πŸŽ₯ Life of Brian – 1979

The Story …

Brian Cohen is born in a stable next door to the one in which Jesus is born, which initially confuses the three wise men who come to praise the future King of the Jews.

Brian later grows up into an idealistic young man who resents the continuing Roman occupation of Judea. While listening to Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, Brian becomes infatuated with an attractive young rebel named Judith.

His desire for her and hatred of the Romans, further exacerbated by his mother revealing that Brian himself is half-Roman, inspire him to join the “People’s Front of Judea” (PFJ), one of many fractious and bickering independence movements that spend more time fighting each other than they do the Romans …

To prove himself, Brian is tasked by the PFJ to paint slogans on Roman governor Pilate’s palace, but is interrupted by a Roman officer. The officer, however, is more concerned with Brian’s appalling grammar and, after correcting the slogan to “Romani ite domum”, orders him to write it one hundred times.

The next morning, Brian has finished writing out and is subsequently chased away by a separate patrol of legionaries, unaware that Brian’s act of vandalism had actually been ordered by one of their own Centurions. He then participates in an abortive attempt by the PFJ to kidnap Pilate’s wife, but is captured by the palace guards.

Escaping when the guards suffer paroxysms of laughter over Pilate’s speech impediment and his obliviousness to the hilarious names of his friends Biggus Dickus and Incontinentia Buttocks, Brian winds up on a spaceship driven by aliens, before finding himself – once back to Earth – trying to blend in among prophets who are preaching in a busy plaza, repeating fragments of Jesus’ sermons.

He stops his sermon mid-sentence when some Roman soldiers depart, leaving his small but intrigued audience demanding to know more. Brian grows frantic when people start following him to the mountains, and there they declare him to be the Messiah.

After spending the night in bed with Judith, Brian – still naked – discovers an enormous crowd assembled outside his mother’s house. Her attempts at dispersing the crowd are rebuffed, so she consents to Brian addressing them. He urges them to think for themselves, but they parrot his words as doctrine.

The PFJ seeks to exploit Brian’s celebrity status by having him minister to a thronging crowd of followers demanding miracle cures. Brian sneaks out the back, only to be captured by the Romans and sentenced to crucifixion.

In celebration of Passover, a crowd has assembled outside the palace of Pilate, who offers to pardon a prisoner of their choice. The crowd shouts out names containing the letter “r”, mocking Pilate’s rhotacistic speech impediment. Eventually, Judith appears in the crowd and calls for the release of Brian, which the crowd echoes, and Pilate agrees to “welease Bwian”.

His order is eventually relayed to the guards, but in a scene that parodies the climax of the film Spartacus, various crucified people all claim to be “Brian” so they can be freed, and the wrong man is released.

Other opportunities for a reprieve for Brian are denied as the PFJ and then Judith praises his martyrdom, while his mother expresses regret for having raised him. Hope is renewed when a crack suicide squad from the “Judean People’s Front” charges and prompts the Roman soldiers to flee; however, the squad commits mass suicide as a form of political protest.

Condemned to a slow and painful death, Brian finds his spirits lifted by his fellow sufferers, who cheerfully sing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”.

Credits :

  • Directed by Terry Jones
  • Written by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin
  • Produced by John Goldstone
  • Cinematography : Peter Biziou
  • Edited by Julian Doyle
  • Music by Geoffrey Burgon
  • Production Companies : HandMade Films and Python (Monty) Pictures
  • Distributed by Cinema International Corporation
  • Release Date : 17 August 1979

Cast :

  • Graham Chapman as Brian Cohen (of Nazareth), Biggus Dickus (who has a lisp), 2nd wise man
  • John Cleese as Reg, High priest, Centurion of the Yard, Deadly Dirk, Arthur, 1st wise man
  • Terry Gilliam as Another person further forward (at Mount – “Do you hear that? ‘Blessed are the Greek’!”), Revolutionary, Blood and Thunder prophet, Geoffrey, Gaoler, Audience Member, Frank, Crucifee
  • Eric Idle as Mr Cheeky, Stan/Loretta, Harry the Haggler, Culprit woman who casts first stone, Warris, Intensely dull youth, Otto, Gaoler’s assistant, Mr Frisbee III
  • Terry Jones as Mandy Cohen (Brian’s mother), Colin, Simon the Holy Man, Bob Hoskins, Saintly passer-by, Alarmed Crucifixion Assistant
  • Michael Palin as Mr Big-Nose, Francis, Mrs A, Culprit woman who casts second stone, Ex-leper, Announcer, Ben, Pontius Pilate (who has Rhoticism), Boring Prophet, Eddie, Shoe Follower, Nisus Wettus, 3rd wise man
  • Terence Bayler as Mr Gregory, 2nd Centurion, Dennis
  • Carol Cleveland as Mrs Gregory, Woman #1, Elsie
  • Charles McKeown as False Prophet, Blind Man, Giggling Guard, Stig, Man #1
  • Kenneth Colley as Jesus
  • Neil Innes as A Weedy Samaritan
  • John Young as Matthias
  • Gwen Taylor as Mrs Big-Nose, Woman with ill donkey, Female heckler
  • Sue Jones-Davies as Judith Iscariot
  • Chris Langham as Alfonso, Giggling Guard
  • Andrew MacLachlan as Another Official Stoners Helper, Giggling Guard
  • Bernard McKenna as Parvus, Official Stoners Helper, Giggling Guard, Sergeant
  • George Harrison as Mr Papadopoulos
  • Charles Knode as Passer-by

Several characters remained unnamed during the film but do have names that are used in the soundtrack album track listing and elsewhere. There is no mention in the film that Eric Idle’s ever-cheerful joker is called “Mr Cheeky”, or that the Roman guard played by Michael Palin is named “Nisus Wettus”.

Spike Milligan plays a prophet, ignored because his acolytes are chasing after Brian. By coincidence Milligan was visiting his old World War II battlefields in Tunisia where the film was being made. The Pythons were alerted to this and he was included in the scene being filmed that morning. He left in the afternoon before he could be included in any of the close-up or publicity shots for the film.

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