PictureThe picture is a restored anamorphic 1.85:1 print. At twenty years old it is clearly showing signs of age. The picture is of variable quality throughout. Age related picture damage is present throughout, scratches and print damage are particularly notable in the scenes where Death pays a visit, but is you look closely they are in every scene. The print has a granularity which reduces print detail overall, and particularly in dark scenes. Colours are generally accurate but lack sparkle and punch. This pallid effect is worst in the African jungle scenes. On the plus side there is a lack of any digital artefacts, but when it comes down to it the overall print quality is only average, even if age is taken into consideration.
SoundIf there was a budget for the restoration work done on Meaning Of Life then it was clearly all spent on the soundtrack. We have both a Dolby Digital and DTS track to listen to, and while both are excellent, the DTS track is the clear winner. It has been my experience of disc review that a well-encoded DTS track will beat a well-encoded DD track in a number of areas and this recording is no different. It has a wonderful spaciousness, which appears to defy the boundaries of your viewing room with effects and foley work of crisp clarity and precise placement. Vocals are rich and accurate, and the musical numbers expand into your surround channels and draw you into the experience. A superb DTS track and well worth purchasing for this feature alone.
ExtrasIt is always refreshing when time and effort is taken to produce genuinely worthy extras, so the Pythons should be given credit for their willingness to get involved in the production of the masses of extra material found mainly on disc two of this set. The extras are a reflection of the silly and irreverent Python humour. This is both a blessing and a curse as when I was hoping for a technical breakdown of say the re-mastering process to restore the print, I got a mildly amusing sketch with Terry Jones nipping round to the launderette with reels of film retrieved from the trash to clean them in a washing machine.
Like the movie itself the extras are a hit and miss affair. Misses include the virtual reunion, what fish think, and commentary for the lonely. Big hits are the wonderfully irreverent commentary by Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam. This is also packed with background information, and on set recollections. Also a big hit is the documentary of the making of Life. Consisting of the surviving members giving interviews about the development process, through to shooting and world reaction, culminating of course in their win at the 1983 Cannes film festival. Fans will also be interested in a selection of worthy deleted scenes. These have not been cleaned up so are in a dreadful state technically, but some (Martin Luther) are hilarious and as good as anything in the movie.
VerdictI am a huge fan of Monty Python and the team have really gone to town to ensure their fans get great value with this two disc affair. As a whole this is not their best movie but some of the work is the best they have ever done. The disc offers great entertainment and should be an essential purchase.
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