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EA SolinasHALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Feb. 22 2007
Before there was "Monty Python's Flying Circus," there were two other series produced by the legendary comedians later known as Monty Python. One of those was the hilarious "At Last the 1948 Show" -- not quite as funny as the series that came after it, but definitely hilarious and full of weird Pythonian moments.
Each episode (and most skits) are introduced by "The Lovely Aimi MacDonald," a blonde airhead who basically does nothing but pose and self-promote (such as the Make the Lovely Aimi MacDonald a Rich Lady Fund, or Aimi MacDonald songs), and occasionally make out with sailors.
Then there are the hilarious skits: a man visits a shrink because he thinks he's a rabbit, karate-chopping docs, a severely underfunded secret agent who has to burn down the Kremlin, a man who claims to be an underpaid gorilla, snake devourings, a game show where the only answer is "pork," a robotic visitor at a hospital, an invasion of tourists on a soap opera set, and others.
You can definitely see seeds of Monty Python here -- the constant chartered accountant jokes, cross-dressing, surreal sketches, mockery of the BBC, and John Cleese going ballistic ("OF COURSE YOU'RE NOT A RABBIT!"). Well, we don't have Terry Gilliam's weird animation, but at least we have Marty Feldman in a frothy dress and blonde wig.
In fact, the skits themselves are often comedy that could have been lifted from the Flying Circus -- lots of weird scenarios (Feldman desperately trying to answer the question of "Is there free speech?", but not being able to get a word in) and equally weird dialogue ("Just you and me... and an Arab"), which usually ends up in some explosive or strange confrontation.Read more ›
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Cleese and Chapman have pretty much always been my favorite Pythons, and the chance to see them alongside the wonderful Marty Feldman (always Igor in Young Frankenstein to me) and Tim Brooke Taylor was too good for me to pass up.
The material here is brilliant. This is the sort of anti-authoritarian, incisive, satirical stuff in embryonic form that would find its full form a few years later as Monty Python's Flying Circus. There's even a skit, The Four Yorkshiremen, that the Pythons would regularly perform in their live shows. And since the shows were recorded virtually live, its wonderful to see when something goes wrong, such as the Policemen in Drag, where they're all obviously struggling to keep from laughing. I also bought the "Do Not Adjust Your Set" collection, which is aimed at younger children, and doesn't appeal to me as well, although it does contain Palin, Idle, Jones, and occasionally Gilliam.
There is some surviving video from twelve of the thirteen episodes from its 1967 broadcast, and it seems like most of this material is spliced together from those bits to form the five 'episodes' packaged here. I don't know if this contains all the surviving material.
As is most surviving TV shows from this era, the image quality (being a film copy of a video original) is poor. Many contemporaneous episodes of Doctor Who, for example, have been restored to near-original condition with the use of VidFire technology, and certainly this show is just as meritorious of restoration.
I dock this one star for the packaging. At just over two hours, why this couldn't be fit onto a single DVD is beyond me. No commentary, no subtitles, a hard-to-read menu screen. There are interviews with Tim Brooke-Taylor and Michael Palin (of Do Not Adjust Your Set), but these are also included on the "Do Not Adjust..." discs too. Audio exists for all 13 episodes, and it would have been nice to hear some of those lost skits (Cleese and Feldman doing "Bookshop", for example).
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Some gems, but some cubic zirconium tooDec 19 2006
J. C Clark
- Published on Amazon.com
Would any one want to see this if the careers of John Cleese and Graham Chapman had ended here? Mostly, I think not. There are some good laughs, and a one hour package could be made that would be tremendously amusing. But having to watch the lovely Aimi MacDonald over and over, feeling as if her inanity and tedium is sucking the oxygen right out of my room, is painful. And like Monty Python, sometimes the boys don't seem able to distinguish between a funny idea and a funny sketch. The Nazi game show host probably sounded wildly funny, watching it is excruciating.
So, an early incarnation of the Four Yorkshiremen, one-upping each other with tales of their miserable childhoods, is possibly funnier than the later MP version. Marty Feldman, playing Michael Palin, Eric Idle and Woody Allen, is often brilliant, demonstrating a breadth unseen elsewhere. The Chartered Accountant Dance with a previously unknown to me Tim Brooke-Taylor is glorious. Several clever sight gags show up unexpectedly, providing surprising mirth. And a genuinely clever skit of Scotsmen at the ballet is well executed. I liked much of this, and don't regret seeing it. But comedy for the ages? Nooooo, I think not. I'll share my copy with friends, but if it somehow never finds its way back, I'll not be terribly disappointed.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
"At Last The 1948 Show" was a short-lived television show long believed lost. Recently several of the shows were rediscovered and rushed to market as this two DVD set. The show is most interesting to fans of "Monty Python," as Graham Chapman and John Cleese star in the show, and many of the sketches written by the duo later appear in differing (although frequently not differing that much) forms in "Python."
As a "Python" fan, I was surprised how much I enjoyed Marty Feldman in this show: I expected him to be a weaker spot, but I think that he, along with Chapman and Cleese were the unquestioned stars of the show. I have to admit that I never found Tim Brooke-Taylor to be terribly funny or talented, and costar Aimi MacDonald was, while easy on the eyes, painful to watch. In her defense, MacDonald was normally used in simplistic linking bits (that Terry Gilliam's animation would largely perform later in "Python") that were not especially well written and seemed like afterthoughts. Considering this was only a couple of years before "Python" it is amazing to see the relative lack of production values, although I understand that the picture quality itself in the broadcast episodes was much better.
Overall, I gave the series four stars: it is historically significant, and frequently funny, but some of the material is flimsy at best and poorly executed, especially by Brooke-Taylor and MacDonald. I recommend this to fans of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" and other period British comedy: others likely may find it dated and boring.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A pre-Monty Python TV Seroes!Aug. 22 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
"At Last the 1948 Show " + "Do Not Adjust Your Set" = "Monty Python's Flying Circus". Really.
There are skits on these DVD sets that are as funny as those by Monty Python.
I have read since the 1970s that British viewers of Monty Python recognized the cast from earlier TV series such as these. Pythons John Cleese and Graham Chapman (along with Marty Feldman!) starred in "At Last the 1948 Show" (with a few small parts by Eric Idle). Pythons Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin starred in "Do Not Adjust Your Set".
"At Last the 1948 Show" was, as seen on these DVDs, very much an on-stage skit program with lots of dialog. In contrast "Do Not Adjust Your Set" had a lot more outdoor location scenes and special effects for more of a visual gag-type program.
"Monty Python's Flying Circus" was the next step in a growing community of comedians in the U. K. Surely this is what British viewers must have thought, at least some. Here in the U. S. the initial exposure of Monty Python came with no advance warning. It was a delightful shock. In fact most of everything Monty Python had released by the mid-1970s (TV series, movies, books, records, live stage show) was dumped on the American market at about the same time. It was pretty amazing. We just didn't get to work-up to Monty Python by first viewing TV series such as "At Last the 1948 Show" and "Do Not Adjust Your Set".
After the years of reading about the numerous pre-Python TV series it is nice to finally see some.
It might be worth noting that the picture and sound quality of the shows (particularly in the case of "At Last the 1948 Show") were probably a bit clearer than seen on these DVDs. I am very sure that what are seen here are cinescopes of the original programs. Cinescopes were made by placing a film camera directly at a TV monitor and filming live or video tape TV programs directly off of a TV screen. Once made the films were permanent. The original video tapes of these programs very likely no longer exist as British TV and radio producers were notorious for reusing video and audio tape through the 1970s leaving no archive copy of many TV and radio programs unless they happened to be cinescoped, often for broadcast in
other countries like Australia, for instance. Many fondly remembered British TV shows originally recorded on video tape are long gone. When shows like these finally turn up in any form, fans can be thankful, as I am.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
As funny as "Python," if a bit less unique and well-directed.Aug. 7 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
In 1967, David Frost approached Tim Brooke-Taylor (later of "The Goodies") and John Cleese (later of "Monty Python's Fying Circus") to do a TV comedy show. They immediately brought friend, fellow ex-Cambridge revue alum, and Cleese's writing partner, Graham Chapman into the fold. As the fourth cast member, they chose writer Marty Feldman. Frost was nervous about Feldman's appearance and Feldman himself was a bit apprehensive as it has been some time since he had performed. Luckily, he joined up and "At Last the 1948 Show" was born. It ran for two series and, amongst its admirers, were three writers/performers (and one animator) of the kid's TV show, "Do Not Adjust Your Set:" Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, & Terry Gilliam. In 1969, Chapman & Cleese joined up with Jones, Palin, Gilliam, & Idle to create "Monty Python."
As was the standard practice at the time, the videos for the show were erased after the show was broadcast and the show was lost to time. Or so was the belief until recently when five of them were rediscovered in the vaults of Swedish television. They have now been released, along with "Do Not Adjust Your Set," on DVD.
I'm happy to report that "At Last the 1948 Show" is hilarious. Much of the hard edged humor that Chapman & Cleese would bring to Python is in evidence, though everyone was still very much concerned with giving scenes a "proper" ending, a practice that would be ditched with "Python." The team works wonderfully together, with the antic, diminutive twosome of Brooke-Taylor & Feldman providing a nice complement to the authoritarian roles essayed by Graham & John. Indeed, the material on the show is so strong, some scenes would later be pilfered by Python in later years (notably the "Four Yorkshireman" sketch which appears in "Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl" and the "Bookshop" sketch which gets an airing on a Python CD but does not actually appear on this set).
On the whole, the show is stronger than "Do Not Adjust Your Set" even though that show is somewhat closer in form to what "Python" would be. The downside is, there are far fewer of them than "Do Not Adjust." But, fans of "Python" should grab this title without thinking twice as it is absolutely hysterical.