The film's opening credits declare that the stage production was slightly directed by John Cleese. When Cleese agreed to direct the show, he asked that his billing read "slightly directed by John Cleese".
The first Amnesty International charity concert performance and film to use the "Secret Policeman's Ball" phrase which would become synonymous with the series and the title basis for many subsequent entries in the series.
This production was the first time that the the Secret Policeman's cartoon character was seen. Amnesty International's then new fund-raising officer Peter Walker recruited New Statesman cartoonist Colin Wheeler to draw it.
An abridged one-hour TV special edited from The Secret Policeman's Ball (1979) stage show was broadcast on the British television's ITV network by London Weekend Television in December 1979. This was aired to tie-in with the record release of the The Secret Policeman's Ball (1979) comedy album.
Pete Townshend who performs in the show, said on the 2009 "The Secret Policeman Rocks" DVD, "I love looking back at The Secret Policeman's Ball (1979). It showed us how to do it in a way that wasn't patronizing. I remember Martin Lewis who invited me to do the thing in the first place... I really, really relied on people like Martin and on other people to keep me abreast of what was going on...". In 2011, Townsend added, "It's 1979 that I appeared at The Secret Policeman's Ball (1979) - the Amnesty thing that John Cleese had kicked off. And my friend Martin Lewis had invited me to, in a sense, to kind of lighten the proceedings...to break up the comedy. And it was amazing subsequently to see what that triggered. Sting...Peter Gabriel...subsequently people like U2...Bruce Springsteen...and so on...Quite big names got involved in supporting Amnesty. And it became evident that big names in music and Amnesty melded very well. So it's good to see that what I did kicked that off. I feel that I planted a seed...".