Of the Monty Python television series, I can’t confess to being a huge fan. It’s a show I’ve a lot of admiration for, but simply didn’t spend as much time laughing at as many of my friends.
But Life Of Brian? If Britain has made many funnier films than this, I’d dearly like to see them.
There’s little to tell you about the movie that you don’t already know. So let’s just say that it’s a film that ignited religious protests when it first released, that it contains many gut-bustingly funny scenes, and that it still continues to hold up to repeated viewing after repeated viewing. Was it the peak of the Python phenomenon? For this reviewer, absolutely yes.
The film itself has appeared many times in differing formats, but this Blu-ray (and there’s a DVD release too) is billed as The Immaculate Edition, not least for gathering back together some classic extra features that have proven tricky to track down.
The highlight of the generous extra features package for me was the Python team’s recording of the script before they made the movie proper. Script read-throughs rarely make it to the extra features folder, and off the back of this, they really should. Illustrated with preparatory drawings and storyboards, it justifies the disc cost alone.
Coming close behind it is a lengthy, and equally interesting, documentary on the making of the film, and how it was received when released. The interviews are up to date, which means it’s the surviving members of the Python team who are included. It’s retrospective – and as a result more honest – documentaries such as these that have regularly proven to be the finest extras on discs, and this one upholds the tradition.
You’ll also find some deleted scenes, and a pair of commentaries, which time constraints meant I only had time for a brief listen to. John Cleese and Michael Palin feature on one, and Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones and Eric Idle are on the other. I plan to revisit these in due course, but early signs on them are promising.
The film itself is presented well on Blu-ray, but there’s little compelling reason here to opt for the high definition disc over the DVD. Given the low shooting budget, the original picture and audio materials weren’t brilliant to start with, and while the Blu-ray makes a good fist of bringing them to life, the old adage of only being able to work with the tools you’ve got very much stands here. It’s a 1080p picture, for instance, but this manages to enhance one or two of the flaws with the picture. And while it’s a 5.1 audio mix presented on the disc, it’s still a stereo track at heart.
Yet this is still a cracking disc, and with a collection of extras that could shame 95% of disc releases. Well worth picking up, even if you’ll be just as well with the DVD.