All good things must come to an end. And so it was with Monty Python's Flying Circus, the most outrageously off-the-wall and brilliantly silly Comedy of All Time. After four seasons of inspired lunacy, the Pythons hung up their TV Spurs and became superheroes, repeatedly saving the world from diabolical villains and menacing threats from outer space. But fear not! Their pre-heroic exploits are available to you on this gloriously remastered and utterly complete DVD of the Complete Fourth Series featuring such gems as "Buy an Ant", The Batsmen of the Kalahari" and "The Golden Age Of Ballooning". Episodes Comprise:
1. The Golden Age of Ballooning 2. Michael Ellis 3. The Light Entertainment War 4. Hamlet 5. Mr. Neutron 6. Party Political Broadcast
The Last Gasp
- Monty Python's Flying Circus: Series 4 review by Count Otto Black
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You rated this film: 3
This was Python's final series, and it was less than half the length of the others because they were running out of ideas. John Cleese, frustrated by the staleness he felt to be creeping in even by Series 3, had already quit the team, leaving a tall, thin, cantankerous Cleese-shaped hole throughout Series 4. Still, it was one last chance to enjoy some classic Python.
Or was it? Although he wasn't physically involved, John Cleese contributed to the writing due to quite a lot of the material being recycled from early drafts of the script for "Monty Python And The Holy Grail", which was originally going to take place mostly in the present day. And there's even a little bit by Douglas Adams (watch out for his name in the closing credits of episode 6), who wrote the sketch about savage tribesmen playing cricket as a strange kind of warfare, a concept he liked so much he later recycled it twice. But despite some splendidly silly moments, there are too many patches where it all feels a bit tired.
You can sense the team already moving on to other things (except Eric Idle, who just wanted to keep on doing Monty Python until he and the jokes died of old age, and apparently still does). Most episodes partially drop the sketch format in favor of a proper 30-minute narrative, probably because Terry Jones and Michael Palin were drifting in the direction of "Ripping Yarns". This sometimes works, as in the story of Mr Neutron, the most dangerous man in the Universe, who of course consistently fails to be the slightest bit dangerous. But on the other hand, we get an entire episode without the usual theme-tune and almost devoid of Terry Gilliam animations devoted to the repetitive (and in places, by today's standards, extremely racist) adventures of an incredibly boring man on a bicycle called Mr Pither.
This was obviously the result of Jones & Palin trying out a narrative format they hadn't quite got the hang of yet - Mr Pither would later evolve into the "Ripping Yarns" character Eric Olthwaite, a man so dull that his own father pretends to be French in order to avoid talking to him, who stumbles into thrilling adventures and accidentally becomes tremendously interesting. But here it feels more like a second-rate attempt to be Pythonesque by less talented imitators. John Cleese quit after venting his feelings in a lengthy rant during which he went through every sketch in Series 3, pointing out which sketch in Series 1 or 2 had already been there and done that, until he was only left with sketches that were entirely new - a grand total of 3. Unfortunately he was right. This is Monty Python ripping itself off, and it was time to stop.
Nevertheless, there are flashes of the old brilliance that are up there with the best of Python, and if you liked the earlier series, you will laugh. Just not quite as often as before.
See my review of series 3
- Monty Python's Flying Circus: Series 4 review by JD
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You rated this film: 5
If you are watching the complete collection from series 1 - 4 you may feel that some of the originality is fading by series 4. I would recommend this disc however for the opening ceremony of the post box. A sketch to my mind which surpasses all others including the parrot sketch (maybe first equal with the railway timetable murder) and does not see its fair share of glory. The parody on awards ceremonies is another which could do with a dusting off.