Python stars sue to regain control of `Life of Brian'

THE STARS of Monty Python yesterday launched an action in the High Court to try to win back control over their film Life of Brian.

The film, which chronicles the adventures of an unwilling messiah called Brian, has been controversial since its release in 1978 when it was labelled blasphemous by religious groups.

Now the Python team are suing the film's distributor, Paragon, for allowing Life of Brian to be cut without their permission and for licensing the film at a rate that they say was not businesslike.

They are also bringing an action against Channel 4 for showing the film under licence from Paragon when, according to James Munby QC, representing Python, the station knew the team was unhappy with the deal.

In 1991 the film was licensed to Channel 4 by Python's former distributor Hand Made, owned by the Beatle's George Harrison, for pounds 250,000 with the agreement that it would be shown no more than twice over the following five years.

When the film was once more licensed to the station in 1996, by which time it had passed on to Paragon, it made just $100,000 (pounds 62,500) for a 30-year period. There were no limits to the number of times it could be shown and the deal applied to all forms of broadcasting, not just terrestrial television. Mr Munby said on behalf of Python:

"To grant rates of this sort in relation to a film for a period of 30 years when no one can foretell the nature of technology which may be in place down the line is little short of madness."

The High Court action came the day after the surviving Pythons - John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam - performed together for the first time in 18 years.

The sixth member of the group, Graham Chapman, who died 10 years ago, wrote much of the screenplay and starred as Brian, who in the film ends up on a cross while those around him sing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life".

The Python team say that it is scenes such as this, and lines like: "He's not the messiah he's a very naughty boy", spoken by Brian's mum played by Terry Jones, which make the film ripe for censorship by those who even now fear it will give offence.

They accused Paragon of failing to include in licences an obligation that the film would not be cut.

The action, which is expected to last for three weeks, continues tomorrow.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory