Monty Python Thread

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Re: Monty Python Thread

Post: # 10312Post Garrett Gilchrist
Wed Oct 30, 2019 6:59 pm

Despite other quibbles I'm impressed with the completeness of the BFI Do Not Adjust Your Set DVD. There is plenty of audio from otherwise lost episodes, photo galleries, an hour of Bonzo Dog interviews, direct links to most Bonzo Dog songs ...

There are, of course, several episodes on this release that weren't on the previous one, some of which weren't otherwise circulating. So we see a performance of Jollity Farm in the pilot, Ali Baba's Camel, two performances of I'm the Urban Spaceman, and the expected By a Waterfall and Beautiful Zelda, as well as three Gilliam animations on film.

Picture quality on the Beautiful Zelda episode is unexpectedly high, as the master tape seems to have survived. We had seen clips of it in this quality previously.

Do Not Adjust Your Stocking, surprisingly, is lower quality, seemingly surviving on some sort of smudgy videotape. It looks, in fact, uncannily like the bootlegs that have been circulating all these years, Which I had blamed on their VHS nature rather than the quality of the source material.

Episode 4 with Ali Baba's Camel has also survived on some sort of home-recorded (?) videotape. We'd discussed this previously when some clips leaked, but to my eye, the DVD version looks compromised somehow. Both this and Stocking show signs of running at 50 frames per second. But Episode 4 with Ali Baba's Camel looks sort of like it was badly resized digitally somehow. As if you had a lower resolution (or NTSC) transfer, and resized it without regard for its interlacing. I can't be sure, although with today's tools this could theoretically be improved by shrinking it further and upscaling from that. It is by nature lower quality source material so maybe this is the best they could do.

All the other episodes are from film and as expected. It's very much what people were expecting from the 2005 release of these episodes and didn't get, since they were only available as an NTSC conversion. This is the first clean PAL release of this material, and it otherwise looks much the same.


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Re: Monty Python Thread

Post: # 10314Post Garrett Gilchrist
Sat Nov 02, 2019 12:02 am

The Do Not Adjust Your Set BFI DVD contains just under an hour of audio from otherwise missing episodes, mostly from the second series on Thames. As with the two surviving Thames episodes, the second series material here has a somewhat more "adult" feel, working as a precursor to Monty Python, albeit with an audience of rowdy children. It's well worth the listen.

Some of it is structured as a satirical show not unlike The Frost Report and it's not hard to see what John Cleese saw in the series, since they were speaking his language. We also get to hear how the audience responded to one of Terry Gilliam's "Elephants" animations.

The Bonzos appear briefly, introducing themselves at one point. Vivian quotes "The End of the Show" before introducing Larry to sing "Look At Me I'm Wonderful." Urban Spaceman is very briefly excerpted in the series finale, multiple times.

There is a sense here, as in some of the existing episodes like Do Not Adjust Your Stocking, that Eric Idle's monologues don't automatically win the audience over, with a mild tension in the air.

The finale is structured as a clip show (although it almost certainly isn't), looking back on (and jokingly exaggerating) what the series has accomplished. That takes up a good chunk of the space here, as the episode is presented more or less in full.

Do Not Adjust Your Stocking looks uncannily like the old bootlegs, including a big and familiar tape fault when David Jason holds a flower early on. No restoration. If it does still exist on film it's a massive oversight that they didn't retransfer it.

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Re: Monty Python Thread

Post: # 10315Post Garrett Gilchrist
Sat Nov 02, 2019 1:42 am

Rutland Weekend Television has never been released on DVD. I ran a Monty Python site back in the day, and was for awhile a source of info on the series. It has seemed, for the past 20+ years, that Eric Idle himself isn't interested in the series getting released.

But the bootlegs that have been circulating since about 1999 are about as good as an official release would be.

Ditto Neil Innes' series The Innes Book of Records, which more recently got a limited official DVD release via Neil Innes himself - a sort of "best of" disc, paired with his CD releases of the songs from the series.

The Rutland Dirty Weekend Book is vintage now but not impossible to find.

Idle and Innes have not really gotten along since the 90s (or probably since the 80s), although I was present at a few events around 2003-2005 where Idle was nice to Innes for awhile.

Idle was dismissive of Innes' Rutles reunion Archaeology in 1997. That album was well received, and I think Idle realized to his shock that by distancing himself from it he'd accidentally branded The Rutles an Innes project. Idle tried to walk that back by remastering the 1978 film for DVD (with some changes), and making an unnecessary sequel film (originally called Evolution, released as Can't Buy Me Lunch) which used outtakes from the original film, celebrity interviews and tracks from Innes' Archaeology album. The sequel was not well received.

Idle also released a (not well received and unrelated) album "The Rutland Isles" in 2003 and generally tried to use the "Rutles" and "Rutland" name to retain some ownership over the whole thing.

Innes still tours as The Rutles without Idle's involvement, as he has since the 90s, sometimes with the involvement of John Halsey and Rikki Fataar (and Ken Thornton).

The Bonzo Dog (Doo Dah) Band also reformed for their 40th anniversary in 2006, with celebrities taking the place of Vivian Stanshall and absent friends. They released a new album at the end of 2007. However, even after 40 years Neil Innes found his old bandmates difficult to control. After disagreements, Innes stepped down and the bandmembers still perform without him.

Innes himself can be found at https://neilinnes.media/

(The old site, NeilInnes.org, formed by the late Bonnie Rose and Laurie Weiland with some input from myself, has been retired.)


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Re: Monty Python Thread

Post: # 10371Post Garrett Gilchrist
Sun Dec 01, 2019 9:24 pm

Fans of Monty Python's Flying Circus have been waiting at least thirty years for a restored release of the series on home video. Better late than never. For its fiftieth anniversary, we've finally gotten that, with a Blu-Ray release that does the series justice in HD. The release was delayed by several months but arrived with lots of pleasant surprises.

This was a good year for Python fans, as the BFI's DVDs of the pre-Python series Do Not Adjust Your Set and At Last the 1948 Show are also more or less complete, and contain more than twice the material from the rushed 2005 releases. There are some quibbles, but both are important releases.

We also got some handsome Python books this year, and a brief radio series, The Self-Abasement Tapes, which attempted to present some previously-unheard Python, although some tracks were probably replaced before broadcast, watering the whole thing down. At Eric's request maybe.

Eric's post-Python series Rutland Weekend Television has not been issued on home video, and has almost never been repeated.

As for Monty Python's Flying Circus, I would normally be skeptical of a show shot in interlaced SD video being upscaled to HD, especially one where almost no raw footage was known to survive.

It turns out that's not true. Very little raw videotape survives from the series, but a massive amount of film survives, and looks great in HD. I've had a look over the special features. I haven't checked everything out in full but I'm impressed with what I've seen.

(And yes, it's not politically correct by today's standards, but was comedically ahead of its time for the 70s. Silly and experimental rather than satirical, it was a huge influence on pretty much all sketch comedy that followed.)

No serious attempt has been made until now to present Monty Python's Flying Circus uncut and restored on home video. There have been acceptable releases of the series on VHS and DVD, as well as the two German specials and associated documentaries.

But if you're a really serious Python fan, you know that the master tapes have been cut and censored here and there, and you've been wondering what exists in terms of deleted scenes.

The bad news is that there's not much here in terms of raw videotape (with unseen scenes). The good news is that there's a ton of film, all restored to HD quality and containing lots of previously-unseen material.

This is the first ever home video release of the Pythons' Industrial films for Bird's Eye Frozen Peas, Close-Up Toothpaste and Harmony Hairspray. Compared to the colorful existing film from Flying Circus itself, these rare films look to have lost their colour a bit and gone a bit magenta over the years, but otherwise look fine.

Also present: Two rare, extended and chaotic interviews with the Pythons themselves, done at the time, and a nearly 30-minute audio interview with Ian MacNaughton.

I've only skimmed the episodes themselves briefly, but I'm impressed by how much still existed on film and is restored here. The film sequences in Monty Python never looked great. They had a blurry, dull, washed-out quality typical of BBC telecine at the time. Here, the existing film has been replaced with a clear, sharp HD picture, and the remaining telecine sections have been heavily noise reduced and graded to look better than they did. This changes the feel of the show. Film sequences are much less of a letdown, and are often the most impressive scenes visually here (despite Ian MacNaughton's rather basic direction).

The opening titles to series 3 were partly recycled from the German specials, and looked famously damaged and bad. Here they still look worse than the surrounding material (looking upscaled from SD), but are at a much better standard.

I suspect these titles look better on the German specials themselves, and that an HD scan of that material was outside the scope of this project. (I would assume they couldn't scan the May Day short either, which isn't on this set.)

We're lucky that Terry Gilliam seems to have saved most of his animations as film, but there's also a lot of existing film from the actual episodes.

Several episodes have had sections restored which haven't been on the master tapes since the 70s, in some cases at Terry Gilliam's request.

One wishes they'd gone a little further and presented the episodes as fully extended as possible, as there's interesting material in the deleted scenes section.

In 2.13 (Royal Episode 13), the closing Undertaker sketch was censored on the UK master, only surviving in the US conversion. The quality here is a lot worse than the surrounding material, but it's present and correct. The film inserts for the first half of the episode don't seem to exist, but for the second half, they do. Cleese's drill sergeant Doctor sketch looks great.

3.12 (A Book At Bedtime) begins with the rare "Choreographed Party Political Broadcast" sketch. This has been deleted from the master since airing, and might be sourced from a film print here. The color's weak and it blurs on motion, but it's better than I expected. It's great to see it as part of the episode again. All the film seems to have survived from the episode as well. The "Dad's Pooves" ending, censored on some releases, is also present, as is a reconstruction of the brief, alternate "captions" opening.

It looks like all the film survives for 3.9 (The Nude Organist), which restores a very rare animated section at Gilliam's request. A German voice speaks, turning into audio from a German commercial, seemingly promising great things, as two trees grow endlessly into space before hitting an invisible barrier and continuing to grow through its limitations, looping back on themselves. One tree is then chopped down (impossibly), and Hitler shows up, confused about whether this is a metaphor. This is a long section, which lost about a minute in the familiar version.

Apparently the music was from a genuine commercial at the time, animated by Halas and Bachelor, and they complained, leading to most of the section being cut. Gilliam's been angry about it the whole time, and it's back now. It's a patience-testing segment, but certainly funnier than the shorter version was.

Some raw VT also exists from this episode. Inbetween takes, Eric Idle convinces John Cleese to play his Brigadier character gayer, Palin's Frank Bough discusses Idle's writing, and Idle survives getting a 16-Ton weight dropped on him.

It is a little suspicious that the film survives for 3.9's opening but apparently not a longer edit of the It's Man's segment (which was done in series 1 style, but cut).

2.11 (How Not To Be Seen) also reinstates an animation at Gilliam's request. It was a controversial, censored moment of animation, depicting Christ and two other crucified men as telephone poles, while Satan appears as a salesman. This originally aired, but was vetoed by Cleese and the BBC afterward. The restored version links seamlessly from "Crackpot Religions" to "How Not To Be Seen."

It looks like all the film survived from this episode, but there is a Cleese line censored from the videotape during "Conquistador Coffee" which is only included in the deleted scenes, in much lower quality. (Possibly from a film print, with severe interlacing warping.)

Deleted scenes turn up on film, with Cleese's Archbishop of Australia, Palin's "Mr. Belpit" running gag, and the Pythons as swimming businessmen. Like a lot of this film, these are unfortunately mute, and the Pythons haven't been brought in to redub them. There are hardcoded subtitles, and an attempt has been made to reuse the "Mr. Belpit" audio from elsewhere.

3.4 (Blood, Devastation, Death, War and Horror) has Graham Chapman's Army Recruiter/Bus Conductor singing (parodying West Side Story) "Tonight, tonight, I'm getting pissed tonight." Or, rather, it doesn't. Cut for music rights, this appears in the deleted scenes, probably from a film print and in awful quality.

The deleted scenes also offer a much longer film insert for "The Pantomime Horse Is a Secret Agent," with more of Carol Cleveland's Simone. Unfortunately the new stuff is all mute.

2.10 (Scott of the Antarctic) is an unusual episode, shot almost entirely on film. The opening titles don't run until 18.5 minutes in. This could have been even more pronounced, as the deleted scenes section offers a "Scott of the Antarctic" sketch that's 4.5 minutes longer, since most of the film still exists.

On paper, this could have been a standout episode on Blu-Ray, but it looks like the film inserts are mostly cleaned up from the videotape rather than from the film. The restoration is fine, and I'm genuinely not sure whether these scenes are from film or videotape. They have at least been processed to look clean. Gilliam's Conrad Poohs animation is definitely from film, and the Fish Licence sketch looks suspiciously good.

Under Deleted Scenes, the original film from "Scott of the Antarctic" runs 16.5 minutes just by itself. It's also, unfortunately, damaged. Blue tramline scratches run throughout the footage, and the nearly 4.5 minutes of new material is mute, robbing us of an amusing Terry Jones character and more of Carol Cleveland as ditzy actress Vanilla Hoare. The sketch is a biting parody of 60s Hollywood, and the cut material is all up to standard. There's a drunk writer based on Terry Southern, and a faux-intellectualism shared by the entire crew. Idle's Producer gets just a little too familiar with Graham Chapman's reporter, and it's made clearer that they're performing for his benefit.

This is a divisive episode, as Python film inserts can be a little tough to sit through, but this presentation flatters the ambitious sketch, which now runs the same length as an entire TV episode does today. If it had been fully restored, it would be a highlight of this Blu-Ray set, and it still very nearly is.

1.2 (Sex and Violence), which was actually the pilot, features outtakes with John and Michael's Frenchmen, to the audience's delight. The episode itself is uncut, with the "Wacky Queen" sketch present (Palin narrates a film of Jones' Queen Victoria getting into silent-film antics), along with a bit of Gilliam animation missing from some prints, with a talking man's face being boarded up. The episode runs nearly 33 minutes.

110 (Untitled) gives us an extended Ron Obvious, with mafioso manager Luigi Vercotti (Palin) pushing Jones to do impossible stunts. One of the new scenes is mute. The ending, with the It's Man at a pig slaughterhouse, is also extended. As aired, it fades out as the It's Man exits, making it hard to see that he's survived.

Online bootlegs of Mr. Neutron (4.5) run 27 minutes and 34 seconds. That's not what aired originally, and this Blu-Ray presentation is just under 31 minutes.

All the film seems to survive in good quality, and that is vastly helpful to this film-heavy episode. It now looks as good as it needs to, and a lot of the trims apparently made to the episode after its first airing can be undone.

This is a controversial subject, though an audiotape of a longer edit of the film has been in fan hands for years. That's basically what you see here.

A filmed section where Mrs Entrail discusses her son Gordon over tea, including the great line "Oh! I keep forgetting you're from another planet!" is in the deleted scenes. It almost certainly never aired, but should honestly have been included in this version, which is much extended from the familiar edit.

A brief scene of Mr. Neutron wallpapering his living room, and a longer scene of the Prime Minister (Idle) going over recordings of himself with his absent secretary (Carol), appear in much lower video quality, presumably from the American ABC network edit, which was otherwise heavily censored. (The Pythons sued over it!)

This is nearly the only example of this Blu-Ray using lower quality video, and a welcome one.

Palin's narrator spends more time hyping up Mr. Neutron's cosmic powers in this edit, and Palin's post office man isn't interrupted by narration. The "any old iron" opening is also longer (Douglas Adams is in there somewhere).

Terry Gilliam also turns up twice as an American accent coach.

Fans knew about this version, but having it simply presented this way on the Blu-Ray is terrific.

4.3 "The Light Entertainment War" is also extended in this release, again reverting to a longer (30 min-ish) edit which was trimmed for repeats. Unlike Mr. Neutron this is all extra videotape, which was known to exist since it was sometimes used for repeats and clip shows starting in 1998.

More of Chapman and Jones as Pepperpots watching the motorway on TV. Chapman gets lost in what she's saying. ("I think that was the gist of what I was just about to be done being saying-ed.")

More of the equally dumb Programme Planners, who chatter callously about the disabled. ("I married an iron lung" etc.)

"It seems to be working" and so on. All the film also exists from this episode and looks good on Blu-Ray.

The last Python episode (4.6, Party Political Broadcast), ends with Eric saying:

"And now it's time for part eight of our series about the life and work of Ursula Hitler, the Surrey housewife who revolutionised British beekeeping in the nineteen-thirties."

This 2-minute sketch was filmed and is presented for the first time ever here. The missing opening narration is subtitled over some unfortunate Photoshops of Graham Chapman. A man in a Jeremy Thorpe mask and frogman suit waves.

Minus the narration, this could absolutely have been dropped back into the episode.

The same is true for the deleted film from Michael Ellis (4.2). Eric Idle's Chris Quinn runs into Graham Chapman's salesman for Icelandic Honey Week. Most of this sketch was reused in 4.6, as the salesman comes to the door of one of Britain's awful families. The dynamic here is different though, as is Chapman's performance. Halfway through he turns angry and sweary, sort of bullying Idle, and both are more "normal," realistic characters. In 4.6 he's depressed and avoids swearing, as the awful family sort of bully him. It's also a shorter scene, almost working as a callback to the deleted sketch.

2.6 (It's a Living) offers extended film for "Election Night Special," with interviews with the silly and slightly silly candidates, not unlike the live performances of this sketch. There's no extra VT, so the sudden cuts in this sketch aren't explained. There's also extended film for "School Prizes." Toward the end, the left channel of the audio is double-tracked, and the extra track seems to represent the onset audio before it was ADRed, as it's in sync with Cleese's mouth movements. It may be possible to isolate this audio, although as presented here it's a mess to listen to.

2.4 (The Buzz Aldrin Show) features an extra film scene of The Bishop (in black and white) failing to save a nun from being hit by silent-movie footage of a train.

2.5 (Live From the Grill-O-Mat) features an extended film documentary about boxer "Ken Clean-Air System." Idle and Jones appear as characters who were otherwise cut.

As you'd expect, this film is also used to restore the back end of the episode itself.

Much of the film inserts from the first two series are still from blurry VT, but where the original film exists and is used, it looks good.

The ending to Dennis Moore (3.11) is extended by two minutes on film, as Dennis attempts to redistribute the wealth of a group of people. It's pretty loose and feels improvised. Carol Cleveland turns out to have a camera, which he takes, giving her his gun. They filmed for longer than was necessary here.

3.10 (E. Henry Tripshaw's Disease) features a Gilliam animation "William Shakespeare's Gay Boys In Bondage" which was censored, and which could have been reinstated. There's also more film with Palin's policeman "Sir Philip Sidney" and Frances. Unfortunately it's mute.

This and the Gilliam animations from 3.13 (Grandstand) are the only hint here of the lost half-episode which was the original 3.10. This episode included "Big-nosed sculptor / Half a bee," "Awful cocktails," and "Wee Wee Winetasting." The first sketch was considered a failure during filming. It's been said that Chapman, struggling with alcoholism, couldn't quite get through it. The second was performed live and on record, but censored here. The third was famously censored with Cleese's approval.

At this point the Pythons were pushing the boundaries of good taste and fighting with the BBC over it. Cuts had to be made somewhere, and half of episode 3.10 got cut for varying reasons. A similar section was also cut from 3.13 where Cleese drinks blood, leading to a Gilliam animation (presented for the first time on this disc) where people are being drained of blood, and one person's supply is "spilt" and floods the town, and then there are some breasts and circus animals and ...

A lot of material was shuffled around at this point, especially between 3.13 and 3.10. Gilliam's animation hints at the original intentions.

Radio Times photographs exist from the Cocktails/Sculptor/Bee rehearsal, but rumor has it that the onset cocktails were real, and Chapman was drunk during filming. It's hard to say without access to the presumably lost video, but the whole section sounds like a disaster even before the censorship, and would have required more modern editing techniques.

This shoot probably influenced Cleese's decision to stop working with Chapman and leave the series, although he came back for the films. Eric's decision to write Rutland Weekend Television also left him less involved in series 4.

1.8 (Full Frontal Nudity) is one of several episodes which have some (all too brief) videotape insert footage present. Here, Chapman films a link intended as a Python appearance in Christmas Night With the Stars. There's also a few takes of a Palin/Cleese/Idle/Jones scene, a videotape insert for "Hell's Grannies" (which has no videotape inserts).

There's a featurette with Gilliam reacting to how his animations look restored, and approving some revisionist ideas for restoration.

There's raw film from series 3's more random inserts.

And a slightly extended "Barry Zeppelin" scene from 4.1 (The Golden Age of Ballooning) without the cut VT scene it's linking to.

Other episodes restore audio censorship as you'd expect.

There are as always criticisms to be made, and as always there's other stuff this collection could have included, but this is a release worthy of the show's legacy.

As the first ever restored and complete video release of Monty Python's Flying Circus, loaded with film outtakes and interviews, it is absolutely essential.

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Garrett Gilchrist
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Re: Monty Python Thread

Post: # 10372Post Garrett Gilchrist
Mon Dec 02, 2019 12:04 am

https://www.youtube.com/user/etlcstn/videos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H69wJBf8N0U

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TzXwHnlfzM

'Did Dinosaurs Build Stonehenge?' is an Eric Idle skit from Steve Martin's 1981 TV Special 'The Best Steve Martin Show Ever'
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ewp3tEtS_1M

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