The Monty Python team present a vignette-style cradle-to-grave guide to the ultimate questions; Why we’re born, why we die, and why we should know when one wafer-thin after-dinner mint is too many!
The film is split into seven chapters documenting the meaning of life and begins, naturally enough, with ‘Part 1 – The Miracle of Birth’ – an unforgettable return to medical matters for Cleese and Chapman, highlighting the absurd waste of NHS funds and dedicated obsession with expensive equipment above human values.
The theme of birth is extended with the look at the Third World… Yorkshire – one of the most celebrated sequences in the film, featuring the big musical number, Every Sperm Is Sacred.
Episode 2 is ‘Growing and Learning’ which presents Cleese’s sex education class, complete with juvenile Palin, Jones, Chapman and Idle in attendance, initially sitting quietly reading and reacting to Palin’s look-out with a burst of paper-throwing and riotous action upon their master’s appearance.
A very forthright sexual lecture continues with these unkeen pupils looking around, tittering with nervous energy.
‘Part 3 – Fighting Each Other’ presents the old, old story of cool, dedicated officer class (Jones) protecting his squad of British Tommies (the other five Pythons), with the cold reality of war being nothing compared to his men’s devotion to the strong leadership and camaraderie in evidence, before slipping back to the Zulu Wars to show British officers searching for another officer’s leg that has been bitten off by a tiger
The centre of our journey – ‘Autumn Years’ – is into middle age. The concept of a restaurant actually promoting the conversation of your choice is in the same league as the argument sketch, with this manic Mediaeval-style Hawaiian eating place perfectly suited to some ill-informed and uninterested small talk on philosophers and the meaning of life (cue interest from the fish tank).
There follows the earth-shattering, stomach-churning, flesh-creeping appearance in the restaurant of a certain Mr Creosote.
Throwing up all over the place, stuffing himself with the entire menu – twice – abusing a silky John Cleese waiter (taking off from John Lennon’s surreal spaghetti shovelling sequence in Magical Mystery Tour) and finally, being tempted by the dreaded wafer-thin mint, exploding into a mass of half-digested muck, rancid vomit and burst rib cage.
Headfirst into part seven and the end of the line with the big Death scene with the Grim Reaper appearing at a dinner party to claim the incredulous guests who have succumbed to a lethal salmon mousse.
But first, Chapman’s nutter Arthur Jarrot, sentenced to death for telling sexist jokes on television, chooses his own unique method of destruction – being chased over a cliff by topless beauties in garishly coloured crash helmets and matching undies.
‘Life after Death’ presents Paradise as a well-upholstered nightclub where well-upholstered chorus girls join Graham Chapman in a song and dance routine called Christmas In Heaven.
The Meaning of Life screened with its own hilarious standalone 16-minute supporting feature called The Crimson Permanent Assurance, featuring the aged staff of an insurance firm in London sailing their office block across the Atlantic to do battle with businessmen in Manhattan skyscrapers. Great fun and with wonderful special effects.