The Secret Policemans Balls are a legendary series of benefit shows staged to raise funds for Amnesty International. Beginning in 1976, they have featured the cream of Britain s comedians and musicians, and laid the groundwork for high-profile charity events,
including Live Aid. This 3-dvd set collects the five biggest and best Balls, featuring Monty Pythons John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Graham Chapman and Terry Gilliam, Beyond The Fringes Dudley Moore and Peter Cook, Billy Connolly, Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean), Jennifer Saunders(Absolutely Fabulous) and Hugh Laurie (House M.D.). In addition to the comics, the shows feature historic unplugged performances by Pete Townshend, Sting, Phil Collins, Bob Geldof, Peter Gabriel, Donovan, Jackson Browne, Lou Reed, Kate Bush and Joan Armatrading. Also featured are rare duets from guitar legends Eric Clapton & Jeff Beck and Mark Knopfler & Chet Atkins.
Pleasure At Her Majesty s (1976)
The Secret Policeman s Ball (1979)
The Secret Policeman s Other Ball (1981)
The Secret Policeman s Third Ball (1987)
The Secret Policeman s Biggest Ball (1989)
* Remember The Secret Policemans Ball?(2004): Feature-length BBC documentary celebrating the 25th anniversary. Never before seen in the U.S.
* Footage from the U.K. premiere of the Secret Policemans Other Ball.
* Rare bonus footage.
* Brand-new essays and video intros byco-producer Martin Lewis.
Imagine Saturday Night Live
, in its heyday, but as a live series of hot-ticket events, with the best stand-up comics, sketch actors, and rockers of the time, held to benefit a good cause--all with a decidedly British accent. That comes close to describing the magic mayhem of The Secret Policeman’s Ball
performances held as fund-raisers for Amnesty International from the late '70s through the late ‘80s. This boxed set is a pop culture fan’s dream; included are all the members of Monty Python, Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie (pre-House
and pre-Black Adder), Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, Jennifer Saunders, and the Beyond the Fringe troupe--and that’s just the comics. Musicians include Sting, Pete Townshend, Phil Collins, Lou Reed, Joan Armatrading, and duets between Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, and Mark Knopfler and Chet Atkins. And a very baby-faced Bob Geldof, who admits in an interview that these Balls
spawned the idea for Live Aid and other events for charity. The best gem of all--and the best place to start to appreciate the depth and breadth of the series--is a 2004 documentary featuring interviews with some of the original shows’ principals, looking back on their younger selves and the current of the times. John Cleese, the true ringmaster of the events, recalls making the original phone calls and arranging for a West End theater to be available after its regular production ended. The programs became so popular that they made stars of the youngsters (Laurie, Stephen Fry, Atkinson), and brought worldwide attention for the first time to Amnesty International. Some bits are beloved and done here again--including the Pythons’ "Lumberjack Song" and "The Dead Parrot." Cleese recalls, and the filmmakers oblige by including, a speech Margaret Thatcher later gave in the ‘80s where she repeated the "Dead Parrot" bit line for line about a piece of legislation--and bringing the audience to its knees. A young Barry Humphreys (Dame Edna, as a brunette
) and a bushy-haired Billy Connolly are also delightful. The music acts are delicious, including Townshend’s acoustic duet with the American classical guitarist John Williams, and Phil Collins appearing onstage at a piano solo for the first time ever. Equal parts silly and inspiring, this boxed set will be in heavy rotation for the comedy and music fan. --A.T. Hurley