A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 250 – And Now For Something Completely Different

And Now For Something Completely Different – November 5th, 2010

I am once again off to visit a friend in another state this weekend, necessitating a little bit of fancy footwork when it comes to movies. We had four options open to us: Watch a movie we have both in digital form and DVD so I could watch it on the bus, watch a movie my friend owns so we could watch it separately, watch it before I left in the morning, or watch it just after midnight. We opted for the last, and since we were watching a movie at midnight we decided to watch something we know well. Well enough to be able to quote it all from memory. What better than a collection of refilmed Monty Python sketches packaged in movie format?

Let’s face it, there is nothing in this movie that any run-of-the-mill Python fan hasn’t seen a million times. It’s all stuff from seasons one and two, which we also have on DVD. It was made as a sort of Python primer, which is great and all, but it means it doesn’t have any new material or even really remixed. A few sketches have slightly altered lines, like the end of the Lumberjack Song, but it’s not like we’re watching this in German.

Not that it makes this any less funny! The first two seasons of Monty Python had some truly great material. Classic stuff like the parrot sketch and the upper class twit race. And the versions in this movie are certainly well done. It’s a little odd at times, seeing them more polished and practiced. The crew knows what they’re doing here and it all feels a little less madcap and more rehearsed, but in a subtle way. I’m not sure how I feel about it, I guess. I mean, it all looks good. There’s nothing wrong with it. The funny stuff is still funny and the bizarre stuff is still bizarre. It’s just ever so slightly not the same.

Really though, it’s good to see the old stuff all in one place. Having seen as much of the show as I have, as frequently as I have, it’s clear I’d have to enjoy it to watch it. Putting it all in one place just means I don’t have to go hunting through the episodes for some of the choice sketches. I can just put this in and sit back and know precisely what’s going on regardless of whether I have my eyes on the screen. It almost feels like a cheat, to be honest. Like we stuck in our Python season one discs and managed to randomize the sketches on them as background noise.

This isn’t a movie with a plot. This isn’t The Meaning of Life or The Life of Brian. The closest you get to cohesive here is Graham Chapman showing up and declaring things too silly, which is more a means of transition than a plot thread. It’s not supposed to have a plot or consistent characters or anything like that. It’s supposed to be an extended episode. A best-of compilation to please and pique the interest of an audience (depending on prior Python exposure). I feel like I should say more, like explain my love of Python sketches and whatnot. But maybe I’ll save that for the Hollywood Bowl show, which I cannot find on our list but I could have sworn we owned. And if somehow we don’t own it? We will. How on Earth can we call ourselves Python fans otherwise?

November 5, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Monty Python: And Now For Something Completely Different

November 5, 2010

Monty Python: And Now For Something Completely Different

My love of Monty Python goes back to when I was first introduced to it back when I was about nine or ten years old. I discovered it on Chanel 2 – the PBS station in Boston and loved it instantly. It was full of crazy humor and slapstick as well as that unique Python off-kilter way of looking at the world. My babysitter at the time (I think her name was Liz) was very enthusiastic about the show – I distinctly remember her quoting “Crunchy Frog – heap good.” long before I had seen the episode with the Whizzo Chocolate Factory sketch. My father used to quote the show as well. Really I think that those early days of recording Python on my family’s giant old VCR and watching the episodes over and over again strongly contributed to my sense of what was funny. And spoiled me for all American comedy programming.

This movie is little more than a re-packaged best-of compilation. It’s a bunch of sketches from the show re-ordered and made into a film for the cinemas. Oh, it doesn’t have every great sketch. It doesn’t have the Whizzo Chocolate Factory or the Cheese Shop or The Architect Sketch, but it has plenty of the big hitters. It has Hell’s Grannies and the Mountaineer sketch and the Upper Class Twit of the Year and of course the Dead Parrot. Had it been produced in the Eighties it would have been a direct to video cash-in like Muppet Weird Stuff or other best-of sketch compilations I remember renting from Mike’s Video. But it came out in the seventies, at the height of Python’s popularity, and it was actually released in theaters.

There are a few bits of the movie that are clearly intended to be seen in the theater. Such as when a tiny little Terry Jones comes in as though he’s the manager of the theater where the movie is being played and apologises for it being so very short. And it also is in 16:9 widescreen, which I found interesting in light of the fact that many of the sketches seen here are directly from the television program and this was of course decades before television programs began to be filmed in widescreen. But the title cards on some of the animations are 16:9 so I can tell that parts of it were re-filmed in widescreen for that cinematic feel.

Since I’ve seen all of these sketches so many times in the past, and seen this movie so many times as well, I found myself tuning out a lot while watching it. I’d look up to see what sketch was playing next, but as I know them all by heart anyhow I didn’t really need to look at the screen to know what was going on. What strikes me most, therefore, are the few differences between what is in the movie and what was on the show. For example: there’s the bit with the guy who has a musical mouse instrument that involves smashing mice with a hammer. In the original version (from the cycling tour of Cornwall episode I believe) he says that the mice will sing “The Bells of St. Mary’s” but in this version the line is “Three Blinded White Mice.” They use the same footage however – it’s just dubbed over. I’m guessing that this was to make the movie more accessible to American audiences or something. (In the same sketch the compere loses his line about Conrad Pooh and his exploding knees – which saddens me because that is such a strange non-sequitur way to start the sketch.)

I suppose this movie would make a great way to introduce somebody unfamiliar with Monty Python to the group. It’s more accessible than watching a whole bunch of episodes. And I’m glad we get to watch it for our movie project, because who knows if we’ll graduate to our proposed television project when we’re done with all our movies and review every single episode of Python (which we do indeed own in one colossal box set.) My one regret about this movie is that it has so very little for Carol Cleveland to do – she really does have only one line in the entire film and plays mostly mute sexpots. But that was a problem with the whole show in general I suppose. If the boys had anything funny to have a female character say they just played the role themselves in drag.

Oh, Python. How I do so love that group of crazy guys.

November 5, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment