Monty Python's Life of Brian (Rainbow) (1979)

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Released 25-Feb-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Menu Audio
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Monty Python Previews (3)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1979
Running Time 89:50
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Terry Jones
Studio
Distributor

Rainbow
Starring Graham Chapman
John Cleese
Eric Idle
Michael Palin
Terry Gilliam
Terry Jones
Case 6 Clip and Ring
RPI $24.95 Music Geoffrey Burgon


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This is quite ironic. I was only grumbling the other day in my review of Zoolander about how I hate films that are simply a series of skits joined together with little thought to the storyline. That 'skit' label could quite easily be stuck on any of the Monty Python features. That is, if it wasn't for the fact that the story was so strong, the performances so perfect, and the whole thing so d*** funny. This is, and will always be, comedy at its best. Oh, and it's British, so it will always be superior to any of that old American rubbish.

    When it comes to Monty Python, you fall into one of three categories. You either love them, you hate them, or you simply just don't get them. I thankfully fall into the first category. I find, after even hundreds of repeat viewings over the years, something new to laugh at in many of the scenes. I got to thinking just before commencing the review process for this disc if there has been another movie through the years that has provided so many quotable lines or scenes as those which are found in the classic Life Of Brian from the Monty Python team. Think of 'He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy', 'What Have the Romans ever done for us?', 'Biggus Dickus', 'The Peoples Front of Judeah', or 'Always look on the Bright Side Of Life' to name but a few of the signature scenes.

    The story is a simple one. In a manger in Bethlehem, a child is born. The Three Wise Men arrive bearing gifts, but soon realise that this is not the son of God, but is merely Brian. Skip forward some thirty years and we meet up with Brian (Graham Chapman) and his mother (Terry Jones), attending a sermon by none other than the real Jesus Christ before attending a stoning ceremony. Brian's mother is a bit worried about her son as he has been expressing some anti-Roman sentiment of late, and when he falls in with the wrong crowd in the form of The People's Front Of Judeah and their leader Reg (John Cleese), her worst fears are realised. Brian commits a large-scale graffiti act to prove his commitment to the cause and becomes a member of the group. With the rest of the PFJ they plan to infiltrate Pilate's (Michael Palin) palace and kidnap his wife, but they run into their arch-enemies in the Judean People's Front, and Brian is captured by the Romans. He manages to escape, only to again be captured after leading the Centurions on a merry chase and being mistaken for a Messiah by a group of townsfolk. It looks like a crucifixion could be in the offering, unless Pilate in one of his rare showings of generosity decides to 'Fwee Bwian'!

    Released 23 years ago, on a pretty tight budget that was in part financed by the late George Harrison (he even gets a cameo) and filmed on location in Tunisia, this still generates the same laughs it did when I first saw it.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    We get an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and it's pan and scan to boot with obviously no 16x9 enhancement. Disappointing to say the least, though I guess this is pretty much how almost everybody would have seen this film on the countless repeats it has seen on television. Not that that is any consolation.

    The transfer is a pretty soft and at times muddy visual experience, though I've got to say that this is more likely in part due to the age and condition of the source material, the low-budget nature of the production and the fault of this transfer in equal portions. There are some issues with shadow detail, particularly in the scenes in the sewers. Grain is evident in almost every scene. Some of the external wide angle shots have so much grain they appear like the desert is in the sky. Quite distracting to say the least. To say that this is only slighter better than an average VHS transfer would be pretty accurate.

    Colours aren't exactly what I would call vibrant, though as a result there are also not too many problems with them either. The reds on the centurions' uniforms are probably the best saturated tones. Otherwise, everything is pretty much sand coloured. A legacy of filming in Tunisia I guess.

    There are no apparent MPEG artefacts. There is some highly noticeable telecine wobble in the opening shots of the Three Wise Men. The picture is simply not sharp enough for there to be any problems with aliasing. There are also lots and lots of film artefacts throughout the entire duration of the film. Some are rather large, others are merely nicks and dirt on the film itself. The overall rating for the condition of the source material is not particularly high.

    Sorry - there are no subtitles with this transfer. They really are missed at times, even though they are speaking English.

    This is a single layered disc only, so there is no layer change to navigate as a result.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    We get a choice of only one soundtrack on this disc. It is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo offering which is in line with the original theatrical release. Not the greatest soundtrack going, being quite harsh at times and quite muffled at others.

    I've always had a problem with some of the dialogue in this film. With the Python team taking on many parts each and providing them with a myriad of accents, and voices, there will always be some that are difficult to understand. The character of Brian's mother (Terry Jones) in particular suffers from this extensively. There are no real bad audio sync problems, just a little obvious ADR work.

    Some musical score is used throughout, mostly to provide suspense when the Roman Centurions are lurking around. Of course, the famous closing credits song 'Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life' is played in the crucifixion scene and over the credits.

    There is no surround channel or subwoofer use.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Not a lot in the extras department, though I guess a little is better than nothing at all.

Menu Audio

Biographies-Cast & Crew

    These are reasonably detailed and presented full screen with text that is of a decent size and is therefore quite easy to read. There are a couple of pages dedicated to each of the members of the Python crew.

Featurette - Monty Python Previews

    These are three preview snippets from the other three Monty Python discs that are available from Rainbow. Featured is the famous Four Yorkshiremen skit from Live at the Hollywood Bowl (you know the one - 'we were sooo poor, we lived in a shoebox...'), the hearing aid skit from Fliegender Zirkus, and the famous Black Knight scene from Monty Python and The Holy Grail. Total running time for all three is 7:55 minutes. The quality is fairly ordinary and if this is an indication of what the discs actually look like then they are probably worse than Life Of Brian. All are naturally presented in full screen.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There are a couple of versions of this disc available in Region 1. There is a 1.85:1 widescreen release from Anchor Bay, that is letterboxed only (not 16x9 enhanced). There is also a top-of-the-range Criterion Collection disc, which together with the heavy price tag (around AU$70 by the time its posted) comes loaded to the brim with extras.

    When compared with the Anchor Bay release, the Region 4 disc misses out on;

    When compared with the Criterion Collection release, the Region 4 disc misses out on;

    I own the Criterion disc, and while the video transfer is 16x9 enhanced and in the proper aspect ratio, it is still by no means a superb transfer, being very grainy and filled with film artefacts, but it is better than this release. The extras are a huge bonus.

    It is fairly obvious which is the preferred version, though the hefty price tag will deter all but the more ardent fan. At a price of $24.95, this local version is certainly cheaper, though with the transfer little better than a VHS copy, and pan & scan to boot, I find it very difficult to recommend.

Summary

    Life Of Brian is a classic piece of filmmaking from a group renowned for making timeless comedy moments. They will still be laughing at this stuff in 100 years I reckon.

    The video transfer is only average, with lots of grain and many film artefacts. To be fair, a significant proportion of this is due to the condition of the source material.

    The audio is at times harsh and at others muffled, and is also only average. Again the source can be blamed for much of this.

    The extras are virtually non-existent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Wednesday, May 15, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Save up for the best... - Anonymous
Monty Python and the Holy Grail - Paul Lee (Bio this way)
Re: Monty Python & the Holy Grail - David (multi-cellular biological lifeform)
Re: monty python and the holy grail - Paul Lee (Bio this way)
Re: monty python and the holy grail - Stimpy (da, what's a bio Ren?)
Re:Holy Grail Availability - Paul Lee (Bio this way)
Ad for Holy Grail Collectors edition - funny and worth a read - John Maher
Holy Grail Collectors Ed - Paul Lee (Bio this way)
New Holy Grail coming? - Anonymous
Re: Holy Grail Collectors Edition - Alex H (My biography...in 500 words or less!)
Life of Brian R2 (Columbia Tristar) - Paul Lee (Bio this way)
Region 2 Life of Brian - Anonymous