Eric Idle, Kohn Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and of course Graham Chapman formed Britain’s most famed comedy troupe. The exploits of Monty Python’s Flying Circus were truly “something entirely different”. Their off the wall antics have written an entire chapter in the story of pop culture. There certainly is not near enough space here for me to give the group its just due. So I won’t even try. If you’ve never heard of them, then stop reading, crawl back into the rabbit hole you’ve been living …n, and open a fresh can of Spam. For the rest of you who just want to know if this particular DVD is worth picking up, the answer, in short, is yes.
This disc is part of a six part series that covers each member of the Monty Python troupe. The series originally aired as part of a PBS tribute. This DVD begins as a fitting tribute to Graham Chapman who passed away in 1989. The remaining five Python members get serious, for the most part, and offer their own fond memories of their fallen comrade. The interviews are insightful and refreshingly quite frank. They not only address the man’s comedic genius but his personal demons as well. Chapman struggled with alcoholism and the ridicule of a flamboyant homosexual lifestyle. Many of Chapman’s and certainly Monty Python’s best moments are here. The task is not an easy one. They have produced hundreds of hours of comedy, and selecting an hour of the best is hardly a simple mission. The choices are very nice ones indeed. Some of my own favorites included in this set are the self-wrestling match and Oscar and His Majesty. More than just a collection of skits, this DVD provides wonderful insight into Chapman, the man. A special treat is a few behind the scenes moments from such great works as “Life of Brian”.
Personal Best is all full frame 1.33:1 original broadcast ratio. The quality of the picture is not such an easy thing to explain. The clips are from a wide range of years and show just as wide a variety in their condition. Most of this stuff is fair, but some clips look more like third generation video tape copies. Their inclusion, however, is far more satisfying than a collection of superior video quality clips would have been. Skits were fortunately not selected by that standard. The interview clips are, naturally, in the best shape. Colors are bright and near reference there.
This stuff is all dialogue, and the Dolby Digital 2.0 track delivers the goods. The audience applause and laughter are often a bit distorted, but you’ll have no trouble at all in providing your own laugh track. Again, the clips vary in the condition of the audio but this variance is far less noticeable in the sound.
Graham Chapman’s Second Best is about 8 minutes and includes 2 shorts not found on the PBS special. The first is a group of British Naval officers adrift at sea and growing hungry. The second is a Robin Hood send-up.A text biography is offered along with a silly quiz that tests your memory from the disc’s skits. I got 12 out of 15.
It’s been a long time since these funny chaps combined to create anything new. They have each achieved moderate success in their own projects through the years. They were never apart what they were together. This DVD demonstrates that with the death of Chapman such a united effort could never be the same. It’s like the rumors of reuniting the Beatles after Lennon was shot. It just can’t, and perhaps shouldn’t, be done. There is so much Python material out there to create these 6 DVD’s. Unlike many shows that have resorted to theme collections once the season sets are finished, this DVD really does offer up plenty of justification to own. The box calls Chapman “the most prolific corpse since Elvis”. Sure, Elvis might have more sightings, but “Does he have his own hat?”
Special Features List
- Graham Chapman’s Personal Second Best
- Graham Chapman 15-Ton Megaquiz
- Biography and Selected Credits