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The Complete Ripping Yarns
The Complete Ripping Yarns
Actors: Michael Palin, Charles McKeown, David Griffin, Michael Stainton, Peter Graham
Director: Terry Hughes
Genres: Action & Adventure, Comedy, Television
NR     2005     4hr 34min

Monty Python fans rejoice! This renowned BBC series, created and written by Python stalwarts Michael Palin and Terry Jones, provides more of the same surreal, bawdy, tasteless?and absolutely gut-splitting hilarity you know...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Michael Palin, Charles McKeown, David Griffin, Michael Stainton, Peter Graham
Director: Terry Hughes
Genres: Action & Adventure, Comedy, Television
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Comedy, Comedy
Studio: Acorn Media
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 08/30/2005
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1976
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 4hr 34min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 17
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

A classic of British television that never caught on in Amer
C. Taylor | 08/29/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Back in 1976 when Ripping Yarns was first airing on the BBC, Monty Python had crossed over in America from a cult Brittcom found on PBS to the hit movie "Monty Python & the Holy Grail". At the time Flying Circus was being distributed in America by Time/Life Television. T/L was just about to syndicate the final six episode season when ABC offered them money so that they could air the episodes over their network. What ABC did not realize was that the BBC was far more liberal with the material they allowed to be broadcasted over their airwaves, and the episodes they bought the rights to could never be shown in primetime. The network executives decided to edit the episodes into two 90 minute late night specials editing out what they decided could not be broadcasted, and a little more to make room for commercials. The problem was that the members of Monty Python had in thier BBC contracts that only they had the rights to edit the shows, and when they saw the mess that ABC had made of their shows, went to court to prevent them from airing. Ultimately it was decided that ABC did not have the right to edit the episodes but that it was too late to stop their broadcast. This opened the door for Python to sue ABC for damages, and ABC would in turn sue Time/Life and the BBC. To prevent this BBC made an offer to the python members that if they agreed not to sue ABC that they would get the full rights to their show and the original tapes. The Python members decided that when Time/Life's contract for syndicating the show ran out in 1980 that they would not renew.

This brings us to 1980. The Pythons decided to keep the show off the air for a few years because by then PBS stations all over the United States had overexposed the show. No wonder as Flying Circus brought in more money during pledge drives than any other show airing on PBS. This left a gaping hole in their schedule and PBS stations everywhere struggled to find a show that would replace Python. The first choice was "Fawlty Towers" which they had just added a year earlier. But John Cleese only made a dozen episodes and announced he would make no more. They would need something else. Next came "The Goodies", a Brittcom that predated Python and at the time was still producing new episodes. But Goodies had none of the Python members and although very funny, failed to catch on with Python fans. This is when Time/Life offered "Ripping Yarns" a series written and staring two Python members, Michael Palin and Terry Jones. And for the first episode it almost seemed like a continuation of the Python series.

"Tomkinson's Schooldays" was a pilot episode made for the series. Shot half in a studio in front of an audience and half outdoors on film, most of the jokes were silly as were the jokes on Python, and both Palin and Jones were in the cast playing several characters. The episode which told the story of how prep school student Tomkinson [ Palin ] spent all his time trying to escape from one of the most abusive boarding schools that any Python member had ever drempt up. [ That is until they made "...Meaning of life" ]However, this was just the pilot episode. The rest of the series was very different, as viewers would find out with the second episode.

"The testing of Eric Olthwaite" did not have a silly joke a minute as the first episode had. There were a few silly jokes here and there, but much of the humor of the episode was very subtle. The story was about the title character who was so boring that one day he wakes up to find that his family has run away. Deciding to make his life more interesting he trys to get a job at the bank, only to be told that he is way to boring to even work there. But the story takes a sudden turn when the bank is robbed and Eric ends up a hostage of the bank robber, leading to a final plot twist that I will not give away here, even though the episode builds to a joke that is not really that funny. It was nothing like a Python episode, and it like all the following Ripping Yarns episodes would be shot entierly on film. Although Terry Jones would still cowright each episode, he wold no longer appear as an actor. There were few python style jokes, and most of the episode had Michael talking on and on about shovels, black pudding, and other boring topics.

"Escape from Stalag Luft 112B", the third episode, seemed to be more of a retread of the first episode as the lead character, a Brittish officer, tries and fails at many attempts to escape from a German POW camp. Once again the show relied on subtle jokes with it's only Python style joke at the very end.

"Murder at Moorestones Manor" was a who done it mystery that once again relied on subtle humor. It was not until the fifth episode "Across the Andes by frog" that a python like plot showed up. It was based on a short story that Terry Jones and Michael Plalin had written in a book called "Bert Fegg's Nasty Book for boys & girls" only instead of riding across the Andes on the back of a frog, the explorer in this story was transporting frogs in boxes. While the set up as to why he was doing this was Pythonesque, the story once again relied on subtle humor.

So did the final episode "Curse of the Claw" where palin played a man who inherits a cursed claw that he must return to the island it was stolen from.

Python fans did not like this series. It started out with an episode very much like Flying Circus, but then changed into something else. Palin himself would continue to star in films with subtle comedy like "The Missionary", "A private function" and "American Friends". While Jones and Palin would make three more Ripping Yarn's episodes for the BBC, the poor response that they got from Python fans was enough that they were never syndicated. It was not until years later that BBC video would release them on VHS. PBS would abandon Ripping Yarns and go on to their next attempt to replace Python; "Not the Nine O'Clock News" which also failed with Python fans. In New York, Channel 13, PBS's flagship station gave up and began airing "Meeting of the minds", a show where Steve Allen interviewed historic characters. As for the rest of the PBS stations, many discovered that Dr Who was another great cult show that generated pledge dollars. And as Time/Life had originally only syndicated episodes where Tom Baker stared as the Doctor, now Lionheart Television was syndicating all the existing episodes which are in the hundreds.

Ripping Yarns came back on the BBC as a four episode series with one episode being the rebroadcast of the pilot episode. "Whinfreys last case" had a turn of the century spy uncovering a plot by the Germans to start WWI a year earlier. "Golden Gordon" was about an English Football fan trying to deal with the fact that the local team, who had not won a game in years, was disbanding. The episode has an uncredited cameo by John Cleese. "Roger of the Raj" had Palin's character yearning to leave India and open his own Pharmacy. All subtle comedies.

Years later American Python fans began to appreciate Ripping Yarns for what it was, a parody of classic English stories that were read in schools. The shows title was even a parody of the name Rudyard Kipling who had authored many of these types of stories, most notably "The Jungle Book" and the poem "Gunga Din". Once you stop looking for the Python jokes and get into the spirit of the stories they turn out to be quite funny. One only wishes that this show had been more successful and more episodes were made.
From Pythons Jones & Palin...
C. Gerace | Birdsboro, PA USA | 06/29/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"...comes this brilliant collection of (nine) half-hour episodes. The team of Michael Palin & Terry Jones predates Monty Python so their collaboration on these yarns showcases their comedy writing and acting talents - particularly their gift for physical humor.

Each yarn is built on a premise of what should be a young boy's adventure story but instead becomes a farcical tale. But the different episodes tend to vary in style. Some yarns are outlandishly hilarious: the absolute standout of the series being "Tomkinson's Schooldays" and "Escape from Stalag Luft 112B" - which could easily be compared to the best sketches from the Monty Python series. Others yarns deliver more subtle humor, like "Winfrey's Last Case" and "The Testing of Eric Olthwaite" (comparable to the "Jeeves & Wooster" series). Still others like "Curse of the Claw" tend to be dark in nature - yet still brilliantly funny! Read other reviews for plot details - but then it kinda ruins the jokes and surprises!

Perhaps the best aspect of this series is the way Jones and (mostly) Palin effectively perform several roles in some of the yarns. Their standout comedic abilities (plus excellent costuming and make-up) really give distinction to the hilarious personas of each character.

Some of these yarns will need to be watched a few times to really appreciate the humor - this is no "Fawlty Towers!"
But, to the seasoned lover of British comedy, this collection will entertain for years to come.

This review refers to the VHS versions."
I wish they had made more...
Paul Schifferli | Virginia | 04/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The only thing that sucks about "Ripping Yarns" is that only 9 episodes were made. The show itself is extremely well made, and well done. Each episode tells a different story, that parodies "serial" novels/shows. The stories range from tales of war, horror, suspense, coming of age, adventure, action, exploration, romance, and it's all parodied by Michael Palin. It's a great show for lovers of British comedy, and those who are new to British comedy. It's a bit pricey, for only 9 episodes, but it's worth it"
Ripping good tales
Garibaldi | San Diego, USA | 06/12/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"These are quite frankly the funniest spoofs of the old "Boy's Own" stories I have ever seen. I grew up in Scotland and so was introduced to the original series as a young boy and find that I laugh at them just as heartily over 30 years later.
When I return to the old country for a visit, my brother and I still have 'Ripping Yarn nights':)
If your a Monty Python fan these are most definately for you.
Micheal Palen at his comic best!!!!!!!!!!"