Blu-ray Disc review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits
|Monty Python's Life of Brian: The Immaculate Edition
1979 (2008) - Handmade Films (Sony)
Released on Blu-ray and DVD on January 29, 2008.
Film Rating: B+
Video (1-20): 16
Audio (1-20): 14
|"I am NOT the Messiah!"
"I say you are Lord, and I should know; I've followed a few."
"Come... Bill told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new review from me, pa rum pum pum pum
With an X-Mas theme, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the screen, pa rum pum pum pum
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum
So to honor him, pa rum pum pum pum
Here's my review..."
A little baby is born in manger in a town called Bethlehem. He's greeted by Three Wise Men bearing gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. (And for the record Frankincense and Myrrh are both tree resins used to make perfumes, essential oil and incense, and 2,000 years ago they were very rare and probably worth more than the Gold. So now you know and knowing is half the battle.) The child, of course, will go on to become one of the great Messiahs. His name was Brian of Nazareth. Oh, wait... you thought I was talking about Jesus? No, no, no... that guy was born down the way in a wholly different manger.
So far there's only been one Gospel about the holy exploits of Brian and it took those lovable scamps from the U.K., Monty Python, to tell it. Life of Brian follows the birth, James Bond-esque theme song, life, teachings and eventual death of a misunderstood holy man, who wasn't really all that holy come to think of it. His words were wise and his intentions were noble, but they pale in comparison to those of Jesus. Well... except for the part with the space aliens. That part of Brian's Gospel is awesome. What makes Life of Brian so important is the fact that it was the first of its kind - the Religious Parody. Since 1979, when this film came out, there haven't been too many films of that genre. Aside from a dig here or there, there really hasn't been a big screen comedic attack on religious fanaticism. And that's what this is, folks. Don't kid yourself - Life of Brian does not attack God, Jesus, the Bible or any fundamentals of religion. In fact, it holds most of those things in high regard. What it does do, is attack those that choose to take these things too far. You know, the fanatics. This is a film that pokes its finger at those that are holier than thou, and asks, "What makes you so sure you're all high and mighty?" Although not as fondly remembered as The Holy Grail or The Meaning of Life, Life of Brian is a lot faster, wittier and smarter on the whole than those other two films. Sure, I myself like the others better too - but over time Brian has really begun to grow on me.
For what it is, Life of Brian looks awesome on Blu-ray. The HD transfer is certainly not flawless, but considering the film's age, the fact that it was an independent film and the low tech behind the film, I think it looks just about as good as you can ever expect it to look. The colors are bright, blacks are dense and the detail is phenomenal. Mastered in 1080p high definition, this is an overall pleasing image. The audio is also quite good, though isn't all that much better than the previous DVD release. You get English audio in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and uncompressed PCM 5.1. Also available are a mono English track, French Dolby TrueHD and Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1. Did I just write that? Yes, yes I did.
The extras are where this Blu-ray really shines. First up are two commentaries with the surviving Python members. One features Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones. This is sort of the "filmmaker" track, as the two Terry's once again shared directing duties. Although Gilliam is credited as a designer/art director, it's clear he had a hand in the vision of the film, with Jones working the actors and the comedy aspects. Idle served as a producer of sorts, wrangling the money men. The other is a "crew" track with John Cleese and Michael Palin. Both are very informative, cheeky and full of insight - well worth any fan's time. Next up, you get a roundtable read-through of the original script, illustrated by storyboards. Completist fans will enjoy this, but frankly it gets old fast. It may have helped if this was videotaped or filmed. Python audio has always worked better in tandem with video. The best extra on the disc is an hour-long documentary about the making of the film. It's no fluff piece, as it tracks the film from concept and financing, through all the various controversies and all the way to its release and reception, all with no punches pulled. Finally, we get 13 or so minutes of deleted scenes (none very "great"), a collection of Python radio spots for the film and a black and white photo gallery. This disc is definitely a must own for fans of the film in particular, and the Pythons in general.
Until The Holy Grail makes its debut on Blu-ray (likely next year), I have to say this is the best looking Python film I've ever seen. I was a bit surprised to see this one on the shelves, but I couldn't help myself from making the upgrade. Now that I've sat down and watched it "cover to cover," I have to say that I'm thrilled that I did. Gimme more Python on Blu-ray please!