Recently released on HD DVD, this film is the last of the films from the famous British comedy band Monty Python. Originally released in 1983, this is by far Python’s darkest film, filled with violence and dark humor, seemingly tailored to offend everyone. I did not care for the part in the restaurant with the extremely obese man, so there we are.
The film consists of a series of short sketches about various aspects of the “Meaning of Life” or at least an observation of the quirky aspects of life, such as …he delightful part in which John Cleese plays a sex educator or a very “British” colonel during the 2nd Zulu War near the end of the 19th century. The film actually begins with a short prelude film entitled “The Crimson Permanent Assurance”. What little plot there is seems to involve a group of oppressed accountants rising up against their corporate masters and becoming pirates, using their building as a pirate vessel none the less. It is more amusing in execution than on paper, I especially liked later on when the accountant shouts: “It’s the Crimson Permanent Assurance!!” and then something rather unexpected happens to address the presence of the supporting feature involving itself in the feature presentation.
The actual film is told in 6 or so rather unrelated parts centering somewhat around the meaning of life along with satirization of globalization, the Catholic Church, the military, the birth process and suchlike. The film also contains a number of musical numbers, most notably “Every Sperm is Sacred” and “The Meaning of Life.” Python is definitely very talented with musical numbers and their choreography is equally impressive. All of the musical numbers were fun and definitely cracked a smile upon my face.
This film can be recommended wholeheartedly to any Python fan who for some reason have not yet seen it. Equally fans of dry humor and satire are also likely to enjoy it. I don’t imagine the common folk who enjoy slapstick humor will understand or even find the humor amusing here, so this one is only for those who can appreciate a time when humor was actually, well, true humor and not bodily humor. Here’s hoping for the future release of Life of Brian in HD.
Presented in a 1080p, VC-1 Encoded, 1:85:1 widescreen aspect ratio, The Meaning of Life presents the type of image that is far better than the SD release, but its that impressive.
Color usage was decent enough, but most looked washed out and lacked any real spark or quality. This may be because the film is 24 years old, but older films can look good (WB’s The Searchers is a fine example). Detail was another missed area here as nothing really sparked or shined in a pristine manner. All in all, this transfer is the exact type of transfer that could have looked really good, but instead ended up looking rather poor.
Arriving with the standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio track, The Meaning of Life marks a slight improvement over the SD counterpart.
Dialogue was fairly intelligible, never really becoming muttered or hard to hear. The biggest aspect of this film, because it’s a musical, is the film’s soundtrack. All of the film’s musical sequences translated fine and were still enjoyable to hear. Surround usage was surprisingly active, particularly the bass during the explosions. All in all, this was a decent upgrade over the SD counterpart.
- Eric Idle Introduction: Eric Idle offers us a brief introduction before the beginning of the film.
- Audio Commentary with Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam: Here Jones and Gilliam sit down and offer some comments on the film, speaking on the subject and the production. Most of the time they spend reminding of what the point of the film was and how much fun it was shooting the film.
- Soundtrack for the Lonely: Here’s another commentary, this one more for those who don’t find Jones or Gilliam interesting.
- Making of: This 49 minute making of was informative and excellent, quite possibly the best feature available here. All of the members of Monty Python are interviewed here with John Cleese mentioning he isn’t that pleased with the film anymore. This documentary is well worth your time, regardless if you loved or were mixed on the film.
- Educational Tips: In 6 minutes, we get a bunch of educational skits done by John Cleese, Eric Idle, and Michael Palin.
- Un Film de John Cleese:This basically is seeing what the film would’ve been like if John Cleese wrote, directed, produced and basically did everything for the film.
- Virtual Reunion: Accompanied by a blue screen, the five members of Monty Python are reunited.
- What Fish Think: The film’s now famous fish swims by saying whatever’s on his mind.
- Remastering a Masterpiece: This was a spoof documentary narrated by Michael Palin. We get a few interviews from Terry Jones, but the whole documentary felt kind of flat.
- Song and Dance: Two songs, “Every Sperm is Sacred,” and “Christmas in Heaven” are given their spotlight.
- Songs Unsung: Here we get alternate versions of the film’s final songs.
- Promotional Material: If anyone needs to know how to sell the film, here we find out the best tactics.
- Deleted Scenes: Here we get 18 minutes of deleted scenes with a few comments by Terry Jones. Most are funny, but some scenes obviously were wisely deleted.
I’m a bit mixed on this one folks. As much as I enjoyed this film, the slightly improved video and audio don’t really add up to a stellar HD DVD release. Even though all the SD extra’s are ported over, a few new extra’s would have been nice. I’m going to only recommend that the biggest fans purchase this one. The rest of you, if interested, will be pleased with a rental.
Special Features List
- Eric Idle Introduction
- Audio Commentary with Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam
- Soundtrack for the Lonely
- Making of
- Educational Tips
- Un Film de John Cleese
- Virtual Reunion
- What Fish Think
- Remastering a Masterpiece
- Song and Dance
- Songs Unsung
- Promotional Material
- Deleted Scenes