Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer's Cut)
directed by Alan Parker
(Eagle Rock, 2009)

If you are a fan of comedy, I would find it hard to believe that you had not at least heard of Monty Python. This troupe of five British actors plus one from the United States was truly irreverent when they first started performing in the 1960s. Monty Python's "Flying Circus" premiered on the BBC in 1969 and had four seasons. Over the last four decades, Python has performed live before huge audiences, released several movies and even had a Broadway show. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the group, a three-DVD boxed set -- Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer's Cut) -- was released in October 2009.

Each of the DVDs in the set is broken down in to a surprisingly coherent collection of material, which is totally unlike Monty Python's "Flying Circus" -- a show that constantly made left turns when you weren't expecting it or, at times, simply stopped in the middle of a sketch. I will start with the second DVD as that is my favorite of the three. Each episode on this DVD focuses on one of three Python films: Monty Python & the Holy Grail, Monty Python's Life of Brian and Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. It is here you learn how Graham Chapman managed to pull off his heroic roll in Grail despite being drunk most of the time. It is here you find out about which Pythons butted heads during the production of the movies. As some males might see these films as a rite of passage through their teenage years, these episodes really might touch home.

The first DVD also contains three episodes. All six episodes on these two DVDs last approximately an hour each and were obviously shaped to show on television. If you are already in the know about all things Python and know the pasts of the various troupe members, you might find this DVD rather boring. However, if you are a newer fan or just never knew much about Monty Python, you might find it fascinating to find out just how educated these juvenile acting men are and which prestigious universities they attended. You also might find it interesting how an American infiltrated their ranks.

One could argue that John Cleese found the most success in his career as he went on to Fawlty Towers (another BBC series) and many, many films. Eric Idle will always be associated with the song, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," which ended Brian. (How does one whistle a tune in a review?) Terry Gilliam was a talented artist who did some of the funniest animation with Flying Circus and beyond. Michael Palin comes across as one of the nicest people in the acting world. It might surprise new fans to know that Graham Chapman was gay and an alcoholic, yet he constantly played the straightest characters. Terry Jones came across as a bit of a control freak and perfectionist, but you still have to respect his talent.

Depending upon how big of a Python fan you are (or maybe how much time you have on your hands), the third DVD is the one that you might skip, or perhaps pick and choose what you would like to watch. This DVD includes several of the troupe's more famous sketches from the BBC series, including "The Dead Parrot," "The Spanish Inquisition," "Fish Slapping Dance," "Ministry of Silly Walks," "The Lumberjack Song" and "SPAM." This DVD also includes a lot of extras and mini-documentary spots. Did you know Python's introduction in the United States was in Dallas, Texas? Did you know there was a SPAM museum that pays tribute to Python? Did you know that Elvis was a fan? Finally, if you ever wanted to argue on who might be considered the seventh Python, this DVD will offer up a couple candidates.

While some information might be missing from this otherwise intriguing DVD boxed set, Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer's Cut) is an excellent introduction or fond look back on John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and King Arthur himself, Graham Chapman. Unless you are an uber-fan and know all there is to know anyway, you will probably feel like you got the whole truth, not "almost" the truth. I will warn you that there are interviews and commentary with probably a dozen other entertainers throughout the DVDs. Unless these folks worked closely with Python, you might find it a waste of time to hear them heap praise on these guys. I know I did. Otherwise, I find this 40th anniversary DVD set worth a view if you have any interest in Monty Python at all.

review by
Wil Owen

30 January 2010

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