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Monty Python DVD all about 'Life'

'Meaning of Life' 2-DVD set releases Tuesday

"Meaning of Life" is due for release Tuesday on DVD.

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NEW YORK (Billboard) -- Packed with hours of bonus content created by the original Monty Python team, Universal Studios Home Video's September 2 worldwide release of the special-edition DVD "The Meaning of Life" is turning out to be the full Monty.

From a new introduction by Monty Python's Eric Idle to "The Snipped Bits," a gaggle of deleted scenes accompanied by candid commentary from the Pythoners, the two-disc set rolls from one hilarious sequence to another in true, unadulterated Monty Python style. It has a suggested retail price of $26.98.

The idea that the mother lode of bonus content would come from the tireless comic minds of Idle, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam was a request Universal was only too happy to accommodate.

"They had a very clear vision of what they wanted to see for the special-edition DVD," says Ken Graffeo, Universal executive VP of marketing. "They are still very much in touch with their fans, so they were the ones who could best understand what their fans would want, what would make it funny."

According to Idle, in 1983, then-Universal Studios chief Tom Mount green-lighted the original film, even though the only particulars the Pythons would reveal were their planned $9 million budget and a 12-line poem Idle wrote that also kicks off the special-edition DVD. "We had total control over the content," Idle notes. "It's just a part of the deal."

Topless runners and endless jokes

The special features include a "Soundtrack for the Lonely," an audio commentary for people watching the DVD alone, and the 50-minute "The History of the Meaning of Life." The latter is guided by animated versions of some of the film's madcap characters, such as Mr. Creosote, A Fish, the Headmaster and the Man in Pink.

There's also a new Cleese-created trailer for the movie, a contemporary parody of a British school that is rife with sex-education scandal, and loads of new interstitials. Plus, a brilliant where-are-they-now segment peeks into the lives of the children from the "Every Sperm Is Sacred" sequence and the topless runners seen in the series.

"DVD is lovely for the ability to add so much material," Idle says. "There is no time constraint when watching, and you also have many different audiences. We've always liked to recycle and re-embellish things. The material changes and does something different each time."

DVD-ROM content includes the original screenplay, lost scenes, song sheets of music from the film, Creosote cooking tips and the Python's "Good Death Guide."

The explosive presence of the gluttonous Mr. Creosote (Terry Jones) is anything but "wafer-thin" in "Meaning of Life."

"John Goldstone, who produced the original movie, coordinated the whole thing," Cleese says of the yearlong bonus-content-creation process.

"As usual, we were scattered all over the globe, so most of the communication was by fax or e-mail," Cleese continues. "So, for example, Michael sent me a couple of pieces he'd written, which I thought were funny, and I asked Michael if I could rewrite a bit, and he said, 'Fine,' because he was going to the Himalayas the next day."

Still relevant

Cleese adds that revisiting the movie provided a fresh perspective on its core content.

"Surprisingly, it seems a lot more relevant than most of the old rubbish we keep recycling," he says. "If you watch the old TV shows, there are mentions of Jack Nodell, Reggie Maudling, Dawn Palethorpe, etc ... I haven't seen them in People magazine lately."

The special-edition release follows a single-disc version of "The Meaning of Life" released in 2001, as well as several DVDs of Python TV episodes released by A&E Home Entertainment and a richly embellished version of "The Holy Grail" that Columbia TriStar released in 2001.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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