The Secret Policeman's Biggest Ball (Disc 3) (1989)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 11-Feb-2002

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Amnesty International
Trailer-What's Up, Tiger Lily?; The Natural History Of The Chicken
DVD Credits
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1989
Running Time 93:14
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Mike Holgate

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring John Cleese
Michael Palin
Lenny Henry
Spitting Image
Dudley Moore
Peter Cook
Dawn French
Jennifer Saunders
Robbie Coltrane
Hugh Laurie
Ben Elton
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 to 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.

    The Secret Policeman's Biggest Ball is, not surprisingly, the biggest comedy ball ever held to raise money for Amnesty International. It was filmed in 1989 with an impressive all-star line up of comedians including the likes of Robbie Coltrane, Lenny Henry, French & Saunders, John Cleese, Ben Elton, and Michael Palin, amongst many others. This by far the best line-up of comedians in a Secret Policeman's Ball that I have seen on DVD, a truly enjoyable ride of hilarity from start to end.

    British comedy doesn't get much better than this. Another interesting note is the lack of musical acts on this disc. There is only about 5 minutes out of the 90 that are purely musical acts - the disc is chock full of comedy goodness this time around! This is a very funny one-and-a-half hours and is the best Secret Policeman's Ball disc to date that I have seen. Recommended.

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

Transfer Quality


    The video quality of the feature is passable. The main problems are cross colouration and dot crawl caused by the video being mastered from a composite source.

    This transfer is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, non-enhanced.

    Sharpness is quite poor throughout, generally as a direct result of relatively high levels of grain and the presence of dot crawl (a good example of this can be seen on a piano at 23:20) on every sharp boundary. This is very obvious on large screen TVs or projection systems. Shadow detail is acceptable but there is really very little image detail to show due to the lack of sharpness. In general, close-ups are reasonable, whereas long stage shots are really terrible, usually displaying blobs of moving colour that are vaguely human-shaped. Low level noise is quite prolific just to add to the list of video artefacts.

    Colour is passable throughout. However, the purply/blue haze caused by cross colouration on every sharp colour gradient becomes very annoying, especially on my CRT projector as it kept making me think that my blue gun was not converged correctly.. even though it is!

    There were no noticeable MPEG artefacts, indicating that the majority of problems with this transfer can be blamed on the poor source material, although I imagine that the source material options for this program would be rather limited and far from in pristine condition. Aliasing is rife, occurring on just about every straight surface throughout the transfer. Some examples can be found at 6:50 (table), 10:10 (jacket), 20:40 (desk), and 27:35 (piano).

    There are no subtitles available on this disc.

    The full 93 mins of this feature have been compressed onto a single layer so there is no layer change to negotiate.

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


    The audio transfer fares much better than the video transfer and holds up quite well to inspection. The only real problem, considering the material being presented, is a little bit of background hiss.

    There is one English Dolby Digital 2.0 (mono) soundtrack on this disc, encoded at 224kbps.

    Dialogue is fine throughout, always in sync and without distortion problems. Around 59:38, there is an obvious increase in volume and accompanying hiss which seems to slowly return to the original volume. This will not cause problems with your equipment, but is just interesting to note.

    The only music in this transfer is that provided by the acts. The few musical acts presented come across quite well without any stand-out problems.

    The surrounds and subwoofer remain silent throughout.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There is a selection of extras on this DVD, none of which are terribly exciting. In fact, these are the exact same extras as you will find on any other Secret Policeman's Ball DVD. A bit of variety would be nice..


    Themed, and aurally and visually enhanced. A nice touch is the 'clips' of acts that cycle in the centre of the menu. Click on it 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 of 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 is 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 seems to be cut short.

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 Biggest Ball is the best disc in the series that I have seen. There is a lesser emphasis on music on this disc allowing more time for the great comedy. Technically the transfer is quite poor but it does not detract from the viewing experience.

    The video quality is quite poor.

    The audio quality is much better.

    The extras are becoming repetitive.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Cameron Rochester (read my bio)
Thursday, May 30, 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)

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Amy F

Comments (Add)
Don't Buy It..... - Phill Avery