DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Life of Brian, the Immaculate Edition, Blu-ray (1979-2007)

Has the biblical comedy field in movies entirely to itself.

Published on January 28, 2008

Life of Brian, the Immaculate Edition, Blu-ray (1979-2007)
Life of Brian, the Immaculate Edition, Blu-ray (1979-2007)

Starring the Monty Pythons
Directed by Terry Jones
Studio: Python Pictures/Sony Pictures 22594
Video: 1.85:1 enhanced for 16:9 widescreen, 1080p HD
Audio: English Uncompressed PCM 5.1, English & French Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Hungarian DD 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese & 19 others
Extras: Commentary track by John Cleese & Michael Palin; Commentary track by Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle & Terry Jones; New featurette “The Story of Brian” (1 hour); Original 110 min. audio recording of the Pythons reading their screenplay in progress a year before shooting (with the text on screen); Original radio spots featuring Mrs. Cleese, Mrs. Idle, Mrs. Gilliam, & Michael Palin’s Dentist; 5 Deleted scenes; Photo gallery
Length: 93 minutes
Rating: *****

Probably the world’s only biblical comedy has had a bumpy existence, both in Britain and in the U.S., both when first premiered and when re-released years later. A few from all religious persuasions protested it, but Christianity is not the target.  It is, among other things, Hollywood’s overblown biblical epics, revolutionaries, crazy prophets, Rome’s brutality as well as accomplishments, religious fanatics and followers who won’t think for themselves.  The absurdity quotient of the typical Pythons’ humor works surprisingly well in this endeavor.  The hilarious stoning scene at the beginning is just one example of this.  Each of the Pythons handles many different roles thruout the film – Terry Jones, for example, playing Brian’s mother as well as directing the film.

Brian Cohen is a young man in Nazareth in 33 A.D. who thru a series of odd occurrences is mistaken by a crowd of ready followers for the Messiah.  He insists he isn’t but that doesn’t stop the avid followers.  However, he is involved in one of several insurgent bands who are trying – very unsuccessfully – to bring down the Roman rule.  This gets him apprehended twice by the Roman centurions and the second time he fails to escape.

The film was shot in Tunsia and the costumes and settings look very believable – there’s no equivalent of the coconut shell horses’ hooves effect seen in their first feature, The Holy Grail. Graham Chapman not only plays Brian, but being a medical doctor also took care of the cast and crew after shooting stopped each day. He is perfect as the put-upon Brian. The documentary on the making of the film is fascinating. It even includes portions of a debate about the controversial film, seen on the BBC with two of the Pythons, writer Malcolm Muggeridge and a Catholic prelate. The Pythons appear to come out the winners. It also documents the group’s dismay when EMI had readily agreed to finance the film, but then one of their top executives finally read the screenplay, had a fit, and canceled it. They went to George Harrison, who financed it himself. One of the deleted scenes is a silly conversation of three shepherds tending their flocks on a hillside near the blessed event, who are missing the whole thing because they are facing away from the signs in the sky. If your sense of humor fails to extend to religious matters, best thou avoid this movie.

 – John Sunier

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