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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus 16-Ton Megaset
The Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus 16-Ton Megaset
A&E Video // Unrated // September 27, 2005
List Price: $199.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Scott Weinberg | posted October 4, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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The Series

Back when I was neck-deep in my movie-obsessed youth, I used to enjoy finding a filmmaker I admired and then devouring every single one of his movies. I went through a Kubrick phase, a Spielberg phase, a Hitchcock phase ... the James Bond series, the Pink Panther flicks, vampires, mummys, godzillas, etc. I liked to work in "themes," always moving on to something else when I got a little bored.

And then, for some reason long since since lost by my weed-addled brain, I went and rented Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Hoo boy.

When I first "discovered" Monty Python, I was at the perfect age of 14; young enough to adore the silliness, (just barely) intelligent enough to catch some of the smarter satire, and open-minded enough to admit that I simply didn't "get" one-third of the jokes. My sister and I used to watch Monty Python's Flying Circus whenever it popped up on PBS; We'd watch Holy Grail and Life of Brian and laugh our geeky little asses off. Being a Monty Python fan in middle-school is sort of like being a Dr. Who fan at any age: The cool kids always laugh at you. And so do the nerds, come to think of it.

But now that we're halfway through the first decade of the 21st century, and the geeks have colluded to take over the planet, it's now considered quaint and kitschy-cool to adore the parrot sketch, the cheese shop, the lumberjack song, or the (insert your favorite MP sketch here). Just, for the love of god, don't ever go to a party and start yelling about "the knights who say NI!" Geekdom is cool; nerdliness is not.

From 1969 to 1974, Monty Python's Flying Circus aired on BBC Television -- and it started an absolute landslide. Find me one modern-day comedian who doesn't admit to being inspired by the Monty Python guys and I'll show you a freaking liar. These six lunatics (John Cleese, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Eric Idle & Terry Gilliam) could do it all: Outrageous slapstick, brilliant social satire, memorably disgusting gross-out gags, lampoons of church, government, and society in general -- and all the myriad combinations thereof. The guys often, bravely, dressed up as women when a particular sketch called for it (but when they needed a really pretty gal they used Ms. Carol Cleveland, a contributor often referred to as "the seventh Python"), they displayed an effortless chemistry together, they took their comedy quite seriously, and they single-handedly changed the conventions of television comedy forever. Basically, the Pythons are to comedy what The Beatles are to rock & roll. Period.

But c'mon. The world needs another dissection of Monty Python like it needs another sitcom about a fat dad, a hot wife, and two obnoxious kids. There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who already adore Monty Python -- and those who (for some insane reason) haven't watched any of their work. Frankly I feel a little bad for anyone who doesn't know why The Spanish Inquisition, Spam, or "nudge nudge" is freaking hilarious -- but these six madmen have given me enough hardcore hilarity to last three lifetimes.

Now ... if you're reading this review, it's probably because you're already a big fan of the Python boys, only (like me) you were always too broke to purchase the whole stonking Circus set. So trust me on this one: It's worth it. Life's short enough without being able to laugh like a hyena whenever you damn well feel like it, and this 16-disc behemoth packs more chuckles than you'll know what to do with. Sure, it costs about 120 bucks, but you'll only be up to episode six or seven before you decide that, yep, that $120 was a seriously worthwhile investment.

Boasting all 45 of the original episodes, as well as the two "Monty Python Live" platters, this set packs all 16 discs into a bunch of slick little slim-cases that fits perfectly as the centerpiece to your DVD collection, comedy division. This might take a lot of typing, but here's what's included:

Disc 1

Episode 1: Whither Canada? (10/5/69) -- Sketches: "It's Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart," "Italian lesson," "Whizzo butter," "It's the arts," "Arthur 'Two-Sheds' Jackson," "Picasso / cycling race," "The funniest joke in the world"

Episode 2: Sex and Violence (10/12/69) -- Sketches: "Flying sheep," "French lecture on sheep-aircraft," "A man with three buttocks," "Musical mice," "Marriage guidance counsellor," "The wacky queen," "Working-class playwright," "The wrestling epilogue," "The mouse problem"

Episode 3: How to Recognize Different Types of Trees from Quite a Long Way Away (19/19/69) -- "Court scene with Richelieu," "Bicycle repair man," "Children's stories," "Restaurant sketch," "Seduced milkman," "Stolen newsreader," "Nudge nudge"

Disc 2

Episode 4: Owl-Stretching Time (10/26/69) -- Sketches: "And did those feet," "Art gallery," "Art critic," "It's a man's life in the modern army," "Undressing in public," "Self-defence," "Secret Service dentists"

Episode 5: Man's Crisis of Identity in the Latter Half of the Twentieth Century (11/16/69) -- Sketches: "Confuse-a-Cat," "The smuggler," "Police raid," "Newsreader arrested," "Erotic film," "Silly job interview," "Careers advisory board," "Burglar / encyclopaedia salesman"

Episode 6: It's the Arts (11/23/69) -- Sketches: "Johan Gombolputty," "Non-illegal robbery," "Crunchy frog," "The dull life of a City stockbroker," "Red Indian in theatre," "A Scotsman on a Horse," "Twentieth-century vole"

Disc 3

Episode 7: You're No Fun Anymore (11/30/69) -- Sketches: "Camel-spotting," "You're no fun any more," "The audit," "Science fiction sketch," "Man turns into Scotsman," "Police station," "Blancmages playing tennis"

Episode 8: Full Frontal Nudity (12/7/69) -- Sketches: "Army protection racket," "Art critic-the place of the nude," "Buying a bed," "Hermits," "Dead parrot," "The flasher," "Hell's grannies"

Episode 9: The Ant, An Introduction (12/14/69) -- Sketches: "Llamas," "A man with a tape recorder up his nose," "Kilimanjaro expedition," "A man with a tape recorder up his brother's nose," "Homicidal barber," "Lumberjack song," "Gumby crooner," "The refreshment room at Bletchley," "Hunting film," "The visitors"

Disc 4

Episode 10: Untitled (12/21/69) -- Sketches: "Walk-on part in sketch," "Bank robber in lingerie shop," "It's a tree," "Vocational guidance counsellor," "Ron Obvious," "Tunnelling from Godalming to Java," "Pet conversions," "Gorilla librarian," "Letters to 'Daily Mirror'," "Strangers in the Night"

Episode 11: The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Goes to the Bathroom (12/28/69) -- Sketches: "Lavatorial humor," "Interruptions," "Agatha Christie," "Undertakers film," "Jimmy Buzzard interview," "Interesting people," "Eighteenth-century social legislation," "The Battle of Trafalgar," "The Battle of Pearl Harbour"

Episode 12: The Naked Ant (1/4/70) -- Sketches: "Falling from building," "'Spectrum' talking about things," "Visitors from Coventry," "Mr. Hitler," "Silly voices at the police station," "Upperclass Twit of the Year," "Ken Shabby," "How far can a minister fall?"

Episode 13: Intermission (1/11/70) -- "Restaurant Abuse," "Advertisements," "Albatross," "Come back to my place," "Me Doctor," "Historical impersonations," "Quiz programme," "Probe-around on crime," "Mr. Atilla the Hun," "Psychiatry," "Operating theatre"

Disc 5

(Beginning of Season 2)

Episode 14: Face the Press (9/15/70) -- Sketches: "'Face the Press'," "New cooker sketch," "Prostitute advert," "The Ministry of Silly Walks," "The Piranha brothers"

Episode 15: The Spanish Inquisition (9/22/70) -- Sketches: "Man-powered flight," "The Spanish Inquisition," "Jokes and novelties salesman," "Tax on thingy," "Photos of Uncle Ted," "The semaphore version of Wuthering Heights," "Julius Caesar on an Aldis lamp," "Court charades"

Episode 16: Deja Vu (9/29/70) -- Sketches: "A bishop rehearsing," "Flying lessons," "Hijacked plane," "The Poet McTeagle," "Psychiatrist milkman," "Complaints," "Deja Vu"

Disc 6

Episode 17: The Buzz Aldrin Show (10/20/70) -- Sketches: "Architect Sketch," "How to give up being a Mason," "Insurance Sketch," "'The Bishop'," "Living room on pavement," "Poets," "A choice of viewing," "Chemist Sketch," "Police Constable Pan-Am"

Episode 18: Live from the Grill-o-mat (10/27/70) -- Sketches: "Live from the Grill-o-mat," "'Blackmail'," "Society for Putting Things on Top of Other Things," "Escape from film," "Current affairs," "Accidents," "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," "The man who is alternately rude and polite," "Ken Clean-Air System"

Episode 19: It's a Living (11/3/70) -- Sketches: "'It's a Living'," "The time on BBC 1," "School prize-giving," "Films by Mr. Dibley," "The News," "Free Prizes," "Timmy Williams interview," "Raymond Luxury Yacht," "Getting Married," "Election Night Special"

Disc 7

Episode 20: The Atilla the Hun Show (11/10/70) -- Sketches: "'The Atilla the Hun Show'," "Secretary of State striptease," "Vox pops on politicians," "Ratcatcher," "Killer sheep," "The news for parrots," "The Idiot in Society," "Test match," "'Take your Pick'"

Episode 21: Archaeology Today (11/17/70) -- Sketches: "'Archaeology today'," "Silly vicar," "Mr. and Mrs. Git," "Mosquito hunters," "Poofy judges," "Mrs. Thing and Mrs. Entity," "Beethoven's mynah bird"

Episode 22: How to Recognize Different Parts of the Body (11/24/70) -- Sketches: "How to Recognize Different Parts of the Body," "Bruces," "Naughty bits," "The man who contradicts people," "Camp square-bashing," "Cut-price airline," "Batley Townswomen's Guild," "The Death of Mary Queen of Scots," "Exploding penguin on the TV," "There's been a murder"

Disc 8

Episode 23: Scott of the Antarctic (12/1/70) -- Sketches: "French subtitled film," "Scott of the Antarctic," "Conrad Poohs and His Dancing Teeth," "Fish License," "Derby Council v. All Blacks rugby match," "Long John Silver Impersonators v. Gynaecologists"

Episode 24: How Not to Be Seen (12/8/70) -- Sketches: "Conquistador coffee campaign," "It all happened on the 11:20 from Hainault," "Toothy Film Director," "'Crackpot Religions Ltd.'," "How not to be seen"

Episode 25: Spam (12/15/70) -- Sketches: "'The Black Eagle'," "Dirty Hungarian phrasebook," "Communist quiz," "Art gallery strike," "'Ypres 1914'," "Hospital for over-actors," "Gumby flower arranging," "Spam"

Episode 26: Royal Episode 13 (12/22/70) -- Sketches: "The Queen will be watching," "Coal mine," "The man who says things in a roundabout way," "How to feed a goldfish," "Insurance sketch," "Hospital run by RSM," "Exploding version of The Blue Danube," "Girls' Boarding school," "Lifeboat," "Undertaker's Sketch"

Disc 9

(Beginning of Season 3)

Episode 27: Whicker's World (10/19/72) -- Sketches: "Multiple murderer court scene," "Njorl's saga," "Eric Njorl on trial," "Stock Market Report," "Mrs. Premise and Mrs. Conclusion visit Sartre," "Whicker's World"

Episode 28: Mr. & Mrs. Brian Norris' Ford Popular (10/26/72) -- Sketches: "Emigration from Surbiton to Hounslow," "Schoolboys' Life Assurance Company," "How to rid the world of all known diseases," "The Mrs. explodes," "Vicar / salesman," "Farming club / Life of Tchaikowsky," "Sviatoslav Richter and Rita," "Trim Jeans Theatre," "Fish-slapping dance," "The BBC is short of money," "SS Mother Goose," "It's Man Chat Show"

Episode 29: The Money Programme (11/2/72) -- Sketches: "The Money Programme," "Erizabeth L.," "Fraud film director's squad," "Church Police," "Jungle restaurant," "Apology / Gardening Club," "The Lost World of Roiurama," "Argument Clinic"

Disc 10

Episode 30: Blood, Devastation, Death, War and Horror (11/9/72) -- Sketches: "The man who speaks in anagrams," "Anagram quiz," "Merchant banker," "Pantomime horses," "Life and death struggles," "Mary recruitment office," "Bus conductor," "The man who makes people laugh uncontrollably," "Army captain as clown," "Gestures to indicate pauses in a televised talk," "Neurotic announcers / Richard Baker," "The Pantomime Horse is a Secret Agent"

Episode 31: The All-England Summarize Proust Competition (11/16/72) -- Sketches: "All-England Summarize Proust Competition," "Everest climbed by hairdressers," "Fire brigade," "'Party Hints' with Veronica Smalls," "Language laboratory," "Travel agent," "Theory on Brontosaurus Uses by Anne Elk"

Episode 32: The War Against Pornography (11/23/72) -- Sketches: "Tory Housewives Clean-up Campaign," "Gumby brain specialist," "Molluscs-'live' TV documentary," "Report on the Minister reports," "Tuesday documentary / children's story," "Match of the Day," "An apology," "Expedition to Lake Pahoe," "The silliest sketch we've ever done"

Disc 11

Episode 33: Salad Days (11/30/72) -- Sketches: "Biggles dictates a letter," "Climbing the north face of the Uxbridge Road," "Lifeboat," "Storage jars," "The show so far," "Cheese shop," "Sam Peckinpah's 'Salad Days'," "Apology," "The news with Richard Baker," "Seashore interlude film"

Episode 34: The Cycling Tour (12/7/72) -- Sketches: "The cycling tour," "Prescription for the directions," "Break-up at the pub," "Mr. Gulliver / Clodagh Rogers," "Trotsky," "Smolensk," "Bingo-crazed Chinese," "Not Secret Police," "Trotsky / Eartha Kitt," "Firing squad," "Eartha Kitt / Edward Heath"

Episode 35: The Nude Organist (12/14/72) -- Sketches: "Bomb on plane," "A naked man," "Housing project built by characters from 19th century English literature," "M1 interchange built by characters from Paradise Lost," "Mystico and Janet-flats built by hypnosis," "Mortuary Hour," "Olympic hide-and-seek final," "The Cheap-Laughs," "Bull-fighting," "Prices on the planet Algon," "Reading the credits"

Disc 12

Episode 36: Henry Thripshaw's Disease (12/21/72) -- Sketches: "Tudor jobs agency," "Elizabethan pornography smugglers," "Silly disturbances," "The free repetition of doubtful words," "Is There? ... life after death?," "Thripshaw's disease," "Sherry-drinking vicar"

Episode 37: Dennis Moore (1/4/73) -- Sketches: "Boxing Tonight," "Dennis Moore," "What the stars foretell," "Doctor," "TV4 or not TV4?," "Lupins," "Ideal Loon Exhibition," "Off-licence," "Dennis Moore etcetera," "Prejudice," "Redistribution of wealth"

Episode 38: A Book at Bedtime (1/11/73) -- Sketches: "A Book at Bedtime," "Kamikaze Highlanders," "No time to lose," "Frontiers of Medicine-Penguins," "Unexploded Scotsmen," "Spot the Loony," "Rival documentaries"

Episode 39: Grandstand (1/18/73) -- Sketches: "Light Entertainment Award," "Oscar Wilde," "David Niven's fridge," "Pasolini's film 'The Third Test Match'," "New brain from Curry's," "Blood donor," "International Wife-Swapping," "Credits of the year," "The cast of the Dirty Vicar"

Disc 13

(Beginning of Season 4)

Episode 40: The Golden Age of Ballooning (10/31/74) -- Sketches: "The Montgolfier brothers," "Montgolfier brothers in love," "Louis XIV," "The Court of George III," "Party Political Broadcast on behalf of the Norwegian Party," "Zeppelin"

Episode 41: Michael Ellis (11/7/74) -- Sketches: "Department store," "Buying an ant," "At home with the ant and other pets," "Documentary on ants," "Ant communication," "The anatomy of an ant," "Complaints," "Ant poetry readings," "Toupees," "Different endings"

Episode 42: The Light Entertainment War (11/14/74) -- Sketches: "Up Your Pavement," "RAF banter," "Trivializing the war," "Courtmartial," "Anything Goes In," "Film trailer," "The public are idiots," "Programme titles conference," "Woody and tinny words," "Show-jumping," "Newsflash-When Does a Dream Begin?"

Disc 14

Episode 43: Hamlet (11/21/74) -- Sketches: "Bogus psychiatrists," "Nationwide," "Police helmets," "Father-in-law," "Hamlet and Ophelia," "Boxing match aftermath," "Boxing commentary," "Piston engine (a bargain)," "A room in Polonius's house," "Live from Epsom," "Queen Victoria Handicap"

Episode 44: Mr. Neutron (11/28/74) -- Sketches: "Post-box ceremony," "Mr. and Mrs. Entrail (or) Mr. Neutron," "F.E.A.R. (or) Mr. Neutron is missing," "Teddy Salad," "Secretary of State and Prime Minister," "Bombing," "Mrs. Scum," "Teddy Salad explodes," "Mr. Neutron escapes," "Conjuring today"

Episode 45: Party Political Broadcast (12/5/74) -- Sketches: "Most Awful Family In Britain," "Icelandic Honey Week," "Patient abuse," "Brigadier and Bishop," "Appeal on behalf of extremely rich people," "The man who finishes other people's sentences," "The walking tree of Dahomey," "Batsman of the Kalahari vs. Warwickshire," "BBC News"

Disc 15

Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl -- Recorded in 1981 at the Hollywood Bowl, this 77-minute "best of" sketch compilation is an absolute hoot. Those who grew up watching the Python's sketch show will get a huge kick out of watching the boys perform in front of a huge, happy, and very enthusiastic audience.

Sketches: "'Sit on my Face'," "Colin 'Bomber' Harris," "The Last Supper," "Silly Olympics," "Bruces' Philosoper's Song," "Silly Walks," "Two Camp Judges," "World Forum," "Crunchy Frog," "Nudge Nudge," "International Philosophy," "Four Yorkshiremen," "Argument," "Travel Agent," "Custard Pies," "Little Red Riding Hood," "Salvation Fuzz / Church Police," "The 'Lumberjack Song'"

Live at Aspen is an hour-long tribute / clip show from 1998. It features the five remaining Pythons (along with an urn full of Graham Chapman's ashes) as they chat, jabber, and reminisce in front of a packed Aspen house. Host Robert Klein keeps things moving along fine, and the fans will be happy at the inclusion of this solid little retrospective piece. Plus there's one brilliant gag here which I refuse to spoil.

Disc 16

20 Years of Python: Parrot Sketch Not Included is a 72-minute special from 1989 that features Steve Martin as host, a few late appearance by the Pythons, and a whole lot of the favorite Circus sketches. As compilations go, it's pretty solid, but you could just as easily check out the original goods on the episodes or onstage at the Hollywood Bowl. Steve Martin fans, however, will enjoy the wrap-around intro segments ... at least this one did.

Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus: German Episode 1 is a real curiosity for the devoted Pythonites. Recorded in German (and presented with English subtitles) for broadcast in ... Germany, obviously, it features "The Lumberjack Song" in a strange and foreign language, plus there's a few rarities to be found within.

Basically, if you own this set and the three "true" Python films (Grail, Brian, and The Meaning of Life), then you truly own the very best of this immortal troupe. (The sketch flick And Now for Something Completely Different is worthwhile, but fairly redundant at this point.) Oh, and be sure to grab a few of their old albums and movies like Time Bandits and A Fish Called Wanda. Then you'll be a true-blue Monty maniac.

The DVD

Video: For an low-budget skit show from late '60s England, the DVDs looks pretty darn good. The episodes are presented in their original Full Frame format, and you should have little complaint on the visual side of the equation.

Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 across the board; any aural glitches you might hear come straight from the source material.

Extras

Each disc is laden with extras like Meet the Chaps (info on the Pythons), Useless Tidbits (textual trivia), Pythonisms (slang and bizarre references), Gilliam's Attic (animation art galleries), A Trivial Quest (Python quizzes!), Gillianimations (bonus bits), and several random bits of extra footage. Keep in mind that all of the bonus bits come from one of two sources: Monty Python's Flying Circus or Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl. These little tidbits are just holdovers from earlier Python DVDs, and since this set offers ALL of the episodes in addition to "Hollywood Bowl," you needn't really bother with the supplemental skits.

Final Thoughts

Every single episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus in one box, capped off with a great concert flick and a handful of enjoyable tribute specials?? C'mon, comedy fans. If you don't already own this classic collection of comedy, feel free to spoil yourself the next time your income tax refund shows up. With this box set on your shelf, you'll always have something painfully hilarious to watch. Now surely that's worth 120 measly bucks.

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