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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 5/7/99

Monty Python's Life of Brian
1979 (1999) - Handmade Films (Anchor Bay)

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Monty Python's Life of Brian Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C, C, B-

Specs and Features

93 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, talent bios, film-themed menu screens with animation and sound effects, scene access (31 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: none

Let me confess it right up front - I'm a big fan of the chaps from Monty Python. There is nothing that gets me laughing faster than an old episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Anyone else remember the Ministry of Silly Walks, the years-long game of World Hide and Seek that ends in a tie, the Dead Parrot Sketch, or the Lumberjack Song? The only thing better than Python on TV, is Python on film, and Life of Brian is second only to The Holy Grail in my book.

Here's how the story goes. Way back in ancient Judea, at the same time as the birth of Jesus, another boy is born in the next stable over. His name is Brian, the bastard son of a Roman foot soldier (but don't call him Roman). As brian (played by Graham Chapman) grows up, he finds that his life is inexplicable intertwined with the Messiah's. And as for plot... well that's about all there is really. This is just the insane story of his life. Along the way, Brian will get mixed up with the People's Front of Judea, an ex-leper, countless Roman centurions, Pontius Pilate, several wise men, a wanna be middle-manager named Reg, a pair of one-eyed aliens from outer space (I'm not kidding), and a whole host of other loonies.

There are some truly great lines in this flick, among which are: "No one... is to stone ANYONE... until I blow this whistle!" There's a very funny scene where Brian is caught painting "Romans go home!" on the side of a wall, by a Roman soldier. The soldier gets mad... because Brian's latin is wrong! He proceeds to correct Brian's grammar, and then makes him paint it hundreds of times more correctly. I could go on and on - there is just one absurdly silly moment after another.

As DVDs go, well... this one could have been a little better. The letterboxed widescreen picture is of very average quality. Not like I was expecting anamorphic widescreen on this or anything, but a new, fully-digital transfer might have solved lots of problems. The source material is clearly an old transfer master on analog tape, and just about every analog artifact you can think of appears in the picture. There's major ringing and edge-enhancement visible throughout the film. The color, at least, is actually pretty good, but the print is a bit dirty at times. This disc could just have looked a lot better, particularly given the quality Anchor Bay put into the transfer of their recent Black Hole DVD, which has a very good picture. Still the disc is entirely watchable once you get into it. As for sound, well again, this disc isn't really anything special. You get Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, but the audio can be a bit muffled at times. Given the tricky English accents, you might have to turn the volume up a bit, and play certain dialogue bits a couple of times to understand it. Which is not to say that the audio is bad, just not great either.

I am somewhat impressed with the extras on this disc, however. This disc isn't exactly loaded, but I certainly got more than I expected. Included is a theatrical trailer for the film, several pages of biographies on the major Python regulars, and some really great looking, Gilliam-esque animated menu screens. The menus even have sound effects and music that plays in the background too. Very cool!

If you're as big a Python fan as I am, I'm sure you'll have no problem overlooking this DVDs so-so picture quality. Once you get into it, it's very easy to just enjoy the movie. I'm just glad to have more Python on DVD. As they say in the film, "always look on the bright side of life." Know what I mean... wink, wink, nudge nudge?

Bill Hunt
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