No less an authority on such subjects as the late, very great George Harrison once proclaimed they picked straight up from where The Beatles left off. However, that’s but one reason I report today on something not always thought of as rock, or even roll.
That something in question, comprising of five uppity Oxford and Cambridge drop-outs who, alongside one itinerant American cartoonist, somehow joined forces in 1969 London to produce forty-five British (plus two German) half-hour television shows, five full-length motion pictures, three theatrical musicals, five (authorized) books, seventeen original (and one unreleased) audio albums and six video games (and counting), now tell The Whole Story – including, yes, even some of the “naughty bits” – in their (even the dead one’s) very own words throughout Monty Python: Almost The Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut), Eagle Rock Entertainment’s one and only three-DVD and/or two-BluRay disc video box set containing six hour-long episodes plus an additional one hundred and eighty minutes of bonus material.
Strictly numerically speaking, that is.
Yes, from their wickedly risqué yet far from humble beginnings upon Britain’s college Comedy Revue circuit through their infiltration of the U.K. television industry via children’s shows and the weekly David Frost Report, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam (the American) and Graham Chapman (the dead one) were somehow finally offered thirteen half-hours to fill themselves for none other than BBC Television. And so it came to pass during the evening of October the Fifth, 1969 that Monty Python’s Flying Circus Episode 1, Whither Canada?, suddenly appeared on British tele-screens with a surreal socio-musical sketch entitled “It’s Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.” Over the next three months, despite an infuriating variety of unpublicized, ever-changing timeslots, the show slowly-but-extremely-surely built a loyal audience of viewers captivated by its weekly parade of flying sheep, musical mice, crunchy frogs, naked ants, lumberjacks, murderous octogenarians, men with tape recorders up each other’s noses and, how could we forget, dead parrots.
Try as the once-staid BBC did to conceal this bizarre new program from its viewers, the Flying Circus carried onwards and upwards for an additional four years before spawning a full-length motion picture entitled Monty Python and the Holy Grail, financed by such Python fan(atic)s as Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin. By now, the original British television episodes were popping up on American PBS-TV stations as well, and even Elvis Presley could soon be heard leading his hitherto all-American Memphis Mafia in late-night recitations of “The All-England Summarize Proust Competition” and even the Knights who say “Ni!”
Naturally, this lead to the Pythons’ own (anti-) Biblical epic The Life Of Brian being released, to much publicity-scooping furor worldwide, in 1979 – this time financed in full by the aforementioned ex-Beatle George mortgaging his castle and forming his own Handmade Films concern (all because he “just wanted to see the film” after original backers EMI pulled out at the proverbial last minute) (claiming the Pythons were, and I quote, trying to “crucify” their corporate body). Four years later came your own humble Rock and Roll Reporter’s personal favorite Python project The Meaning of Life before Messrs. Cleese, Palin, Jones, Idle, Gilliam and even Chapman decided to at last call it a day.
Until, that is, they set about launching a staggering series of century- and globe-spanning multiple-media re-launches, repackages, revivals and reunions that can only be matched by their frequently Farewell Tour-ing countrymen The Who.
Which brings us today to their latest, but I just must admit by far greatest grab at the penultimate [sic!] Python megabucks, Almost The Truth.
Meticulously programmed and packaged, filled with fact ‘n’ fun-filled interviews featuring even the mysterious “Seventh Python,” and of course stuffed with literal hours of clips, this is honestly (“almost”) the closest we’ve yet come to understanding the histories, inspirations, motivations and machinations behind everything from The Fish Slapping Dance on down. And its near seven-and-three-quarter total hours (!) on, and by, the group which truly has yet to be equaled as – you were right, George – the Beatles of comedy undoubtedly add up to what must surely be the final, final words on this most silly of subjects.
…..Until the NEXT posthumously Python-produced television, motion picture, musical, book, album and/or video game self-retrospective arises, that is…