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By TOM SOTER
From: VIDEO, January 1987
And now for something completely familiar. Those who have been aching to add the Piranha Brothers, the Ministry of Silly Walks, and the Dead Parrot to their video collections should take heart. Those who don't know what we're talking about, be warned: Monty Python's Flying Circus is finally coming to video.
The British television series, which had passed over such possible titles as Owl Stretching Time and A Horse, a Spoon and a Bucket, was created by five Britons and an expatriate American from Minneapolis. It was a television groundbreaker that combined eccentric sketch comedy (a clinic where you pay to 'argue, be insulted, or be hit on the head) with bizarre,animation (a baby carriage that devours passersby). It came to America via public television in 1974 but was never available on tape until now.
"We didn't know when the best time to release them was," says Python animator-turned-film-director Terry Gilliam. "Since we got the [ rights to the show a while ago, we've been discussing the best way to present them. We could have sold to network TV and made a lot of money, but we finally said, forget it. We wanted 'them to go out without commercial breaks."
The group decided to sign with Paramount Home Video after Python representatives met with Timothy Clott, the company's senior veep in charge of home video. Not only had Clott been very successful with his carefully packaged and advertised Star Trek videos, he was also a knowledgeable Python fan from way back.
"They were encouraged," says Clott, "and they were happy with our marketing plans." Paramount will release two 60-minute volumes at $24.95 apiece every three months. Each will contain two episodes linked thematically, not chronologically, and each will be packaged with bizarre Gilliam artwork. "There are diehard Python fanatics in every marketc place," notes Clott.
The same fans will also be happy to learn that a Flying Circus first cousin is also coming to video: Fawlty Towers. The 12-episode sitcom was created by Python John Cleese after a stay at an English seaside hotel. "The manager was so rude he Was fascinating," recalls Cleese. "He thought the guests were sent along to annoy him and prevent him from running the hotel."
That became the basis for this frantic farce, among the most hilarious-if shortlived--comedies ever made for television. Late guests, angry guests, even dead guests all get the same, bad-tempered treatment from hotel owner Basil Fawlty (Cleese), aided and rrustrated by his sharp~tongued wife, Sybil, his clever assistarlt, Polly, and his nitwitted Spanish waiter, Manuel. The series, taped in 1975 and 1979, ended when Cleese became bored with it, and is now coming to video in its entirety from CBS/Foxas part of the BBC's 50th anniversary celebration.