Holy Flying Circus

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Holy Flying Circus
Holy Flying Circus DVD.jpg
DVD cover art
Written byTony Roche
Directed byOwen Harris
StarringDarren Boyd
Charles Edwards
Steve Punt
Rufus Jones
Tom Fisher
Phil Nichol
Theme music composerJack C. Arnold
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
Producer(s)Polly Leys
Kate Norrish
CinematographyRichard Mott
Editor(s)Billy Sneddon
Running time90 minutes
Original networkBBC Four
Original release
  • 19 October 2011 (2011-10-19) (UK)

Holy Flying Circus (2011) is a 90-minute BBC television comedy film first broadcast in 2011, written by Tony Roche and directed by Owen Harris.

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, the members of Monty Python discuss allowing the film Life of Brian to be released in America first because of America's first amendment. John 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, with the protesters condemning the film as "blasphemous". 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. 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 BBC2 chat show Friday Night, Saturday Morning. Initially, the Pythons are reluctant to take part but decided that Cleese and Michael Palin should represent the troupe on the programme. Palin's wife is depicted with a remarkable resemblance to Terry Jones (Rufus Jones plays both parts).[1] The production team of the BBC chat show eventually manage to gain a commitment from Malcolm Muggeridge and Mervyn Stockwood, then the Bishop of Southwark, to oppose the two Pythons. Portions of this televised discussion are recreated towards the end of the film.


Title sequence[edit]

The title sequence for the film was created using a two meter tall Terry Gilliam-inspired Phonotrope created by Jim Le Fevre. It consisted of over 2000 laser-cut frames and was 1.8 meters wide at its base.[2]


The film received mixed reviews from critics, while receiving just over half a million viewers on BBC Four and proving very popular on iPlayer. Chris Harvey of The Telegraph wrote, "Constantly inventive, often very funny, the drama followed a fictional religious group intent on pillorying the Pythons and having Life of Brian banned," although he added that it "abandoned some of its humour and subtlety for preachiness."[3] Phil Dyess-Nugent at The A.V. Club praised the concept and most of the performances, but said, " At the risk of committing blasphemy myself, one problem may be that the filmmakers actually love the Pythons too much. If that is a problem, it was probably an insurmountable one, since no one who only loves Python to a sane and reasonable degree was ever going to conceive the idea for this movie."[4] Most praised the casting of the Pythons, predominantly for Palin and Cleese. HFC gained approval from Palin and Terry Jones, but John Cleese says he "Absolutely detested" the show, in particular Boyd's portrayal of him. Terry Gilliam commented on the fact that Cleese didn't like 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.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Rufus Jones "Holy Flying Circus: Making a drama of Monty Python", BBC tv blog, 19 October 2011
  2. ^ Interview with Jim Le Fevre, title sequence creator, on BBC Comedy website
  3. ^ Harvey, Chris (19 October 2011). "Holy Flying Circus, BBC Four, review". The Telegraph. Retrieved 9 March 2018.
  4. ^ Dyess-Nugent, Phil (8 April 2012). "Holy Flying Circus". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 9 March 2018.

External links[edit]