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Beyond the Fringe (1964)

A TV version of the stage show originally performed at the Edinburgh Fringe (August 1962) and subsequently in London (Fortune Theatre) and Broadway.

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A TV version of the stage show originally performed at the Edinburgh Fringe (August 1962) and subsequently in London (Fortune Theatre) and Broadway.

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12 December 1964 (UK)  »

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The full recording of this show was believed lost or erased, but it has been found. The Museum of Television and Radio showed it in March, 2005. See more »

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Featured in Comedy Greats: Pete and Dud (2007) See more »

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Peak of British Comedy
10 January 2007 | by See all my reviews

About 30 years ago, Boston's only classical music radio station used to offer a program (after its Saturday live broadcast of the Boston Symphony) that played lots of recorded British comedy, including excerpts from "Beyond the Fringe." It was from listening to that show every week that I got to learn by heart many of the routines from this legendary stage production that started the careers of Jonathan Miller, Alan Bennett, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. This DVD now provides an opportunity to see the quartet in action, and to realize just how brilliant they were, individually and as a team.

The great routines are still great. Peter Cook was a lost genius (lost, ultimately, to drink and dissipation), and his long monologue as the miner who didn't become a judge because he didn't have the Latin is a masterpiece - only in part because his deadpan stare at the audience remains unbroken even while he's speaking the most amazing nonsense. Dudley Moore, it turns out, was also something of a lost genius (lost, in his case, to Hollywood) - his musical interludes are extraordinarily accurate parodies of various classical music styles, including an eerie impersonation of Sir Peter Pears and a set of Beethovenian variations on "The Colonel Bogey March" that gets wildly out of hand.

Another masterpiece is Alan Bennett's vaporous, meandering sermon, which includes a pointless retelling of the time he and a friend went climbing to the top of a mountain, at which point "my friend very suddenly and very violently vomited. I sometimes think life's a lot like that." Jonathan Miller is the least proficient actor of the group - he mugs and gesticulates and mutters a little too much, and it's probably for the best that he gave up performing in favor of medicine and opera direction.

The video has a few technical faults, particularly in its sound, but the camera-work is good. For anyone even remotely interested in British comedy (and in seeing where Monty Python came from), this is a must.


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