In my teen and preteen years (the early 1970's and on), I was an avid anglophile. Having discovered the anarchic comedy of Monty Python and the fun SF of Doctor Who at about the same time, I soon searched out other British TV and radio shows such as the Goodies and the Goon Show, and after seeing the film Bedazzled, became fans of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. I was also aghast when I discovered that much of this classic comedy team's work had been erased by the BBC, like many episodes of Doctor Who. Most, but not all. In 1990, the BBC managed to piece together six 'episodes' from remaining footage of their show Not Only... But Also, and this has now been released on DVD in region one as The Best of... The Rest of... Not Only... But Also... (For more background on the show and its origins, refer to Paul Mavis' informative review of this same DVD here.) This is a hilarious collection of skits that illustrate just how ahead of their time this comedy duo was and will also make viewers lament that there's not more available.
Not Only... But Also... is a skit comedy show where Cook and Moore play just about all of the characters. Like Monty Python that would come later, their comedy is irreverent and maniacal. In fact many of the sketches that are preformed seemed to inspire Python's work. One such bit involved parody of a typical boring TV talk show where the guest is Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling, who the interviewer accidentally confuses with Sir Arthur Greeb-Streebling, a man who spent most of his life teaching ravens to fly underwater. Or, more accurately, attempting to teach ravens to fly underwater because as Sir Arthur freely admits, it's well nigh impossible.
The program also has its share of parodies, one of the funniest being a send up of just about all of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's Supermarionation shows; Superthunderstingcar. With Cook and Moore dressing up as marionettes and bobbing around the stage in that strange way Anderson's dolls did, both the look and feel of the show was spot-on. The absurd dialog mimicked the children's shows wonderfully too. If you've never seen an episode of Supercar, Stingray, or Thunderbirds this skit will probably leave you smiling mildly to yourself, but fans of the old shows will be rolling on the floor like I was.
The absolute best skits involve two lower class men, Dud and Pete. They'll meet in a zoo or museum and discuss the exhibits. In the classic style of Laurel and Hardy, one is stupid (Dud), and the other is an even stupider blowhard, but doesn't know it (Pete). In one case Pete tells Dud that geckos have such short lives because they have to eat flies. "God created it, like he did everything else in his almighty wisdom, and all the animals have to eat each other to keep the population down. And the gecko got lumbered with flies. It's all right when it's born, its mother brings it up some flies all mashed up, daintily garnished with a daisy on top of it, so it can't tell what it's eating. But as soon as it learns to speak, Dud, and communicate, it says to its mother, 'Excuse me. What's this I'm eating?' And she has to reply, 'Flies.' Well she sugars the pill a bit by saying, 'Flies, darling, they're good for you.' But that's why the gecko doesn't live very long, it can't bear eating the stuff."
In another hilarious skit, which would never have made it on the air in the US, Dud and Pete die and go to heaven. As Pete puts it, looking at the white Roman columns and gossamer curtains, "Bloody 'ell. It's very vulgar isn't it? It's more like Liberace's bedroom than what I thought it would be like." Later they both decide that they barely made it into heaven. "I think this is why we've been put in this particular bit of heaven. This is obviously not the best bit of heaven. A child can see that. We've been shoved in the suburbs. We're miles from the centre."
During a lot of the skits it's obvious that Peter Cook is trying to crack up Dudley. He'll throw in an ad-libbed like that totally throws Moore off. In one routine Dudley is telling how he went home one night and found a naked woman in his bed (Jane Russell no less!) He describes how he got into bed and that it was unusually warm, and then "I feel a hand on my cheek." To which Cook replies "Which cheek was that Dud?" It takes a minute for Dudley to retain his composure and he finally manages to answer "upper left."
There are several musical interludes, usually two per half hour show. About half of these feature Dudley Moore and his jazz trio. They were fine for what the do, but they play light jazz which I really dislike. Other musical guests sing light jazz torch songs, which don't do much for me either. The one guest that was interesting was Goldie and the Gingerbreads, an obscure rock band that has the distinction of being the first all-girl rock group to be signed to a major label.
They also put a poem to music by a "young poet" who appears in the pantomimed sketch that acts out his work as it is being read aloud. The poet is none other than John Lennon, and his appearance is worth the purchase price for Beatles fans.
Note: This review was done from a test pressing and may not reflect the quality of the final product. If I get a copy of the retail disc, I'll update this review.
All of these shows have been cleaned up by the BBC, and the audio fares pretty well. The accents and funny voices are occasionally hard to understand, but that's a cultural difference rather than a flaw with the DVD. Luckily there are subtitles for those infrequent times when it's hard to understand just what Moore and Cook are saying. The audio is surprisingly clear for a show this old, and though the range is rather limited due to the technology of the time the show sounds very good.
The full frame image also looks very good for its age. The quality does vary from skit to skit, but overall the black and white picture has good detail and nice contrast. The few color segments don't come across quite so well, with the colors being a bit muted and with some bleeding present. There are some spots and print damage, but this is never distracting.
Also included on this disc is a half hour biography of the pair, Success Story: Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. This 1974 BBC production has clips from their skits and Broadway play as well as interviews with the men themselves. It's entertaining and informative and well worth checking out.
Outrageously funny, this disc is a must-own for fans of absurd and surrealistic
comedy. I laughed more times watching this DVD than I do during most
feature films. It's only too bad that there's not more of Cook and
Moore's early comedy still around. Don't miss this one. Highly