On the DVD: Life of Brian returns to Region 2 DVD in a decent widescreen anamorphic print with Dolby 5.1 sound--neither are exactly revelatory, but at least it's an improvement on the previous release, which was, shockingly, pan & scan. The 50-minute BBC documentary, "The Pythons", was filmed mainly on location in 1979 and isn't especially remarkable or insightful (a new retrospective would have been appreciated). There are trailers for this movie, as well as Holy Grail plus three other non-Python movies. There's no commentary track, sadly. --Mark Walker
Hugely controversial at the time, the subject matter of 'The Life of Brian' was considered strictly taboo in 1979, and even today it can still rattle a few cages, but ultimately the Python team all shared the same conviction that they were not poking fun at religion (or Jesus) per se, but at the people who blindly follow and misunderstand. In this way, 'The Life Of Brian' became not just a comedy classic, but a ground-breaking movie that pushed the barriers of what was previously considered 'off-limits'.
Graham Chapman revels in the lead role of 'Brian of Nazareth', and the rest of the team play multiple rolls, in a very Goon Show-esque type way, with the story always revolving around Brian. The turning point comes when, in an attempt to evade the notice of the Romans, Brian pretends to be a street preacher and gathers the attention of a small crowd. Once the Romans pass by, however, he stops preaching and tries to walk away, only to find that the small crowd want to hear the rest of what he was saying. As more and more people come along to find out what is happening, his followers multiply until they are convinced that he must be some sort of messiah. They follow Brian home only to be told by his mother that "There's a mess alright, but no messiah.." (I'm paraphrasing, by the way!)
Each member of the Python team contributes immensely to the film, with Eric Idle supplying a classic Python tune as Brian is being crucified ("Always Look On The Bright Side of Life"), Terry Gilliam with some great visual gags, Terry Jones as the director of the film, Cleese and Palin turning in multiple brilliant performances (like Cleese's Reg, the leader of the PFJ, and the classic "What have the Roman's ever done for us?" sketch), not to mention Chapman as the unsuspecting hero. There are also a couple of cameo appearances (notably Spike Milligan and George Harrison) which can be spotted by the eagle-eyed viewer, but are all too brief if you ask me.
If you haven't got this film in your collection, then now is your chance to correct the error of your ways!... and as the "Not the Nine O'Clock News" team once pointed out, Britain is still ostensibly a Python-worshipping country, so do your duty and buy a copy of this classic today!
But at last - 'a special edition' - surely this will have everything that was missing from the previous releases? And the package IS very nice - script book, postcards, film cell, sturdy box to house them in. But what's the point of good packaging if the DVD is the same? As far as I can make out, there is no difference at all, and for the first time I actually regret buying a DVD - I really should have read the small print.
The film itself, of course, is an absolute classic that everyone should see. Not only is it extremely funny, it has a serious sub-text about not just believing what you're told - with religious fundamentalism on the rise, it feels more relevant today than it did when it was first released. So just buy the cheapest version you can find - you'll enjoy it more without the nasty taste in your mouth.
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