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Despite the success of American sitcoms, the Brits have always had a better handle on the comedy genre. There’s a certain understated art to successful comedy, something which US writers, although their work is still quite solid, fail to fully grasp. For every mega-hit like Friends or Raymond there’s arguably a better production coming out of the UK. The likes of Coupling, Teachers and the ultimate in comedy gold, The Office  might not get as much recognition as they deserve (even The Office was adapted into a US version for American audiences to “better understand”), but the quality of the shows can’t be denied.

The question was always going to be whether the Brit-com style could be adapted well enough for feature films. This is where the trademark “bawdy underdog flick” was born. Most of you will be familiar with the style; an unlikely bunch of working class heroes are thrown together under desperate circumstances, needing to accomplish a common goal in order to save the town/raise some money/earn some respect or all of the above. The most recent efforts such as Mrs.Henderson Presents and Kinky Boots have received some praise, but you have to go way back to 1997 to find the cream of the crop. And not surprisingly, it is one of the first in the long line of similar types.

The Full Monty: Special Edition
For those of you unfamiliar with the storyline, The Full Monty follows the fortunes of six unemployed steel workers from Sheffield, lead by battler Gary (Robert Carlyle), who is desperately looking for some money to pay for custody of his son. The other five are equally hard done by, with many failing to come to grips with their unemployment and their failing marriages. When a couple of them stumble upon a local strip show aimed at the thousands of eager women in the town, the group decides to give it a go themselves. The fact that they are less than impressive in the physique department and not all that confident taking their clothes off doesn’t stop them promising their audience “the full monty”, meaning they’ll go the whole way and get down to their birthday suits on stage.

The will-they-or-wont-they tension isn’t overplayed, with the film retaining all its innocence and charm from all those years ago. It was actually a joy to revisit one of the more globally popular films of the 90s, and certainly one of Britain’s most celebrated exports to date. Watching Gary show off his routine to the other boys in front of the headlights of his car still raises a chuckle, while that classic track “You Sexy Thing” will always be synonymous with this film. And don’t forget the cute little scene in line at the social services office where the boys practice their routine to Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff”. Classic.

The stream of British comedies hitting cinema screens around the world owe everything to this film. Billy Elliot might have arguably been a much more solid flick overall, but this is where it all began, the moment when the world wanted to let them leave their hat on, even if it meant seeing their dangly bits as well. The abrupt ending on the showpiece scene wraps things up nicely and ensures this simple little tale doesn’t outstay its welcome.

The Full Monty: Special Edition
It looks like a little more effort has been made with this transfer, with the 1.85:1 visuals looking quite sharp and vibrant despite the age of the film. The intentional rough edges around the film are retained, but at the same time the transfer really does look quite impressive for an older release. Edge enhancement is only a minor issue in certain spots, but it’s really not all that noticeable overall. The condition of the print is solid, which tends to suggest it may have been cleaned up a little more for this release, though it’s purely speculation.

On offer for this special edition is a choice of both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS, making the most out of what is available. The musical soundtrack is the standout aspect of the film, and it comes up exceptionally well on both the Dolby Digital and DTS mixes. The DTS mix adds a little more punch, though for the most part it’s just a volume increase in disguise. Surround use is pretty sparse, which is to be expected for this dialogue driven piece. Dialogue is crystal clear from the front channels and the music is bounced around the rears quite well, making this a pretty solid mix overall.

This wouldn’t be a special edition without a whole bunch of extras to wade through. The two-disc set sure has plenty on offer, starting with the commentary tracks on disc one. The first track is from Director Peter Cattaneo and cast member Mark Addy, who plays Gary’s best mate Dave in the film. Obviously the two of them sat through this one a long while back while things were fresh in their minds, so things are very much in the front of their minds. Cattaneo is very comfortable speaking about his film, while Addy bridges the gaps a little when Cattaneo decides to take a breath.

The second commentary is from Producer Uberto Pasolini, whose rather unique vocal style might become grating after a while even though he does have some interesting information to offer the listener. He speaks of how they had to manage their time (the film was on a very tight budget) and the results of their work which came out almost by accident.

Still on the first disc, the ten deleted scenes on offer are well worth a look. Most of the scenes flesh out a little more about the characters, and many of them could well have been added back into the film had it not been for time constraints. Cattaneo and Addy provide an optional commentary, explaining why certain scenes were cut from the final product. The best thing is that the scenes are covered from different angles which allows much more time for explanation.

The Full Monty: Special Edition
The cast section of the extra features gives us sound bites and interviews with the main cast members, adding some text-based information as they speak. The interviews are pretty short and more geared towards the EPK-style, so the second disc is of much more value to those looking for more substance. The rest of the extras on the first disc amount to more promotional fluff, such as a series of trailers and TV spots, a nifty music section which allows you to jump to a specific music track within the film and the DVD credits. Good to see that Three Legged Cat productions is still producing some top work, after we interviewed company head Mark Rance last year on the site.

The second disc features the new, more in-depth pieces on the film. The first section is called Development, and contains three featurettes about the production. Here you can learn about the development of the script, the process of choosing director Peter Cattaneo and a look at the town of Sheffield. All three feature interviews with most of the main players, although only Tom Wilkinson lends a hand from the cast perspective.

The Production section contains more featurettes, this time about more of the technical issues surrounding the film. There’s a piece on the score, the editing, a look at the band featured in the film (including some behind the scenes practice footage), a music featurette and a great look at how the film was adapted for an American audience (there is a US version of the soundtrack available on the feature disc).

The next piece is called The Success and its Aftermath, which looks at how the film basically took the world by storm, starting with the Sundance Film Festival in 1997. The likes of Tom Wilkinson and Peter Cattaneo add their thoughts on how the overwhelming success of the film played out.

The Full Monty: Special Edition
The best piece is quite possibly The Bigger Picture, which looks at how British film in the 1990s really took off. They look at the common themes among the films, how audiences reacted to them and the way the British film industry worked during the past decade. It’s a really interesting piece containing wide ranging interviews with a number of experts.

The extras are quite solid overall, especially the second disc which has been conjured up for this special edition release. As a double dip there’s probably not enough to convince those who own the original version to upgrade their copy, but you can be confident that this version is the most complete and definitely the one to get your hands on if you’re a fan of the film.

While it might be a little trite and innocent compared to a lot of the more aggressive comedies of recent times, you can’t deny the film’s charm even after all these years. The special edition treatment it so richly deserves makes this an impressive disc, complete with a solid transfer, two great soundtracks and an extras package which gets its value from the new content created especially for this release.