And Now for Something Completely Different (1971) was Monty Python’s first theatrical release, and consists of remounted, often more elaborately staged versions of many of their most beloved TV skits. You want your Dead Parrot, it’s here. So is the Lumberjack Song, How Not to Be Seen, and so on. As a one-stop intro to Python, it’s hard to beat.
Funny as the above film is, it is eclipsed in most people’s hearts by Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974), easily the most…popular of the Python films. Silly to its bone marrow, this is also, ironically, the best version of the Arthurian myths yet committed to film. The quest for the Holy Grail becomes a supremely silly (but very intelligently so) concoction of musical numbers, cartoon interludes, ridiculous violence, postmodern parody, and gritty medieval settings.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989) is not a Python film, but it IS directed by Python alumnus Terry Gilliam, and features Eric Idle in a supporting role as the fastest man in the world. John Neville is the Baron of the title, spinning wild tales of his even wilder adventures to the moon and elsewhere, but are his stories perhaps true after all? Like so much of Gilliam’s work, the structure is undisciplined, but the imagination is unbridled.
Completely Different’s sound is mono, clean, if a little bit thin. Munchausen has a solid 2.0 track with plenty of active surround elements and no distortion. Holy Grail gets the deluxe treatment, with both the original mono and a new 5.1 mix. This last has fine-sounding music, some decent environmental effects, and has no inappropriate wraparound sound.
Generally speaking, a good job on all counts, but not perfect. The colours are generally rich, and the prints are in decent shape, though there are instances of grain and dirt in all three cases. Munchausen’s flesh tones are a bit washed out, and Holy Grail on a 16×9 screen has noticeable cropping at the edges. Completely Different’s aspect ratio is 1.66:1 anamorphic, while the other two are 1.85:1 anamorphic.
Munchausen offers the theatrical trailer and bios/filmographies for Gilliam and Ilde. Completely Different has very brief bios and filmogrphies for the troupe and the director (Ian MacNaughton). Both these discs have basic menus.
Holy Grail has plenty of extras, but also an oddity: this is a one-disc version of the two-disc special edition, so when you select the “Special Features” option, you are invited to insert a non-existent second disc. There is still enough to keep one occupied, however. There are two commentary tracks, one by co-directors Gilliam and Terry Jones, and the other by John Cleese, Michael Palin and Eric Idle. Both tracks are fine recollections of the making of the film, and also reveal just how smart these characters are. Said intelligence extends to the deeply silly (there’s that word again) but very impressive subtitle option, which consists entirely of dialogue from Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part II, all of which more or less does match the spoken dialogue. Who had this much time on their hands to put that feature together? One can also have the screenplay appear on the screen in conjunction with the appropriate action and dialogue. Selecting the “Killer Rabbit” option triggers an occasional white rabbit icon. Select it to see either production sketches (here we are invited “into the mind of Terry Gilliam”) or receipts for the props and other financial costs (“the financial secrets of the accountants’ version”). The “Hard of Hearing” option has the menu yelled out. Said menu has an animated and scored main screen (plus very long intro and transitions). The secondary screens are scored, and will scold you if you wait too long to make a selection.
If you don’t get a laugh from something in this collection, check your vital signs.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentaries
- Screenplay Subtitles
- Shakespeare Subtitles
- Killer Rabbit Viewing Option
- Theatrical Trailer
- Filmographies and Biographies