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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 47:21)
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  • English: Dolby Digital Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital Mono
  • German: Dolby Digital Mono
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    Monty Python's - The Meaning Of Life

    Sony Pictures Home Entertainment/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 103 mins . M . PAL

      Feature
    Contract

    By the '80s, the Monty Python comedy troupe was essentially no more, merely releasing the odd movie every few years, while concentrating on other, fresher projects. John Cleese, in particular, was doing splendidly with his show Fawlty Towers and Terry Gilliam was well on the way to making a name for himself as a director, with the quirky Jabberwocky and the smash Time Bandits under his belt.

    The Meaning of Life was Python's last film, and it nearly didn't get made at all. Furious brainstorming in Jamaica was failing to reach a cohesive storyline (always a problem with the Python team, who had all come up through the BBC writing sketch comedy before making Flying Circus); while the team knew they were writing a life story, they weren't able to come to a consensus as to whose life it was! Finally Eric Idle suggested that it could be anybody's life, and the material wrote itself.

    Simultaneously more than a collection of sketches, while less than a traditional narrative, the film traces the seven stages of man, ultimately leading to the meaning of life! On the way, we experience live organ transplants, song and dance routines about sperm, leg theft, leaf suicide and other silliness. As you'd expect for the format, some jokes hit while others curl up and die, but on the whole it's a worthy effort for the team and worth having in the comedy collection.

    Especially interesting is the Gilliam-directed short film The Crimson Permanent Assurance which begins the film proper. Taking as long to shoot as the rest of the film put together, it foreshadows the stunningly brilliant Brazil which was to follow just two years after.

      Video
    Contract

    Anybody familiar with the Python back catalogue will know that they never look fantastic, a result of low film budgets, rough production and the ravages of time. This disc continues the tradition with obviously grainy footage in some places, and the fact that it's not 16:9 enhanced doesn't help matters. My guess is that Universal recycled a laserdisc transfer, just as they did with their special edition of The Thing.

    Sharpness is variable, but generally mediocre to average, colours are usually bland and washed out, and shadow details are less than thrilling. That said, I have never seen this film look better than it does here, and I get the strong impression that this is probably as good a result (bar the lack of 16:9 enhancement) as the source material can provide.

      Audio
    Contract

    Again, Python films have never relied on sound quality to deliver laughs, and I remember people complaining bitterly in newsgroups about the sound quality of the Criterion release of Life of Brian. Sorry folks, but that's what the film sounds like - silk purses, sow's ears, and all that.

    What we have here is a Pro-Logic soundtrack that's definitely rough-and-ready, with a lack of dynamics, low end and surround presence. The mix does sometimes venture to use directional dialogue in the front three channels, and I noticed a few instances where the surrounds actually kicked in, but for the vast majority of the film the centre channel will be doing the bulk of the work.

    On the positive side, the soundtrack is not overly harsh at reference level and doesn't break into unpleasant distortion when things get busy. Again, I must point out that the source material is the limitation here, not the transfer.

      Extras
    Contract

    Congratulations must go to Universal! This disc is remarkably clean! It's certainly untainted by extras!

    Seriously, collectors are beginning to expect a lot more for their dollar these days, and not even supplying a trailer or a couple of interviews seems pretty harsh.

      Overall  
    Contract

    Overall, the disc is disappointingly basic, but for fans of Python this is a required purchase. It's not their strongest effort (that accolade goes to Life of Brian, I'm afraid), but less-than-stellar Python still stampedes over most of what passes for comedy these days.

    Oh, is that another Adam Sandler film I see hitting the cinemas?


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    • Video Cables:
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