Like the musical compilation I had previously reviewed on this site (http://upcomingdiscs.com/2009/10/19/the-secret-policeman-rocks/), this DVD is another compilation of clips taken from the Secret Policeman’s Balls that were held for the benefit of Amnesty International. Here we have examples of comedy sketches performed by several Monty Python alumnus and other comedians such as Neil Innes, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and a pre-Mr.Bean Rowan Atkinson.
The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball is a film that already exists based on the original stage show, but here we see clips spanning from A Poke in the Eye (1976) to the final “Ball” to feature Python alums in 1989. The material is as strong as it ever was, such as legendary Python sketches “Dead Parrot” and “The Lumberjack Song” but the footage has not been restored for DVD quality. Depending on which stage show it was being taken from, the sound changes volume by itself, very noticeable flaws such as lines and scratches can be seen on the picture, and all of it is quite blurry. It is a shame that the quality of the picture is so poor because it distracts from some top-notch comedy. I was reminded of taping programs off of PBS and watching them, ad nauseum, until the tape itself was becoming worn down by over-playing. As fun as nostalgia can be, I don’t want my DVDs to appear like a VHS tape that has been watched once a day for three years straight, which is often what I got from this.
Quality of the footage aside, the sketches are cobbled together in no particular order, some even being split into several parts if they were longer to begin with, and trimmed down to their finest moments, which gives the compilation a very good pace that fans will appreciate as it never lets the fun die down.
Yorkshireman One: You were lucky. We lived for three months in a brown paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six o’clock in the morning, clean the bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down mill for fourteen hours a day week in-week out. When we got home, out Dad would thrash us to sleep with his belt!
1.33:1 Full Frame. I cannot expand much further than I already have on the disappointing quality of the picture. I can understand that the original footage has aged and may have not been handled with as great of care as other concert films (the often awkward side angles of the stage we see suggests that it was a very informal setup for the recording…many cameraman most likely forced to zoom in from the side of the theatre, away from any seats) but one still hopes that a little effort could see some sort of restoration be committed to it.
Yorkshireman Two:Luxury. We used to have to get out of the lake at three o’clock in the morning, clean the lake, eat a handful of hot gravel, go to work at the mill every day for tuppence a month, come home, and Dad would beat us around the head and neck with a broken bottle, if we were LUCKY!
Stereo of some sort. I have already touched on the fading in and out of some parts. With material this good and treatment of it being so bad I am lead to wonder whether it was a matter of it being ‘there was nothing they could do’ or ‘they was nothing they would do’
Yorkshireman Three: Well we had it tough. We used to have to get up out of the shoebox at twelve o’clock at night, and LICK the road clean with our tongues. We had half a handful of freezing cold gravel, worked twenty-four hours a day at the mill for fourpence every six years, and when we got home, our Dad would slice us in two with a bread knife.
None, which is a darn shame.
Clocking in at over two hours of length, this DVD does great service to British comedy fans. The sketches are trimmed to their greatest moments and we are offered over 40 pieces to observe. Fans will be forgiving of the bad picture and sound quality as most of them probably have it memorized already. I know I personally can do much of the Four Yorkshiremen off by heart.
Yorkshireman Four: Right. I had to get up in the morning at ten o’clock at night, half an hour before I went to bed, eat a lump of cold poison, work twenty-nine hours a day down mill, and pay mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our Dad would kill us, and dance about on our graves singing “Hallelujah.”
Yorkshireman One: But you try and tell the young people today that… and they won’t believe ya’.