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Aubrey Powell
Monty Python (John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam)
Writing Credits:

Monty Python are flying again for a final reunion, well, sort of. This hugely anticipated live show took place on June 20th 2014 at the O2 Arena in London. At a combined age of just 357, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin once again take to the stage and perform some Monty Python's greatest hits with modern, topical, Pythonesque twists.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English LPCM Stereo 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 137 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 11/11/14

• “The Reunion” Featurette
• “The Announcement” Featurette
• “The Production” Featurette
• “Backstage at the O2 London” Featurette
• “Highlights from the 10 Shows at the O2 London” Featurette
• “Green Screen Shoot” Featurette

• Booklet


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

Monty Python (Mostly) Live: One Down, Five to Go [Blu-Ray] (2014)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 28, 2014)

Since the comedy group’s last film in 1983, Monty Python largely ceased to exist. Reunions became especially difficult after the 1989 death of member Graham Chapman, but the surviving Pythons came together for various occasions, though never as a full “return”.

This changed in 2014, as the five remaining Pythons reunited to perform at London’s O2 Arena. When tickets for the initial concert went on sale in November 2013, they reportedly sold out in 43 seconds. This led to nine added shows, the last of which becomes the basis for Monty Python Live (Mostly): One Down, Five to Go.

Essentially the performance offers a “greatest hits” reel of Python gags from over the years. We get fan favorites like “Llamas”, “The Lumberjack Song”, “Crunchy Frog”, “The Argument Clinic” and “The Parrot Sketch”. The show also intersperses video segments with Terry Gilliam’s animation as well as archival footage from the series and movies. Those elements allow the late Chapman to appear.

With any form of reunion – musical or otherwise – the big question becomes whether or not the older performers can still carry their weight. In the case of the Pythons, the answer is a robust… maybe.

As seen here, Pythons can still deliver comedy with the appropriate timing and skill, but the setting becomes a major obstacle to the show’s success. While the Flying Circus series and Python movies could go broad, I think these tended toward humor based on small, quirky moments, and that material becomes tough to translate to a live setting.

This becomes a bigger concern when the live setting in question seats more than 20,000 people, as is the case for the O2. Based on sheer numbers, I’ve been to bigger arenas, but I can’t recall any that seemed as large to me. When I visited the O2 in 2007, I felt like I needed a sherpa to get to my upper level seat; it came across as a really, really vast enormodome.

Because of this, the Pythons project, project, project! In truth, the broadness of their performances could have been even more exaggerated, but all the actors still needed to play to fill the room – and in a room the size of the O2, this turned into a challenge.

The Pythons do their best, and the energy of the situation probably allowed the material to work reasonably well if you were in attendance. Still, I can’t help but feel that the choice to play such a huge environment – while clearly dictated by the enormous popular demand – doesn’t suit the comedy.

Frankly, it seems somewhat odd to see a TV series adapted for the concert stage. The Pythons convey the material as well as they can, but it’s not like seeing a musical performance where the songs can open up in new ways. Live sort of feels like a tribute band; it may offer the original Pythons, but it comes across like a simulation meant to recreate prior glories.

Not that this turns Live into a drag. Plenty of the bits still amuse, and the show moves at a good pace. Director Aubrey Powell depicts the concert in a subtle, unobtrusive manner, which means we don’t find ourselves subjected to any gimmicks; the editing and camera choices suit the performance.

While I enjoyed many of the show’s moments, I can’t help but think that Live lacks much purpose other than as a souvenir. Virtually all of the concert’s comedy can be found elsewhere – and done better in those alternate places. Live creates a good souvenir for fans who attended the O2 shows but I find it hard to recommend – I’d rather watch the original skits.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus D+

Monty Python Live (Mostly): One Down, Five to Go appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The 1080I presentation looked good but not great.

Sharpness mostly seemed solid. Occasionally, wide shots came across as a little soft and ill defined. However, those examples appeared infrequently and did little to distract from the rest of the presentation, which usually looked concise and detailed.

I noticed some light jagged edges and moiré effects – mostly from stairs and small props on stage – but I detected no signs of edge enhancement. Source flaws looked absent, and I saw no issues related to artifacting, noise, or other distractions.

Live delivered a broad, dynamic palette. With a wide variety of costumes, backdrops and lighting choices, the show offered many chances for a mix of colors. The hues looked well developed and accurate. Blacks were deep and dense, while low-light shots came across as clear and appropriately visible. The mild softness and jaggies/shimmering left this as a “B” image, but it was still more than acceptable.

As one expects from a concert presentation, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundfield remained focused on the front, where the mix showed strong stereo imaging. Dialogue appeared firmly set in the middle, while music spread across the forward speakers. Some effects and crowd noise also came from the front side channels and created a good sense of atmosphere.

As for the surrounds, they mostly featured crowd noise. They added a little reinforcement of the effects, but not to a substantial degree. The soundfield went with a pretty standard concert approach.

Audio quality was solid. Dialogue worked fine, as the lines seemed accurate and as natural as one could expect in the arena setting. The rest of the track also showed good clarity and a dynamic tone. The music was peppy and full, while effects seemed accurate enough. This turned into a satisfactory mix for a concert performance.

In terms of extras, we find a mix of short featurettes. The Reunion runs one minute, 10 seconds and offers a table read among the Pythons. It’s too brief to be more than a tease.

The Announcement lasts one minute, 57 seconds and displays a press event at which the Pythons revealed their concert plans. Like “Reunion”, it becomes too short to add value; why not show the entire press conference?

With the seven-minute, 58-second The Production, we get “behind the scenes” looks at musical arrangement, choreography, costumes, the set and rehearsals. Like the prior pieces, “Production” lacks coherence; it flits about rapidly and fails to give us much useful information.

Next we go Backstage at the O2 London. This reel fills four minutes, 14 seconds with shots of singers/dancers as they practice and prep behind the scenes. It seems mildly interesting to focus on the non-Pythons involved, but once again, brevity saps the piece of value; it feels too superficial to deliver much to us.

Highlights from the 10 Shows at the O2 London occupy two minutes, eight seconds. That’s not a lot of “highlights” for 10 concerts, is it? The reel shows some celebrities in attendance and a few side comments from the Pythons. It becomes another largely superfluous featurette.

Finally, we get elements from a June 2014 Green Screen Shoot. The five-minute, 23-second clip lets us see filmed performances of the Pythons created for the show. It’s the most interesting of the disc’s bonus materials.

In addition to these video components, the set supplies a booklet. It contains a note from the Pythons, exaggerated biographies, photos and archival elements. The booklet offers a nice addition.

In their prime, Monty Python produced excellent comedy. With Live – One Down, Five to Go, we get a live concert that seems amusing but somewhat pointless, as we can see the material performed better in its original format. The Blu-ray offers good picture and audio with superficial supplements. Serious Python fans will want to check out Live but others should stick with the original shows

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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