Friday, January 04, 2013

The Complete Ripping Yarns by Michael Palin and Terry Jones

After Monty Python's Flying Circus left the air, not counting reruns and reunions, the members of the troupe unleashed numerous television and film projects. Among these was Ripping Yarns, a BBC collaboration between Michael Palin and Terry Jones. I have never seen the nine episodes, broadcast 1976 to 1979, which may be among the most neglected works in the post-Python portfolio. I was, however, able to secure an interlibrary loan of The Complete Ripping Yarns by Michael Palin and Terry Jones, a compilation of nine scripts published by Mandarin Paperbacks (London, 1991).

As you would expect, humor was still the intent of the Pythonites, but Palin and Jones put a bit more emphasis on story in Ripping Yarns than was evident in MPFC. Episodes develop plots, much like the famous MPFC episode "The Cycling Tour," which we call often "Bicycling Through North Cornwall." The endings may be sudden, but they are endings. Central to all of the funny business was Palin who played the central figure in each of the stories. You can see this from the numerous production stills accompanying the scripts and from reading the credits at the back of the book. Jones appears in only the first episode. The only other Python credit is for a cameo by John Cleese in "Golden Gordon."

The first yarns are "Tomkinson's School Days" and "Across the Andes by Frog," both of which are mostly just good silly fun. Genius kicks in with "Murder at Moorstones Manor," a plot-twisting spoof of British murder mysteries. My favorite story of the bunch is "Escape from Stalag Luft 112B," which is set in World War I, not a later war as you might expect. Palin plays Major Phipps, an inept British officer who spends all of his time devising ways to escape from a very comfortable prisoner of war camp. The story is a classic that everyone should know.

2013 is the 37th anniversary of the start of Ripping Yarns. I think it is a ripe time for a revival.

Palin, Michael and Terry Jones. The Complete Ripping Yarns. Mandarin Paperbacks, 1991. 278p. ISBN 074931222x.


Robert Goehring said...

And I always thought I'd seen just about everything these guys had done. Now, I'm going to look for that book and read what I missed. Thanks.

ricklibrarian said...

I should be getting the DVDs through interlibrary loan pretty soon. I'll let you know what I think.