Holy Flying Circus
|Holy Flying Circus|
DVD cover art
|Directed by||Owen Harris|
|Produced by||Polly Leys
|Written by||Tony Roche|
|Music by||Jack C. Arnold|
|Editing by||Billy Sneddon|
|Original channel||BBC Four|
|Running time||90 minutes|
The film is a "Pythonesque" dramatisation of events following the completion of Monty Python's Life of Brian, culminating in the televised debate about the film broadcast in 1979.
At a meeting in the offices of their film distributor they discuss allowing the film to be released in America first because of the America's first amendment. Cleese voices his support for the idea, and says that he loves Americans. We then see American reporters at a screening of the movie where a near riot is taking place due to the alleged blasphemous nature of the film. The Pythons review a disheartening statement made by a religious leader, implying that the film causes violence. Cleese misinterprets this (possibly deliberately) and goes off on a tangent about little kids carrying out copycat crucifixions on their friends. Terry Gilliam quickly rips up some magazines and creates an animation about the team writing the film in hell with Satan as their head writer. Their distributor, Barry, suggests a low profile approach for the UK release so as not to cause too much upset. "Let's not project an advert onto the side of Westminster Abbey or make Life of Brian Christmas crackers".
Much of the film is taken up with preparations for a debate on the on the BBC2 chat show Friday Night, Saturday Morning. Initially, the Python's are reluctant to take part but it decided that John Cleese and Michael Palin should represent the team on the programme, Palin is depicted as a tortured individual whose wife bears a remarkable resemblance to Terry Jones (Rufus Jones plays both parts), and Cleese is apparently indistinguishable from Basil Fawlty, his best known role. The production team of the BBC chat show eventually manage to gain a commitment from Malcolm Muggeridge and Mervyn Stockwood, the then Bishop of Southwark, to oppose the two Pythons. Portions of this televised discussion are recreated towards the end of the film.
The film received mixed reviews from critics, while receiving just over half a million viewers on BBC Four and proving a very popular watch on iPlayer. Most praised the casting of the Pythons, predominantly for Palin and Cleese. The Pythons themselves seemed to enjoy the show, with HFC gaining approval from Palin and Terry Jones.
John Cleese had not seen it, but had apparently "heard good things" about the show, in particular Boyd's portrayal of him. Terry Gilliam commented on the fact that Cleese didn't like it, even though he hadn't even seen it, and reasoned that the Pythons would have no reason to complain about somebody "taking the piss" out of them when they'd been doing it to others for years.
- Rufus Jones "Holy Flying Circus: Making a drama of Monty Python", BBC tv blog, 19 October 2011