In 1980, Monty Python's Flying Circus pitched its blowzy tent at the Hollywood Bowl and proceeded to take everybody down a peg or two, managing to pull down some of its own material in the melee.
The company of brainstorming, barnstorming Brits have mixed film of that on- stage ribaldry with animation and vintage clips to produce a three-ring, two-star movie called "Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl."
Those who know the comedians from the BBC-TV series, seen sporadically in reruns here, will recognize many of the bits: the gay lumberjack, the nudge-nudge man, the argument clinic and the Ministry of Silly Walks. This tried and true stuff, plus film clips magnified for the Bowl audience on a giant screen, outshines some of the uninspired new sketches.
One staple from the BBC days, the troupe's irreverent Olympics, moves to the Munich Stadium for the start of the 100- yard dash for people with no sense of direction; the gun goes off for the 1,500 meters for the deaf; there's a marathon for the incontinent. Nobody's safe from the Circus, no race, no creed, not even the queasy. (Airsick bags may be needed for the vomit shtick.)
Monty Python -- John Cleese, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones -- works without a net. Even though they go bottomless, talk dirty and get done up in Marlene Dietrich drag, there are some unintentional pratfalls. A windy monologue that allows the comics to roam the aisles at the Bowl may have been fabulous for the fans, but on film, it's boring.
They are at their best when performing bawdy songs reminiscent of British music- hall days. There's ''Never Be Rude to an Arab," for instance, or "Immanuel Kant was a real p--sant," sung by four philosophy professors named Bruce from Australia. Later, the philosophers themselves play thinking- man's soccer -- Greeks vs. Germans. Karl Marx, called in for a last-minute substitution, also appears with Mao Tse-tung on a quiz show and almost wins a sofa.
Best of all -- again not live -- is the retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood," with Red, attacked by an unwilling dachshund in a fox fur, then rescued by a suited-up astronaut from NASA. There's a lot of fun in 90 minutes, but it feels longer; the Circus is daring, yes, but it doesn't fly with the greatest of ease.
MONTY PYTHON LIVE AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL -- At the AMC Academy, Inner Circle, K-B Studio, Loehmann's Plaza, NTI Annandale, Reston Cinema, Roth's Mount Vernon, Roth's Parkway, Roth's Quince Orchard, Roth's Seven Locks, Roth's Tysons Corner, Roth's 301 Drive-In, Showcase University.