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Holy Flying Circus

monty_pythons_flying_circus_uk-show There’s not enough Monty Python on TV, so I set my Tivo to record anything from the boys, and it came up with this gem.

Holy Flying Circus  is a strange kind of meta-dramatisation of the events just after the launch of Life Of Brian . It is a surreal look at how church groups orchestrated a partial ban of the film in it’s home market. It is, in effect, a drama about Monty Python in the style of Monty Python.

The acting is top notch. The film focuses on John Cleese (played by Darren Boyd ) and Michael Palin (Charles Edwards) , but these are very exaggerated versions of the real life Pythons, a fact acknowledged by the drama in various asides and “fourth wall” breaking mentions of the world outside the dramatised re-enactment, including gags about BBC4 (who commissioned this). Steve Punt also provides an excellent Eric Idle , and the actors playing Terry Gilliam and Graham Chapman also do sterling work. Rufus Jones, as Terry Jones, also plays Palins wife – a common Python trope where the guys plays the gals. The nods to the films and TV series continues throughout, such as the use of speech impediments. In fact, apart from Eric Idle himself in the opening sequence no actual members of the comedy troupe are involved.

The drama starts in 1979 with the Monty Python crew returned from Tunisia, feel buoyed by the little movie they just made. Although aware that Brian’s content may prove controversial they still believe that, through comedy, they’ve made an important point about religion. And anyway, everyone knows Brian is not Jesus – so there’s no problem.

Soon the American launch makes the headlines, and the British premiere likewise. Alan Dick, an over the top TV programmer hits on the idea of cashing in on this outrage and getting the Monty Python crew into a debate with some religious types.

The discussion in the UK about freedom of speech and religion was really quite important, but also quickly forgotten. There are some insightful points made here with the over the top profanity and “bad taste” one liners, but I guess at the time censorship was a big issue. This film benefits massively from hindsight. Stephen Fry, as God, has some interesting things to say in his cameo, but as I said it’s really the portrayal of the Pythons in their heyday that makes this TV gold.

It’s a hard job to follow or even emulate the Monty Python gang but I think this nails it perfectly. 9/10.

 

 

 

You’ll find YouTube is full of Monty Python (it’s own channel) and you’ll find the original TV debate here .