As Michael Palin once put it, “there’s no getting away from the wit, wonder and wizardry of the man Cahiers du Cinéma once described as Terry Gilliam.”
Those qualities are clearly visible in this very funny early film by Gilliam called The Miracle of Flight. The film was made in 1971 for the American-British TV show The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine. Monty Python was on hiatus that year, so Gilliam went to work for the short-lived Comedy Machine, creating the opening credit sequence and various animated features using his trademark airbrush and paper cutout techniques. (Watch his primer on doing your own cutout animation here.) The material for The Miracle of Flight was apparently packaged as a stand-alone film in 1974, right after Gilliam’s first film, Storytime. It was later used as a bonus feature before theatrical screenings of Gilliam movies, and during live Python performances. The film version is slightly different from the one aired on the Comedy Machine. According to Smarter Than The Average, “for the theatrical version it lost a grizzly punchline where a man who had failed at his attempt to fly by emulating the ergonomics of a bird takes his revenge by ripping the bird to pieces.” The writer then goes on to describe details only a Python fanatic could notice:
The Miracle of Flight in particular is a cornucopia of oddities for the Python connoisseur, containing as it does one line recorded by Terry Jones, the tarred-and-feathered character who appears in Animations of Mortality, the mountain in the finale of the Meaning of Life computer game and the animated woman from Python who says “Turn that television off–you know it’s bad for your eyes”. Most baffling of all is the muzak in the airport terminal, which is the same as used in the Dental sequence of the Meaning of Life CD-Rom nearly thirty years later. For sheer numbers of Python iconography appearing in a non-Python production, The Miracle of Flight‘s only rival is Eric Idle’s music video for George Harrison’s Crackerbox Palace. But I digress.
Indeed. But we enjoyed it. And you’ll enjoy The Miracle of Flight, which might more accurately be called The Triumph of Gravity.