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Owen Harris
Ben Crispin, Steve Punt, Charles Edwards, Rufus Jones, Tom Fisher, Darren Boyd
Writing Credits:
Tony Roche

Holy Flying Circus reimagines the controversy surrounding Monty Python's 1979 film, Life of Brian, which was greeted with widespread outcry and accusations of blasphemy. Matters reached a head when Michael Palin and John Cleese agreed to take part in a BBC talk show about Life of Brian with a Church of England bishop and a staunchly Catholic broadcaster. The ensuing TV debate put the Pythons in their most absurd role yet: the voice of reason.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1
English LPCM Stereo
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 89 min.
Price: $34.99
Release Date: 9/4/2012

• Three Deleted Scenes
• Outtakes
• “The Making of the Holy Flying Circus Phonotrope”
• Production Stills
• Previews
• DVD Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Holy Flying Circus [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 2, 2012)

Back in the late 1970s, the Monty Python crew stirred up an enormous controversy with Life of Brian. Many – usually those who’d not seen the film – disparaged it as blasphemous. For a look at this situation, we get a new docudrama called Holy Flying Circus.

The film finds the Python gang – John Cleese (Darren Boyd), Michael Palin (Charles Edwards), Graham Chapman (Tom Fisher), Terry Gilliam (Phil Nichol), Eric Idle (Steve Punt) and Terry Jones (Rufus Jones) – after completion of Life of Brian. Distributor Barry Atkins (Simon Greenall) touts a variety of potential release locations, but the movie does nothing but stir up controversy.

This leads toward the movie’s UK debut and a promotional appearance on a TV show hosted by Alan Dick (Jason Thorpe) that forces Palin and Cleese to debate with cardinals. We also see additional attempts to protest and suppress the film along with the Pythons’ moves to support their movie.

Although touted as a docudrama, Circus comes across more like a “docucomedy”. The film attempts to examine its subject matter from a decidedly Python-esque point of view; it treats the material with great irreverence and branches off into Python-style humor quite often.

It doesn’t work. Actually, it doesn’t totally flop, either, but let’s face it: it’s dangerous to try to “out-Python” the Pythons. Had the film gone with a straight approach, we wouldn’t consciously think about the work of the Pythons so much, but since Circus tries so hard to go for the laughs, it simply makes us long for the real thing.

All of this makes Circus self-conscious and borderline obnoxious. No one involved boasts the talent of the Pythons, so their comedic stabs often fall flat. A few laughs emerge, but not enough to sustain the conceit.

In addition, the Python-style comedy tends to feel like a distraction. The film takes so many irreverent detours that it becomes a narrative mess. There’s little consistency, so given the ineffective nature of so much of the comedy, the movie becomes spotty and borderline incoherent.

I really think Circus should’ve gone after the material as either a standard documentary or a more dramatic take. The actors are often quite good and would’ve handled the parts well in a more traditional manner. Punt is such a dead ringer for Idle that when I got the Blu-ray and looked at the cover, I thought the movie used the real Idle. Edwards’ Palin is also strong; both he and Punt look and act a lot like the actual people. Boyd’s Cleese is cartoony but effective.

All of the others are fine, though some semi-weak links occur. Nichol’s Gilliam doesn’t ring true – he can’t handle the American accent well – and Fisher’s Chapman seems bland and forgettable. Jones’s Jones is competent but not great.

Overall, the actors are fine, however; I just wish they’d been cast in a better film. There’s an interesting story to be told here but Circus seems so desperate to create its own Monty Python experience that the end result doesn’t work.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C-/ Audio C/ Bonus C

Holy Flying Circus appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.00:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was a mediocre presentation.

Sharpness was a frequent issue. Close-ups tended to look fine, but anything wider tended to seem somewhat soft and ill-defined. Those instances weren’t extreme, but I saw nothing close to Blu-ray resolution here. Some light jagged edges and shimmering popped up, but I witnessed no edge haloes or print flaws.

Colors were drab. Some of that likely stemmed from production design, and the image occasionally boasted brighter tones, but most of the time, the hues tended to seem moderately flat. Blacks were also a bit thin, while shadows could appear a bit on the dense side. This remained a perfectly watchable image, but as a Blu-ray for a modern movie, it didn’t deserve a grade above “C-“.

I also found little to impress via the film’s PCM stereo soundtrack. The soundfield tended to be restrained. The movie offered decent stereo music and occasional effects from the sides, but this was usually a pretty monaural mix. Granted, Circus didn’t need a wild soundscape, but I still thought the presentation was lackluster.

Audio quality was decent. Speech occasionally sounded a little reedy and edgy, but the lines were consistently intelligible and showed acceptable clarity. Music had fair pep and bounce, while effects were reasonably accurate; the mix never pushed them but they seemed fine. This was a completely average track.

We find a handful of extras here. The Making of the Holy Flying Circus Phonotrope lasts four minutes, 32 seconds and lets us view the creation of the animation that appears in the opening credits. We get no comments, as the behind the scenes footage speaks for itself. This becomes a decent little program but not anything memorable.

Three Deleted Scenes come next. We get “Michael Palin’s Diary” (1:34), “The Two Yorkshiremen” (1:08) and “Dick and Balls Get Worked Up” (1:20). These all provide minor, forgettable additions and lack any great substance.

A collection of Outtakes runs a total of 19 minutes, 23 seconds. This gives us little more than a really long blooper reel. A few alternate takes appear, but most of the time we just find goofs and giggles.

We finish with a batch of Production Stills. This collection offers 30 shots and mixes publicity photos and images from the set. It’s a decent bunch of pictures.

The disc opens with ads for Going Postal and a variety of other Acorn products. No trailer for Circus appears.

A second disc offers a DVD Copy of Circus. This delivers a retail product with all the same extras as the Blu-ray.

While Holy Flying Circus examines an interesting subject, it tries so hard to be funny and clever that it loses its focus. The comedy doesn’t work and the narrative rambles too much for the film to keep us with it. The Blu-ray delivers mediocre picture and audio along with a few minor supplements. Only the biggest Monty Python fans will want to bother with this misfire.

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