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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Monty Python's Flying Circus - Eric Idle's Personal Best
Monty Python's Flying Circus - Eric Idle's Personal Best
A&E Video // Unrated // August 30, 2005
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted August 26, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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A&E Home Video has packaged and repackaged Monty Python's Flying Circus in pretty much every humanly conceivable configuration, but now that Spamalot's raking in gobs of money on Broadway, they're re-re-re-re-repackaging some of the legendary British comedy series' best bits to cash in yet again. The new gimmick has six of the Python boys selecting their favorite sketches for a batch of new compilations, each with some newly taped introductions. The first wave features the personal best of Michael Palin and...well, look at the big, bold letters an inch or two up.

So, the personal best of Eric Idle. The thing that's kind of painful about reviewing Monty Python stuff is that so much of its humor is absurdist, and some sort of dry summary of each sketch not only wouldn't do it justice, but it'd wind up spoiling all the jokes. Since that wouldn't be any good, I'll spout off a quick list of the sketches along with a link to a transcription of each. If you're a fan who's curious about what made Idle's cut, that should answer any questions you have, and if you've never seen any Monty Python sketches before...well, I'll go into why you should pass on this DVD in a minute.

The sketches are:
  1. Sit on My Face
  2. Greasy Compere - Kenny Lust
  3. Can I Have £50 to Mend the Shed?
  4. World Forum - Communist Quiz
  5. Schoolboys
  6. Nudge Nudge
  7. Silly Olympics
  8. Philosphers' Football
  9. Blood, Devastation, Death, War, and Horror
  10. Mount Everest - Hairdresser Expedition
  11. Travel Agents Sketch
  12. Never Be Rude to an Arab
  13. Face the Press
  14. Hermits
  15. Children's Story
  16. How to Do It - Rid the World of Known Diseases
  17. Army Camps It Up
  18. Bruces
  19. Queen Victoria Handicap
  20. Money Programme
  21. Sviatoslav Richter and Rita
  22. Pouffy Judges
  23. Climbing the Uxbridge Road
  24. Whicker Island
  25. The Lumberjack Song
It might also be worth noting that not all of these sketches are presented in their entirety.

If you've seen Live at the Hollywood Bowl (from A&E's "Monty Python Live!" set) and have watched every episode of the series, there's not really much new here. Eric Idle returns to the Hollywood Bowl for a lengthy introduction, doing a newscaster routine, posing as his mother, and assorted other hee-larity. As welcome as this new material is, it gobbles up five or six minutes of a program that runs under an hour as it is. It's a solid Python sampler, containing a couple of the most legendary sketches ("The Lumberjack Song" and "Nudge Nudge", both culled from the Hollywood Bowl performance), and there's hardly a clunker in the rest of the bunch.

The fundamental problem is that there are going to be six of these DVDs at some point. For beginners, it's a hassle because the most recognizable sketches are going to be spread across six discs. At $15 a pop, that winds up costing enough that it'd be worth spending the extra thirty or forty bucks and just buying the entire fourteen-disc run of the TV series. The feature length And Now For Something Completely Different is a better, more condensed summary for those sad sacks who've never caught Monty Python before. The promise of new material may be attractive to long-time fans, but they're better off sticking with a rental.

Video: I hopefully don't have to explain that the bulk of this footage is lifted from a decades-old TV show and isn't exactly home theater demo material, but the full-frame video's comparable to A&E's other Python releases, and...what else do you want, really? The newer footage with Eric Idle interspersed throughout not surprisingly looks sharper and cleaner than the variable stuff from the show and Live at the Hollywood Bowl, but Python fans know what they're in for by now.

Audio: No aggressive split-surrounds or spleen-liquefying bass here (although the opening titles are pretty loud) -- decent stereo for the newly taped Eric Idle bits and utilitarian mono everywhere else. No subtitles or alternate soundtracks, but the DVD is closed captioned.

Supplements: Ten and a half more minutes of Python have been crammed into "Eric Idle's Personal Second Best" -- the closing arguments in the case of a particularly charming serial killer, a hysterically gory Peckinpah spoof, and some inattentive coffee time with Timmy Williams. There's also a trivia game and a brief Eric Idle biography.

The DVD comes packaged in a keepcase with an insert plugging Spamalot. Each of the twenty-five sketches can be viewed individually or played consecutively, and the DVD also includes a set of animated 4x3 menus. At least on my DVD-ROM, there was some strange authoring problem that'd periodically kick me back to the forced FBI warning and A&E logo before returning me to the main menu.

Conclusion: This DVD is a pretty shameless grab for cash in the wake of Spamalot's success, and the packaging freely admits it. Although there's a lot of great material on this disc, it's kind of hard to recommend. The new bits with Eric Idle are well-done, but even the most ardent Python completists might find it tough to justify spending fifteen bucks for five or six minutes of original material. It's not a bad starting point for the uninitiated to...y'know, become initiated, but I think And Now For Something Completely Different makes for a much better introduction to the troupe. "Eric Idle's Personal Best" is a good collection, but...Rent It.
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