If you’ve been checking in on Premium Hollywood over the course of the past few days, then you’ve probably spotted our man Bob Westal’s tributes to the 40th anniversary of Monty Python, and if you haven’t…well, they’re here, here, and here. Python fans will likely have already seen Bob’s finely-chosen clips, but if they’re new to you and made you laugh, then you really ought to be tuning into IFC’s ongoing six-part documentary about the history of the Python organization: “Monty Python: Almost the Truth – The Lawyer’s Cut.” As evidenced by the fact that there’s an Amazon link in the midst of the title, the documentary is indeed being released onto DVD on Oct. 27th, but don’t let that stop you from checking out the remaining episodes as they air on IFC. Those who aren’t obsessive types might find it a bit more Python than they can stand, but it’s definitely the comedy equivalent of “The Beatles Anthology,” leaving no stone unturned from the group’s career, showing their origins, discussing their TV series, films, and infamous live performances, and offering insights from other comedians who’ve received inspiration from the gentlemen in the Flying Circus.
It’s worth noting, by the way, that there is actually a theatrical cut of “Almost the Truth,” which comes in at a decidedly tighter run time of under two hours…and I know this because I was in attendance at the Ziegfield Theater in New York City last week when it was screened. The best bit about it, though, was that the screening was attended by John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin, not to mention the group’s female in residence, Carol Cleveland.
Oh, no, wait, that wasn’t the best bit. The real best bit was when, after the screening, the gentlemen took the stage – with Cleese carrying a cardboard stand-up of the late Graham Chapman under his arm – to answer questions which had been submitted by the audience, which you can experience for yourself below:
No, hang on: the actual, honest-to-Brian best bit was the fact that I actually got to meet the Pythons.
Okay, what actually happened was that I chatted with Terry Jones for a few minutes, then took pictures of Cleese, Gilliam, and Palin. Idle blew right past me, the bastard. (Just kidding…well, about the bastard part, anyway. He could’ve at least slowed down, though.)
See, here was the problem: although I had an excellent spot right at the end of the red carpet, it was rather chilly and quite rainy, so although the guys were wearing their best meet-the-press game faces, they could hardly be blamed for wanting to get inside and get warmed up.
Terry Jones was the first one down the carpet, however, so he hadn’t quite gone numb from the cold yet by the time he reached me. As such, I was able to ask him about his most underrated solo project, at which point he surprised me by citing not a film or TV series but, rather, a book: “Who Murdered Chaucer?: A Medieval Mystery,” released in 2003.
Here’s how Amazon describes it:
In this work of historical speculation, Terry Jones investigates the mystery surrounding the death of Geoffrey Chaucer over 600 years ago. A diplomat and brother-in-law to John of Gaunt – one of the most powerful men in the kingdom – Chaucer was celebrated as his country’s finest living poet, rhetorician, and scholar: the pre-eminent intellectual of his time. And yet nothing is known of his death. In 1400 his name simply disappears from the record. We don’t know how he died, where or when; there is no official confirmation of his death and no chronicle mentions it; no notice of his funeral or burial. He left no will and there’s nothing to tell us what happened to his estate. He didn’t even leave any manuscripts. How could this be? What if he was murdered? What if he and his writings had become politically inconvenient in the seismic social shift that occurred with the overthrow of the liberal Richard II by the reactionary, oppressive regime of Henry IV. Would the dogs of suppression, unleashed by Archbishop Arundel, have been snapping at the heels of a dangerous poet? Terry Jones’ hypothesis is the introduction to a reading of Chaucer’s writings as evidence that might be held against him, interwoven with a portrait of one of the most turbulent periods in English history, its politics and its personalities.
In the end, though, I did end up pressing the point and asking him if he had a pick for an underrated film or series from his solo career, and he went with “The Wind in the Willows.” I’d have to agree with him, on the matter, and not just because it’s included in this equally underrated piece which I recently contributed to Bullz-Eye:
To get to the piece, you can click on the image or, if that’s too much trouble for you, then you can click right here. If you have any further questions…well, look, I didn’t expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition!