Run, do not silly walk to your nearest vendor of choice to bring home Monty Python’s Live (Mostly)—One Down Five to Go. Do not join the team of Olympic runners with no sense of direction, don’t worry about the penguin exploding on your telly, and pay no attention to that incongruous kangaroo that seems to appear everywhere. Instead, know this concert, filmed live on July 20th, 2014 on the final night of the run of ten performances at The O2, London, is probably the last time you’ll ever see the five surviving Pythons together on the same stage.
It’s clear John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin wanted to go out on the highest of high notes, so their swan song literally filled the stage with an elaborate production of music and comedy that proved, yet again, that Monty Python has been the most inventive, cleverest, and funniest troupe in entertainment history. Who even comes close?
Naturally, the Live (Mostly) concerts drew from the Python’s rich back catalogue of material. Appropriately, some of their vintage sketches were shown as video inserts from the four seasons of their Flying Circus television series. In part, this allowed them to pay tribute to their old comrade, Graham Chapman. Live, they resurrected many of their best-loved routines from television, their audio recordings, and The Meaning of Life (1983). These included “The Spanish Inquisition,” “Dead Parrot,” “The Bruces,” “The Last Supper,” and “Argument Clinic.” But the group added fresh twists to their standards to update the topical references and surprise long-time devotees. Of course, we also get generous samplings of Gilliam’s distinctive cartoons. As an extra delight, the Pythons were having such a good time, more than once they nearly break each other up and have to re-start lines that remind us this was indeed live. Mostly.
Unlike other concerts from the past, as with 1982’s Live at the Hollywood Bowl which featured only a few supporting guest players, the five are the center of this new circus, but the show includes a number of other participants. For example, there are numerous musical numbers (“Every Sperm is Sacred,” “The Lumberjack Song,” “The Galaxy Song,” “Sit on My Face”) performed with a troupe of some 20 dancers and singers with a full orchestra. After all, if you’re going to sing about the joys of having a penis, vagina, or ass, you should do it with all the pomp of a Broadway musical. Likewise, the audience—many wearing hankies on their heads in homage to the Gumbys—join the grand finale, a sing-along of, what else, “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.” On top of all that, along the way, we see cameos from the likes of Stephen Fry, Mike Myers, Eddie Izzard and scientists Brian Cox and Stephen Hawkings with a number of appearances by Carol Cleveland, a longtime Python supporting player.
Filmed in high definition, Live (Mostly) will be released November 11 on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital video. The bonus features take us behind the scenes to show just how complex the staging was for an arena the size of the O2 from the choreography, care of the wigs and costumes, to the timing of the transitions of the various acts. We also get two new sketches exclusive to the disc with the ensemble playing the Pepperpots and Gumbys.
One criticism I’ve read of the DVD is that the show had the feel of an old rock band trotting out their greatest hits and consumers would be better off watching the original shows when the Pythons were in their prime. Well, if you want to see these 152 minutes as mere recycled nostalgia, go ahead, deprive yourself of the fun. For everyone else, no Monty Python collection will be complete without Live (Mostly)—One Down Five to Go on the shelf.
True enough, not every moment is magical—bringing in outside singers to perform songs like “Christmas in Heaven” was obviously a means to allow the principals to change for their next sketch. Then again, not every bit in the original Flying Circus was top drawer. But every minute of Live (Mostly)—One Down Five to Go not only evokes old memories but creates new ones as well. If you’re not singing along with the infectious “Always Look on the Bright Side” once again, you’re as dead as that pet shop parrot.[amazon asin=B00NGAJ8QS &template=iframe image]