Ripping Yarns [DVD] 
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Three episodes from the 1970s BBC comedy series, written by Monty Python's Michael Palin. 'Tomkinson's Schooldays' is a tale of stiff upper-lips in the face of schoolroom bullying. 'Escape from Stalag Luft 112B' spoofs every prison camp movie ever made. Whilst 'Golden Gordon' features the trials of a footballing fanatic desperate to revive the fortunes of his local team.
After Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969-74), and well before going Around the World in 80 Days (1989), Pole to Pole (1992) or even Full Circle (1997), Michael Palin starred in Ripping Yarns, co-written with Terry Jones. As the title suggests, these were spoofs, affectionate pastiche-come-homage Boy's Own-type adventures. Each was an individual short film, less bizarre than the Flying Circus, not so consistently hilarious as fellow ex-Python John Cleese's Fawlty Towers, but inventively surreal with a daffy, gloriously English eccentricity. "Tomkinson's Schooldays" was the 45-minute pilot (originally shown as a one-off programme in 1976) and the funniest of the three tales here. A parody of Tom Brown's Schooldays, the humour comes from the violence, cruelty and insane rules of Graybridge public school in which the unfortunate Tomkinson is incarcerated. Ian Ogilvy is a fine School Bully, terrifying even Terry Jones' useless headmaster. "Escape from Stalag Luft 112B" is a P.O.W. movie send-up (from the first series), and "Golden Gordon" (from Series 2) celebrates the man who won't give-up on an underdog northern football team. In 1983 Palin made The Missionary, essentially a feature-film Ripping Yarn. --Gary S. Dalkin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Now BBC Worldwide have put everything right and released all nine episodes on two DVDs, with a commentary track from Mike Palin and Terry Jones clearly enjoying themselves as they watch the episodes for the first time in 25 years.
At long last we can see, for example, 'Murder at Moorstones Manor'. I'd only seen it twice before -- both occasions on terrestrial BBC in the late 1970s -- and, like so much vintage comedy, today it's not quite as good as I remember it. But it's still great. Palin always enjoyed playing the obsessive -- whether the car enthusiast in 'Moorstones' or the rain-gauge fan in 'Eric Olthwaite'.
The pamphlet that comes with the DVD package is very informative detailing, for example, the audience figures for both the initial broadcast and the repeat. Amazingly, the best episode ('Tomkinson's Schooldays') had the smallest viewing figures. But that was the price it paid for being the first episode in a series that the 1970s BBC, with zero marketing awareness, failed to advertise.
The commentary track is interesting, although switching it on means that you miss much of the well-chosen dialogue. Michael is very well informed about all the personnel involved with each episode and what they have subsequently achieved, but Terry's knowledge of the series is now so minimal that you wonder whether he ever worked on the project! Personally it's fascinating for me to hear Mike talking about his other projects (e.g.Read more ›
Like its much better known brother "Fawlty Towers", "Ripping Yarns" is a product of the Monty Python era and consists of nine stories penned by Michael Palin and Terry Jones and originally transmitted in the late Seventies. Palin himself stars as the central character in all of them - in fact, in some of them he plays several characters - and the series showcases his abilities as a comedy actor as well as demonstrating the brilliance of his and Jones' writing.
The yarns are affectionate spoofs of various aspects of British life in the early decades of the twentieth century, ranging from the rarefied atmosphere of Graybridge public school and its elaborate range of disciplinary measures ("Tomkinson's Schooldays") to the grimness of the Thirties' Depression where Yorkshire lad Eric Olthwaite sprang to national fame in the most unlikely of circumstances.
It is the characters we meet along the way who make the yarns so memorable: Eric Olthwaite, the amazing Uncle Jack from "The Curse of the Claw" and his incredible hobby (true ingenuity here from Palin and Jones!), the crusty old father in "Murder at Moorstones Manor".
Like "Fawlty Towers", this is comedy that has never dated, and its relative lack of familiarity should mean it retains most of its impact of old even amongst those who do remember the programme. Anyone who appreciates this brand of comedy and has never seen the yarns before is in for a rare treat!
If only every olf favourite series got this amount of attention lavished upon it, but I'm just thankful that the BBC have done such a fine job on this release. Excellent.
The series grew out of a one-off BBC programme called Tomkinson's Schooldays, loosely inspired by Tom Brown's Schooldays. Palin and Jones both wrote and starred in multiple roles with Palin in all 9 episodes, whilst Jones only appeared in four.
The first series opened with perhaps the best story, Tomkinson's Schooldays which is followed by The Testing of Eric Olthwaite, Escape from Stalag Luft 112B, Murder at Moorstones Manor, Across the Andes by Frog and The Curse of the Claw.
Series 2 only saw three episodes; Whinfrey's Last Case, Golden Gordon (look out for John Cleese's fleeting cameo appearance) and the final episode Roger of the Raj.
This was BBC comedy drama at its best and it promoted Michael Palin as a star in his own right. I can not recommend this highly enough.
I hope this review has been helpful.
The idea was prompted by an old Ripping Yarns annual that Michael Palin had given to Terry Jones as a gift. The episodes are all Pythonesque with many great moments in nearly all the episodes. John Cleese makes a memorable, but brief, cameo role appearance in "Golden Gordon" which is amongst the best episodes.
There are some great extras on the DVD. Perhaps best of all you can watch the episodes without the laughter track. There are commentaries from Michael Palin and Terry Jones as well as a documentary made in 1982 and an additional 1973 comedy starring Warren Mitchell written by MP and TJ.
Very funny and well worth watching over and over.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not as funny as I seemed to remember. The odd episode is worth a watch, but overall, the humour is dated.Published 1 month ago by Pam
For a start it is excellent to see the episodes again I used to keep checking for the show on sky but very rarely would I come across an episode so to get the entire series on dvd... Read morePublished 1 month ago by marc7419
Post-Python story-telling from Palin and Jones; some of them are quite memorable, but by the end of the series the stories are a little thin. Read morePublished 3 months ago by TC in 08
This set of 9 stories starts moderately well with "Tompkinson's Schooldays", although even here I feel the concept that public school life consists of meaningless farcical... Read morePublished 4 months ago by David H. Bebbington
Re-visiting serial of my youth!.....great to re-kindle the comedy of old, sometimes better than the new!Published 4 months ago by widecombepostie