About two thousand years ago, three wise men followed a star across the heavens until they reached the Middle Eastern town of Bethlehem. They were doing so because of the prophecy that the King of the Jews, who would bring peace and salvation to the world, would be born there, and when they found the stable in which a baby was lying in a manger, tended to by his mother (Terry Jones), they offered him their gifts. But the mother was not sure what they were there for and subjected the holy men to a barrage of awkward questions - oops, they had the wrong stable.
So begins one of the most controversial comedies of all time, much maligned in its day and widely banned in various territories across the globe, in spite of its creators complaining that those demonstrating against it had missed the point of their satire. Not that satire was the be all and end all for Monty Python's Life of Brian, as there was plenty of the ridiculous sense of humour on display they had made their considerable name with in the comedy field, but no matter how they tried to sell it, there was always somebody accusing it of blasphemy rather than accusing it of sending up assorted, beloved life of Jesus Christ epics.
And yet, you didn't have to scratch the surface very much to see the Pythons were not exactly portraying organised religion in a light which was beneficial, as their accustomed comic tenet, that people are absurd, stupid, and if there's a miracle in this world it's that we haven't wiped each other out yet, was well to the fore. If anything, here it was at their most perfectly realised as while there were many truly hilarious moments, should you care to ponder on what they were saying about the human race, it was a mixture of genuine despair and a heartfelt plea not to take life too seriously, as the alternative displayed by many of the characters here was too depressing to bear.
Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman) was our hero, gradually wakening up to the ways of the world as he initially believes he was born a Jew, but soon finds out his mother had been lying to him and his father is actually Roman. Time and again Brian's prejudices, borne of the society he lives in, are undermined so that by the classic ending he is the sole person who can see how ludicrous this has all become, and he has no choice but join in with the singing, resigned to his fate as nobody can help him now. Not even God Almighty, as in this case He might not even exist - we certainly see very little evidence of His supposed benevolence as the people run about according to their own contradictory beliefs.
We do see evidence of space aliens, however, one instance among many of a sidesplitting non sequitur which actually tells us more about the Pythons' philosophy than it initially seems. The luckless Brian moves from humble snack seller at the Jerusalem colisseum to joining up with a group of freedom fighters - one of many who cannot agree on the tiniest details in spite of their shared goals - to eventually having the public proclaim him as a Messiah, which ends up much as you'd expect. The inference here was that with so much superstition abounding, the genuine Christ was as much a victim of circumstance as poor old Brian was, as people will always want to follow somebody and if they can find religious reasons to do so then all the better. Sure, there are plenty of daft jokes - Biggus Dickus, the women at the stoning, the haggling - but there was a sincere intent: think for yourselves, think logically and reasonably, you are all individuals, you are all different! Well, maybe you're not. Music by Geoffrey Burgon.