Secret Policeman's The Big Three-0, The (Disc 7) (1991)

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Released 19-Mar-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Trailer-What's Up, Tiger Lily?; The Natural History Of The Chicken
Trailer-Malcolm; The Secret Policeman's Balls
Featurette-Amnesty International
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1991
Running Time 98:06
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By David Hillier

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Click
RPI $29.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

First, a little background info on the Secret Policeman's Ball concept. The idea was initially formulated in 1976 by Peter Kluff and John Cleese to raise money for Amnesty International. Using comedy to raise money for such a serious venture as Amnesty International was unheard of - I guess that is why it has performed (pardon the pun) so well. Since then, the numerous fundraising shows/concerts have been a great success, both raising money for, and increasing the public awareness of, Amnesty International.

What happens when you throw a whole pile of comedians, actors, and musicians in with a great audience? A great show of course. The combination of musical pieces interspersed with comedic acts works very well and does not decay into boredom. If the show was purely comedy I would soon find it tedious, and running nearly 100 minutes this would be a "Very Bad Thing". Many of the acts presented I could not identify as they are British comedians, but there are many that I did recognise. It probably doesn't help that the show was filmed in 1991 so many of the comic acts would have been and gone by now.

Although not the most incredibly humorous set of acts, there are some genuine chuckles to be had, and the music really tops off the show. Besides that, it is for a great cause and Amnesty International can do with all the support we can muster. If you are a fan of comedy, and music (nothing like generalisation...) then you could do a lot worse than picking up this DVD.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


In general, this video transfer is quite ordinary in all respects. Fortunately, this does not detract from the overall experience in any way. The quality of the transfer, as a general rule, seemed to improve as the feature progressed.

Presented in the non-enhanced aspect ratio of 1.33:1 this transfer preserves the original recorded aspect ratio. Being 1991 there was no such thing as digital film and DTV, and it shows.

Sharpness never really exceeds being acceptable. For the majority of the feature, focus is really quite poor. The show was filmed over two nights (as far as I can tell) and on one of those nights the focus is considerably worse than the other - the switching between nights becomes quite obvious. An example of the softness can be found around 28:00 during the Jason Donovan song (just remember, this was the early 90s). Shadow detail is fairly poor throughout, although it could have been much worse. A lot of the feature is filmed in challenging lighting conditions but it holds up reasonably well. There is a bit of grain to be found, mostly in the stage lighting showing up the smoky interior of the stage.

Colour is rendered quite well throughout. Unfortunately, chroma noise is evident, particularly in the saturated blue of the host's suit. Barring the chroma noise, there is not a huge amount wrong with the colours.

There is some background pixelization on display, particularly noticeable in the crowd shots and long shots of the stage. This is certainly not helped by the soft transfer. Aliasing is consistent apparent. A few examples can be found at 10:39 (drums), 25:55, and 36:20 (crow's feet around the eyes!). There is a light spattering of film artefacts but these are not very obvious as the transfer is so soft that they mostly blend in to the background.

There are no subtitles present on this disc. This is a single layered disc so there is no layer change to worry about.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


The audio transfer does not fare any better than the video, being an average effort in all respects. It does, however, get the job done.

There is one audio track available on this disc, being a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track encoded at 224kbps. The package incorrectly states that the audio is only mono - it is most definitely stereo.

Dialogue quality is reasonable throughout. The singing comes out well and the comedic acts are very understandable. Audio sync is fine throughout and I did not notice any problems.

The musical acts do not have a lot of oomph (that is the technical term), and tend to be a little wimpy. But again, the job is adequately done by the audio transfer.

There is no surround activity whatsoever, which is not surprising, and the sub occasionally gets a little redirected bass.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


There is a selection of extras on this DVD, none of which are terribly exciting.


Themed, with audio and visual enhancement. A nice touch is the 'clips' of acts that cycle in the centre of the menu. Click on these to be taken to the act that is displayed.

Trailer - Secret Policeman's Ball (3:38)

Ugh. This must be taken from the first show and is absolutely TERRIBLE quality. It is presented at 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound. The framing wobbles terribly, film artefacts abound and the sound is distorted.. Lucky it is just a trailer.

Trailer - What's Up Tiger Lily (1:35)

Very soft and grainy trailer presented at 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound.

Trailer - Malcolm (2:10)

1.78:1 non-enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound. This trailer is of reasonable quality. Malcolm is a great movie.

Trailer - Natural History of the Chicken (0:10)

1.78:1 non-enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. This is of reasonable quality but I have no idea what it is about because the trailer is cut short - oops.

Amnesty International Advertisement (0:30)

Advert asking for money to help Amnesty out.

DVD Credits

Credits for the producers of the DVD.


Five short pages covering the history of The Secret Policeman's Ball.

R4 vs R1

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

As far as I can tell this DVD is not available on DVD in R1.


The Secret Policeman's Big Three-0 is great fun. The transfer is technically quite poor but it really does not detract from the performances.

The video quality is quite poor.

The audio quality is quite poor.

The extras are limited.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Cameron Rochester (read my bio)
Friday, April 19, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer 106S DVD-ROM with PowerDVD 4.0 scaling to 864p, using RGB output
DisplayMitsubishi VS-1281E CRT front projector on custom 16x9 screen (270cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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