BBC/Roadshow Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 175 mins .
M15+ . PAL
Welcome to the town of Royston Vasey – as the sign says, you’ll never leave! Just kindly deposit your shoes at the front porch.
We'll have no trouble here...
Populated by the strangest array of characters to have ever climbed inside a television, The League of Gentlemen is a deliciously clever-clever mélange of sketches, horror and pseudo soap opera, with most of the oodles of characters played by just three blokes - yes, that dressing up in women’s clothes thing a la Monty Python is alive and well. And the Python comparisons don’t end there, as the League take cues from their special blend of out-there humour and dropkick them somewhere into a stratosphere that’s WAY out-there.
Through six near-as-dammit half hour episodes, the characters just keep on coming - Tubbs and Edward, proprietors of the Local Shop (for local people); pen-obsessed Pauline of the Job Centre;
furtive butcher Hilary Briss; pre-op transsexual minicab driver Babs; hapless touch-of-death vet Mr. Chinnery; acting troupe Legz Akimbo; Reverend Bernice; video connoisseurs Henry and Ally (seen it!); Farmer Tinsel and his scarecrow; didn’t-quite-make-it-enough-to-be-a-has-been rocker Les McQueen (of Crème Brulee no-fame); office co-workers Geoff, Mike and Brian and the toad-worshipping Dentons, complete with children of the corn twins Chloe and Radclyffe and nephew Benjamin (who simply has no idea just what the hell he’s gotten himself into by visiting this seemingly innocuous little village), just for starters.
In all, The League of Gentlemen is a captivating, truly unique and innovative comedic experience in an age where most everything invading our screens seems hopelessly recycled. Filled with those deliciously evil little moments where you find yourself laughing aloud at things which that silly little angel sitting on one shoulder decrees you simply shouldn’t, you can be assured you’ve never seen anything like this before. Well, unless you have.
The League of Gentlemen was originally shot on videotape, however before pinballing onto our screens it underwent a process of de-interlacing, reducing the 50 fields a second to 25 frames per second (or something like that). It then had grain added, boofing out the somewhat
Well, at least it's not nude day...
dark tone of proceedings with an appropriate film-like look. Anybody who runs a mile from grain will be rather puffed by now, but keeping in mind the fact that it’s intentional, and never anything in the way of annoying, most will find it doesn’t really matter. It all comes to the screen in a 1.78:1, 16:9 enhanced format, and it all looks quite wonderful for a product of telly, with even the darker moments delivering suitable clarity. The level of general detail is quite amazing at times; however this introduces a minor downside in that aliasing pops its head up on more than the odd occasion. Sadly the layer change is plonked early in the fourth episode – still, at least it’s not too disruptive.
It’s a TV show, it gets Dolby Digital stereo. Simple really. Still, the task at hand – delivering the insanity in an easily discernable, well-synched fashion – is handled well, and those sending things via a Prologic decoder will get a little bit more in the way of surround and general stretchy-outty-soundy oomphiness. Meanwhile, Joby Talbot’s scoring cannot be underestimated in the whole League scheme of things, invoking all the right emotions when it should.
A veritable treasure trove of precious things has been shoehorned onto this disc, and it all starts from a fabulous opening menu where it’s wise to answer the question correctly, or expensive things may just go “POOF!”…
Kicking off the bonuses are character biographies giving us the odd vital, and many non-vital, statistics of pretty much every one of the local people of Royston Vasey who graces our screens during season one.
Hilary Briss - purveyor of special stuff...
Special Stuff is a gallery of sorts, giving us a history of the pre-television League of Gentlemen in posters, stills and the odd newspaper article. A fairly sizeable array of deleted scenes, simply labelled Missing, throws up a number of things excised for the sake of time or strangeness, some effects shots, a bit of behind the scenes action and some full-length sketches and in all is well worth a peeky-poo.
The crowning glory amongst the extras, however, is the collection of full length commentaries for each episode, courtesy of the four members of the League (Jeremy Dyson writes but doesn't act) and director Steve Bendelack. Fairly sane considering the amount of people involved and what they usually get up to, there’s a veritable mountain of inside gossip on offer, ranging from the mundane such as locations and the odd technical insight to more fun stuff such as dirt on who certain characters are based on and many of the little bits and pieces that may have been missed on first, second, third (etc) viewings.
Those with a penchant for hidden things may wish to hunt about for some bonus sound bites – or just bowl on over to our Easter eggs section to take all the fun out of finding them…
Blacker than the blackest of black things, the colours, sounds and shapes of The League of Gentlemen won’t be lapped up by everybody, however those with a taste for something different in their comedy – the sort of thing you know is wrong but it just tastes so good - will find this very special stuff indeed.
Jack & Sarah "Proving that simplicity is no obstruction to brilliance, this is an ultimately sweet (but not sickeningly so) tale that gives all those bigger English films out there a more than respectable run for their money... "