Thursday, November 8, 2001

”The full monty” takes on a new dimension with A&E Home Video’s fresh farcical treasure trove, Monty Python Live! ($39.95 DVD, $29.95 VHS). It’s our …

Video pick of the week
Volume 1 of the two-disc DVD set presents the complete 1981 feature-length concert film Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl, in which the irreverent comedy troupe Brits John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin, plus Yank Terry Gilliam offer in-the-flesh recreations of some of their most beloved skits, including “The Lumberjack Song” and “The Parrot Sketch,” along with original material designed exclusively for that gala event.
The warts-and-all concert, with the occasional flubbed line and botched entrance intact, showcases the gang at its spontaneous best. Disc One concludes with another treat, the 1998 HBO special Monty Python’s Flying Circus: Live at Aspen, in which the boys wing some swift banter with host Robert Klein.
Disc 2 leads off with Parrot Sketch Not Included: 20 Years of Python, sort of a greatest-hits collection, introduced by Steve Martin, that allows fans instant access to many of the troupe’s most frequently requested skits. Available only on the DVD edition is Monty Python’s Fleigender Zirkus: German Episode #1, a mostly failed but nonetheless fascinating experiment taped for German/Austrian TV and spoken in phonetic German partially salvaged by a particularly vicious Bavarian restaurant sketch.
At a total running time of 250 minutes, “Monty Python Live!” constitutes a mirthful marathon that will keep comedy lovers coming back for more.

Video verite
In new documentary developments, First Run Features (800/229-8575) offers a rear-view look at New York in the Fifties ($29.95 VHS/DVD), focusing on the literary, beat and jazz scenes personified by such period icons as Norman Mailer, Jack Kerouac and Count Basie, with contemporary commentary provided by Joan Didion, Gay Talese and Robert Redford, among many others.
The label also reissues Peter (“Lord of the Rings”) Jackson’s amusing movie mockumentary Forgotten Silver ($24.95 DVD, $19.95 VHS), about the life and times of a highly fictitious New Zealand film pioneer.
Docurama, meanwhile, debuts W.I.S.O.R.: The Robo Welder a riveting, detailed account of the invention, from conception to completion, of an autonomous welding machine designed to repair New York City’s elderly underground infrastructure along with Pie in the Sky: The Brigid Berlin Story, a candid look at the life and times of the erstwhile Andy Warhol superstar ($19.98 VHS, $24.98 DVD each).
Miramax Home Entertainment chimes in with the recent theatrical release Calle 54, filmmaker Fernando Trueba’s tribute to such seminal Latin jazz greats as Gato Barbieri, Chico O’Farrell and Tito Puentes (priced for rental VHS, $32.98 DVD).

Collectors’ corner
MGM sets an early December date to introduce a raft of classics old and new to DVD. Among the titles will be The Defiant Ones, with Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis; The Handmaid’s Tale, starring Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall; The Lover, with Jane March and Tony Leung; the Peter Sellers romp The Party, Topkapi, with Melina Mercouri and Peter Ustinov; and the courtroom drama Witness for the Prosecution, starring Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich and Charles Laughton. The discs will be tagged at $19.98 each.

Comedies on cassette
A pair of recent theatrical comedy hits also make their way to home video next month: Chris Rock, Regina King, Chazz Palminteri and Eugene Levy in the loose “Heaven Can Wait” update Down to Earth (Paramount, $14.95 VHS); and Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway in the royal comedy The Princess Diaries (Walt Disney Home Video, priced for rental VHS). Both will also be available on DVD.

Phan mail
Dear Phantom: I am trying to find a very, very rare movie Five, by Arch Oboler (1951, sci-fi). Is there anywhere on the Web I might be able to purchase this movie?
J.T., via e-mail
Unfortunately, like too many other vintage genre gems, Arch Oboler’s gripping doomsday fable has yet to be released on video.

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