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April 28, 2008
Monty Python's Life Of Brian - The Immaculate Edition Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
197919/3/2008Sony PicturesTerry Jones
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4Dolby TrueHDMA15+Monty Python Crew

"He's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy"

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I am NOT the Messiah!
Rarely do you come across a movie that has a more memorable, or quotable, line. If you haven't seen Life of Brian then you've missed out on what is arguably one of the greatest comedies ever put to celluloid, although upon release three decades ago it did raise the ire of many religious folk who disapproved of the subject matter - that being making fun of religion and Jesus Christ. In reality though the movie does nothing of the sort, Jesus only appears a couple of times, and the movie actually focuses on Brian, the boy born in the stable next to Jesus. This is Monty Python at its very best and it is a joy to see this movie given the full treatment for release by Sony Pictures.

Monty Python's Life of Brian tells the hilarious story of a boy born in a stable on Christmas Day (no, not THAT boy!) who spends his life being mistaken for the messiah! After a series of events though he is soon believed to be the messiah, despite the cries of his mother ("He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy") and his own claims of not being the messiah ("I am NOT the Messiah!").

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Video quality on this Blu-Ray impresses.
Standing the test of time this movie is just as funny today as it was when it was first released, if not more so in today’s religious climate. This movie is basically a series of brilliant sketches put together to form a 93 minute movie. From the opening scene when the Three Wise Men incorrectly believe that Brian is the Messiah, to Brian painting the city square at the insistence of the Roman Guards, to the scenes with the slurring Pontius Pilate and the guards trying to control themselves - and then the citizens of Jerusalem, to the haggling with the street vendor and the final memorable scenes at the crucifixion. It's all brilliant, and will have you smiling long after the movie is over.

At the time of release Life of Brian was a movie surrounded by debate and controversy due to the belief that the movie poked fun at Christianity and Jesus - although in reality the movie doesn't even get close to being offensive. The documentary makes it quite clear that many of the poeple complaining about the movie were also those who hadn't seen it. This isn't something we are alien to in the games industry - how many games get targeted from Family Groups prior to them even playing it? It happens all the time, but as the Monty Python crew states in the documentaries, it was this controversy that helped push ticket sales, so they weren't complaining.

While there are blemishes here and there one must remember that Life of Brian is 30 years old next year, and the transfer to Blu-Ray is as good as the movie has ever looked - no doubt about it. Encoded in AVC MPEG-4 at the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 this transfer is impressive with detail throughout the length of the picture remaining high, colours are vibrant (despite the dusty, dirty setting and filming which largely took place in Tunisia), and contrast is good.

So, if we must point out some technical deficiencies with this transfer let's do that. For one the colour sometimes wavers a bit with slight inconsistencies. There also appears to be some small compression artifacting and even some very slight edge enhancement in some scenes. Still these are minor niggles in an otherwise superb transfer.

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Ben the Prisoner - there for 5 years!
Sony Pictures really have gone to town with this Blu-Ray release and provided two of the richest audio formats available, Dolby TrueHD and Uncompressed Linear PCM. Through the Playstation 3 the PCM track is superb, and with the system also converting the Dolby TrueHD track to PCM the differences between the two are negligible. Indeed if you can hear any differences you would be doing extremely well indeed. Needless to say this movie has never sounded so good. Having said that this isn't a movie you would use to show off the capabilities of the Blu-Ray format, or your home theatre.

Having been released in cinemas with Dolby Stereo audio it's not hard to understand that despite the use of Dolby TrueHD and Linear PCM as the primary English audio formats there really isn't a lot of 'wow' factor in this release. Audio is heavily focused on the front speakers, with surround channels used somewhat sparingly, or to expand the sound field. The audio is also a little inconsistent in its levels for effects and speech which is a problem from the source material, not this transfer.

Sony have provided to other audio tracks on this disc. These include a French Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track which is every bit as impressive as the English track, and a Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 640kbps. Subtitles are also given a fair go with 20 different languages covered and tracks including English and English SDH. The subtitle track is quite accurate to the voices on screen.

Sony Pictures have gone all-out to make this Blu-Ray release one of the most complete ever seen for the movie, and they haven't disappointed. Monty Python and Life of Brian fans will be overjoyed with the extras on this disc, although they are only presented in Standard Definition which is a little disappointing. Still the content can't be ignored.

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So the movie does go a little, ermm, strange...
Audio Commentary with Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle and Terry Jones: Over the years I have listened to countless audio commentaries and while some are very dry, some are technical and some contain long periods of silence this track is nothing of the sort with continual talking about the production of this movie with a tonne of interesting information. For Python fans this, with the second commentary, is a real gem.

Audio Commentary with John Cleese and Michael Palin: The second commentary is from the two other members of Monty Python, and is a brilliant listen. As a big fan of John Cleese this was a real gem for me and their thoughts and insights into the movies production are quite priceless, and invaluable as they even cover disputes between the crew during filming.

The Story of Brian (59:51): A brilliant documentary which runs for an hour which details the development, production and release of Life of Brian. This is a brilliantly put together documentary with recent interviews as well as footage from the production. There is a tonne of information provided here and not actually knowing much of the backgrounds I found this most fascinating. Presented in Standard Definition with 192kbps Dolby Digital Stereo Sound.

First Ever Cast Readthrough of the Script (110:48): This readthrough of the script is absolutely hilarious. As well as including scenes not in the final movie, and different dialogue (it was recorded around a year prior to actual filming) the way in which each of the actors not only reads out his dialogue, but also creates sound effects to suit the scene is absolutely hilarious. The readthrough has the script and storyboards presented on screen to give you something to look at.

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Just remember never to say...
Radio Spots (2:54): A series of Radio Spots advertising Life of Brian with mothers of three of the cast and a dentist! Strange, but perfectly suited to advertise a Monty Python movie.

Deleted Scenes (13:16): Five deleted scenes with optional commentaries. Some of these are every bit as entertaining as the main movie, although it's clear to see that these were mostly cut due to pacing. Having them on this Blu-Ray release is quite a bonus, although they are only presented in Standard Definition, and even then they appear to have been rescued off a VHS tape - or extremely old work prints, using MPEG-2 encoding with 192kbps Dolby Digital Stereo sound.

Photo Gallery (1:47): A series of 15 black and white photos taken during the filming of Life of Brian.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind Trailer (1:29/HD): A trailer for one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time which is now available on Blu-Ray.

Monty Python's Life of Brian is one of the greatest comedies of all time and Sony's presentation on this Blu-Ray disc is nothing short of stellar. One must remember that this movie is around 30 years old now, and this Blu-Ray transfer is probably as good as the movie has ever looked. Through in a tonne of superb extras and this becomes an essential purchase. Brilliant.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Sony Pictures. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.