A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 275 – Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl

Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl – November 30th, 2010

Tonight was going to be another vampire movie. I checked the list earlier today and saw that Blood: The Last Vampire (the anime) was on our list and the running time we had listed said 83 minutes. Perfect for a Tuesday night and something a little different than the Underworld trilogy. So we popped it in when I got home and then, about 20 minutes in, when I went looking for some information about whether it was based on books or what, I saw that the running time was considerably shorter than 83 minutes. Less than an hour. But the box did indeed say 83 minutes. So we kept watching. I decided maybe the version we had was 83 minutes because the English dialogue had been sloooooooooowed doooooooown (seriously, it is massively distracting how slowly the English dialogue bits go). But no. Those 83 minutes apparently include the special documentary included on the disc. So we spent 48 minutes tonight watching that and then realized we needed a full movie. And it needed to be short because it was after 10 by then. Monty Python to the rescue!

We didn’t have this on our list at first. Somehow it got shelved with our television DVDs and never made it onto the list. And then one evening I was looking at the list and thought “Hey, didn’t we watch that not too long ago? Where is it?” So I guess this is a good one to watch tonight, having already watched one that shouldn’t have been on the list. It’s also one we know super well. After all, it’s almost all material from the shows we know so well. It’s sort of like And Now For Something Completely Different in that respect, but done for a huge live audience, complete with all the things that can happen with a live performance.

What makes this really stand out in terms of Monty Python productions is the live audience aspect, really. Funny as the sketches and filmed bits are on their own, add in the guys walking through the audience and shots of the audience reacting and you get a whole new dimension. For one, this audience is obviously very much full of Python fans. They anticipate the lines, shouting them out before the cast can. They sing along with the songs. There’s even some cosplaying going on, with some audience members wearing napkins on their heads. These are people who know and love the material and the cast and are thrilled to see them live. I wish I’d been there myself, but I was a little young at the time. And in Massachusetts. But really, two of my favorite bits of the whole performance take place in the audience. There’s the albatross sketch, which takes place with John Cleese in the middle of the audience trying to sell his albatross. The audience loves it and the lucky folks in the seats near where he’s walking all turn and get a few moments in the spotlight. One woman tweaks the beak of the albatross. The other bit I love is Eric Idle heading off into the audience, wandering up and down the aisles as he delivers an endless monologue about how horrible going on holiday can be. He goes up one aisle and down another, climbs over the seats and into other sections, evades John Cleese, who’s chasing him, and the whole while he’s talking, never once breaking verbal stride. It’s the sort of thing that just wouldn’t play the same on a set. It needs an audience to happen.

Obviously with a stage performance there will be the inevitable issues. There are always issues with a live performance. I learned that well doing theater years back. The thing is, most things the audience never sees, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. And you just have to run with it. Terry Jones’ wig flies off during the church police sketch and the whole cast starts giggling. But they finish it all! The show goes on and it’s great fun to see that these guys find what they’re doing just as ridiculous as the audience does. They’re having fun doing it, and that’s fantastic.

There are a few bits in the live performance that aren’t from the regular episodes of the show. There’s a speech about the nature of physical comedy, performed by Graham Chapman with live demonstrations of banana peel gags and board-in-the-face bits, ending with some fantastic pie jokes. There are a few songs, which I admit I’m not overly fond of. And then there are the filmed sections. I would guess that they were originally included as breaks for the cast so they could clean up, change costumes and get ready for what’s next, but the bits they picked? Are the German bits. The Python crew made some material for German audiences that didn’t really air in the US. I taped it off television once and some of it was older sketches re-done in German, and some of it was brand new material. So as far as I can tell, all or most of the audience for this performance was seeing new Python material in those film clips. That had to have been fantastic for them.

Overall, while the live show doesn’t present a whole lot in terms of brand new material, it’s more than worth watching. There’s a number of fantastic favorite sketches, some sketches that aren’t the big favorites but are great all the same, and some stuff that isn’t classic Python but fits right in. But it’s the audience that makes it. Even if I wasn’t in it at the time, watching this movie makes me feel like I sort of am, or as close as I’m ever going to get. And that’s good enough.

November 30, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , | Leave a comment

Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl

November 30, 2010

Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl

We had intended to watch a completely different movie today, but when we put it is we were much chagrined to find that it was under fifty minutes long. (The box lied to us.) That’s far too short for the spirit of our movie project since it hardly qualifies as a movie, which left us in somewhat of a bind since we were therefore unable to start watching our movie until after ten PM, which hardly left us time for a movie before the night is over. So as an emergency backup movie we’ve thrown in this live performance by the crazy lads of Monty Python from back in 1980. It has two things in its favor: one it is also short (although long enough in our minds to qualify as an actual movie.) And two it is a complete joy to watch.

As with And Now for Something Completely Different this is just a collection of popular Monty Python sketches, but this compilation has the advantage of a live, and very appreciative, audience. Most of the moments I really love in this move are a result of the spontaneity of a live performance. During the sketch with the dead bishop on the landing the cast crack each other up, particularly when Terry Jones’ wig falls off. When, during an intermission, John Cleese goes out into the audience to sell an albatross several of the people he passes know the sketch and ask him loudly what flavor it is. There are people in the crowd with handkerchiefs on their heads Mr. Gumby style.

By far my favorite bit in the entire performance is when Eric Idle, as Mr. Smokestoomuch does his rant about the evils of package tours. It’s much expanded from the version in the television show, and as he goes on and on he runs down from the stage and escapes through the crowd pursued by John Cleese. He even bursts back out and continues his tirade over the start of the next sketch.

They also feature a lot of filmed bits from the special episodes recorded in German such as the odd Olympics and the philosophy football game. I love that they have the little red riding hood sketch, but am saddened that they do not include the rapists that live in the forest. To either side of the stage they have giant monitors (barely seen in the film version) that must have allowed the audience to see the actual show, since otherwise they would have been tiny little ants way in the distance. Most strange of all is that there are two non-Python songs from Neil Innes. Yes, he wrote many iconic Python songs, but his bits of the film tend to grind things to a complete halt.

All in all it’s a strange assortment of sketches. I suppose they had to figure out what would read on a tiny little stage from the back of the amphitheater. I further suppose that there were some sketches (the Parrot sketch in particular) that they were rather tired of being asked to perform. So we have the Whizzo Chocolate Factory, but no cheese shop. There’s the Bruces singing about drunken philosophers but no Spanish Inquisition (which, contrary to expectations, I HAD been expecting.) The cheer when Eric says that he always wanted to be a lumberjack is enormous.

It was quite enjoyable to watch this again. I love watching the Python guys (and Carol) clearly having a great time doing what they do. I love the early eighties crowd of long haired drug addled Python fans. I kind of wish that my family had been in California at the time that this was filmed, because I could totally see my father taking an eight-year-old me to see Python live. Sadly, it was not to be. I will just have to satisfy myself with the DVD of the concert.

November 30, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment