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The John Cleese Comedy Collection: How to Irritate People / The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It / Romance With a Double Bass (3DVD)
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From Monty Python through Fawlty Towers, John Cleese’s creativity, innovation and hilarity altered the world of sketch comedy and sitcoms forever. These three comic gems in The John Cleese Collection are essential viewing for connoisseurs of British Comedy. Starring John Cleese with Python members Michael Palin and Graham Chapman, and Fawlty Towers’ own Connie Booth. The set includes: How To Irritate People, The Strange Case of the End of Civilization and Romance with a Double Bass.
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The main reason why I created this review however was to complain and to warn others of the poor reproduction quality of The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know it. All three of these productions show their age in their poor picture quality but the reproduction of The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know it is particularly bad. The distributor that made this reproduction clearly failed to review the quality of their DVD reproduction before making mass copies. I suspect they are offering this low-cost box-set as a way of getting rid of these bad reproductions. There are multiple occurrences in this reproduction where the picture skips, becomes distorted, and shows lines as often occurs with a mangled VHS tape. This issue is not the result of a defective DVD or with the DVD player, it relates directly to the reproduction of the picture itself! I still possess my copy of this show on VHS which I taped many years ago from television, but I bought this box-set as I wanted to have a copy preserved on DVD . What I had not expected was that my VHS copy would prove to have a much better picture than this DVD reproduction. Sloppy work by the distributor to say the least.
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"Romance with a Double Bass" is a great example of Cleese in classic comedic form. He is also in naked form for a significant portion of this 1974 short film, along with co-star Connie Booth. Amazon's product listing shows this collection as "Not Rated," but this film would get an R rating in the U.S. market. If the nudity - which is an integral part of the story - doesn't bother you, this is a wonderful interpretation of an Anton Chekov short story. However, the video quality is grainy.
"How to Irritate People" was shown on British TV in 1968 and is a collector's item for fans of Cleese and his Monty Python cohorts Michael Palin and Graham Chapman. Perhaps surprisingly, the video quality for this program is the best of the three, even though it is the oldest performance in the set.
"The Strange Case of the End of Civilization," a 1977 Sherlock Holmes spoof, is a bit disappointing, and not just because of inferior video quality. While it has its moments, much of the humor comes off as dumb rather than hilarious. It also has many references to 1970s TV shows about police detectives (Kojak, Columbo, McCloud, Hawaii Five-O, etc.) that would have been funny at the time but will be lost on audiences too young to remember these shows.
The set includes three DVDs in separate boxes, obviously a repackaging of previous releases. The content of all three would fit on one DVD.
Dedicated followers of Cleese's early work will want to have this set and may be willing to overlook its flaws. Anyone who is expecting digitally remastered video or elegant packaging, or who is offended by the nudity in one of the programs, will be disappointed.
1. How To Irritate People- This is a special program that was presented by David Frost with John Cleese as host. The program consists of various skits performed by Cleese, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, Connie Booth, and others. The skits or somewhat hit and miss but most of them are pretty good. Some of them are very Pythonesque and would fit perfectly in an episode of Flying Circus. This program is a very good example of the beginnings of Monty Python.
2. Romance With A Double Bass- This is a short film starring Cleese and Booth. I was very surprised with how good this film is. It is a comedy and a love story between a musician and a princess who decide to go skinny-dipping in the same lake but they don't know that the other one is there. A thief comes along and steals both of their sets of clothes and they must make it back to the castle wearing their bithday-suits. There is quite a bit of nudity in this film. So consider yourself warned ;)
3. The Strange Case Of The End Of Civilization As We Know It- This one is my personal favorite of this collection. This short film is absolutely hilarious. I would have loved for this film to have been the start of a series. I love the Pink Panther films, and this is sort of John Cleese's version. Cleese plays Sherlock Holmes' grandson who is also a detective but not a very good one.
Overall, this is a very good collection. It consists of a television special and two short films so don't expect three full-length movies or anything like that. I think most casual viewers or people who are somewhat interested in Cleese will not like this collection but if you are a big John Cleese fan it is essential.
Hope this helps...
Some may sound a little passe, but on the whole it is a great document to have, especially if you were a fan of the Monty Python shows.
Younger audience may be pleasantly surprised and even become fans ! after all there are talks that the remaining members of the gang are thinking of getting together again !