I Told You I Was Ill: The Life and Legacy of Spike Milligan (2002)

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Released 4-Nov-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Director And Spike
Audio Commentary-Spike's Daughters
Seamless Branching-Screen Cues - Mini-Docs
Featurette-Spike's Home Movie Scrapbook
Featurette-Mini-Docs (6)
DVD-ROM Extras-The Spoon Show Game
Featurette-The Spike Team: Our Part In His Uprising
DVD Credits
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 87:16
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Dominic Brigstocke
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring John Sergeant
Kathy Burke
Harry Enfield
Eddie Izzard
Terry Jones
Paul Merton
Michael Palin
Eric Sykes
Stephen Tompkinson
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Varies Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    On the February 27, 2002, the world lost one of its most influential comedians. Terence Alan Milligan, better known to the world as Spike, passed on leaving a legacy of laughter and an impact on British comedy like no-one before or since. His influence on a whole new generation of comedians, such as the Monty Python team, changed the path of comedy forever.

    Spike Milligan first came to fame when he teamed up with Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Michael Bentine to form the highly esteemed Goon Show (cue orchestra crash). For 10 years from 1951 to 1960 the Goons ruled radio with a weekly broadcast of surreal and silly humour that took comedy in a completely new direction and became the first incarnation of "alternative" comedy. Although the success of the Goons was the result of the brilliance of all the cast, it was Spike who wrote the majority of the scripts.

    But Spike was more than just a Goon. He made a number of TV comedy series (the Q series) and was a prolific author, publishing some 83 books from his war memoirs to children's books, and writing reams of poetry; both comedic and serious - often both at once.

    Being a fan of the Goon Show - and Spike - I jumped at the chance to review this disc, keen to laugh, groan and chortle my way through a collection of Spike's humour. I was surprised, therefore, to find very little of Spike's comedy on this disc. Instead what I sat through was an engrossing look at the real Spike rather than just Spike the comedian.

    Hosted mainly by his daughter Jane, and featuring his family, friends and colleagues, this film shows us the private side of Spike. His comedy work is mentioned of course, because that was a large part of Spike, but we also see Spike the family man and loving father, Spike the social and environmental activist, Spike the author and Spike the Manic Depressive who struggled with his mental illness for most of his life.

    The film takes its name from the epitaph Spike wanted (and got) engraved on his tombstone. It is a wonderful tribute to a complex man who brought laughter to the world as he fought demons within. Apparently there were many press stories in the UK following Spike's death that were less than flattering, and this is what prompted his family to make this documentary. They wanted to squash the rumours and show the world the real Spike. I think they have achieved this. Here is an honest account of the man - he was no saint and clearly could be difficult to live with, but it is also apparent that he was passionate, caring and far more than a Goon.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced, the transfer is pillar-boxed to 1.33:1 for most of the archival and home film footage.

    The video quality is variable on this disc. Much of the material is either archival or is sourced from Spike's home movies, and as such it suffers from a host of film artefacts from dust to scratches to fading, but such is the nature of this type of material that this is not a criticism, merely a statement of fact. The parts of the film that were filmed recently are of good quality, albeit they appear to have been shot on video and as such are a little soft on occasion.

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

Audio

    Being a documentary format, there is not too much asked of the audio and Dolby Digital 2.0 is the only sound offering. It is a good, clear track and is more than adequate for the style of film.

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

Extras

Menu

    An animated menu is provided in a truly Milligan-esque style. A midden appears on stage (with a different entrance each time you play the disc) and items in the midden are selected with a shovel to move to the different options. To make it even more interesting, there are no labels to tell what each item actually directs you to. Fortunately there is an "easy find" option that spins the midden around to reveal a normal menu.

Audio Commentary - Director and Spike

    Director Cathy Henkel talks about the making of the film, how they found some of the archival footage and shares a number of anecdotes. Jonathan Atherton provides the voice for the Spike commentary. I guess the idea was to have the commentary as if Spike were present to provide his views. Unfortunately, I didn't think it worked well. The voice used was a mimic of Spike's Eccles character, rather than his own, and I just felt the comments were a little flat. I'm sure it was intended as a tribute to Spike, but the commentary would have been better without it in my opinion.

Audio Commentary - Spike's Daughters

    Spike's daughters discuss the film as they watch it. The feeling is that you are eavesdropping on them during a private viewing as they reminisce about their father as scenes bring back memories. There are a lot of silences and the commentary only lasts for the first 20 minutes or so of the film.

Seamless Branching - Screen Cues

    This option places a little caricature of Spike at various places in the film to let you branch seamlessly into the mini-doc (see below) that relates to that point in the film.

Featurette - Mini-Docs

    A series of six mini-documentaries covering various aspects of Spike's life. They are:

    Spike And The Godfather of Alternative Comedy (4:04) - A number of comedians, such as Michael Palin and Joanna Lumley, discuss Spike's influence on them and on comedy in general.
    Spike And Monty Python (3:45) - Michael Palin talks about Spike's influence on the Python team and Spike's cameo in Life Of Brian.
    Spike The Soldier (7:12) - A wartime friend of Spike's talks about their military service together during World War II
    Spike The Activist (4:26) - A look at Spike's passion for the environment and conservation.
    The Milligans Of Sligo (4:02) - A look at Spike's Irish heritage and the town of Sligo, where Spike's father was born, as his daughter Jane goes back to discover her father's roots.
    The Daffodil Story (2:41) - A long time friend of Spike's relates a story involving herself, Spike, a field of daffodils and a policeman.

Featurette - Spike's Home Movie Scrapbook (9:30)

    A series of Spike's home movies.

Featurette - The Spike Team: Our Part In His Uprising (16:00)

    A look behind the scenes at the film. The production team talk about their roles in the film's production.

DVD Credits

     A jump straight to the credits of the Spike Team featurette.

DVD-ROM Extras - The Spoon Show Game

    A PC or Mac game. The program allows you to make your own Milligan nonsense by linking together various sound clips, music and noises of Spike's.

R4 vs R1

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

    I couldn't locate any other version, so I guess the Region 4 disc is your only option.

Summary

    There is some of Spike's comedy scattered throughout this disc, including his famous reference to Prince Charles as "a grovelling little b******" on national TV, but this is not the disc to discover the comedic genius of Spike. Rather, it is a wonderful insight into Spike's life and influences. If you know and love Spike's work, you will enjoy this DVD. If not, this disc may inspire you to find out more about the man dubbed the godfather of alternative comedy, track down some Goon CDs, read his war memoirs and keep his legacy alive. Ying tong iddle i po!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Glen Randall (If you're really bored, you can read my bio)
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-1200Y, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TH-42PV500A 42" HD Plasma. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596
SpeakersRichter Wizard fronts, Richter Lynx centre, Richter Hydra rears, Velodyne CT-100 sub-woofer

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