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Absolutely Fabulous - The Last Shout

Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 104 mins . M15+ . PAL


Sweetie darling, sweetie darling, sweetie darling, sweetie darling. Right, now that I have that out of my system, on with the show!

Absolutely Fabulous started life as a short sketch on the TV series French and Saunders, and was later developed by the latter into the series that ended up a massive, and oft quoted, hit. AbFab became so popular in fact that Roseanne Barr/Arnold/Whateveritisthisweek purchased the rights for an American series - thank every deity from this world and beyond that nothing has eventuated from this as yet, as this was a show that only the English could ever pull off with such aplomb. In all there were three series' of six episodes each, as well as a two part special - the latter being what we get to play with here.

Based mostly around the exploits of the hilariously childish 40-something PR person Edina (Eddie) Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders), her bosom(y), chain-smoking pal Patsy (Joanna Lumley) and the more-together-than-the-both-of-them-put-together (and then a lot more) daughter Saffron (Julia Sawalha), different episodes saw a veritable who's who of British comic talent swan across our screens, not to mention quite a few members of the fashion elite that the show so often mercilessly takes the piss out of.

The two-part special presented here was actually made more than a year after the third and final series ended, and is notable for one very conspicuous absence, that of the utterly gorgeous PR assistant Bubble, played to a (di)t(z)ee by Jane Horrocks. Apparently Bubble is off working in France now, bummer...

Anyway, Patsy is in crisis mode, as she has to leave her rather handy abode above an off-licence and find new digs - not to mention a new job. Bugger the responsibility though, as she and Eddie are off on a skiing holiday! It is here that, after a near fatal disagreement with a cliff, Eddie has a run in with God. Forget all you've seen previously, as Eddie meets the real one - '60s legend Marianne Faithfull (complete with seemingly sixty-foot tall angel-aide Marcella Detroit, who some may recall from the fab '80s band Shakespear's Sister, who actually had lots more great tunes than Stay, not that many of the musical philistines in this country would know about it).

Meanwhile, back in more sensible climes, Saffy has a new boyfriend, the icky-to-the-max Paulo. Proving the theory that often the smartest women go for the world's biggest wankers, she accepts his proposal of marriage, whilst waiting on him hand and foot and accepting a torrent of oppression that as a supposedly card carrying feminist she should be utterly ashamed of. Eddie doesn’t want to know about it, but after returning from holidays to find her dolphin has shuffled off this mammal coil (she thought he just had a mild case of fin flop), she comes around to the idea - the fact that Paulo's family are loaded and odds-on candidates for a spread in Hello! magazine having nothing to do with the change of heart, of course darling.

The "organisation" for the big day is done around an influx of crazed American second wives and octogenarians (plus their power-sucking camper van), Gran (June Whitfield), who believes Free Willy was one of those '60s things, is her usual vague self (and scores most of the best lines), and guests aplenty pop by - from Christopher Ryan (Mike in The Young Ones), to fashion designer Christian Lacroix, fashion writer Suzy Menkes and even Ed Devereaux (Matt Hammond from Skippy).


Being a made for television production this comes to us full frame, and with that incredibly sharp video look that most of the more recent crop of English programmes have. Video quality is pretty much as good as you could expect throughout, except for one ever-so-brief split-second moment early in the second part where there is a slight, and rather odd, frame jump. Other than this little quibble, there is the occasional case of newsreader-tie effect (I think the nerd-term is "moire patterning") that shows up, most notably on the utterly hideous black and white number that wears Eddie to the wedding.

A standing ovation is deserved for the layer change, which occurs in a fade to black, and is as unobtrusive as they get.


It's made for TV, so it's just in plain old Dolby stereo - those expecting a ferocious surround sound workout from this are just plain silly-billies. In all the sound is good, although as the audience would seemingly guffaw at the mere utterance of the word "the", and are mixed rather loudly, occasionally the rapid fire lines from the cast are obliterated a little.

Music-wise there are quite the number of groovy '60s tunes from the likes of Lulu, Lulu, Lulu and Lulu, plus a few covers here and there, and peculiarly the theme (the Bob Dylan penned This Wheel's on Fire), which was performed by Adrian Edmondson and Julie Driscoll in the original series, has been re-recorded by Marianne Faithfull.


There's only one extra here, however it is rather groovy, if not a little bit strange. Basically it's a montage of outtakes, 'bloopers' and cut scenes from the specials presented here (and including the magic 'F' word), seemingly randomly interspersed with some classic moments from different episodes of the TV series. In all just under twenty minutes of fun that seems to pass in mere seconds. Note that the quoted 104-minute running time on the DVD package actually has this little collection factored into it, which is a trifle dodgy.

The menus feature the theme song, and are neatly and simply animated. See, it isn't that hard to make basic but effective menus now, is it?


AbFab is another of those shows that you either love or loathe - I've never known anybody to be ambivalent about it. Whichever camp you fall into will be the deciding factor as to whether you'll wish to rush out and grab this, or ignore it entirely. The fact that the vision isn’t presented in widescreen, is not 16x9 enhanced, or even the greatest example of a telly-to-DVD transfer (not that this implies that it’s bad, for it isn’t) shouldn’t be an issue.

It does strike me as a rather unusual and arse-about move that the final two episodes are the first released on DVD, with luck Universal are testing the waters with this release, it will sell by the ice-bucket load and they'll release the original three series' in the relatively near future - one season (six episodes) per disc, ta very much.

This actually is an absolutely fabulous example of classic, sharp-as-a-tack and often blatantly silly British comedy. It pokes an occasionally loving, but more often than not quite vicious tongue at the fashion industry and the ovine masses that actually ended up adopting it to their very breast. Whilst those in the industry who had the smarts to realise this point seemingly loved that somebody had the audacity to take them to task, but more for the mere fact that it zoomed over so many others' very heads, is reason enough to applaud its very existence, sweetie darling (SMACK!)

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