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The Secret Policeman's Other Ball

Madman Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 91 mins . M15+ . PAL


If you're onto a good thing then milk it - and when it's for a charity as important as Amnesty International then good on you for doing so, too. The Secret Policeman's Other Ball follows a similar format to its predecessor, by presenting a mixed bag of comedy and music intended not to be boring and worthy from many of Britain (and elsewhere's) top entertainers of the late '70s and early '80s - after all, this was originally released in 1982.

The comedy stable give us some fabulous hilarity - starting with a bit of an audience bagging, and carrying on to the likes of Rowan Atkinson's inspired rubbery orchestra conductor to many of the Monty Python gang such as John Cleese, Terry Jones and Graham Chapman hamming it up as only they can along with the likes of The Goodies's Tim Brooke Taylor. The seemingly always wired Alexie 'Didn't You Kill My Brudder?' Sayle pops up twice, musing on drugs and what's on in Stoke Newington, Jasper Carrott does his insurance claim spiel and "our very ownô" Dame Edna regales us with tales of hubby Norm's prostate dressed in quite the stunning and very patriotic frock.

The musical camp gives us a couple of doses of Sting (Message in a Bottle and Roxanne), Phil 'I divorced my wife via fax and hence am scum' Collins complete with piano accompaniment on In the Air Tonight, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton with Further on Up the Road, flower power pinup Donovan with Catch the Wind and a rather overwrought Bob Geldof along with fellow Boomtown Rat Johnny Fingers tinkling the ivories on I Donít Like Mondays. The entire musical cast, plus many ring-ins including Ultravox's Midge Ure and Sheena 'Morning Train' Easton, pop up at the end for a rollicking skank through Dylan's I Shall Be Released, led by Mr Sting (did he escape from the 'Beekeeping' sketch then?) once again.

Some of the content has dated somewhat, mostly topical comedy that was more than likely uproariously funny at the time, but the majority is marvellously timeless stuff that should at least bring an inkling of a smirk to even the most stony-faced of viewers. Oh, and make sure you hang around for the credits, as otherwise you'll miss Python Michael Palin plugging the associated merchandise as only he could. You know, the record, the video, the book, the sweatshirt, the baked beans, the doggy scoops, the cruise missile - the usual stuff...


Like its predecessor, The Secret Policeman's Other Ball is presented on DVD in a standard un-enhanced 4:3 ratio, which may or may not have been the ratio it went to cinemas in - unfortunately a lot of research turned up zero to confirm if it was indeed originally wider or not.

After the absolute horror of the first film in the series' transfer, the news is quite a bit better this time around. This is not to say it is in majestic shape, as it most definitely isnít, however the grain and speckles are less prevalent, as are scratches, flecks and other damage to the source print. Colour isn't fabulous, but is reasonably proficient, whilst black levels are a tad iffy - having that overall grey shade to them and providing little in the way of shadow detail. The image tends to be a little flickery at times, and there are some wobbles on occasions which appear to be more down to the camerawork than any telecine type faults. As it's a single layered disc, there are no issues with layer changes.


Even though the feature was recorded in Dolby Stereo originally, the audio that comes to us on this DVD is decidedly mono. Still, the most important thing is that it is all clear and easy to understand, and save for Tim Brooke Taylor's phenomenally squeaky girly voice in one sketch all was easy to catch, accents or no. Synching is fine, and if you're expecting a rambling dissertation on utterly amazing surround and subwoofwoof effects, it could be suggested you take a look at another review - say The Mummy Returns or similar?


Basically the same animated main menu as the first release is featured, just tweaked slightly to reflect the different content of this disc. The show's various sketches are displayed in a smallish window while you trundle about the menu - and if you just canít wait for the whole feature and simply have to look at whatever is being currently shown this very second you can jump straight to it by simply selecting that window.

Background: The exact same five pages of notes on the whole Secret Policeman's Ball concept that appeared on the first disc, not entirely apt for this second instalment, but interesting nonetheless.

Amnesty International commercial: An advertisement highlighting the charity's work for women's rights around the world. Running for 30 seconds we should be forced to watch this rather than having it as an optional extra.

Umbrella propaganda: The same trailers for other recent DVD releases that accompanied The Secret Policeman's Ball - the engrossing Malcolm, the rather oddball looking The Natural History of the Chicken and Woody Allen's re-dub-fest What's Up, Tiger Lily?, curiously minus the fabulous Graham Chapman trailer for the film included on this disc. How unusual!

Easter egg: Donít get excited, it's just the DVD credits that we get at the end of the feature anyway hidden away on the menu somewhere.


A reasonably presented disc, The Secret Policeman's Other Ball offers a mostly impressive and generally entertaining combination of comedy and music, featuring some truly classic talents. And it's a marked improvement over The Secret Policeman's Ball, which features probably the worst visual transfer ever to make its way onto DVD.

So while this isnít perfect visually, any true fan of classic British comedy needs this in their life (SQUAWK!) regardless.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1146
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      And I quote...
    "While this isnít perfect visually, any true fan of classic British comedy needs this in their life (SQUAWK!) regardless..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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