And Now For Something Completely Different [Retro Review]

“Now, I would just like to point out that this film is displaying a distinct tendency to become SILLY.”

The Scoop: 1971 PG, directed by Ian MacNaughton and starring Graham Chapman, John Cleese and Eric Idle

Tagline: No tagline.

Summary Capsule: Monty Python’s Flying Circus gives you a condensed version of their show in movie format!

Justin’s Rating: It’s…

Justin’s Review: Despite the cultural revolution, in 1969 the world was aghast at the prospect of starting the dismal decade known as shag carpet-central AKA “the 70’s”. Driftwood furniture, polyester butterfly collars, earth tones, afros on people who should’ve had their hair licenses taken away, and a strange growing affection for John (“LEVERAGE!”) Travolta did not hold much promise. This is why six gifted comedians — John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam — were so sorely needed and gladly welcomed as the future comedy troupe known as Monty Python.

While a smashing success in England, it wasn’t until the show finally crossed over the pond to the U.S. that it became a worldwide sensation. Monty Python’s Flying Circus, irrelevantly silly and simultaneously brilliant, became an instant cult favorite. If you’ve seen it — even if you don’t like it — you could grudgingly attest to why this appeals to so many wackos in the world. Monty Python broke so many walls of traditional comedy, it wasn’t even funny (although it was). The show held no strict structure for its sketches: often, a sketch would abruptly segue into a completely different sketch with little warning, the end credits would come up in the middle of the program, their distinct brand of animation would come barging in, and nothing was too sacred that it couldn’t be made funny by slapping it with a few pounds of halibut.

And Now For Something Completely Different, Monty Python’s catch phrase and the title of their first movie, is pretty much a reshoot of their more famous season 1 & 2 sketches with a slightly bigger budget, packaged for people not familiar with the show. It’s a great overview of Python insanity, although it’s of course lacking references to the following seasons (including my personal favorite, the Spanish Inquisition), and a gut-busting ride if you have the time to spare.

More like Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, there’s no coherent story or plot (or common sense) here, just increasingly bizarre sketches that run into each other until you’re never quite sure where the next laugh is going to come from. It’s unstable that way, too. The laughs are never fully consistent, depending on how the viewer likes their humor served to them, and it’s entirely possible to be laughing your eyes out for ten minutes straight, and then sitting there, mildly bemused, for ten more.

The performers have an uncanny ability to go through hilarious skits with completely straight faces, which only adds to the mirth making. They each get to take turns at the center stage, with the other Pythons being amiable objects for silly affection, such as when John Cleese becomes a military drill instructor teaching the others how to defend themselves against assailants armed with fruit. In this movie you’ll find out the dangers of using a faulty English-Hungarian dictionary, how rampant Granny Gangs are over in Britain, and why you should never ask your waiter to replace a dirty fork. It’s edumacational!

In all honesty, just pony up the time and rent the entire series of Flying Circus to see these sketches (and far more) in their original form. I’d only recommend ANFSCD if you just want to get a Cliff’s Notes version of the phenom before launching into their other films.

If you don’t have your own corporate fitness center, improvise.

Intermission!

  • All in all, there are 40 sketches and animation sequences in this movie.
  • After the opening theme song, a “THE END” screen comes up, and stage manager Terry Jones apologises for the brevity of the film.
  • Never trust pet stores that don’t sell the right types of pets.
  • Shot between the first and second seasons of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, this film contains several sketches that had been written for the second season but not yet performed, including the “Hungarian Phrasebook” sketch.
  • The sets for this film were built in an abandoned dairy rather than on a (more costly) soundstage.

Groovy Quotes

Customer: ‘E’s not pinin’! ‘E’s passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed ‘im to the perch ‘e’d be pushing up the daisies! ‘Is metabolic processes are now ‘istory! ‘E’s off the twig! ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!

Hungarian man: My hovercraft is full of eels.
Tobacconist: Matches?
Hungarian man: Ya ya! Do you want… do you want… to come back to my place, bouncy bouncy?
Tobacconist: That will be six shillings, please.
Hungarian man: If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me… I am no longer infected.

Sergeant-Major: Now, I would just like to point out that this film is displaying a distinct tendency to become SILLY. Now, nobody likes a good laugh more than I do… except, perhaps my wife… and some of her friends. Oh, yes, and Captain Johnson. Come to think of it, most people like a good laugh more than I do, but that’s beside the point! I’m warning this film NOT to get SILLY again! Right!

Announcer: These rabbits have been carefully staked to the ground, so they won’t move around as much, as this is only a one-day event.

Announcer: In 1945, peace broke out.

Interviewer: I didn’t really call you “Eddie baby” did I, sweetie?
Sir Edward Ross: Don’t call me sweetie!
Interviewer: Can I call you Sugarplum?
Sir Edward Ross: No!
Interviewer: Pussycat?
Sir Edward Ross: No!
Interviewer: Angel Drawers?

Announcer: And now for something completely different.

Bevis: I’m a lumberjack and I’m OK, I sleep all night and I work all day.

Self-Defense teacher: Now, it’s quite simple to deal with a banana fiend. First, you force him to drop the banana. Then, you eat the banana, thus disarming him. You have now rendered him helpless!
Self-Defense student #2: Suppose he’s got a bunch?
Self-Defense teacher: SHUT UP!
Self-Defense student #4: Suppose he’s got a pointed stick?
Self-Defense teacher: …SHUT UP!

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