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Graham Chapman died of cancer Thursday. Chapman was a very funny British comic - and a Cambridge-educated physician - known to "Monty Python" fans as one of the outrageous sextet of British zanies who created their own form of intellectual silliness. (The others being John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam.)

Graham is best known as King Arthur in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and the title character in "Life of Brian," but my personal favorite was the pompous military officer who would interrupt sketches on the television series "Monty Python's Flying Circus," yelling that the skit had "gotten silly" and it was time to stop it and move on to something else.Last year he also did a few episodes of a CBS television series he developed called "Jake's Journey," but it never aired. (Deseret News TV critic Joseph Walker saw the pilot in Los Angeles last year and tells me it was very funny. We can only hope a cable station will have the foresight to pick it up so Python fans can get an extra helping of that unique style of humor.)

Chapman died on the eve of the Python's 20th anniversary (since the first airing of the TV series), and just three weeks after filming was completed on an anniversary special that will air on American television later this year.

When he was in Salt Lake City a few years ago for a show at the University of Utah, Chapman showed clips from old "Python" TV programs and discussed with a standing-room-only audience the ups and downs of his own career, as well as comedy in general. He was witty and bright and put on a terrific show.

The world of crazy comedy will be the lesser for his passing, and now, unfortunately, speculation about the Pythons reuniting for future films is permanently moot.

(BU) LEONARD MALTIN'S annual "TV Movies and Video Guide" remains the No. 1 movie reference guide for those looking for a comprehensive listing of movies available on video and television.

Maltin is the author of many film books and provides snappy commentary about movies for TV's "Entertainment Tonight." His annual reference book is a handy, normal-sized - if thicker than normal - paperback that can easily fit on your TV, and it boasts 1,277 pages with more than 18,500 capsule reviews. ($5.95, Signet Books.)

What's always amazing about Maltin's work is how much he manages to pack into those reviews - whether the movie is in color or black and white, the running time, year, director, stars, etc. Plus interesting trivia about many films.

Last year's edition introduced an inverted pyramid at the end of reviews for movies available on video, but unfortunately it was often inaccurate. Maltin admits to this flaw in the introduction to the 1990 edition but claims to have corrected it.

Having skimmed through quite a few titles and cross-referenced them with video catalogs, it's apparent Maltin has gone the extra mile to correct it as much as possible. No book can be 100 percent on the money, of course, since many video titles have been announced already just since this reference work went to press. But it's much more accurate than the 1989 edition, and still the best of its kind anywhere.

There's no question that "TV Movies and Video Guide" is the most-used book on my shelf, both at home and the office. I read many others for various reasons, but if you're looking for one volume that has everything the average movie-watcher needs, this is the one to buy.

(BU) ROGER EBERT'S annual "Movie Home Companion" is on the stands, with a unique cover that has a black-and-white photo of a pensive Ebert, perfect for the book's theme - "Why I Love Black and White."

Ebert is the rotund critic who spars with Gene Siskel weekly on TV's "Siskel & Ebert" movie review program. His annual "Movie Home Companion" is an update, which, in addition to complete reviews and compact interviews (my favorite section each year), includes in this edition Ebert's taking up the gauntlet for black-and-white films in an essay that explains not only why he detests colorization, but why he loves black and white.

Black and white, Ebert rightly explains, is more than merely the absence of color. It provides an atmospheric motif that directors and technicians purposely strived for in making "The Maltese Falcon" more sinister and "Notorious" more emotional, etc.

And Ebert illustrates his arguments vividly, following his remarks with another article listing some of the great black-and-white films, so that even non-film buffs will perhaps be intrigued enough to run out and rent them, to find out for themselves why some of us seem fanatical on the subject.

Ebert's crisp, clear writing makes for entertaining reading, and though you probably won't agree with some of his opinions in the reviews that make up the bulk of the book - and wouldn't it be dull reading if you agreed with all of them - he will make you think.

He has also expanded upon his self-designed "glossary," which contains such terms as "Self-Repeating Inevitable Climax" (think of the "Friday the 13th" films), "Generation Squeeze" ("Vice Versa," "Big") and the ever-popular "Ali MacGraw's Disease."

One minor carp: In his dissertation on black and white, Ebert says John Huston's 1979 film "Wise Blood" was filmed in black and white, but it was actually filmed in color. It is, however, a film whose themes would have been well served by black and white; the mistake is understandable.

My only quibbles are the same as last year's: I'd rather see fewer repeat reviews in each new edition (the oversized paperback costs $12.95 this time out; published by Andrews and McMeel), and I still prefer the interviews in their own book (as with Ebert's "A Kiss Is Still a Kiss" of a few years back).

But "Movie Home Companion" will do just as it is. Critics just have to have something to complain about.

(BU) QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Director Walter Hill, talking to Betsy Pickle, Scripps Howard News Service, about his latest film, "Johnny Handsome":

"I don't think it's gonna get one good review or make a nickel, but I quite like the movie."