At long last, it's Beyond The Fringe!!!
Walter Five | 13th Floor Elevator, Enron Hubbard Bldg. Houston T | 10/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Inspired by The Goon Show, inspiring "At Last The 1948 Show", "Do Not Adjust Your Set" and "Monty Python's Flying Circus", a film of the original "Beyond The Fringe" surfacing is cause for celebration of British Humor the world over!!!
This presentation has the complete West End/Broadway show, and runs a side-aching 116 minutes. *Very* funny stuff, this!
However, despite the box's claims, this *not* the first released, nor the *only* filming of "Beyond The Fringe." As any maven of early '80's U.S. Midnight movies knows, that honor goes dubiously to the poorly filmed and terribly recorded document of their Royal Command Performance reunion with Monty Python's Flying Circus at Prince Albert Hall from 1972, released in the U.S. as "Monty Python Meets Beyond The Fringe." U.S. filmgoers (at any rate)left the theatre badly puzzled: The audience knew all the punchlines, and began laughing at them, and shouting at them before they were even uttered, drowning the actors out on the film's soundtrack. That Command Performance has mercifully remained unreleased on Videotape and DVD, THIS performance fortunately is MUCH better! It is hilarious!
This is the 1964 farewell performance from London's West End. It is well enough recorded, sonically speaking, although sometimes some castmembers seem unevenly miked or undermiked, or worse have a microphone drop-out for a second or two. Furthermore, it *is* in Black & White, which the product review doesn't seem to mention in any prominent way. Putting on the subtitles will help you with the occasional mike drop-out, but the B&W format does not contrast the stage set very well, and may seem a bit drab to the 21st century viewer. However, don't let these details scare you away: this really *was* (and remains) one of the funniest things seen on stage since the Marx Bros. "Animal Crackers" in 1929!!!"
Makes Modern Comedy Look Pathetic
Harry R. | Chicago | 11/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This show was filmed 41 years ago. It was filmed in black & white with primitive audio/video equipment. The show itself was utter simplicity: four young comedians on a bare stage. Their few props included a piano, a table and some chairs. Beyond a couple of hats, the players' only costumes were the gray suits they wore throughout the show. The show itself consisted of these comedians riffing off political and cultural topics of the day. If you haven't seen it, it doesn't sound like much.
But then why does "Beyond the Fringe" make nearly all of today's comedy look pathetic by comparison?
This DVD captures four comic geniuses in peak form. No, it's not "politically correct", and that is one reason it's great. Yes, in some places it comes off as quaint or dated, but 1964 was a while ago. 95% of the material is as fresh today as it was the day the show was filmed. It's best to see this on DVD. You need both the video and the audio to fully appreciate each gag. And you need to be able to run parts back and watch them over, because you won't catch it all the first time. This is smart humor for educated adults. Bring your thinking cap and be ready to laugh.
By comparison, the "Saturday Night Live" kids look like...just that. Little kids playing in a sand box. The "Monty Pythoners" were as irreverant, but never as cool or smart. Are you a fan of today's typical setup-punchline comics? The "My mother/father/wife/kids..." or "Did ya ever wonder..." types? Then "Beyond the Fringe" is not for you. The one negative thing about this DVD is the way it reveals how far comedy has sunk since the 1960s, when "pushing the envelope" referred to intelligence and creativity, and not to the number of sexual or profane references used. Hopefully, young comics will see this and be inspired to raise the bar on humor.
If you like sharp, smart humor, you've come to the right place. And order it here, because you'll pay more in the mail-order catalogs."
Alex | London, United Kingdom | 11/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Many of the reviews below are inaccurate. For example, Beyond the Fringe was not inspired by The Goon Show and didn't particularly inspire Monty Python. Beyond the Fringe was unique for a number of reasons. Firstly it brought together four people who were each uniquely talented in their own right. Despite being relatively fresh out of Cambridge University, Peter Cook already had a reputation as an astonishingly funny man and had already written two revues which were performed in London's West End. While at university he had been the star of Footlights and revered by his contemporaries. Dudley Moore was already known as a brilliant musician, having been an organ scholar at Magdalen College, Oxford and then turning to jazz at which he excelled and made his living. Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett had turned their backs on performing careers, Miller to become a doctor and Bennett to pursue a career as a historian. They were tempted back by the impresario who was trying to put together the revue that became Beyond the Fringe and what a blessing that they were - Miller went on to become an outstanding theatrical and operatic director, Bennett went on to become one of the two or three most oustanding post-war playwrights (Forty Years On, A Private Function, The Madness of King George III).
Secondly, Beyond the Fringe was really the first time that highly intelligent products of the establishment (each had been educated at Oxford or Cambridge) mocked that establishment. Sure, the Goons had occasionally made fun of Parliament or the BBC in passing, but it was all harmless fun. Beyond the Fringe was new because it went much further and satirised British institutions and mores for the first time. No one had ever heard an impersonation of the Prime Minister before of the kind that Peter Cook did in TV PM. When Harold Macmillan actually turned up to see Beyond the Fringe in the West End, Peter Cook did the impression while Macmillan sat through it with a (presumably forced) fixed smile, so Peter Cook threw in the line "When I'm at a bit of a loose end, there's nothing I like better than to sit watching four vibrant young performers with a big grin plastered all over my silly old face". Nothing was beyond satire - the RAF ("I want to join the Few", "Sorry, there's too many"), the Church, the anti-nuclear lobby ("We asked our members the following question: "Do you want to see your wife and children go up in smoke?" and 94 percent of them said "No".") and even the Duke of Edinburgh.
Thirdly, theirs was probably the cleverest comedy performance this country has ever produced. Far cleverer than anything the Goons or Monty Python ever did, far wittier than anything before or since (what better way to point out the flaw in the nuclear deterrence argument than Alan Bennett's government official patiently explaining how we would nuke the Russians back if they nuked us, and observing that "this prevents them from attacking.... well, it effectively deters them from..... well, it would jolly well serve them right!") and, at its time, totally original.
Young folk and non-British people probably won't understand some of the references in it. A unique piece of comedy and satire. How many other comedians can boast that their show was so outstanding that the Prime Minister of England and the President of the US (JFK) insisted on going to see it, that top A-listers of the day such as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton made time to attend?"
BETTER THAN ANY CONNOISSEUR COULD HOPE
Don Buck | New Hampshire | 11/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As one who has remembered -- it seems like all my life -- "My brother Esau is an hairy man, but I am a smooth man," and "So That's the Way You Like It," I'm very happy to say that this DVD performance is BETTER than the 1960s LPs. It has new skits that were not on the vinyl, and the brilliant familiars are done either exactly as they were, or slightly improved. In particular Dudley Moore's facial expressions add humor one can't get from the LP, and on the DVD one can be sure of who is playing whom in "The Aftermyth of War." Alan Bennett's skit on T E Lawrence has never been on audio or in the various book collections, as far as I know, and it's hilarious."