The Monty Python team are synonymous with a dark, subversive humour that defies comparison to anything else. Although often attempted, no-one since this legendary British comedy troupe has ever been able to be as extreme, accusatory, blatant, offensive, and off-the-wall funny, while maintaining intelligent entertainment value throughout.
Asked what their follow-up to Monty Python And The Holy Grail (1975) would be, Eric Idle said Jesus Christ – Lust For Glory on a whim. And so it came to pass . . .
One of the Python’s most controversial films was, without a doubt, The Life Of Brian, a film that makes fun of the root of Christianity itself, and turns a dim-witted nobody into an unwitting (and unwilling) Messiah during the times of Christian birth.
On the night of Christ’s birth in Judea, in a stable next door, another boy is born by the name of Brian. Immediately after his birth the three holy man mistake him for the son of God and offer their presents, only to take them away from the furious mother minutes later when they detect the real Messiah.
Brian grows up a dim-witted peasant, but for some reason throughout his life, he constantly crosses the path of Jesus over and over again, until one day the people of Judea actually mistake him for the Messiah once again and follow his very footsteps.
The film doesn’t have a very elaborate story, it is more a series of absurd events that make up Brian’s life.
He encounters the most ludicrous characters and finds himself constantly caught in the midst of the most bizarre events – including an alien abduction and crash landing.
When Brian becomes politically involved with the People’s Front Of Judea (not to be mistaken with the Judean People’s Front, the Popular Front of Judea or the Judean Popular People’s Front) you know it will end in tears. The scene with a Roman centurion correcting Brian’s Latin spelling while he tries to smear the walls with “Romans Go Home”, is sublime.
Like a naughty schoolboy, the centurion grabs Brian by the ear and forces him to go through all forms of the Latin words needed to construct the sentence – so reminiscent of old public school days that it hurts.
The real genius of Life Of Brian is that it’s a string of great sketches – the stoning scene, the haggling scene, the Biggus Dickus scene – all worked into the plot to provide an instant greatest hits package.
Ultimately, Brian ends up like so many others of the time, hanging on a crucifix. A chap from an adjacent crucifix advises Brian to look on the bright side of life and the immortal sing along (pictured below) commences.
Life of Brian was shot using many of the same locations and Tunisian sets used in Jesus of Nazareth (1977). Anthony Burgess – who wrote the initial drafts of the script for Jesus of Nazareth – later expressed admiration for the Python film, praising it as a “very fair interpretation of the lot of the Jews under Roman rule. I wish I had written the script for it”.
Brian/First Wise Man/Biggus Dickus
Reg/Third Wise Man/Stoning Official/Centurion
Francis/Pontius Pilate/Ben/Ex-Leper/Second Wise Man/Mr Big Nose/Nisus Wettus/Boring Prophet
Stan/Harry the Haggler/Mr Cheeky/Jailer’s Assistant/Mr Frisbee III
Jailer/Blood & Thunder Prophet