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The Complete Ripping Yarns

4.6 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Monty Python fans rejoice! This renowned BBC series, created and written by Python stalwarts Michael Palin and Terry Jones, provides more of the same surreal, bawdy, tasteless—and absolutely gut-splitting hilarity you know and love. The nine lavishly produced half-hour comedies—each starring Michael Palin—spoof the stirring adventure stories that were a staple of Edwardian schoolboy life. Plucky heroes triumph over adversity (or not) in such varied settings as Victorian London, Depression-era Yorkshire, WWII Germany, Peru, and India during the Raj.

The Episodes:

Tomkinson’s Schooldays
The Testing of Eric Olthwaite
Escape From Stalag Luft 112B
Murder at Moorstones Manor
Across the Andes by Frog
The Curse of the Claw
Whinfrey’s Last Case
Golden Gordon
Roger of the Raj

Not as well- known as Fawlty Towers or The Rutles, Michael Palin and Terry Jones's Ripping Yarns is poised for discovery as among the best of the post-Python projects. The release of the complete series on DVD is ripping good news. Palin essays a gallery of colorful (or colorless, as in the case of one of the series' best episodes, "The Testing of Eric Olthwaite"), archetypal characters drawn from the storybook adventures that thrilled English schoolboys back in the day.

Read our interview with Michael Palin.
Palin and Jones take a Python-esque delight in turning genre convention on its head. In "Tomkinson's Schooldays," a series benchmark, woeful students must endure such corporeal punishment as being nailed to the school walls, and it is the enviable position of school bully where the real authority resides. "Murder at Moorstones Manor" presents a baffling mystery with a large body count and a rash of self-proclaimed murderers. "Whinfrey's Last Case" and "Escape From Stalag Luft 112B" are tales of wartime espionage and (attempted) derring-do. Ripping Yarns is an excellent showcase for Palin, who is at his funniest portraying characters either obsessed (a soccer fanatic in "Golden Gordon," an ill-fated car buff in "Manor," and an amateur amphibian-enthusiast in "Across the Andes by Frog") or dreadfully dull (Eric Olthwaite, who is so tedious and boring that his own father speaks French just so he won't have to communicate with him). Jones makes a brief appearance in "Schooldays," and John Cleese fleetingly cameos in "Golden Gordon" as a pedestrian. Beloved British comic actor and Richard Lester veteran Roy Kinnear (Help!, The Three Musketeers) costars in "Escape." As with Monty Python, Ripping Yarns has a tendency to get silly (in a couple of episodes, Palin hilariously strains for credibility as a hapless, caped host), but the lavishly produced yarns themselves are played to their best advantage without a nudge-nudge, wink-wink. Choose the preferred option to view these episodes without the intrusive laugh-track. --Donald Liebenson

Stills from Ripping Yarns (click for larger image)

Special Features

  • Nine episodes on two discs: Tomkinson's Schooldays, The Test of Eric Olthwaite, Escape from Stalag Luft 112B, Murder at Moorstones Manor, Across the Andes by Frog, The Curse of the Claw, Whinfrey's Last Case, Golden Gordon, Roger of the Raj
  • Commentary by Michael Palin and Terry Jones on all episodes
  • Laugh-track-free audio option
  • Deleted scene
  • Photo gallery
  • Comic Roots: Michael Palin, 1983
  • Restoration clip
  • Commemorative booklet
  • DVD-ROM: Michael Palin's original script

Product Details

  • Actors: Michael Palin, Terry Jones, David Griffin, Michael Stainton, Peter Graham
  • Directors: Terry Hughes
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Acorn Media
  • DVD Release Date: August 30, 2005
  • Run Time: 274 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009Y8JG4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #130,825 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Complete Ripping Yarns" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. Taylor on August 29, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Back in 1976 when Ripping Yarns was first airing on the BBC, Monty Python had crossed over in America from a cult Brittcom found on PBS to the hit movie "Monty Python & the Holy Grail". At the time Flying Circus was being distributed in America by Time/Life Television. T/L was just about to syndicate the final six episode season when ABC offered them money so that they could air the episodes over their network. What ABC did not realize was that the BBC was far more liberal with the material they allowed to be broadcasted over their airwaves, and the episodes they bought the rights to could never be shown in primetime. The network executives decided to edit the episodes into two 90 minute late night specials editing out what they decided could not be broadcasted, and a little more to make room for commercials. The problem was that the members of Monty Python had in thier BBC contracts that only they had the rights to edit the shows, and when they saw the mess that ABC had made of their shows, went to court to prevent them from airing. Ultimately it was decided that ABC did not have the right to edit the episodes but that it was too late to stop their broadcast. This opened the door for Python to sue ABC for damages, and ABC would in turn sue Time/Life and the BBC. To prevent this BBC made an offer to the python members that if they agreed not to sue ABC that they would get the full rights to their show and the original tapes. The Python members decided that when Time/Life's contract for syndicating the show ran out in 1980 that they would not renew.

This brings us to 1980. The Pythons decided to keep the show off the air for a few years because by then PBS stations all over the United States had overexposed the show.
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Format: DVD
...comes this brilliant collection of (nine) half-hour episodes. The team of Michael Palin & Terry Jones predates Monty Python so their collaboration on these yarns showcases their comedy writing and acting talents - particularly their gift for physical humor.

Each yarn is built on a premise of what should be a young boy's adventure story but instead becomes a farcical tale. But the different episodes tend to vary in style. Some yarns are outlandishly hilarious: the absolute standout of the series being "Tomkinson's Schooldays" and "Escape from Stalag Luft 112B" - which could easily be compared to the best sketches from the Monty Python series. Others yarns deliver more subtle humor, like "Winfrey's Last Case" and "The Testing of Eric Olthwaite" (comparable to the "Jeeves & Wooster" series). Still others like "Curse of the Claw" tend to be dark in nature - yet still brilliantly funny! Read other reviews for plot details - but then it kinda ruins the jokes and surprises!

Perhaps the best aspect of this series is the way Jones and (mostly) Palin effectively perform several roles in some of the yarns. Their standout comedic abilities (plus excellent costuming and make-up) really give distinction to the hilarious personas of each character.

Some of these yarns will need to be watched a few times to really appreciate the humor - this is no "Fawlty Towers!"

But, to the seasoned lover of British comedy, this collection will entertain for years to come.

This review refers to the VHS versions.
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This is completely different from Monty Python. Two of the MP veterans have written a series of half hour programs in the vein of classical British boy's adventure stories. The cast are drama actors who do not ham it up or exaggerate their characters (except for the two MP veterans).

What makes the stories funny is the twists that are thrown in at frequent intervals. You have to have an intimate knowledge of British culture and social institutions prior to 1930 to spot these twists and appreciate them. You will smile and mildly chuckle instead of rolling on the floor laughing as you did for Monty Python.

In some ways these remind me of the early Carry On movies with their low key humor.
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The only thing that sucks about "Ripping Yarns" is that only 9 episodes were made. The show itself is extremely well made, and well done. Each episode tells a different story, that parodies "serial" novels/shows. The stories range from tales of war, horror, suspense, coming of age, adventure, action, exploration, romance, and it's all parodied by Michael Palin. It's a great show for lovers of British comedy, and those who are new to British comedy. It's a bit pricey, for only 9 episodes, but it's worth it
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Ripping Yarns is one of my favorite series, however it's a very specific kind of gentle parody of a very specific genre of Edwardian era boys adventure literature, though it does wander from that premise occasionally. The series will for most be an acquired taste, the humor often subtle, only slightly absurd or surreal, but for the fan of Palin and Jones or someone familiar with the turn of the century boys adventure genre it's a treasure, a slightly flawed gem to be watched repeatedly and shared.

The source material may be unknown to some viewers, probably the closest things most familiar to Americans would be Robert Louis Stephenson's work especially Treasure Island, and Rudyard Kipling, especially the Jungle Book, though the aesthetic mocked so lovingly in the series is very similar to that of early 20th century American movie serials and later full length films... there's a bit of Fu Manchu here and hint of Sherlock Holmes there, a touch of Tarzan perhaps, would get one in the mood, and there is enough for an American to relate to if they give the series some time.

It does require patience, and this may be affected by an unusual choice: the producers having kindly included the option to watch with or without the original broadcast laugh track (created in the contemporary standard method: showing the finished films to a live studio audience and recording their reactions) For the seasoned fan like myself, the laugh track is best left off so one can catch every word and nuance and decide for oneself which lines to laugh out loud at, and which to merely chuckle or smile with amusement.
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