The Great Birds Eye Peas Relaunch of 1971
“A saga of such searing passion that it explodes from the screen like a slice of cake. This is the story they said was too uninteresting to be made.” Just as Red Skelton wore the name of Pet Milk on his back not because they were his new sponsor but because he was “just proud”, so Monty Python’s Flying Circus handle a job of work like a poem of renewal in the frozen foods trade.
And again, the analogy is to great antecedents, as Pinter’s workmen craved “brandy balls”, so when it comes to peas the housewives of Britain want ‘em “younger”.
Cf. Lewis Gilbert’s Alfie. But, as Robert Graves says in Fairies and Fusiliers, “sir, be careful what you say; there are old-fashioned folk still like it.”
Monty Python’s Life of Brian
The magi land at the wrong house but quickly betake themselves to the right place a couple of doors down. The wholly human infant in the first manger is Brian Cohen. He grows up, joins the People’s Front of Judea, has an affair with Judith, a colleague, and dies on a cross for his part in a botched scheme to kidnap Pilate’s wife.
What Jesus fails to see, says Reg of the PFJ, is that “the meek are the problem.” An ex-leper bewails his lot, he’s a beggar, it’s hard on trade.
“Promised me the known world, he did,” says Brian’s mother of his centurion father. Brian, like De Mille’s Moses, is “a Red Sea pedestrian, and proud of it.”
The People’s Front is scrupulously nonsexist on account of a “sibling” who wants to be a woman himself.
Roman authority has brought a number of civic improvements, among them medicine, education, aqueducts and peace, this is duly noted by the PFJ. Up through the sewers to Pilate’s palace they go, and meet another branch of the outfit. The kidnapping is meant to drive the Romans out of Judea, nevertheless the two groups fight while Roman guards watch. Brian counsels unity against the enemy, and all exclaim, “the Judean People’s Front!” The fight continues unabated till Brian is left standing all alone.
“They must think the sun shines out of your arse,” says an ancient prisoner, envying the Roman spittle on Brian’s face. Pilate admires Brian’s “spiwit” but has no sense of humor whatsoever and also a lisping friend in Rome named Bigus Dicus. Soldiers who laugh go to gladiator school.
Brian of Nazareth escapes through Jerusalem, is picked up by two creatures from space, lands atop a dithering prophet of a veiled apocalypse, and has to improvise. He saw Jesus once, heard the Sermon on the Mount from a great distance on the edge of the crowd, spits out a few gobbets variously misheard, to disguise his presence. A few onlookers take him for the Messiah still awaited, he loses his sandal in flight, they worship it. He stumbles into an eremite’s pit, the poor man’s juniper bushes feed the multitude.
A blissful night with Judith ends at daybreak in a crowd outside Brian’s naked window, and the arrival of his mother. Finally, he is caught by the Romans, or as the centurion puts it, “fucking nicked.”
To Pilate once again, while the PFJ plots world supremacy in five years if the Romans can be got out in one. The populace is amused by Pilate and his friend from Rome, Brian is Barabbased but all in the crucifixion party claim, “I’m Brian of Nazareth.” The JFP attempts a rescue with its crack suicide squad. The PFJ read a statement. Judith won’t forget him, ever.
The dying sing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from the crosses.
A bit of Juvenal informs the stoning of a blasphemer early on, all the accusers are women in false beards.
vengeance never is greater joy than woman’s
In the same way, the PFJ man’s wish to have babies is countered as impossible but acknowledged to be “symbolic of our struggle.”
What does Jesus preach? The beatitudes.