Those six pandemonium-mad Pythons are back with their craziest adventure ever! Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin have returned to explain The Meaning of Life. These naughty Brits offer the usual tasteful sketches involving favorite body parts and bodily functions, the wonders of war, the miracle of birth and a special preview of what's waiting for us in Heaven. You'll never look at life in quite the same way again! Hailed as "an exhilarating experience" (Time) and pronounced "the best movie from England's satirical sextet." (Newsweek)
On a Midnight Clear 2000 years ago, three wise men enter a manger where a babe is wrapped in swaddling clothes. It is an infant called Brian...and the three wise men are in the wrong manger. For the rest of his life, Brian (Graham Chapman) finds himself regarded as something of a Messiah, yet he's always in the shadow of this Other Guy from Galilee. Brian is witness to the Sermon of the Mount, but his seat is in such a bad location that he can't hear any of it ("Blessed are the cheesemakers?"). Ultimately he is brought before Pontius Pilate and sentenced to crucifixion, which takes place at that crowded, non-exclusive execution site a few blocks shy of Calvary. Rather than utter the Last Six Words, Brian leads his fellow crucifixees in a spirited rendition of a British music hall cheer-up song "Always Look On The Bright Side of Life." The whole Monty Python gang (Chapman, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, and Terry Gilliam) are on hand in multiple roles, playing such sacred characters as Stan Called Loretta, Deadly Dirk, Casts the First Stone, and Intensely Dull Youth; also showing up are Goon Show veteran Spike Milligan and a Liverpool musician named George Harrison.
"Blessed are the cheesemakers," a wise man once said. Or maybe not. But the point is Monty Python's Life of Brian is a religious satire that does not target specific religions or religious leaders (like, say, Jesus of Nazareth). Instead, it pokes fun at the mindless and fanatical among their followers--it's an attack on religious zealotry and hypocrisy--things that that fellow from Nazareth didn't particularly care for either. Nevertheless, at the time of its release in 1979, those who hadn't seen it considered it to be quite "controversial." Life of Brian, you see, is about a chap named Brian (Graham Chapman) born December 25 in a hovel not far from a soon-to-be-famous Bethlehem manger. Brian is mistaken for the messiah and therefore manipulated, abused, and exploited by various religious and political factions. And it's really, really funny. Particularly memorable bits include the brassy Shirley Bassey/James Bond-like title song; the bitter rivalry between the anti-Roman resistance groups, the Judean People's Front and the People's Front of Judea; Michael Palin's turn as a lisping, risible Pontius Pilate; Brian urging a throng of false-idol worshippers to think for themselves--to which they reply en masse "Yes, we must think for ourselves!"; the fact that everything Brian does, including losing his sandal in an attempt to flee these wackos, is interpreted as "a sign." Life of Brian is not only one of Monty Python's funniest achievements, it's also the group's sharpest and smartest sustained satire. Blessed are the Pythons. --Jim Emerso
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Danny Kaye spoofs Robin Hood and Scaramouche in this inventive slapstick swashbuckler. Portraying the clownish but good-hearted entertainer Hawkins, he infiltrates the court of the corrupt Basil Rathbone (up to his usual brand of cruel villainy) disguised as the legendary king of jesters, Giacomo. After a court sorceress hypnotizes Hawkins into believing he is also a legendary assassin, Hawkins has more identities than he can keep straight, and Kaye zips back and forth between them at, literally, a snap of the fingers. Comic highlights include a wonderful sword fight with Rathbone in which he constantly switches identities, and the classic "chalice from the palace/vessel with pestle" wordplay as Hawkins plays "hide the poison" and forgets where it is. With comely Glynis Johns as his spy-in-arms love interest, Angela Lansbury as the scheming princess, and Mildred Natwick as the dotty spellcaster, this is Danny Kaye at his comic best. --Sean Axmaker