The Secret Policeman’s Ball was a 100-minute film featuring the highlights of the third Amnesty International charity concert staged over four consecutive nights (27 – 30 June 1979) at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Haymarket in London.
Monty Python team members Terry Jones, Michael Palin and John Cleese appeared in their famous “Four Yorkshiremen” sketch – with virtually unknown newcomer Rowan Atkinson making up the numbers – and the equally memorable “Cheese Shop” sketch.
The highlight for many was Peter Cook’s energetic parody of the extremely topical summation of Judge Joseph Cantley and his appallingly biased attack on several witnesses during the Jeremy Thorpe case.
The performance – including the memorable phrase “a self-confessed player of the pink oboe” – was so popular it was released as a 7″ single by Virgin Records, under the title Here Comes The Judge – Live.
Pete Townshend (of The Who) – who played, amongst other renditions, an acoustic version of Pinball Wizard – and Tom Robinson provided some fine live music. Classical guitarist John Williams also performed a duet with Townshend.
An edited one-hour version was aired on British television on ITV on 22 December 1979. The full-length film appeared in cinemas the following June.
Two accompanying vinyl soundtrack LPs were also released – one for the comedy sketches and one for the musical acts.
A sequel of sorts was produced in 1981, titled The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball and filmed at the fourth Amnesty International Concert.
Very slightly directed by