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The Secret Policeman's Third Ball

Umbrella Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 83 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

And so we get to the third of the Secret Policeman’s balls (ooh, nothing like having a spare!), all held for the benefit of Amnesty International.

This presentation follows a similar format to this 1987 show’s predecessors, bringing together a bunch of comedians and musicians, having them do quick-ish sketches or single songs and then getting on with whoever’s next on the bill. Unlike earlier shows, however, a definite shift away from comedy towards more music is evident, and it wasn’t necessarily the wisest decision that could have been made entertainment–wise.

It certainly won’t take long to sum up the comedy side of things. Loudmouth American Ruby Wax opens proceedings, carrying on a sort of mockumentary backstage dealie, which reappears a number of times during the show as she assaults the likes of Lenny Henry, Sir Bob Fookin’ Geldof, Mark Knopfler and John Cleese. At least Robbie Coltrane, in his only appearances on this disc, gets a bit back for the home side. Otherwise there are two sets from Spitting Image – one featuring Ronnie Raygun and Maggie Thatcher, the other Sir John Gielgud And Sir Larry Olivier; some obscenely unfunny cretin called Phil Cool who may wish to change his name to Phil Dork; the quite wonderful Fry and Laurie taking a different, and mercifully funny, spin on stand-up and also presenting a lifetime achievement award (The Golden Dick) to one Jim (sic) Cleese; Lenny Henry giving fabulous bluesman; the very peculiar Emo Phillips seemingly being himself, and only just over one minute (!) of Ben Elton, raving on about Thatcher just for a change before buggering off. One bloody minute?! He’s second billed on the cover and we’re promised a “set”! In the end, probably the funniest thing on this disc is Kate Bush’s bassist’s hair – suffice to say it makes any member of A Flock of Seagulls look positively suave and sophisticated in comparison...

Speaking of the quite lovely Kate, she makes a rare public appearance with Dave Gilmour in tow (Running Up That Hill). The rest of the music-heavy show also gives us Joan Armatrading (I Love it When You Call Me Names), ‘80s short-arse pinup Nik Kershaw (Wouldn’t it Be Good?); ‘80s dreamboat pinups Duran Duran (Save A Prayer), Mark Knopfler and Chet Atkins with two instrumentals (I’ll See You in My Dreams and John Lennon’s Imagine), Sir Bob (This is the World Calling) and a fabulous finale with Peter Gabriel, Youssou N’Dour and many of those mentioned above (the rather appropriate Biko).

  Video
Contract

This third instalment of the Secret Policeman’s... series gives us, once again, a full frame 4:3 picture. The previous two were taken from rather horrific source prints, and this one, while marginally better, still has its problems. White specks abound throughout the entire programme, a gauzy look to proceedings is given from grain essentially never not being on display, colour is reasonable but still rather washed out, and overall there’s not a great amount of detail in the shadow department, or indeed generally.

  Audio
Contract

The feature was recorded in Dolby Stereo originally, but comes to us in glorious (?) mono. With the majority of the presentation being musical it would have been nice if some remastering work had been afforded the soundtrack, however sadly it would appear it hasn’t, as it’s all kind of, well, flat sounding. Naturally enough the soundtrack gives nothing to your surrounds or subwoofwoof, but on the positive side at least synching is perfectly fine.

  Extras
Contract

The same animated menu as previous releases in the series has been cut, recoloured and pasted for this one, as essentially have all the extras. The show plays in a small window on the menu whilst awaiting a selection, there’s five pages of background on Amnesty and how the balls came about, an Amnesty International commercial that should be watched and digested by everybody and a selection of trailers under the guise of Umbrella propaganda. These amount to Malcolm, The Natural History of the Chicken and Woody Allen's re-dub-fest What's Up, Tiger Lily? - all of which appeared on the second disc, plus a still screen showing the five Secret Policeman’s... discs that are on release.

  Overall  
Contract

With all this criticism I may sound like an uncharitable cow, however regardless of how incredibly worthy and vital a cause is, and Amnesty International certainly ranks as such, surely it isn’t unfair to expect quality and value for money regardless? Unfortunately with its leaning heavily towards a grab bag of musical acts, and extremely little in the way of comedy, The Secret Policeman’s Third Ball seems to have moved away from the very concept of the original shows – and content-wise absolutely pales in comparison to either of the first two releases.

If you have the other releases in the series, and you’re a stickler for collecting sets, then don’t pass this up. Otherwise, and at the risk of offending some, might I suggest just sending $30 directly to Amnesty International?


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1207
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      And I quote...
    "Way too much music and way too little in the way of laughs – although Kate Bush’s bassist’s hair helps redress the balance somewhat..."
    - 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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