When I was growing up, I never watched "R" rated movies. This was both a personal choice and some good parenting (not that I'm knocking the parents that allowed their kids to watch "R" rated movies under their own supervision). Through age 16 I watched a lot of movies from the '30's to present. I got a quality film education, at least in my own eyes. But then there came the fateful day when I borrowed a videotape from a neighbor that had both Monty Python's The Meaning of Life and Robocop on it. I'm sure I've told the story before, but it's fun enough to tell again. Both movies blew my mind. I'll talk about Robocop some other time. Tonight it's all about The Meaning of Life.
But before I get into that, let me back up a few years. From grades 1 through 4 I went to Catholic school. Every once in a while they would show us a movie (maybe the teachers needed a break). And it was always the same three movies: The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (pretty self-explanatory), The Devil at 4 O'Clock (Spencer Tracy and Frank Sinatra versus a volcano), and Oliver! (a musical version of Oliver Twist) Being anywhere between the ages of 6 and 9 when I saw these, I thought they were all fine. But there was something about the musical Oliver! that grabbed me. Besides the music (which I can still hum today), I'm sure Oliver Reed's Bill Sikes and Shani Wallis' Nancy were part of the equation.
Fast forward a couple of years. I was at my cousin Scott's house, and he was showing me Monty Python and the Holy Grail for the very first time. Watching that movie with someone saying every line as it was being spoken is not the optimum viewing experience. I walked away from the experience underwhelmed.
Then I watched The Meaning of Life.
I saw it on the big screen a few years ago at the Capitol Theatre, and the guy in charge of choosing the cult movies was disappointed in the turnout. There were not many of us there, whereas Holy Grail and Life of Brian really packed them in. That's okay. I'm ecstatic that I got to see my favorite Python movie on the big screen.
For those of you who have never seen The Meaning of Life, it's a series of sketches detailing the different stages of life, from birth to death. It's filled with fantastic songs, unforgettable scenes, and maybe as much blood and gore as Robocop. It's interspersed with odd and sometimes off-putting sequences (that interlude ranks up there as one of the strangest things I've ever seen). And once you've seen Mr Creosote, you can never un-see him.
Up until this point, I had never (ever) seen anything as bold and graphic as this film. Whether it warped me for life or opened my eyes to what movies can do, I leave up to you. But, suffice to say, after that initial viewing, I don't think I was ever the same again.
But what really makes Meaning of Life sing for me (figuratively and literally) is the insanely long and brilliantly choreographed number "Every Sperm is Sacred." It's completely reminiscent of any one of the musical numbers in Oliver! and I immediately gravitated towards it. And it made me laugh when I found out that director Terry Jones spent most of the movie's budget on only that scene.
Which brings us to today. That's when I decided to take a road trip to Michigan and go to the Motor City Comic Con. Terry Jones would be there signing autographs for a mere 40 bucks. I hemmed and I hawed, but ultimately it comes down to this - when am I ever going to get a chance to see him (or any other member of Monty Python) ever again? Let alone, tell him how much I love The Meaning of Life.
There was no line. None. I walked right up to him. That's insane! This man is a true comic legend, and I got to shake his hand and tell him how much his work has impacted me, and I wasn't rushed at all. I don't understand it. I'm happy to have made the trip. It was worth it in every way, but the fact that I think one of the Power Rangers had a bigger line than he did makes me sad. But then I remember his smile as he shook my hand, and a warm feeling flows over me.