03/09/07
Reviews by - Lindsay Planer


Since laughter is the best medicine -- and for those trying to shake winter's seasonal maladies -- we've got several doses of funny business to cure what ails ya.


Benny Hill -- The Hill's Angels Years: Set Six - 1986-1989 (A&E Home Video)

This is the final installment in the Benny Hill Complete and Unadulterated series. The British-based Thames Television somewhat abruptly and unceremoniously dropped Hill in 1989. After nearly two decades of giving the network its golden goose, the comedian was finding the times were changing.

Most evident during these eight 50-minute episodes is that Hill was increasingly toning down his 'lecherous old man' shtick. Rather, he began to draw deeper within his uncanny skills as a physical comedian. Much in the style of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, Hill developed segments with the honest, raw interaction that only comes from the innocence of children. Incorporating the kids of his primary ensemble cast and crew, 'Hill's Little Angels' were born. They get into all sorts of mischief during "Outdoor Games," "The Birthday Party," and the very last sketch of the entire series, "Gone Fishing".

Enthusiasts of Hill will be glad to see the return of favorite longstanding characters, such as Fred Scuttle and the perpetually difficult to understand Mr. Chow Mein. Benny also strikes up the band with the slightly silly ditties "Cockney Girls and Rustic Lasses" and "Anna Marie". Plus there are parodies a' plenty, with a brilliant spoof of the '80s cop show "Cagney & Lacey" and a poke at the overly-pretentious news readers on the "Crook Report."

Each of the three DVDs have interactive menus and direct scene selections. The extras on Set Six include one more informal bounce down memory lane with the "Hill's Angel's: In Conversation" -- featuring latter-era recruits Alison Bell, Alison Thomas and Jo Thomas -- as well as the sixth edition of the "Benny Hill Cheeky Challenge" trivia game.

Monty Python -- Another Monty Python Record (Virgin/EMI)
Monty Python -- Monty Python's Previous Record (Virgin/EMI)
Monty Python -- Life of Brian (Virgin/EMI)
Monty Python -- The Meaning of Life (Virgin/EMI)

After decades of inferior sound quality and skimpy packaging, the vast majority of Monty Python's recorded output has recently been reworked. The long players have been updated with 24-bit digital audio and created with all living Python members involved. Their collaborative efforts have yielded rare and never-before-published images from Terry Gilliam’s archive and otherwise unavailable audio material. Each CD booklet likewise boasts newly-penned essays by Robert Ross, comedy historian and author of "The Monty Python Encyclopedia."

While all nine titles are currently available in the UK, the first four that have been imported stateside areAnother Monty Python Record (1971), Monty Python's Previous Record (1972) and the respective soundtrack albums for the films Life Of Brian (1979) and The Meaning Of Life (1983). These have not only been outfitted with significantly better sound, but an additional 34 bonus tracks as well.

For their studio records, the Python's milk every aspect of the aural medium to the max. They also adapted memorable television moments such as "Spanish Inquisition," "Abattoir," "Ethel the Frog," "Spam Sketch," "England 1747 Denis Moore," "Travel Agent" and "An Elk Sketch". Extras included are "Teach Yourself Heath," "Bishop At Home," "Blood, Devastation, War & Horror," "The Great Debate" and broadcast commercials for the 1971 tome, Monty Python's Big Red Book.

The film soundtrack to … Life Of Brian is highlighted by memorable dialogue of "The Wise Men At The Manger," "Sermon On The Mount (Big Nose)," "Stoning," "Nisus Wettus," and the song "Look on the Bright Side of Life (All Things Dull And Ugly)". Extras include the abandoned "Otto" sketch and song as well as a pair of adverts for the movie.

The Meaning Of Life is similarly chocked with the unforgettable "Part One: The Miracle Of Birth," the "Every Sperm Is Sacred" dance number, as well as John Cleese's birds and bees lecture during "Part Three: "Growth And Learning." Plus, there is a load of bonus material to boot, including a piano demo for the "Meaning Of Life" title song, "Fat Song (Deleted Intro To Mr. Creosote Sketch)" and a number of highly innovative radio advertisements.

Rumor is that Sony Legacy will begin their Monty Python reissue campaign slater this spring. This means that Matching Tie and Handkerchief (1973), Monty Python Live at Drury Lane (1974), The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), Live at City Center (1976) and the Contractual Obligation Album (1980) will get their due stateside. Until then, eager enthusiasts are encouraged to check out their favorite CD importer -- such as www.amazon.co.uk -- to complete their collections.


Lindsay Planer is a freelance journalist and technical producer at WBT AM/FM in Charlotte, NC. He is a regular contributor to All Music Guide, CrutchfieldAdvisor.com and Gaston Gazette. Comments and questions can be sent to <asthediscspins@earthlink.net>.


 

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