The Personal Best of Monty Python’s Flying Circus
DVD Reviews | Sep 9th, 2006
Starring Fish Slappers, Dead Parrots, Murderers with Bananas, Upper Class Twits, A Lumberjack, Giant Animated Feet
Studio: A&E Home video
Buy on Amazon.com link
Do you feel like you don’t own enough Monty Python DVDs? Well now you can own another box set that features each Monty Python members’ Personal Best. These DVDs have been out since March and aired on channel Thirteen/PBS but now you can get the whole set, and at a cheaper price if you bought each one separately. So don’t be a silly git and get this one instead!
Each DVD set contains footage from each Python’s best work or favorite sketches of the TV series. Each member hand-picked what they liked and wanted to feature…well expect Graham Chapman, he’s deader than a parrot. Each disc has the Pythons discussing their work and introducing the sketches in different ways. For John Cleese, he’s in an old folk’s home and being interviewed, Terry Jones discusses how he’s the one who created Monty Python’s Flying Circus because he wanted to show off his talents, Terry Gilliam ends up being animated, Michael Palin introduces the sketches as the Fish Slapper. For the Graham Chapman disc, everybody talks about Graham and his wild lifestyle so it was really like a documentary on the man. Plus there were tons of sketches intertwined with that as well. Each disc is about an hour long and has a few extras as well.
The first disc I watched was the John Cleese’s Personal Best, since he’s my favorite Python. The beginning of the hour long show, says this is dedicated to John Cleese who died recently (which he hasn’t but that’s the joke). The first sketch was one of John’s favorite fairy tales, and it was kind of long. I never saw that sketch before, it’s with some princess liking different princes over and over again. It was a little bit weird if you ask me but funny at the same time. After that, you see John Cleese as a 96-year old grumpy old man, being interviewed by some hot blonde reporter. Cleese is very rude and just a little bit raunchy when answering questions. But that’s what’s funny about it, and at the end of the interview, he dies. I think people actually thought he died when they heard about this or saw it. All I got to say is, what are you guys, a bunch of morons? It’s freakin’ Monty Python, of course they are going to do outrageous things like killing themselves off. Throughout the disc, there are lots of great skits with Cleese and the other Python members. The one John Cleese sketch I always remembered from the series and And Now For Something Completely Different, was the banana attacker sketch. Not sure why that one sticks out in my mind but there’s something memorable about guys training with various types of fruit. Other sketches that I liked on this disc was when the Reporters were fighting for the microphone, Upper Class Twit of the Year, and the Fish Slapping scene. Strangely, the fish slapping scene ended up on every single Personal Best. But I can laugh at that skit every time it’s played. The bonus features for the Cleese include trivia, biography and a behind the scenes featurette at the “real John Cleese.”
Like I said for the Graham Chapman disc, its pretty much a documentary about the crazy and wild Graham Chapman. He passed away in the late 90s and is the only deceased Python member right now. All the remaining members discuss how wild he was and how he was always with different guys each night, but also how he was the most brilliant and gifted out of the bunch. He was perfect for the leading roles, and a terrific comedy writer. There are clips of Chapman’s best & funniest work, including him being interviewed by Cleese who keeps calling him different names, Chapman wrestling with himself, and Cleese’s silly walk. Some sketches don’t even have Graham in them, but perhaps he wrote those sketches? I would have thought the Silly Walk sketch would have been on the John Cleese disc. Plus there’s the Dead Parrot sketch on this one as well. If you plan on watching for specific sketches, you really have to watch all the discs to find the sketch you want to see. I mean, you should do that anyway.
Eric Idle’s show starts out with himself as a reporter, reporting on Eric Idle at the Hollywood Bowl. Then discusses how he was the most funny but not the nicest Python, and then you see him dressed up like his mother which just got a little strange. A lot of these Eric Idle clips were scenes from their Live shows at the Hollywood Bowl, and musical numbers like “Sit on My Face.” Eric Idle is a brilliant comedy song writer and did the majority of the songwriting. I once saw him perform all the Monty Python songs in Newark. It felt a little strange that no other Monty Python member were there but it was still cool to see him perform those songs. One sketch you might recognize from this collection is the game show featuring the Karl Marx, Che Guevara, Lenin and Mao Sa Tung. Other sketches include The Nudge Nudge guy, the Olympics with people that can’t swim & have no sense of direction. Plus you get the very silly International Philosophy game where you see all these philosophers trying to figure out how to play soccer. The reason why all these reporting and sporting events were on the Eric Idle disc is because he’s so good at play by play announcing and spoofing reporters. Extras include biography, trivia and Eric Idle’s second personal best.
Michael Palin and Trevor Jones’ disc are pretty much like the rest of the other ones. Each Python member introduces the disc in their unique way. Jones says that Flying Circus was created to showcase his personal talents. Michael Palin introduces the sketches as that guy who was the Fish Slapper, just really much older looking. The first sketch in the Terry Jones disc was the deadliest joke sketch, which is probably one of the more memorable Monty Python sketches. The thing about that sketch that I loved is Terry Jones’ character reaction to the joke. Just that spitting, stupid laugh cracks me up every time I watch that. Other sketches you can see on the Terry Jones disc is the Spanish Inquisition, and The Lumberjack sketch. I think Terry Jones’ is my least favorite Python. I just find the other ones a lot more funnier. The Michael Palin has a lot of good sketches on it like French guys talking about a robot sheep, a Hungarian who is having a hard time learning English, the come back to my place sketch, Blackmail and the guy with a radio up his nose. I think my favorite out of that bunch is the Come Back To My Place sketch because it’s so short and you never know where it was gonna go. it’s just a brilliant sketch because the setup is so simple.
I thought the best disc was the Terry Gilliam’s Personal Best disc. I think this might be the first to showcase Gilliam’s animation and nothing else. Gilliam’s cut & paste animation is a big influence on me and my artwork and I love doing the collage/montage style stuff. So you can imagine how much I particularly enjoyed watching this disc. They show a lot of his animations, including one my favorites, the Dancing Teeth guy. Not sure why dancing teeth is funny but it just is. His animation is so crude and rough but that’s why I like it and i’m sure everyone else does too. I would have done the same thing and took the easy way out and just cut everything out real quick. There’s also a nice featurette with Terry Gilliam where he explained his animation process and how long & tedious it was. Definitely check this one out if you loved the animation shorts between sketches.
To conclude this long messy review, The Personal Best of Monty Python is great to watch if you’ve seen all the episodes already and just want to watch some of the best sketches. Of course they don’t have every sketch you might want to see or even the full version of that sketch, but this is still worth buying. I liked all the introductions and interviews with the remaining Monty Python members and the extras were all right too. I’d still recommend getting the 16 ton Mega Set DVD collection of Monty Python’s Flying Circus but if you are a cheap bastard, then this might be something for you instead.
Behind the Scenes of John Cleese’s Personal Best
Terry Gilliam’s Featurette: A Retrospective of Python’s Animation
Personal Second-Best Featurettes from Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin
Six 15-Question, 15-Ton Megaquizzes
Python Troupe Biographies and Selected Credits
ENGLISH: Dolby Digital Stereo CC
Standard 1.33:1 Color
Favorite Scenes: Fish Slapping dance, Come Back to My Place, Dancing Teeth, International Philosophy, BlackMail
Running Time: 330 minutes