Picks and Pans Review: The Secret Policeman's Other Ball

updated 08/02/1982 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/02/1982 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Here is the best of two worlds, with the Monty Python troupe, joined by Peter Cook and other British comedians, meeting the cream of British rock. This is a live-performance film, culled from two benefit concerts in London in 1980 and 1981, arranged by Python's John Cleese for Amnesty International. It contains vintage Python, including such daft skits as a skewered It's Academic ("Who wrote Jane Eyre?" "Brussels." "Two points to you") and the ad incredulum dialogue of four businessmen trying to top each other by recounting deprived upbringings ("There were 150 of us living in a shoebox in the middle of the motorway." "You were lucky. All I got to eat every morning was a cold lump of poison"). The wildest moments are provided by a Liverpudlian New Wave comic, Alexei Sayle, a raving skinhead, who does imitations of people on various kinds of illicit drugs. While the spirit may be willing, though, the flesh is too weak to laugh for two hours, so the musical interludes are welcome. Peter Townshend, Sting and Phil Collins give moving performances of their songs with little or no accompaniment, and Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck trade hot blues licks on Farther Up the Road. It seems odd that when Brits sing, Americans can usually understand every word, but some of the jokes, through dialect or regional references, are incomprehensible. Still, this felicitous admixture of comedy and music makes one wonder why there are not scads of films being made like this. And whatever happened to the TV variety show? (R)

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