Holy Flying Circus

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Holy Flying Circus
Holy Flying Circus DVD.jpg
DVD cover art
Written by Tony Roche
Directed by Owen Harris
Starring Darren Boyd
Charles Edwards
Steve Punt
Rufus Jones
Tom Fisher
Phil Nichol
Theme music composer Jack C. Arnold
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) Polly Leys
Kate Norrish
Editor(s) Billy Sneddon
Cinematography Richard Mott
Running time 90 minutes
Original channel BBC 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 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. 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 John Cleese and Michael Palin should represent the team 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, the then 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,[citation needed] while receiving just over half a million viewers on BBC Four and proving very popular on iPlayer. 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

External links[edit]