John Cleese once said that this film is what he'd most like to be remembered for, which coming from a man who wrote some of the best Python sketches and Fawlty Towers, should tell you something about how good this film is.
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!
Some people think this is not just one the funniest films ever made but actually the funniest film ever made. If it isn't, it is certainly the funniest satire ever made. It is undoubtedly up there with the very best and I thoroughly recommend it.
When it first came out, I remember a very po-faced commentator attempting to rip it to shreds, not realising that he was actually making a fool of himself and not the film. The Pythons with him said virtually nothing and just let him dig a hole for himself. The film was controversial and, I suppose, still is.
But a satire it is ... Life of Brian quickly established a brilliant reputation for itself and, to my mind, is undoubtedly the best thing the Monty Python team ever produced. The scenes where Brian is thought to be the new Messiah, where people follow him, where the new religion schisms into 'followers of the sandal' and 'followers of the gourd': these are pure genius. And the slapstick scenes featuring Romans with speech impediments (impedimentia?) are side-splittingly funny.
The Latin lesson ... that really brings back memories! Like much good humour, it is an exaggeration of the truth that many of us experienced. The final song 'Always look on the bright side', has become so well known that it is regularly sung at public events. And the question 'What did the Romans ever do for us ...?' has passed into common parlance, often modified, frequently used.
This film has burned itself into modern-day consciousness. If you haven't seen it, you are in for a treat. If you have, then enjoy repeated viewings. A must-have: five stars.
I have steadfastly resisted buying previous versions of this DVD, as the 'extras' are virtually non-existent. Where is the spoof travelogue that accompanied the cinema release (with John Cleese getting increasingly frustrated with the number of scenes including gondolas)? Where is the short Christmas card animation, without which the appearance of the cut-out stagecoach in the film itself makes no sense? Both of them together can't take up more than 15 minutes, so space can't be the issue.
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.
on 27 August 2004
There are arguably only two even slightly good movies featuring Jesus as a character; one is Pasolini's gritty and soulful "The Gospel According to Matthew", the only film to have been given awards by both the Vatican and the Italian Communist Party, and the other is "Monty Python's Life of Brian". Jesus turns up early on, played by the superb British character actor Kenneth Colley, giving a Sermon on the Mount with unparalleled sincerity - he gradually recedes from view (and gets fainter and fainter) until we are scuffling around the edge of the crowd with the eponymous Brian and his ratbag mother, who shouts "Speak up!" at the unheeding Christ. The whole film takes place here - on the edge of potentially great events, as its hero gets loaded by everyone around him with more and more burdens of significance and responsibility, just because that's the way it goes in Judea in AD 33.
It's maybe the best Python movie because it handles such dynamite material so brilliantly. So many priceless moments that can make you laugh out loud even when you're in a room on your own - like the intricate committee structure of the People's Front of Judea, or Pilate not being able to pronounce his "r"'s ("No, no. Spiwit! Bwavado! A touch of...dewwing-do!"), or the saintly passer-by who offers to shoulder the burden of a crucifixee, and finds himself being hung on the cross for his good heart. Brian's life mirrors that of Jesus not because he has ambitions in that direction, but because everyone around him (except his mother - "He's not the Messiah! He's a very naughty boy!") wants it to. This gives the film a truly satisfying narrative that none of the other Python movies managed to achieve. (While I love the "Holy Grail", I always get disappointed that it just stops, with no real ending.)
Okay, so if you've read this far you probably love the movie anyway. The question remains, why has it been so badly served on DVD? "Holy Grail" and "Meaning of Life" have had lavish treatment, with multiple commentaries and featurettes and all sorts of bells and whistles. Why has their masterpiece not been given the same? This "Special Edition" includes a copy of the screenplay, a few postcards and a frame from the film, mounted on a bit of card...well, thanks, guys, but I could really have used some of those deleted scenes that were included in the original edition of the screenplay AND NOT IN THIS ONE...
Whoever is responsible for this sorry-ass packaging of a great film deserves to be hung upside down for several years. Or at the very least, to be stwuck. And vewy woughly. Save your money - the cheaper version has the same disc, and unless (like me) you actually want a postcard of the boys to stick up in your office, then you'll miss nothing.
on 2 January 2014
Official film rating: 5 stars
Blu-ray rating: 4.8 stars (minus 0.2 for the menu)
Menu: The only weak point in the whole experience.
Pretty, great sound and clever, but quite tedious to use after the first time, and slows down the navigating unnecessarily, as you must go to and fro for no reason to access submenus.
Also needs reloading every time you press stop (doesn't take you back to the movie where you left it).
Both visually impaired subtitles are not available through the menu either and need to be reached through the remote's subtitle button (ENG #3 and #4)
Other than that it's reasonably OK, if clunky, to navigate.
1)ENG LPCM MultiCH
2)ENG Dolby TrueHD MultiCh
3)FRA Dolby TrueHD MultiCh French
4)HUN Dolby Digital MultiCh Hungarian
5)Audio commentary ENG Dolby Digital 2Ch: Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle
6)Audio commentary ENG Dolby Digital 2Ch: Michael Palin, John Cleese
2-ENG english Sdh (hard of hearing)
3-ENG english colour blind (black background)
4-ENG english black background Sdh
6-SPA spanish south american.
9-ZHO Mandarin chinese
27-ENG English commentary 1
28-FRA French commentary 1
29-NLD Dutch commentary 1
30-ENG English commentary 2
31-FRA French commentary 2
32-NLD Dutch commentary 2
Note on the french dubbing: The french dubbing is surprisingly great quality. Terry Jones' especially is impressively funny.
I had a quick listen to the hungarian dubbing and while I don't speak a word of hungarian, it sounded also very well done. Terry Jones wasn't quite as good as in the french version, which had me in gales of laughter as he sounded more like himself than himself, but all the same everyone sounded realistic and on point.
Image quality is amazing really, for a 1979 film. It very much is worth buying the Blu-ray even if you already own the DVD.
Terry Gilliam's opening scenes finally get the recognition they deserve. It's gorgeous. Except for maybe the colours being slightly overbright and a touch of grain in the dark scenes, the film looks 10 years old, not 35.
The sound is excellent also.
A plethora of bonuses and an example for other Blu-Rays. What a feast.
a) The story of Brian: Documentary on the people involved in the making of the film, Python and producers. Very interesting. About one hour long.
Subtitled in ENG english, FRA french and NLD Dutch.
b) Script read-through: Original first draught script entire reading by the Boys. Audio recording with Terry Jones' storyboard images tacked on.
Subtitled in ENG english FRA french and NLD dutch.
2) Radio spots
Hilarious recordings! 35 to 50 seconds radio teasers. "Play all" lasts less than 3 minutes.
a) Mrs Cleese
b) Mrs Idle
c) Mrs Gilliam
d) Michael Palin's dentist
3) Deleted scenes (with optional audio commentaries)
b) Pilate's wife
d) The sign that is the Sign (no commentary)
e) Souvenir salesman
Audio ENG english 2CH, subtitles ENG FRA NLD.
The additional commentaries need to be selected through the disc menu, and cannot be accessed directly through the remote audio button.
Commentaries subtitles: ENG FRA NLD
The scenes are quite low quality, probably only initially preserved in VHS, enhancing the work done on the actual film. Such a difference in resolution. All those scenes were important to certain Python members and it's very nice to have them here, showing what direction they initially wanted to take at various stages of the movie. Plus the fact we're getting 5 new skits for free ;)
4) Photo gallery:
Black and White slideshow on opening credits music (low quality audio). Funny and incongruous pictures of the shoot. 1m45
5) Trailers: Advertisement for Close encounters and other Sony movies. Absolutely worthless in this context.
6) Film commentaries:
a) Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle
b) Michael Palin, John Cleese.
A great bunch of anecdotes and witty recollections, by 5 people, and twice over the length of the film! Great.
All in all an amazing offering, quality visuals and audio, and a ton of bonuses (considering the age of the thing), in various languages. Only the annoying menu lets it very slightly down. We won't hold it against it.
Highly recommended whether you own the movie already or not.
on 8 December 2001
This DVD has to be the worst I have ever seen in terms of picture quality, the print used is truely awful and it often distracts from the enjoyment of the film.
That said the film itself is still probably the funniest film ever and it puts modern "comedies" to shame.
Buy the video instead and save yourself some money.
on 3 January 2004
I'm a Christian, and had heard the claims from people about this film. Blasphemous, evil etc. Clearly though, to say it is blaphomous is wrong though. I mean, Jesus is in the film twice. The Pythons are also admitted fans of Jesus' teachings in the Bible, and so deliberately made sure they weren't taking the mick out of him.
The film is hilarious, with some of the most classic comedy moments ever. It attacks religion a bit, but many of the criticsms the film makes are real ones. Also, I think it's important to have a joke at your own expense.
For a Christian, I suggest watch this film, enjoy it, then think about the things said about religion. Once you question and think about it, answers will come. Christianity is a great religion and I think is true, but some of the things the Church has done in the name of Christianity has been wrong - and the Pythons are more than capable of pointing it out.
on 30 December 2001
Well it is Christmas, so here's yet another R2 turkey.
Classic comedy, one of the all-time greats on a pathetic shoddy couldn't-care-less Dvd release.
Where's the commentaries,deleted scenes, radio ads, documentary and digital widescreen transfer?
On the far superior R1 Criterion release, that's where............
on 12 April 2009
Although the source film is 30 years old and the standard dvd has been available for aeons, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the producers have made some effort in the presentation of the feature as a whole in this format, rather than simply make the film itself high-def.
I expected to load the disc, wait the statutory five minutes for it to start, then see a simple 'play' button taking me straight to the action. But no, there before me was a reasonable choice of buttons leading to various settings and film features. Just like a modern day blu-ray feature.
What's more, the links have been given a Pythonesque feel and you could think that Terry Gilliam (the arty American Python who produced all of their excellent animations) had been directly involved in the dvd production.
The quality of the picture is very good and has truly benefited from the high def process. Some older films don't seem to benefit a great deal from the transfer process, but as all of the outdoor shots were done in Africa, with the richness and tonality of light that was available, this one certainly does. This is highlighted even more by the stark contrast of the dungeon scenes where the only light is that suggested by sunlight filtering through the walls and the odd flame torch or two.
Referring back to Terry Gilliam, the scene when Brian falls off the top of the tower and is saved by the alien spaceship which is being pursued by an enemy alien spaceship and is taken for a quick spin of the earths atmosphere, before crashing right back at the base of the same tower-cue Gilliams twisted inventiveness- I can definitely see things in this sequence that I never could on the standard dvd.
Again, when Brian writes the graffiti on the walls of the fort, which takes him all night, when you see the finished article (no pun intended) the writing is so vivid it almost gives the effect of being in 3D -it jumps out of the screen.
My only criticism, and it is a slight one, is that I didn't really notice a great leap forward in the sound quality and there is no uncompressed audio option, but then it is a 30 year old film!
In conclusion I'm not trying to say that this is the best blu-ray dvd ever produced -Iron Man, Dark Night are far more technically accomplished- but it is a noticeable upgrade from the standard dvd, and one that can be appreciated by anyone with access to a decent size, good quality, flat screen tv and blu-ray player. And with that in mind I would recommend it as a good value purchase
on 12 October 2006
Greatest comedy ever? Maybe! Comedies get dated very quickly, but yet this wonderful cutting, social and political comedy will have you rolling arounding in side-splitting agony more than a quarter century after its release.
The Python gan were famed for the series the Flying Circus and The Search for the Holy Grail is also superb but Life of Brian proved to be their masterpiece. Despite managing to offend a lot of people by parodying the life of Christ, they managed to make the rest of the world laugh with wonderful characters are one of the most quotable scripts ever written. Among the best and most memorable lines are:
Brian's mum: 'He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy'
Pontius Pilate: 'This man commands a cwack legion. He wanks as high as any in Wome'
Prisoner: 'I'm Brian and so's my wife'
Reg: 'So apart from the roads, the wine, law and order, medicine, education, irrigation and public health...what've the Romans ever done for us?'
How do you get your graffiti to be grammatically correct? What is Biggus Dickus's wife called? Why should you always haggle? And just how many pressure groups are their in ancient Rome?
The acting is OTT in the extreme and perfectly done with the greatest comic script ever. It'll probably be making people laugh long into this century.