Beginning in 1979 many of Britain's most talented performers, including members of Monty Python's Flying Circus and several rock stars, teamed up in a series of benefits, several of which were captured on film.
A mock STAR WARS (1977) preamble announces that this movie has been compiled from The Secret Policeman's Other Ball, two live revues staged for the benefit of the human rights organization Amnesty International. ("After all," notes the narrator, "two balls are better than one.") The first segment
of the program opens at a park bench, where Peter Cook (the most Pythonesque of non-Python comedians) bores John Cleese to distraction with a series of trivial facts about whales, grasshoppers, Arabs, etc. In a classic TV sketch from "Monty Python's Flying Circus," Cleese turns homicidal after
gradually discovering that cheese shop proprietor Michael Palin stocks not a single one of the world's countless varieties of cheese. Next, after being informed by his delusional wife (Eleanor Bron) that she is pregnant, Cook bursts her balloon (literally). The following eight minutes are devoted
to freeform lunacy--an indescribable interlude that requires Rowan Atkinson to strip from kilts to jockey shorts and concludes with a giant inflated elephant. After four Yorkshiremen, played by Cleese, Palin, Atkinson, and Terry Jones, fondly reminisce about their horribly blighted childhoods,
Cook portrays a prophet of Apocalypse on an end-of-the-world stakeout. To his disappointment, the world goes on. Part One is filled out with appearances by Pete Townshend performing two of his song hits.
Part Two begins with Cleese, now bearded, who steps forward to thank the audience for contributing to Amnesty International, then qualifies his gratitude to those in the cheap seats. Next, a funny sketch finds beekeeper Cleese being interviewed by Atkinson, who proves to be suffering from
Tourette's syndrome. Victoria Wood then renders a clever and witty song that trashes men and their various vanities ("They tend to feel a failure if you don't love their genitalia"). Cleese emcees "Top of the Form," a TV quiz show that is sabotaged by answer cards that have been shuffled. Spotted
throughout Part Two are musical numbers by Sting, Dovovan, Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck; a couple of standup routines; and a pair of mimed sequences revolving around two trapeze artists and three men who do a fan dance fully clothed. After a curtain call by the entire cast, the show
concludes with mop-up man Palin hawking tie-in merchandise, both actual and imaginary.
THE SECRET POLICEMAN'S OTHER BALL is weakened by mushy photography and somewhat diluted by pop songs that compromise the overall comic spirit of the enterprise. (A key and welcome exception is Wood's nasty little ditty.) Cleese himself expressed exasperation with the increasing integration of pop
stars (and their large entourages) into the Amnesty International projects. He was critical also of some of the younger comics who, he claimed, tried to hog the spotlight. (Profanity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1982
- Rating: R
- Review: Beginning in 1979 many of Britain's most talented performers, including members of Monty Python's Flying Circus and several rock stars, teamed up in a series of benefits, several of which were captured on film. A mock STAR WARS (1977) preamble announces t… (more)