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Monty Python's Flying Circus - Michael Palin's Personal Best
Like just about anyone with half a working brain and a twisted sense of humor, I simply adore the Monty Python gang. From their Flying Circus series to their many CDs to movies like Life of Brian, Holy Grail, and The Meaning of Life, these guys blazed an amazingly consistent and influential trail of truly outlandish comedy material.
Although I couldn't tell the six Pythons apart when I was just a geeky little teen, I'm now more than familiar with each of the guys' rather distinct signatures. Cleese was the reedy leader, Chapman the doddering aristocrat, Idle the singing loon, Jones the frequently feminine, Gilliam the animator...
Damn -- who'd I leave out?
Oh yeah, it's Michael Palin, the amiable everyman of the Python parade, and (no lie) my very favorite member of the immortal comedy troupe. True, every member of the silly sextet brought their own unique gifts to the party, but Mr. Palin is the one I always saw as consistently underappreciated, quietly intelligent, and effortlessly lovable.
So it was much ado about something completely different when I saw that A&E Home Video had found an all-new way to squeeze a few extra pennies out of the Python faithful. If you already own the massive 14-discer that contains literally all of the Flying Circus episodes, well, then you have literally no need for Michael Palin's Personal Best -- but if, like me, you're just a little too broke to drop the coin on that all-encompassing package, then you could certainly do worse than to drop 15 smackers on this release. (Eric Idle's Personal Best is available separately, and I assume it's only a matter of months before we get the other four releases.)
Watch it all as one 56-minute block, or opt to pick through your own favorites via the scene access menu, but either way you're getting the following skits:
The It's Man
Dirty Hungarian Phrase-book
A Duck, a Cat and a Lizard (discussion)
Come Back to My Place
Johan Gambolputty de von Ausfernsch-plendensch ... Von Hauptkopf of Ulm*
The Chemist Sketch
The Piranha Brothers (Ethel the Frog)
The Semaphore Version of "Wuthering Heights"
Man With a Tape Recorder Up His Nose
Leaving the Army
Man With a Tape Recorder Up His Brother's Nose
Scotsman on a Horse
Post Box Ceremony
Mr. Palin shows up to introduce his collection in typically silly fashion, and there are, of course, frequent interstitials employed to bridge the individual skits. It's basically an hour-long version of Flying Circus, only with a sharp focus on Michael Palin's finest moments. And while I still can't wait to spoil myself by purchasing the full Circus set, it's pretty cool to get these mini-releases. Because let's face it: an hour of Monty Python is better than an hour without Monty Python.
Video: The bits are presented in their original fullscreen format, and picture quality is pretty darn solid, all things considered. Some of the old Circus material certainly shows its age, but you'll have no problem witnessing all the lunacy.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 all the way. No problems here.
Extras: There's a 10-minute block of bonus sketches called Michael Palin's Personal Second Best, a 15-question Trivia Quiz, and a text-based Michael Palin biography. Plus some colorful menu screens inspired by Terry Gilliam's trademark animations.
You hardcore Python geeks who already own the full series need not worry about missing anything new here. But if you're just starting out on the Python trail, you could do a heck of a lot worse than to get your fingers on these nifty little single-disc releases. And once you're done giggling through Michael Palin's Personal Best, be sure to watch Terry Gilliam's Brazil for a shocking indication of how versatile Mr. Palin can be.