Monty Python's Flying Circus
... this collection is really worth owning for the material that never quite registered in the popular consciousness. Sketches such as the Summarise Proust Competition, the misunderstanding over the Hungarian phrasebook and John Cleese's manically embittered architect with a grudge against the Freemasons are every bit as funny as the more familiar hits and, free of any associated baggage, they will startle and delight the younger viewer as much as Python must have startled and delighted their parents when first broadcast in the 1970s.
And Now for Something Completely Different
And Now for Something Completely Different, Monty Python's first feature, is a reworking of their best skits from the first two seasons of the TV series. Originally made for the US market (where the show had yet to be aired), it was shot on film outside the usual studio sets ("Nudge Nudge", for example, is set in a tavern filled with passers-by). The writing and performances are fine and the film is packed with some of their best bits: "How to Avoid Being Seen", " Hell's Grannies", "Blackmail", "The Lumberjack Song" and "The Upper Class Twit of the Year", among others. Many of the sketches have been shortened, however, and the loss of the overly bright video sheen (the film has a muddy, dull look to it) and the invigorating presence of a live audience leaves the film sluggish at times. They're still feeling out the possibilities of the feature length, which they conquered with their next movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974). --Sean Axmaker
Life of Brian
There is not a single joke, sight-gag or one-liner in Monty Python's Life of Brian that will not forever burn itself into the viewer's memory as being just as funny as it is possible to be, but--extraordinarily--almost every indestructibly hilarious scene also serves a dual purpose, making this one of the most consistently sustained film satires ever made.
Like all great satire, the Pythons not only attack and vilify their targets (the bigotry and hypocrisy of organised religion and politics) supremely well, they also propose an alternative: be an individual, think for yourself, don't be led by others. "You've all got to work it out for yourselves", cries Brian in a key moment. "Yes, we've all got to work it our for ourselves", the crowd reply en masse. Two thousand years later, in a world still blighted by religious zealots, Brian's is still a lone voice crying in the wilderness.
Aside from being a neat spoof on the Hollywood epic, it's also almost incidentally one of the most realistic on-screen depictions of the ancient world--instead of treating their characters as posturing historical stereotypes, the Pythons realised what no sword 'n' sandal epic ever has: that people are all the same, no matter what period of history they live in. People always have and always will bicker, lie, cheat, swear, conceal cowardice with bravado (like Reg, leader of the People's Front of Judea), abuse power (like Pontius Pilate), blindly follow the latest fads and giggle at silly things ("Biggus Dickus"). In the end, Life of Brian teaches us that the only way for a despairing individual to cope in a world of idiocy and hypocrisy is to always look on the bright side of life.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Could this be the funniest movie ever made? By any rational measure of comedy, this medieval romp from the Monty Python troupe certainly belongs on the short list of candidates. According to Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide, it's "recommended for fans only," but we say hogwash to that--you could be a complete newcomer to the Python phenomenon and still find this send-up of the Arthurian legend to be wet-your-pants hilarious.
It's basically a series of sketches woven together as King Arthur's quest for the Holy Grail, with Graham Chapman as the King, Terry Gilliam as his simpleton sidekick Patsy, and the rest of the Python gang filling out a variety of outrageous roles. The comedy highlights are too numerous to mention, but once you've seen Arthur's outrageously bloody encounter with the ominous Black Knight (John Cleese), you'll know that nothing's sacred in the Python school of comedy.
From holy hand grenades to killer bunnies to the absurdity of the three-headed knights who say "Ni--!," this is the kind of film that will strike you as fantastically funny or just plain silly, but why stop there? It's all over the map, and the pace lags a bit here and there, but for every throwaway gag the Pythons have invented, there's a bit of subtle business or grand-scale insanity that's utterly inspired. The sum of this madness is a movie that's beloved by anyone with a pulse and an irreverent sense of humour. If this movie doesn't make you laugh, you're almost certainly dead. --Jeff Shannon
The Meaning of Life
Perhaps only the collective brilliant minds of the Monty Python film and television troupe are up to the task of tackling a subject as weighty as the Meaning of Life. Sure, Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein, and their ilk have tried their hands at this puzzler, but only Python has attempted to do so within the commercial motion picture medium. Happily for us all, Monty Python's the Meaning of Life truly explains everything one conceivably needs to know about the perplexities of human existence, from the mysteries of Catholic doctrine to the miracle of reproduction to why one should avoid the salmon mousse to the critical importance of the machine that goes ping!
Using fish as a linking device (and what marvelous links those aquatic creatures make), The Meaning of Life is presented as a series of sketches: a musical production number about why seed is sacred; a look at dining in the afterlife; the quest for a missing fish (there they are again); a visit from Mr. Death; the cautionary tale of Mr. Creosote and his rather gluttonous appetite; an unflinching examination of the harsh realities of organ donation, and so on.
Sadly, this was the last original Python film, but it's a beaut. You'll laugh. You'll cry (probably because you're laughing so hard). You may even learn something about the Meaning of Life. Or at least about how fish fit into the grand scheme of things. --Jim Emerson
Everything a Python fan could ever want, jam-packed into one ludicrously giant, magnificent box set! This monolithic, vibrantly packaged box set contains everything from the masters of British comedy, including:
All the movies
Life of Brian Special Edition and Live at the Hollywood Bowl
A sampler of The Personal Bests
The complete Flying Circus TV series
An exclusive t-shirt *(Please note: Quotes and T-shirt colour may vary)
And a completely lifeless, inflatable parrot!