The Secret Policeman's Ball

Overview

Some of the biggest and brightest stars in British comedy appear in this performance film, which documents a revue staged by John Cleese of Monty Python as a benefit for the human rights group Amnesty International. In addition to Cleese and fellow Python members Michael Palin and Terry Jones (who reprise skits from the Python show as well as its lesser-known predecessor At Last The 1948 Show), The Secret Policeman's Ball includes sketches featuring Rowan Atkinson (shortly before his breakthrough success on the ...
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Overview

Some of the biggest and brightest stars in British comedy appear in this performance film, which documents a revue staged by John Cleese of Monty Python as a benefit for the human rights group Amnesty International. In addition to Cleese and fellow Python members Michael Palin and Terry Jones (who reprise skits from the Python show as well as its lesser-known predecessor At Last The 1948 Show), The Secret Policeman's Ball includes sketches featuring Rowan Atkinson (shortly before his breakthrough success on the UK television series Not The Nine O'Clock News), Peter Cook (who performs classic material from the show Beyond The Fringe), Eleanor Bron, Clive James and The Kevin Campbell Road Show. The show also includes acoustic musical performances from Pete Townshend of the Who, classical guitarist John Williams (who joins Townshend for a version of "Won't Get Fooled Again") and activist singer/songwriter Tom Robinson. The Secret Policeman's Ball was the third in a series of benefits shows organized by Cleese for Amnesty International, and the name was recycled for several filmed stage shows that followed.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
While some of the references are perhaps a bit dated (Kate Bush, anyone?) and some of the humor is perhaps a bit too Brit-centric for some viewers, The Secret Policeman's Ball is still a riotous excursion into British comedy and late-'70s style. Those looking for a visually interesting cinematic experience can just go ahead and look elsewhere -- this low-tech film is definitely of the "point the camera and shoot" variety. But it does succeed in capturing some of England's finest comedic minds performing some truly classic sketches. In addition, there are a couple of delicious musical moments, courtesy of Pete Townshend, whose acoustic "Pinball Wizard" and "Won't Be Fooled Again" are smashing, and Tom Robinson, whose "Glad to Be Gay" still packs a punch. On the comedy side, almost all of the performers are in top form. John Cleese and Michael Palin recreate the classic "Cheese Shop" sketch with all the skill and timing expected, and Cleese and Peter Cook mine all the laughs in the "Interesting Facts" segment. Cook is brilliant in the judge sketch, and even those unfamiliar with the Jeremy Thorpe trial that it parodies should appreciate it. Rowan Atkinson is hilarious as The Schoolmaster, spitting out the ridiculous names of his students with acid dripping off his tongue, and is quite amusing in his mimed pianist routine. If Billy Connolly is a bit of a disappointment, and if one or two moments fall a little flat, there's still more than enough in Ball to make it well worth watching.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 10/20/1998
  • UPC: 081227255831
  • Original Release: 1979
  • Source: Rhino
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
John Cleese
Peter Cook Himself
Eleanor Bron
Pete Townshend
Rowan Atkinson Himself
Michael Palin
John Williams
Sylvester McCoy
Billy Connolly
Terry Jones Himself (uncredited)
Tom Robinson
Dudley Moore
David Rappaport
Ken Campbell
Technical Credits
Roger Graef Director, Producer
Judy Freeman Sound/Sound Designer
Pascoe MacFarlane Cinematographer
Thomas Schwalm Editor, Producer
Clive Tickner Cinematographer
Ernest Vincze Cinematographer
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