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DVDs provide alternative to lull in TV programming

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD There isn't much to watch on television, so thank goodness for DVD!

Monty Python's Graham Chapman: Looks like a Brown Trouser Job

The comedy troupe of Monty Python is known for inspiring extreme reactions either people love their work or they hate it.

I've been a fan since high school when I first discovered their television show and was naturally drawn to this new DVD featuring previously unseen footage of Graham Chapman who died of AIDS in 1989.

Chapman had a secondary career of touring college campuses and delivering lectures about his life, interest, and career. If one expects that this experience would include him reprising Monty Python routines or gags, you'll be sorely disappointed. Instead the viewers gets a more personal glimpse of a thoughtful funny man who was a great conversationalist.

Yes, Chapman does talk about some Python experiences he doesn't seem to like Terry Gilliam very much but mostly he speaks about aspects of his life.

The appearance was taped in 1988 live at an unspecified college with equipment that produced a watchable image. It's certainly not the crystal clear picture one expects from DVD.

The extras are an odd lot that includes an Iron Maiden video in which Chapman starred and a commercial he did for a home improvement company.

Python fans will rejoice at having "new" material to view.

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Danger: Diabolik

This incredibly stylish film is a faithful adaptation of a highly popular European comic book character, a super-criminal known as Diabolik.

Out on DVD for the first time, the vibrant art direction of this film is seen in a way it hasn't been since the film's theatrical release in 1968. It's a knockout of classic 60s pop culture. I call it "nostalgic," kids these days would call it "retro."

The film stars John Phillip Law as the mysterious criminal whose goal is to steal both a 20-ton gold ingot and the heart of the heroine played by Marisa Mell. Campy in some sequences, stylish in others, this film is well directed by Mario Bava, the late filmmaker known for his sumptuous visual style and his clever special effects.

The extras include a very well done documentary (full disclosure here: my friend, artist Steve Bissette, is among those interviewed) and the Beastie Boy music video Body Movin', inspired by the film.

If you're a fan of comic book movies and haven't yet seen this one as yet, run out and find it.

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Miracles: The Complete Series

I hadn't heard of this television series, which had a six-episode run in 2003 on ABC, but I'm glad that Shout Factory has brought out a four-disc box set of all 13 episodes that were produced. The show is quite worthy for re-discovery.

The premise is a cross between The X Files and the recent NBC series Revelations. Skeet Ulrich plays a young man whose job is to investigate "miracles" for the Catholic Church. He is having a crisis of faith and when he finds a child who he knows can heal people, he is disgusted that the church will not take the case seriously.

He resigns and joins a small obscure group of paranormal investigators who believe that something evil may be behind a recent group of seemingly benign miracles.

Well acted and written, Miracles is great summer-time entertainment.

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Reno 911: The Complete Second Season Uncensored!

I'm a sucker for the FOX series Cops and accordingly I find this Comedy Central parody series a scream. If you've not seen it, Reno 911 is a "reality" show that follows a group of Reno, Nevada sheriff deputies through typical daily activities. Needless to say, these are the most unprofessional police officers one could run into and the improvisational troupe that play them clearly have a great time sending up the reality series genre.

This three-disc set includes alternate and deleted scenes that illustrate how the cast make the series as well as cast commentary on several episodes. There is also a very funny performance the cast made at the 2004 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.

Unpredictable and raunchy, Reno 911 is comedy for those who don't care about political correctness.

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