The final Monty Python film brings them full circle with a collection of sketches themed to give us the meaning of life by breaking it up from the cradle to the grave, starting with `The Miracle of Birth' and ending with `Death'.
The script book obviously does not bring home the glory of the film but with its lavish production is a thing of beauty worthy of display on any coffee table. It also gives us `The Adventures of Martin Luther' which was cut after test screenings and returns `The Crimson Permanent Assurance' to where it was in the narrative before it was separated to become the second feature on the cinema run.
The Meaning of Life is less satisfying than The Quest for the Holy Grail or The Life of Brian but still a worthy addition to the Monty Python cannon.
This Methuen paperback book contains the dialogue and song lyrics from Monty Python's 1983 film, 'The Meaning of Life'. It is illustrated with plenty of colour and black and white photographs of scenes from the film.
The book differs from the film as shown in cinemas in two ways. Firstly, there is extra material. There is a sketch about Martin Luther after the scene with the Protestant couple, which is not in the film at all, and the Mr and Mrs Hendy sequence is longer in the book than it is in the film. Secondly, the sequencing of some of the material is different in the book to the movie. In the book, 'The Crimson Permanent Assurance' sequence is placed straight after the Very Big Corporation of America sketch, whereas in cinemas and on the DVD it is shown as a short film before the main feature. Also, in the book the autumn leaves sketch is before the Arthur Jarrett chase sequence, but in the film the autumn leaves scene is placed after Arthur Jarrett being chased by the girls.
John Cleese observes in the featurette about the making of the film in the 2003 special edition DVD that audiences are quite happy with the sketch format for the purposes of a 30 minute television show, but for a full length cinema film they need a story to maintain their interest. This is a valid point, and it helps explain why 'The Meaning iof Life' does not work as well as the team's previous movie, 'The Life of Brian'. The material itself is a mixed bag. On the one hand, there are some sketches, such as the live organ transplant scene or the Mr Creosote sequence, that I find rather disgusting. However, on the other hand, some of the sketches are hilarious and demonstrate Monty Python at their most inspired, such as the Protestant couple, Eric Idle's Galaxy song, Michael Palin's sergeant major routine, and Gaston's explanation of his philosophy of life.
The stills photography by David Appleby is of a very high quality, and the animation pages designed by Kate Hepburn are very good, too. At the end of the book, there is reproduced the correspondence between John Cleese and Kenneth Donlan, the managing editor of 'The Sun'. 'The Sun' newspaper reported that John Cleese said to the extras on the Rorke's Drift scene, "Which of you bastards did a rain dance?" when the shoot was impeded by heavy rain. John Cleese denied every having said this, the newspaper refused to print a retraction, and the case was referred to the Press Council.
If you enjoyed the movie "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life" or if you just like Monty Python, this is a book you should definitely have. It includes the script and also pieces that were not included in the movie, for example 'The adventures of Martin Luther'. There are also lots of brilliant illustrations. A must have for all Monty Python fans.