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Last on

Tue 1 Dec 2009 22:30 BBC Radio 2

Duration:
1 hour
First broadcast:
Tuesday 01 December 2009

When Monty Python's Life Of Brian was released in 1979, it was denounced by many around the world as blasphemous - and was an instant box office smash. Thirty years later it is regularly voted one of the funniest films ever, topping a Radio Times poll only last month.

Comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar celebrates this anarchic British classic, looking at the film's origins, the shoot in Tunisia, and its controversial afterlife. The Python film is an absurdist take on the story of Christ, where a man called Brian (played by Graham Chapman) is mistaken for the Messiah and attempts to escape the attentions of his devoted followers. It is a deft satire on religious intolerance which brilliantly lampooned Biblical epics like Ben Hur.

George Harrison stepped in with the money, setting up Handmade films to get it made, because he wanted to see the film. And it gave us many unforgettable scenes and peerless lines: John Cleese's Roman Legionnaire correcting Brian's Latin graffiti; "What have the Romans ever done for us?", "Welease Woger" and the singalong crucifixion finale.

Contributors include the film's director Terry Jones; producer John Goldstone; Carol Cleveland; and Sonia Jones, who sang the title song. We hear Michael Palin recall the moment of inspiration in a Paris bar; Terry Gilliam talks about his fantasy space ship animation; John Cleese remembers the pain of being "crucified" in Tunisia; Carol Cleveland recalls working with Spike Milligan (he made a cameo appearance as a prophet); and Eric Idle remembers the less then enthusiastic response to Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.

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