Yours truly, Sgt. R.B. Knickers (Mrs.) (Deceased)
on March 21, 2003
This show is, hands down, the funniest show ever produced on either side of the Atlantic. As another reviewer pointed out there are minor cuts...I myself was disappointed that the line by Biggles in Episode 33 ("I'm not a Spanish person!") was cut, but it's worth it. Every episode in perfect condition and the collection is almost weighted down by the special features, which include trivia, quizzes, biographies, sketch montages, live versions of select sketches (from the 1983 Hollywood Bowl performances), and special bits about the animations (as well as a link to the Monty Python web site if you're using your computer). All but the biographies are different on each of the 14 DVDs (although the biographies start by showing a bit of a sketch featuring the respective Python, which varies), so you can spend loads of time accessing these after watching all the episodes 20+ times.
These special features, however, take a back seat to the loads of prestine comedy. Even a rabid fan like myself found that I had never seen the vast majority of the material before buying this DVD, as I only had access to the out-of-order VHS tapes before this came out. These more obscure bits are often just as funny or even funnier as the mass-memorized classics. I have heard that some sketches fall flat, but I haven't seen one do so yet (although a few, admittedly, go over the head of the uninformed non-British viewer and a very few are a bit overlong).
Another irritation some have put forth is the absence of John Cleese from the fourth series (the last six episodes), and although it's true that he leaves a considerable gap, these final six are easily the most surreal and dreamlike of the show, and 99% of the time just as funny and original as any of those that preceded them. Three of them are half-hour skits in themselves, which are incredibly funny and on par with the rapid fire short skits (just as the Cycling Tour in Series 3 was). If one had to pick a series that was inferior, I'm afraid the fourth would be it, but it's still damned good and worth every minute of it.
I hope you get as much enjoyment out of this as I have, which is a hell of a lot. It's worth every penny and an invaluable addition to anyone with a sense of humor's DVD collection.
on October 8, 2009
I LOVE Monty Python---they are the true Kings Of Comedy, in my opinion. I've been a fan ever since I first saw their TV series on PBS when I was a kid back in the late-70's. The TV series, the movies, the albums....I've got 'em all. However, up until now, I only had the TV series on videocassette (taped off of MTV, of all networks!). But, with Python's 40th anniversary upon us (happy anniversary, lads!), I finally forked over the bucks for this, the "16-Ton" megaset of their show. Overall, this box set of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" is a real treat. SO many great laughs, and, along with it, so many great memories for me. Sure, a few sketches misfire (the alien dessert--aka blancmonge--playing tennis...sorry, but it just doesn't work), but the Pythons scored so many more comic hits than misses (the "Atilla The Hun" episode, The Upper-Class Twit Of The Year Show, Scott Of The Antarctic, The Most Awful Family In Britain, and on and on and on). Also, this is the first time I've ever gotten to see the Python show *in the correct order*! How great it was for me to finally see how the Pythons evolved over the course of their four series of shows.
BUT---this is not the "complete" Python show, as they would have you believe on the outside of the box. For some unexplained reason, four episodes have a few bits missing or censored:
"It's The Arts"---the sketch about the composer with the frighteningly long name, "Johann Gamboleputty....". Eric Idle had a brief bit as an old man who dies halfway through saying Gamboleputty's full name. It's no longer there.
"Blood, Devastation, Death, War & Horror"---in the "Bus Conductor" sketch, Graham Chapman briefly sang a spoof version of "Tonight" from "West Side Story" ("Tonight, tonight, I'm getting p----d tonight!"). It's been cut. Maybe for legal reasons? Who knows.
"A Book At Bedtime"---there were opening captions prior to Terry Gilliam's opening title animation in this episode ("Tonight we start the show straight away with the opening titles.....No you didn't, you started with that caption....Oh yes."), as well as a concluding sketch about upcoming British comedy TV shows (including "Dad's Pooves" and "Up The Palace"). Both have been cut. Why?
"The All-England Summarize Proust Competition"---in the title sketch, Graham Chapman is censored from saying the word, "masturbating". Very silly.
So, this box set is the *Not Quite* Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus, which is disappointing, but I'll still take it. It's a comedy classic by a classic comedy troupe, easily the groundbreaking comedy equivalent of The Beatles. Thank you so much, Monty Python, for all of the great laughs. Albatross!!!