But what reason is that to recommend Life of Brian, that it pushes less merchandise than Holy Grail? None at all, but defensive Pythoners would be enticed to stop reading and consider the writer “one of them.” Well, I’m not one of you—I just finally “understand” you. Good enough?
Life of Brian, Monty Python’s 1979 rampant spoof on (dis)organized religion, was written by the entire troupe: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin, all of whom have somewhere between three and 12 roles.
Chapman is Brian Cohen, born a manger over from Jesus Christ—on the same day, no less. Mistaken for a messiah at first by the Three Wise Men and then by the People’s Front of Judea, Brian is recruited to lead the revolt against the Romans.
Brian’s funniest moments come in its askew depictions of Biblical events: what about those that had trouble hearing Jesus’ Sermon (“Blessed are the cheesemakers!”)? Or those that stuttered and had pronunciation problems? Or what if the messiah, the weight of an entire people on his shoulders, told his followers simply to “Fuck off”?
Much of the pseudo-epic presents itself as a series of Flying Circus sketches miraculously woven through a coherent plot. That’s something of the skill of the merry pranksters—to turn a witty one-liner into a sketch, sketches into a sequence, and sequences into a lovably daring movie.
I’m not so sure American comedians could pull this off—it takes six Brits to point out what a lousy gift myrrh is or how you must “always look on the bright side of life”, even when strung to a crucifix. Life of Brian is the team’s—pardon the expression—Holy Grail.
Commentary by Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle & Terry Jones: It would’ve been nice if the trio had recorded together to get a better idea of their chemistry, but still, the men offer as much insight as one could want for a Monty Python film.
Commentary by John Cleese & Michael Palin: Also pieced together, the rest of the living Pythons make for a comfortable commentary for fans.
Deleted Scenes (13:16): The five here (with optional commentary) are: ‘Shepherds’, ‘Pilate’s Wife’, ‘Otto’, ‘The Sign That is the Sign’, and ‘The Souvenir Salesman.’ A few chuckles, but considering the length of some of them, not quite enough.
Script Read Through (1:50:41): This audio-only feature of a 1977 script read-through with the Python troupe defines “For Die-Hard Fans ONLY!”
The Story of Brian (59:48): The only new feature is this hour-long look at the making of Life of Brian. Comprised of new interviews and archive footage, The Story…looks at everything from pre-production habits of the cast up to the controversy/appreciation the film was greeted with. A must-watch.
The Radio Spots and Photo Gallery are also worth your peek.