on December 7, 2003
A&E has done a great service to Monty Python fans the world over by finally releasing rare, out of print, or otherwise unavailable Python material.
Disc # 1 starts with Monty Python Live At The Hollywood Bowl. The group opens with the song "Sit On My Face" wearing long aprons and, when they turn to go off stage, reveal their bare buttocks! This is followed by Graham Chapman, playing Colin 'Bomber' Harris, who wrestles himself to a pinfall. The Crunchy Frog skit concerns the Whizzo Chocolate Company and their choice of chocolate-covered confectionaries, such as anthrax ripple and cockroach cluster. This sketch is highlighted by Terry Gilliam throwing up in his policeman's hat and then being forced to wear the hat! The Custard Pies sketch involves demonstrating the history of physical comedy with pratfalls and pie throwing, with Terry Jones getting the worst of it. Truly, this is Monty Python at their subtle best. The concert ends with a rousing version of the Lumberjack Song. That concert is followed by Monty Python Live At Aspen, hosted by comedian Robert Klein. The group members talk about their early days at the BBC and their transition into movies. For their film work in particular, they receive an American Film Institute Star Award. Since this show was taped in 1998, Graham Chapman sadly had passed away. An urn supposedly containing his ashes represents him and also gets the biggest laughs at the event!
Disc #2 starts with a 1989 retrospective of the group, hosted by Steve Martin. Steve talks about Monty Python for a few minutes, followed by an hour of sketches from their classic TV series. This is very much a hit or miss affair, as some of their weaker skits are included and some of their best sketches are not shown in their entirety. Steve Martin appears at the end of the hour, opens a door to find the Pythoners huddled in a closet, and then promptly shuts the door on them. That retrospective is followed by Monty Python's German Episode #1. Apparently, German TV paid for the Pythoners to perform two episodes of their series in Germany! Naturally, the sketches are in German with English subtitles. It's surreal to hear the Lumberjack Song sung in German! Some of this footage appears in various collections, particularly the Olympic events and the Little Red Riding Hood sketch. It's great to finally see the 45 minute German show in its entirety. For completists, Monty Python's German Episode #2 is included in A&E's "The Life Of Python" boxed set. With 2 DVDs clocking in at 4 1/2 hours, "Monty Python Live!" is an essential addition to every Python fan's collection.
on April 1, 2002
The single most common praise one hears from a critical review is: "If you only have one DVD/album/book by [Insert a well-known author here], make it this one!"
For Monty Python, this could labelled on this DVD set.
Much of the criticism of this package is it's inclusion of 'Dead Parrot Sketch Not Included' (a greatest hits compilation of their [arguably] finest work from 'The Flying Circus' television show). I think it's inclusion is a strength -- It's the Python equivalent of the Beatles '1' record: Yes, there are ommisions, but it's nevertheless a very decent well-rounded collection.
The contrary position is certainly understandable. If you bought the entire series on DVD, then 'Dead Parrot' is a pointless addition. However, if you can watch the Architect sketch, the lumberjack song, Salad Days and the communist game show in one sitting, it wouldn't be anything less than a holy disc.
But what's missing is certainly made up on the very funny Hollywood Bowl performance. 'Nudge, Nudge,' 'The Bruces,' 'The Philosopher's Song,' 'Crunchy Frog' -- much of the classics 'Dead Parrot' seemed to forget is redeemed here. Unfortunately, the film quality is a bit aged, but still very viewable.
The Aspen reunion is an insightful retrospective on Python, from it's history to the behind-the-scenes information on their famous sketches.
So there you have it. A complete collection of their essential work ('Dead Parrot'), a live performance ('Hollywood Bowl'), and biographical information ('Aspen').
Viking Press publishes their popular 'Portable' series, books of famous authors containing their most crucial writings alongside critical & biographical annotations (i.e. 'The Portable Kerouac,' 'The Portable Nietzsche'). Likewise, this is the 'Portable Monty Python.' It's a shame that A&E didn't market it that way.
on February 4, 2002
I bow to no one in my devotion to Monty Python, but I do have a few concerns about this set. First, the film quality for "Live at the Hollywood Bowl" is terrible and in dire need of restoration. Second, truth in advertising: only two of four pieces on this set are live, and "Live at Aspen" is more of an interview/retrospective than a performance. The second disc, containing the "Parrot Sketch Not Included" retrospective and Episode 1 of "Monty Pythons Fliegender Zirkus", has nothing live to it at all. Third, one unfortunate result of the selection on these discs is that certain filmed pieces, done for the German episodes and recycled for "Live at the Hollywood Bowl", appear as many as three times in the set, which makes consecutive viewing a bit maddening. Having said that, the first German episode has always been one of my favorites, one I'm glad to have on DVD, and I've enjoyed audio recordings of live Python concerts, so I do like having "Live at the Hollywood Bowl", whatever the quality.
on December 14, 2001
This set is typical of A&E's handling of the Pythons. Just stick the basics on a set and expect everyone to buy it because they can't get it anywhere else. Obviously the Hollywood Bowl film is great and worth getting but the other features are lacking. The Aspen is show is pretty good, but there's not really much new there and if you've seen Life Of Python you aren't missing much. The German episode is good, but is far less funny than the second German episode. The documentary with Steve Martin is VERY weak, as I think he's only on screen for maybe five minutes. It's only real purpose is to show the last thing the original Pythons ever did together-a five second clip of them sitting in a closet- filmed only a few weeks before Graham Chapman died. The second disc would have been much better suited for their skits from the secret policeman's balls, but maybe their saving that for yet ANOTHER padded 2 disc set. If you can get this cheap((...) range) it's worth picking up.
on February 1, 2002
I only give the set 4 stars because the Parrot Sketch Not Included special is terrible. Steve Martin is overly obnoxious as the host. The only thing good thing in it is the last appearance of all the Python troupe. It's a bit sad, Graham Chapman doesn't look well at all. He passed away not long after the 'Not Included' show was produced.
The other stuff is terrific!
Hollywood bowl is great fun. The Hollywood bowl Whizzo Chocolate sketch is far funnier than the TV version. The picture quality does leave something to be desired. However, a good remaster/restoration of a film, both picture & sound, costs hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars. The expenditure is justified on something like Star Wars or Lawrence of Arabia or My Fair Lady because the studio can, at the very least, do a limited theatrical re-release of the film and sell enough videos & DVDs to recover costs. I'm sure these Python DVDs aren't selling millions of copies. The less than perfect quality didn't detract from my enjoyment of the show.
The Live at Aspen is terrific fun, too. It's nice to see the surviving Pythons on stage together having a good time. Graham Chapman's 'appearance' on stage is very funny, and a little shocking, too.
The 1st German episode is nice. The subtitles are a bit annoying, but I don't think a version of the show without the ugly subtitles exist. Still, it's nice to have it on DVD, unedited. The only other showing it's had in the US is on Comedy Central. There were some edits there to allow more commercials, though. That broadcast was 5 or 6 years ago and it doesn't look as if it will be shown on TV again soon.
All in all, a good set for the Python fan. If you can get past the imperfect quality of the Hollywood Bowl show & the German episode, and just sit back and laugh, you'll get your money's worth.
If you're a Python fan, you've probably seen all their TV episodes and their major feature films. This two-DVD set collects material you probably haven't seen, namely their concert film "Live at the Hollywood Bowl" and their early 1970s appearance on German television.
"Hollywood Bowl" is a true treat from the middle 1970s. By this time, Monty Python were bonafide celebrities and it's a thrill to see them perform so many of their best sketches in front of a live and supportive audience. I greatly prefer their performances here to their earlier renditions on their TV show - like all great teams they had gotten better with both experience and time. All the Pythons are especially self-confident as performers here, and as a bonus we have a couple of musical numbers courtesy of Neil Innes. I especially enjoyed the irreverent sketch where John Cleese plays the Pope.
The German Episode hasn't aged nearly as well. There's some good material (especially a mock-documentary about Albrecht Durer) but it's hampered by poor video quality. Honestly, the entire thing looks like it was filmed in Super 8 and the constant subtitling doesn't help matters. It looks like a third generation bootleg. The best of the sequences also appear (in considerably higher quality) in "Hollywood Bowl." You do get "The Lumberjack Song" sung in German, however. And it is a kick hearing Graham Chapman speak German with a thick American accent.
The remainder of the discs contain "20 Years of Monty Python," a greatest-hits style program hosted by Steve Martin, and a group interview conducted by Robert Klein. It's fun for completists.
Still, "Hollywood Bowl" is the real draw and its a pleasure to see it on a reasonably priced DVD with extras.
on July 9, 1999
The funniest piece in the movie: the church police sketch; it is full of what I love most about Python and what they do best. Archetypal Python is absurd, surreal, cerebral, relies on verbal wit, is shamelessly silly, and doesn't need to be coarse in order to be outrageously funny. (of course they are often coarse, but that's not the best part of them.) And admittedly if I were a Catholic or Anglican I might not feel the same about the sketch. But seeing Terry Jones playing any kind of housewife is always worth the price of admission. And Eric Idle's stunned disbelief that something rat-free might be on the menu is precious.
on March 21, 2000
This is Monty Python at their very best. Very little of the amusing but confusing sketch comedy that can be so hit or miss with American audiences. This is a collection of their material that appeals to the general public. This needs to be re-released so that people can get a chance to see how delightful this comedy troupe was.
on August 9, 2005
So, we have two live performances, a best-of type compilation, and a German episode in German.
Live at the Hollywood Boal has always looked like it was done on a $10 budget. It looks no better here. It's still VERY funny, and our only complete document of a live Python show.
The Aspen Comedy appearance is superb, a great reunion and interview with many new and hysterical bits. This is probably the final time all five will get together and really be fun.
The "Parrot Sketch Not Included" compilation has some good Steve Martin bits, and a final appearance of all six members together, shortly before the death of Graham Chapman. There's really not much more to reccomend to this.
Then there's the German episode #1. This is perhaps one of the best Monty Python shows ever, with somply great writing, a very brisk pace, almost no filler, and a great appearance by John Cleese as Little Red Riding Hood. This is the episode I turn to when I feel down, and it's inclusion is perhaps one of the best things that A&E has accomplished with their wonderful re-issues of all things Python. Very, very good.
All in all, a good set to own.
on December 28, 2001
What wankers! Like the Life of Python set, here is another bloated two DVD set, so you will spend twice the cash.
Features the classic Live at the Hollywood Bowl movie, though the transfer seems rather lazy. Well, I guess you are not gonna watch it for the picture quality anyway, but at least they could try. Then, there is the Live at Aspen interview, if you didnt catch it on HBO a couple of years ago. A nice extra, I guess, but hardly a main reason to purchase. Features classic snipets of old Python stuff, that you, since you are already a fan, already have seen.
The second CD has Parrot Sketch Not Included, 20 years of Python, a "greatest hits" from the TV series, made for Showtime 12 years ago. Since you are probably already a fan who may have the TV series DVD, this is pretty pointless filler. Parrot Sketch not Included should have been a stand alone release, for the more casual fan who does not want to purchase all the DVDs. Features unnecessary introduction from Steve Martin, and a short shot of the "troupe" (thereby the rationale of it being a "live" performance) before Graham Chapman died. Then the rest of the DVD is the first Monty Python German Episode. More creative Python silliness. How come the two German episodes were not released on the same DVD? ... other than to try to validate the existance of both Life of Python and Monty Python Live DVD collections.
Monty Python should be ashamed (Can't blame Graham Chapman thou... he is long dead).