And Now for Something Completely Different (1971)

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Released 22-Jul-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:31)
Trailer-The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen (1:56)
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1971
Running Time 84:41
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Ian MacNaughton
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Graham Chapman
John Cleese
Eric Idle
Terry Jones
Michael Palin
Terry Gilliam
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music Douglas Gamley


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Lastly there was Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life, a comedy classic that might have missed the mark on a couple of occasions but where the inspired silliness of the bulls eyes ensured that it represents a fitting epitaph to the greatest comedy troupe of all time - Monty Python. Hilarious. Second lastly there was Monty Python At The Hollywood Bowl, a live experience that so far I have steadfastly been able to avoid. Third lastly was Life Of Brian, arguably for some the greatest comedy film of all time that not only was inspired stuff but in the process managed to p*** off nearly all the major religions of the Christian domain. Hysterically funny and the film John Cleese calls their masterpiece. Fourth lastly was the greatest comedy film of all time, the inspired work of genius that is Monty Python And The Holy Grail. No ifs, no buts, no maybes - the high point of Monty Python and of comedy in general. And now for something completely different...

    Of course, Monty Python rose to prominence on television through what may be the greatest comedy show ever seen on television - Monty Python's Flying Circus. Inspired, whacky, goofy, silly and irreverent sketch based comedy that even thirty odd years later remains more essential and more funny than most of the unmitigated tripe that passes for comedy on television today (cough, Friends, cough...). The success of the television series was such, at least in England, that it was almost inevitable that an attempt would be made to take the concept to the big screen. The only problem is of course how to make sketch based comedy work on the big screen. If you believe John Cleese (and let's face it given his history of general success, he is well worth listening to) you cannot and his greatest problems with the output in the feature films is the fact that sketch-based features are very difficult to do and rarely are successful. Well stuff that, if anyone was going to doe it Monty Python would!

    And so it was that someone insanely suggested (step forward Victor Lownes by all accounts) they make a movie to cash in on the American college circuit, as at the time it appeared unlikely that the programme would penetrate onto mainstream American television. Made basically between the first and second series of the television show, the film basically takes some of the very best (and in many ways now iconic) moments from those two series and recreates them for blasting onto the big screen. Of course, within a few years Monty Python's Flying Circus was a hit on American television anyway and the whole point of the film became a little moot.

    Still, for a reputed budget of £75,000, a pathetically small sum of money, what was created was a gem of a sketch film that even today manages to raise more than the odd laugh. Where it really succeeds though is in those near-iconic sketches such as the Dead Parrot sketch that just make this a superb entree into the whacky world of Monty Python. The film recouped its budget on initial release in the United Kingdom but did not initially succeed in the United States. That had to wait until it was re-released after the television series finally started making inroads in that market. Oh, are you still waiting for a plot synopsis? Sorry, but just how on earth do you expect a synopsis for a sketch film? There is no possible synopsis - this is just basically twenty eight classic comedy sketches stuck together to keep you laughing.

    In view of what was to follow from Monty Python, And Now For Something Completely Different really serves little more purpose nowadays than providing a superb introduction into the world of the most lunatic comedy troupe to ever walk the face of the planet. Well, even if that is "little more" than its purpose, it still is an essential purpose and the film as a result is an essential inclusion in any DVD collection. They went on and made at least two of the greatest comedy classics ever, with some arguing for a third to boot, out of five feature films. This is where it all began on the big screen. Sit back and enjoy again the superb lunacy of Monty Python.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    I have to confess to expecting a major disappointment with the transfer. I just felt that after the efforts with Monty Python And The Holy Grail and to a lesser extent Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life, the likelihood of this being a dog's breakfast was quite high. It is nice to be able to report that I was completely wrong in my expectations again. Sure it is by no means perfect, but given the age and lack of budget, this looks way better than it has any right to.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced. The theatrical aspect ratio was 1.85:1 so the transfer is pretty well accurate.

    Whilst it is not the sharpest transfer you will ever see, I was pleased by the fact that it certainly was not a diffuse mess. Aside from the odd lapse here and there in focus, this really is a more than acceptable transfer in terms of sharpness and detail. Shadow detail was a tad lacking on the odd occasion but it hardly matters in the overall scheme of things. There is a degree of light grain present throughout the transfer, although this is almost certainly a reflection of the source material. I was actually quite pleasantly surprised by how good the transfer did look - quite clear and nothing to really detract from the show at all.

    The Region 1 reviews are quite unanimous in their descriptions of the colours - accurate if a little muted. Funny, I thought they were pretty good, not vibrant but quite colourful where they needed to be. Muted was not a description that I would apply to the transfer at all, but certainly would note that the source material was not exactly a splash of riotous colour so don't expect it here. And for £75,000 you will not be expecting copious quantities of tonal depth and bright vividness now would you? More than acceptable and quite natural looking, this is not a transfer that you can really complain about. There is nothing approaching over saturation and colour bleed is non-existent. In an ideal world the blacks would be more intense and the vibrancy would have been better, but in an ideal world I would be rich and have Sandra Bullock fawning all over me... in other words, we don't live in an ideal world (although I do keep hoping).

    There did not seem to be any MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There is not much of a problem with film-to-video artefacts in the transfer either, and really the only issue is some minor shimmer here and there. There is a fair dollop of film artefacts however, but nothing that we would not have expected in a transfer of this age and certainly nothing that I would classify as even mildly annoying. There is a fair degree of film dirt to be seen, but again nothing that we would not expect.

    This is a single sided, single layered DVD so there is no layer change to contend with.

    There is just the single subtitle option on the DVD, being English For The Hearing Impaired. Thankfully it is very good with no complaints whatsoever from me.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is but the single English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack on the DVD, so not unsurprisingly it was the soundtrack I listened to. Mind you, you could try watching this without audio - it can be quite funny too.

    The dialogue comes up quite well in the transfer and it was usually easy to understand. There are no problems with audio sync in the transfer.

    The original music score comes from Douglas Gamley. Just as it is supposed to, it sounds like clichéd television music. Basically it does its job of providing the punch line as it is supposed to, so all-in-all a fairly decent effort.

    I suppose some might object to the lack of six channel surround sound but I am not one of them. There simply is no great need for six channel surround sound here as there is very little opportunity to use it. Aside from the explosions in the opening segment, I would have to say that there is not one sketch that would have been improved by six channel surround sound. Of course, there are a few places that would have benefited from slightly better fidelity in the original recording (Women In Bikinis anyone?) but what the heck can you expect for seventy five thousand quid? Overall, the sound is more than adequate, thankfully free from any major blemishes and on the whole more than acceptable. Just enjoy it, don't quibble about what we have not got.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

   Given the stellar release of Monty Python And The Holy Grail and the nearly stellar release of Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life, it is my sad duty to report that this is a very bereft package indeed. Okay, it's dirt cheap to buy but surely something better than this could have been concocted?

Menu

   A bit basic albeit rather colourful.

Filmographies - Cast and Crew

   Given that most of what they did was in Monty Python, you can be assured that these selected filmographies are hardly the most essential things you are ever going to see. The brief biographical details are nice but surely a couple of dozen pages for each of the troupe was not out of the question?

Theatrical Trailer (2:31)

   Presented in a Full Frame format, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with decent Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The good news is that it is a pretty decent trailer, although perhaps giving away one or two killer moments of the film. The bad news is that there are some film artefacts rather obviously floating around and it is prone to a bit of minor aliasing.

Trailer - The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen (1:56)

   Terry Gilliam's fantasy disaster if you want to listen to the critics. The connection to the feature is weak. I would have thought a trailer for Monty Python And The Holy Grail would have made more sense. Presented in a Full Frame format, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with decent enough, albeit slightly muddied, Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The trailer itself is a bit dark at times, so it loses a fair chunk in the detail department, and does feature some film artefacts. Basically quite good but it could have been a lot better.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The equivalent Region 1 release has been available for about four years already. It would make you wonder how many Monty Python fans don't have it. Still, for the record, the Region 4 release misses out on:

    There are of course the obligatory variances in language and subtitle options. The Region 1 release misses out on:

    Honestly, I cannot see any reason to prefer a Full Frame version of the film over a couple of trailers so I will call this one even - go for whichever is cheaper (and given that Big W have this for under $17 at the moment, that is probably the Region 4 version). Of course, others might prefer watching a Full Frame version of the film.

Summary

    And Now For Something Completely Different might not be something completely different to fans of Monty Python, but for those less familiar with the more lunatic fringe of filmmaking (and television comedy) this will certainly be something completely different. It might be over thirty years old but the comedy is still as silly, whacky, insane and plain sensational as ever and still raises more than a modest laugh. If you need to toss on a guaranteed smile raiser of an evening then just about anything they did would suffice but this captures the spirit of their television work far more than the feature films. At the price point, how on earth could you not add this to your collection?

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

Other Reviews NONE
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