Take a Pythonesque Peek at a Scandal: Holy Flying Circus (2011)
Do you remember the brouhaha surrounding the release of the 1979 Monty Python film Life of Brian? Many of us older flyers do—it was a time when there were more important things to do than misinterpret a film and then make a ruckus about one’s misunderstanding. Yes, that’s right—it was an age of ignorance.
Holy Flying Circus is a re-imagination of those events in an absurdist narrative reminiscent of many of the Python television sketches, right down to animations and the actors playing a variety of roles. Darren Boyd (as John Cleese) and Charles Edwards (a standout as Michael Palin) lead a cast that includes Steve Punt as Eric Idle, Rufus Jones as Terry Jones, Tom Fisher as Graham Chapman, Phil Nichol as Terry Gilliam, Ben Crispin as Jesus, and Stephen Fry playing God. Some of the actors bear a physical resemblance to the original Pythons, some mimic them extraordinarily well.
Holy Flying Circus revolves around an annoying BBC 4 programmer attempting to get the Pythons to debate an Anglican bishop (Roy Marsden) and Malcolm Muggeridge (Michael Cochrane) on a British chat program, Friday Night, Saturday Morning, a debate which actually took place, with John Cleese and Michael Palin representing the Pythons.
It’s all very amusing, with a generous serving of laugh-out-loud moments and dramatic scenes focused on relationships among the Pythons and their doubts about the wisdom of participating in the debate. Media figures are painted with broad strokes and come off nearly as buffoonish as Muggeridge and the Bishop of Southwark, who both appeared ignorant and foolish in the original debate.
As a long-time fan of Monty Python’s Flying Circus who has found herself recently immersed in everything Python available on DVD, I was satisfyingly entertained by Holy Flying Circus, although I did have to keep reminding myself that it isn’t a historical account of what truly happened.
Released in September by Acorn Media, Holy Flying Circus is available on DVD and Blu-ray and includes several extras, including “Making of the Holy Flying Circus phonotrope, deleted scenes, outtakes, and productions stills.