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Welkom bij de Romeinen (2014)
The British Did It Better
Welcome bij de Romeinen, "Meet the Romans", is a sort of sequel to "Welcome in the (Dutch) Golden Age". A presenter interviews the key figures in Roman history, reporting on the past as if it was happening today. I've got five words for this and those are: The British Do This Better. Whether it's Monty Python (or the obscure Complete And Utter History), Blackadder, or Horrible Histories, all of them are better than this mediocre attempt to be funny.
To be fair, although they also get a few facts completely wrong, on the whole it's informative for children and it does a real attempt to liven up material that is (sadly) not popular. As said before, I just didn't like the humour; the constant cries of "Applause!" and laughing about your won jokes are pretty annoying also.
The Slave Mart (1917)
Silly Slave Mart
This film survives at the EYE = the Amsterdam Film Museum, and can be viewed online through the European Film Gateway. It's a rather silly affair. An young Italian immigrant is targeted by "white slave traders". Even for a silent film the plot and characters don't make much sense. This film was long thought to be from 1921 because that's when it premiered in other countries, but it's in fact from 1917. It was reviewed in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin of November 26, 1917, page 5, and the names and plot match the online video with Marguerite Snow.
There also was a film "The Slave Market" in 1917 starring Pauline Frederick, but that's a different story, involving pirates.
Reputation completely unrelated to reality
Generally I don't write many reviews because usually everything's already been said at least once. But that is not the case with "The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer". (Premise: Abraham Lincoln had a black butler who was the only brains of the White House during the Civil War. Call it a US version of Blackadder the 3rd.)
This series has gained a reputation for being a turkey, but in reality, there wasn't really that much wrong with it. But we never found out because after 4 episodes it was canceled under false accusations of racism (5 episodes remain unaired).
And, I have some proof for this: One year later there was a historical comedy about the first American colonists, called "Thanks". It has six episodes and if you watch it, you'll see that it's very comparable, basically following the same pattern, with the same level of humor as "Pfeiffer", perhaps it's even less funny. But look it up, and you'll find it has a rating of 8.5, more than double the 4.2 that "Pfeiffer" has now. If you watch an episode of both shows, I think no-one can deny that "Thanks" is in no way superior, the only difference is that Pfeiffer's reputation has become a self fulfilling prophecy: We've been told that it's rotten, so we find it easier to spot bad points (cognitive bias, as it's known scientifically).
Of course, this doesn't mean everyone has to suddenly like this show. The British do this sort of thing better, I know. Perhaps Pfeiffer was too much like Blackadder and American audiences couldn't deal with it when it was their own history that was being turned upside down.
Hopefully there will one day be a chance to see all 9 episodes. Actually it's unlikely (I've only seen 3 myself). But IF that ever happens, judge it for what it really is, not for what others have been repeating about it.
How tiresome to hear this brad guy's clueless review
Produced by brad jones, written by brad jones, starrin brad jones as brad jones. Probably this item was submitted here by... brad jones, even though this is not a real film or series but basically just a guy with a web cam. Who likes to hear himself talk. Or, in this case, bleat.
He's reviewing the short lived 1998 series "The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer". Although he clears it of the false charge of racism, it quickly becomes clear that he doesn't like the series. Note that this show has a reputation as a turkey (perhaps undeserved but that's another matter). So brad doesn't really challenge that or come with an original point of view.
Still, to each his own opinion I'd say. But no, brad goes on and on arguing why his almighty opinion is a fact. Eventually it takes him just about as long as it would have taken to watch an actual episode and form your own opinion. So I guess that sums it up. If you happen to have a fetish for a certain brad jones (like he obviously has himself), than watch this. If not, don't.
Mio figlio Nerone (1956)
A factual comedy with the following story line: Mamma will always be Mamma! Even if she is Nero's Mamma.
Nero's Big Weekend / Mero's Mistress / Mio Figlio Nerone
Nero is normally used as a bad guy opposite a (comic) hero, but here he is himself at the centre of the story. Tension rises when his mother Agrippina visits him in his seaside villa and tries to coerce him into tending to state affairs. She has to rival with Seneca and Poppea who try to manipulate him in the opposite direction. The latter two try to have her murdered but she seems to be immortal. Meanwhile, Nero has taken to singing. An international cast in a unique comedy. I do not mean that it is an all-time masterpiece. Rather, it is a strangely factual comedy. The attempts at Agrippina's life are all taken literally from the writings of Suetonius. All they did was make it all happen in one weekend. Somehow, you get the feeling this is almost exactly what history was like.
The movie was dubbed in several languages. The German dub or the UK version are unavailable. The US version puts more emphasis on Poppea than on Agrippina, but what is worse, it is missing the final punchline - shame! Try the French or the Italian version, which are anyway the only ones available on DVD (as of 2010). English subtitles have appeared on the internet.
Mara West (1921)
Mara West is a silent drama. The story is about an actress named Mara West. In Rome she falls in love, marries, and becomes a mother.
However, the marriage is tested when she becomes more famous, while her husband remains unsuccessful as an actor. The critics love her but their reviews absolutely crucify her husband.
It does not seem to have made any lasting impression. Perhaps it wasn't such a great movie even by the standards of the time.
At least two acts from the middle part of this movie survive, found in an antique shop in the Netherlands, together with another movie, the complete "Elephant's nightmare" from 1920/1921.
The Real Room 101 (2003)
30 minutes of loitering around room 101
The Real Room 101 is a shallow look at one of the concepts from George Orwell's 1984. If you've discovered its existence by browsing, don't bother to go look for it. It doesn't dig very deep and doesn't tell us anything really interesting. The setting of the book was largely based on London just after the war. So, mixed with a few interviews we get to see a room 101 in a building where George Orwell worked for the BBC during the war. An artist is making a cast of the inside of the room, regardless whether it is the true inspiration for room 101 or not - as she herself remarks, it has windows, so it can't be. Or was it perhaps his fascist public school, and does the interrogator echo his disturbed relationship with his father? We're not told. The interrogator's name of O'Brian 'clearly' being a reference to catholics and guilt was new for me, but then it goes of to the obligatory "yes, look how many of it has come true" bit. Instead of acknowledging how many of the book's predictions have come true, some real info would have been nice. For example, apparently, in the days of the Cold War, the head of the East German secret police arranged for himself to have room number 101. But that story isn't told. All in all, this documentary doesn't come from the Ministry of Truth, but instead was written, directed, and produced in-house by the Ministry of Wasting Time with Uninformative Shows.
What the Pythons Did Next... (2007)
The documentary featuring none of the pythons...
In 1974 Monty python decided to quit after 4 TV series. So each of the pythons went their separate ways. This is the tale of "What the Pythons did next...". Fawlty Towers for John Cleese, Michael Palin went traveling, Terry Gilliam became a director in his own right, Eric Idle revisited Monty Python to make Spamalot, Terry Jones went into history, and Graham Chapman is dead. (Not really a spoiler I dare say.)
This is all nice and informative, but it doesn't go very deep. For example, there is no mention of Cleese's work on the Amnesty fund raisers (known as the Secret Policeman's Balls), or Graham Chapman's "Jake's Journey", which supposedly was actually very promising. Also left out is anything reuniting the pythons after 1974, except for the three movies: no word on their record collection, the live shows, or other occasional reunions as in 1989 and 1999. Come to think about it, I don't think any of the pythons appeared in this documentary except in archive footage? That's not good...
Also missing is some basic information. Michael Palin starred in Brazil, OK that's just a detail. And it is fun to finally see a few glimpses of "Out of the Trees" by Graham Chapman, but for some reason they forgot to mention Douglas Adams here? And wasn't Fawlty Towers based on a hotel where the pythons once stayed back in the days of the Flying Circus? The research department must have been sleeping.
There are a few glimpses of really obscure projects, but the whole thing doesn't really chart any unknown territory.
Graham Chapman's anecdotes 30 years later
When Graham Chapman toured colleges in 1988 he did not have much longer to live: he would die of cancer shortly after. Almost 30 years later some guy tracks down the tapes made on one or two of these tours and makes a DVD out of it.
Almost everything on this DVD was already in audio on the CD "a sixpack of lies". The videos of the same show are of very poor quality. If you already have the CD, don't buy this.
Very interesting for a few fanatic people. Though it has little meaning for the average viewer, if you are a fan of Monty Python and / or Graham Chapman, it is a must. His anecdotes concern Monty python as well as the dangerous sports club and Keith Moon (from the band "The Who").
It is a pity that more then 25 years after his death, we have only this one sloppy DVD. Surely the pilot for the never-produced series "Jake's Journey" would also have made an interesting item.
The Beatles did it, Abba did it, Monty Python followed
For the obsessed fan, a rare treat. For non-python people probably just a strange foreign curiosity. Yes, it is real. The Beatles sang in German, Abba sang in German; and then Monty Python acting on an invitation made two episodes for German / Austrian television in 1972.
It is essentially the same concept as an English episode, but in German. The paintings by Albrecht Dürer, fall victim to silly animations. Little Red Riding Hood shows up too. A number of familiar sketches, including the Lumberjack song, work as well in German as they do in English. For those familiar with the original series, it is a very nice mix of known and new material.
In fact, some material has been re-used later with new voice-overs, the Philosophers football match and the Silly Olympics for example, turn up at the Hollywood Bowl performance in 1982 (but the caption gives it away: Epikur is the German name for Epicurus).
All in all, it is for fans only. Relatively unknown and only the first episode is included on the 'Monty Python Live' DVD. The DVD quality is poor. Apparently no German DVD is available! Pity.
Nevertheless, for real fans, it's 'Go get it now!'.