TORONTO -- Some call Graham Chapman the forgotten Python. Some call him the enigmatic one. John Cleese calls him the dead one.
Don't expect the animated film "A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman" to sort out his place in the British comedy troupe. Based on Chapman's book, an "autobiography" curiously co-authored with five other writers, the film doesn't reveal much that Python fans don't already know about the facts of his life.
But fans will come away with a better sense of the strange inner workings of Chapman, who died of throat cancer at age 49 in 1989 but is reunited with Cleese and most of his Python mates in the voice cast of "A Liar's Autobiography," which has a limited U.S. theatrical run starting Friday and has its television premiere the same day on Epix.
Ex-Python member Terry Jones thinks Chapman would have loved the cryptic mishmash of observations, self-analysis, bizarre asides, flights of fancy and revisionist personal history that make up the film.
"What an odd person he was," Jones fondly recollected at September's Toronto International Film Festival in an interview alongside son Bill Jones, who co-directed "A Liar's Autobiography" with Ben Timlett and Jeff Simpson.
Fourteen companies crafted the visuals in 17 different animation styles, presented in 3-D and leaping from such vignettes as a procrastinator's writing holiday with Cleese in Spain and a re-creation of a skit with Chapman as Oscar Wilde, to a sedate moment drinking spiked tea with the Queen Mother and a rousing production of the Python tune "Sit on My Face."
Chapman studied at Cambridge, where he became a doctor and met Cleese, who became his writing partner and closest colleague among the Python troupe, which included fellow Brits Jones, Michael Palin and Eric Idle, and American animator Terry Gilliam.
Joining the Cambridge Footlights performing group, Chapman gradually veered away from medicine, joining Cleese as a writer on David Frost's BBC show "The Frost Report" and eventually co-starring in the groundbreaking sketch comedy show "Monty Python's Flying Circus," which premiered in 1969.
The other Pythons had signature bits and skits -- Cleese with his Ministry of Silly Walks, Palin with his lumberjack song, Jones with his menu of endless Spam variations, Idle with his nudge-nudge, wink-wink routine -- and Gilliam distinguished himself with his surreal animation.
Chapman reveled in shrill cross-dressing characters but often tended toward self-serious straightmen roles, much as he did with the leads in the troupe's biggest film comedies, as King Arthur in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and the title role in "Monty Python's Life of Brian."