Randy Skretvedt’s LAUREL & HARDY: THE MAGIC BEHIND THE MOVIES – ULTIMATE EDITION – Manna from heaven for L&H buffs

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As a feverish Laurel & Hardy buff, when I read Randy Skretvedt’s Laurel & Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies in 1987, I didn’t think that any L&H biography could top it. Nearly 30 years later, Skretvedt himself has proven me wrong. Skretvedt has published a massively updated “Ultimate Edition” that far surpasses even the high standards of the earlier book. (This is actually the second update of Skretvedt’s magnum opus, but who’s counting?)

Everything you could possibly want to know about every movie featuring both Laurel & Hardy (not always as a team, as in their early movies) is contained in this 630-page volume. The past 30 years have seen remastering of the original prints of L&H movies, as well as rare L&H movie “finds” that were thought to be lost to history; Skretvedt meticulously documents those as well. In addition, the book generously details L&H movie locations, then and now; vintage press releases, promotional photographs, and posters for L&H movies; and surprisingly fun and useful information on L&H’s many co-stars.

But don’t think it sounds like some massive homework assignment. As with the ‘87 book, Skretvedt writes in the manner of a detailed but most articulate Laurel & Hardy buff. As a result, the book’s breezy style draws you in and lure you through dozens or hundreds of pages before you stop to take a breath.

We might never find Hats Off or any other Laurel & Hardy movie rarities (at least in our lifetime). But having Skretvedt’s encyclopedic Laurel & Hardy tome at hand is akin to finding a long-lost film that you never even knew was lost. It’s a gem.

(This is a limited-edition book that will not be republished, so click here to get it at Amazon.com while you can!)

Don’t run away — THE MONTY PYTHON MOVIE BLOGATHON is here!

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To honor the 47th (!) anniversary of the world premiere of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” this blog is spending the next few days letting bloggers chime in on their favorite movies (group and solo) from members of the British comedy troupe Monty Python. Join us as we celebrate this groundbreaking comedy team!

If you are one of the blogathon entrants, please post the URL to your blog entry in the “Comments” section below, and I will link to it as soon as possible. Please have your entry posted by the end of the day on Monday, Oct. 3 (and if I may, the sooner the better!).

If you are just stopping by for some great reading, please give this blog bookmarked, as entries will continue coming in for the next three days. Enjoy the silliness!

Here are the blogathon’s entrants:

Movie Movie Blog Blog – The movie version of Graham Chapman’s A Liar’s Autobiography

BNoirDetour – Terry Gilliam’s Brazil

Cinematic Frontier – Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King

lifesdailylessonsblog – Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life

Serendipitous Anachronisms – Monty Python and the Holy Grail

The James Bond Social Media Project – John Cleese in the James Bond films The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day

Moon in Gemini – John Cleese and Michael Palin in Fierce Creatures

The Midnite Drive-In – Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits

Radiator Heaven – Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Reelweegiemidget Reviews – Eric Idle in National Lampoon’s European Vacation

 

A LIAR’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY (2012) – Graham Chapman tells a few stories

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The following is my entry in The Monty Python Movie Blogathon, being hosted at this blog from Oct. 1-3, 2016. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ reviews of group and solo efforts from the members of the British comedy group!

 

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If you’ve fantasized that the Monty Python troupe could get together one more time for one final, very special episode of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” A Liar’s Autobiography could be just about enough to fulfill your fantasy.

It certainly isn’t for the Pythons’ lack of trying. Based on the late Graham Chapman’s semi-autobiography of the same name, the movie uses Chapman to “narrate” his own story. (He recorded an oral version of his book shortly before he died of throat cancer in 1989.) And in best Python, multiple-casting style, most of the voices in this animated film are provided by nearly all of the remaining Python members, even Carol Cleveland. (The only holdout was Eric Idle, who was having a row with the other Pythons at the time of filming.)

The main difference between the movie and “Flying Circus” is that, other that a few clips from live interviews and the “Circus” TV series, the entire movie is animated — quite boldly and bawdily (by 14 different animation companies, no less). Otherwise, Chapman turns his life into a flight of fancy worthy of “Flying Circus,” starting out at actual points of fact in his life and then veering off into far more interesting and humorous flights of fancy.

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Chapman was quite frank about both his homosexuality and his battle with alcoholism, and those subjects get Pythonesque treatment here, with no holds barred. But it’s also fascinating to see how humor got him through more mundane aspects of his life — his formative years with parents who never quite “got him,” his collegiate years with self-satisfied professors, and his eventual boredom with the Hollywood lifestyle once he became famous.

As with most Python-based work, if you’re not tuned into their sense of ultra-dry humor, this movie is unlikely to make you a convert. As for myself, I enjoyed it the way I’ve enjoyed most of Python. It’s refreshingly honest about subjects from which more conservative folks simply shy away. It’s well-animated on all counts (think Monty Python meets Yellow Submarine). Plus, it’s damn funny.