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Surreal comedy shows are certainly not to everybody's taste. Monty Python must be the most widely accepted of such productions, but smaller shows like Smack the Pony and Chris Morris' Jam have also seen relative success, although to much narrower audiences. The League of Gentlemen is a particularly strange creature that utilises facial prosthetics, in much the same way as the show Bo Selecta uses rubber masks, to both entertain and disconcert audiences. It shares its sense of humour, however, with pretty-much no other comedy around—humour which simply goes to any lengths to shock and bemuse the viewer. Some find this irritating, while others find it engaging in that it provides the kind of bizarre laughs that most straight comedies lack.

League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse, The

Film


The series followed a rather strange, fictional town called Royston Vasey, and its equally weird residents, including Edward (a kind of creepy Ronnie Corbett look-alike), Tubbs (the one who looks like an old woman in a headscarf), Papa Lazarou (who inexplicably looks like one of those highly racist characters from those old jam bottles—Gollywogs), Lipp (who seems almost straight out of the Nazi entourage in Raiders of the Lost Ark), Briss (a demonic butcher who previously sold 'special meat', much to the town's detriment), Geoff (a greasy businessman) and Bernice (a rather twisted vicar). Initially comprised of just sketches, the first two seasons slowly saw the development of many of these individual characters, whilst season three saw things take a slightly different turn, and even a couple of main characters disappear.

The film throws most previous happenings to the wind, bringing all of the characters together once again when the town is threatened by an apocalypse. They have to do something about it and, to this end several of them are dispatched to 'the real world'. Whilst Edward, Tubbs (and Papa Lazarou who spends much of his time doing his traditional popping-up act) encounter one of the creators of the show itself, Jeremy Dyson (played by another actor), with disastrous consequences, later meeting up with Briss, Geoff and Lipp to discuss a different approach: spying on their alter-egos and infiltrating their lives. Needless to say many complications arise, with Lipp auditioning for a film and them all dressing up in animal masks and facing off with their 'real life' selves (even a bit of identity swapping goes on).

Soon we find ourselves following the progress of Dyson's new vision of Royston Vasey—shifting its setting to 1690 and seeing the various characters morphed into the different roles within his cinematic invention. A kind of period horror film, the story within a story concept runs for the rest of the production, as the characters from each of the three worlds (Royston Vasey, the 'real world' and 'The King's Evil' film world) collide with catastrophic results. The whole future of Royston Vasey, and possibly the 'real world' itself is at stake.

League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse, The
Fans of the series are going to be both pleased and confused by this movie offering, but will surely be happy that their pride and joy has reached the big screens. Although it does jumble the lives of the original characters—even bringing some of them back from the dead—it provides enough references to the series, enough similarly black humour and plenty of new goings-on to keep fans delighted. Hell, there are even a few demons, exploding heads and hailing fireballs thrown in for apocalyptic effect (all CG). Unfortunately for those who have never seen the series, the film makes little to no sense, the story seems overly contrived, the references are all-but lost, the humour seems misjudged and it basically feels all a bit confusing. At the end of the day, any newcomers should start back at the beginning of the series and get to know the characters before approaching this grander vision with any hope of understanding it. Those who have already been there and done that should sit back and enjoy seeing their favourite characters super-sized for the Big Screen.

Video


The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer that does its best to help the show make the transition from the small to big screen. Detail is reasonably good, with only marginal softness and a little edge enhancement. The colour scheme is fairly broad (mainly thanks to the various settings) and the palette is always well represented, up to and including the solid blacks. There are also no print defects, leaving the budget and general 'look' of the film the only two factors that still keep it grounded in its TV roots.

Audio


We get a solid Dolby Digital 5.1 offering with this release, providing the abstract dialogue ever-clear from the frontal array, with an instrumental score (that carries an air of classic black and white horrors about it) and a myriad effects to bounce around your room—not least the aforementioned balls of fire reigning down on the earth and the various demons shrieking and snarling - but also the smaller moments when the ambient noises become apparent. We get cars rumbling around the streets, the general hustle and bustle of crowds and even the surround sound excellence of a fire alarm ringing all around. It's pretty good for a graduated TV show, even if the bass is a little lacking.

League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse, The

Extras


First up we get an audio commentary from the stars and writers Steve Pemberton, Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss and Reece Shearsmith. They provide quite an informative little contribution, with bits of trivia scattered all over the place, lots of references pointed out (that you still will not get unless you watch the series) and plenty of technical detail given about the production itself. They seem to have a great time, laughing and telling anecdotes, explaining alternative plot concepts they had and how they did a lot of improvisation to get around the budgetary restrictions.

Under 'Precious Things' we get a whole world of other extra material. The ‘Making-of’ featurette runs at twelve minutes in length and has far too much footage from the final film, although you do get plenty of overlaid interview snippets, with the main contributors (from the commentary) all having their say about getting the production off the ground and how proud they were to see their dream-child hit the big screens. There are a few behind the scenes and on-set clips, which offer a nice, alternative view of the enterprise (particularly when they are talking about the scale of their vision of Armageddon), and especially considering the budget.

'The Real Royston Vasey' takes us on a six-minute tour of the town itself, giving us yet more behind the scenes footage and plenty of further interview clips with the main cast/crew members. They talk about picking a suitably isolated location, the street they chose, and even take us around the local shops (with Pauline touring in-character) and some of the local inhabitants commenting on the fame that has captured their little town.

'A Cast of Thousands' takes a four-minute look at casting the various different characters in the multi-layered film (where most of the main cast take on three roles each). Once again we get the crew discussing facing the characters off against their alter egos and the practicality behind the green-screen shots they implemented. It is an interesting if brief little featurette.

League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse, The
'A Gentlemen’s Diary' is a twelve-minute video diary of the production hosted by Steve Pemberton himself. Taking us almost through his daily routine on an average day in filming, we see the cast and crew discussing scenes, travelling to and from set, eating meals, getting into costume and getting the makeup done. We hear Steve talking to the camera(man) about his experiences during the production and basically get an insight into what makes this team tick. Still, the best moments are clearly when they are all just having a laugh on set. It is a nice addition, although a little overlong and thus almost superfluous when you consider the information-packed offerings that have come before.

There are also sixteen-minutes' worth of deleted scenes (roughly a minute each), with more Lipp lying on the road, more of the crazy vicar, more setting-up of the back-story, plenty more from the alternative film-set reality and an extension to one of the key scenes where Lipp gets found out.

We get a further ten minutes of outtakes, not actually that funny when you consider the comedic content of the main feature, and largely consisting of poor props and fluffed or forgotten lines. Still, a few of them are quite amusing and it is worth watching once.

There is a gallery, which plays dozens of shots on continuous slideshow (which you annoyingly cannot pause or skip on), featuring conceptual art, behind the scenes footage, on-set stills and promo shots, all with a League-themed score running in the background.

Finally there are two trailers: the teaser (which gives next to nothing away) and the theatrical (which will probably give too much away to fans that can guess what is going on). Neither of them particularly sells the movie to a new audience.

There is also an Easter egg that I found (one of the many, I am sure). If you go to the first extras menu, that starts with the ‘Making-of’, and wait for a small bubble to float up to the middle of the right hand side of the screen, then click right with your remote, you will get to a short five-minute behind the scenes interview with Simon Pegg and Peter Kay, who you might have noticed have cameos in the main feature.

League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse, The

Overall


The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse is certainly not going to be everybody's cup of tea, but to those that do like and know it well, this film marks a huge leap that the show has made from its small screen roots, and with pretty good results. The DVD presentation, both aurally and visually, is a treat, but it will be the wealth of extras that really draw in fans and there is simply everything you could ever want on this disc.


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