Holy Flying Circus (UK - DVD R2)
Marcus watches a comedy spin on the controversy around a comedy classic...
Holy Flying Circus gives us a comedic TV take on the 1979 hoohar surrounding the release of Monty Python's The Life of Brian and the lead up to when a couple of the Python's got the chance to argue their case against the organised religions on the TV show Friday Night, Saturday Morning.
Starting with Jesus (with a little help from Eric Idle) explaining that the story we are about to see is mostly made up (in a very Monty Python-esque sketch) we begin this zany approach to recounting real events, treading a fine balance between real life and out there humour.
Holy Flying Circus is not so much a biopic about a period in the Python's lives but a biopic of the Pythons if they were their on screen personas and comedic characters. The whole thing is done as a bit of fun really, well at least initially, making light of the uproar surrounding the controversial comedy and making the behind the scenes stories targets for as many Monty Python inspired chuckles as possible.
The results are hit and miss. Some of the performances for the Pythons themselves are great (Darren Boyd as Cleese and Charles Edwards as Palin are particularly good), as are some of the off beat sketches (like the one with the BBC listing words audiences find offensive) but many of the sub plots, such as the over the top TV producer and the speech impediment protesters take a while longer to warm to and sometimes feel a little like they are trying too hard.
Where this project really works is showing how stupid the outrage was towards the classic comedy's release and how different groups overeacted (without actually seeing the film) and even more so how a lot of facts and factoids from the fallout are delivered in amongst the madcap gags. The BBFC's lighthearted reaction to the film and how the arguments around censorship that followed came about, the Python's responses both privately and publicly and the sillyness of the real life events, which write themselves into parody well enough all by themselves.
Those who find the story of the Life of Brian media circus interesting stuff but want to revisit it through a slanted comedic view that celebrates everything Monty Python and then some, should get a serious kick out of this and surprisingly the wrap up here was effective stuff that was quite heartfelt, showing the importance of the Friday Night, Saturday Morning "debate" to the film the participants were arguing about to comedy lovers and indeed the argument of what comedy can and can't do.
This looks mostly like a straight up British TV show really with visuals slightly closer to that of a drama in terms of budget and lighting. Colours are not all that vibrant and generally kept dialed back to give this a slight retro feel but black levels are very good and deep and warmer lighting in darkened rooms can work very well. The hand held camera work adds for the docu-drama feel and of course the stylised sketches that pop up from time to time come with many different looks. It's a fairly grainless affair throughout, with the odd well detailed element but overall this is a pretty soft looking presentation with little in the way of real pop.
This stereo track is good with the dialogue, offering up clear and crisp presentation throughout. Beyond dialogue, which in all honesty is all this playful comedy is concerned with really, are the musical segways which are quite thin and simply produced and ambience is only placed behind exterior scenes in the simplest of ways. Really there's nothing exciting about this track at all but a TV comedy drama about a Monty Python film doesn't really need much more.
Sadly there's nothing all that meaty here. All we get is four deleted scenes which total up to about five minutes in length, outtakes (12:38), 'The Making of The Holy Flying Circus Phonotrope' (04:32) which is briefly featured in the opening credits and a bunch of production stills. Really this needed some sort of insight into the development of the project and all of its participants. It's a real shame there's nothing like that.
Holy Flying Circus is a lot of fun but I much preferred what it was about rather than how it was done for most of the runtime. The back and forth between Cleese and Palin is particularly strong throughout and the playfulness of the project on the whole is a lot of fun with madcap sketches and facts balanced with fruity language and chuckles. The disc looks like any other good TV drama and even if the audio track is simple, the dialogue is very strong within the mix. Extras are very thin, which is a let down but this is well worth your time if you like the subject matter, even if it's just a rental.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 6th February 2012
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Stereo 2.0 English
Extras: Deleted Scenes, The Making of The Holy Flying Circus Phonotrope , Outakes, Production Stills
Easter Egg: No
Director: Owen Harris
Cast: Charles Edwards, Darren Boyd, Stephen Fry, Belinda Stewart-Wilson, Mark Heap, Martin Marquez, Roy Marsden, Alex MacQueen, Rupert Vansittart, Tom Fisher, Michael Cochrane, Simon Greenall, Selina Griffiths, Rufus Jones, Geoffrey McGivern
Genre: Comedy and Drama
Length: 89 minutes
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