Well, a Terry Gilliam children’s film might seem like a bit of an oxymoron, however writing a film with fellow Monty Python alum Michael Palin actually resulted in a funny, and even philosophical film, reflecting on themes of good and evil.
In a futuristic, technological world of the early 1980s, young Kevin (Craig Warnock) sees a medieval knight and horse burst from his wardrobe closet and run into the woods. The next night he prepares for something similar, but instead meets a gr…up of little people who are travelling through time to take money and valuables from various eras. Some of the group you may know, Fidgit is played by Kenny Baker, who handles the R2-D2 duties in the Star Wars films, and the group’s leader Randall is David Rappaport, who played many characters through his life, appearing in L.A. Law and the movie The Bride.
The middle ages, the French Revolution, the early Greek times and other eras are visited, and you experience such historical characters as Napoleon (Ian Holm, Alien), Robin Hood (Python John Cleese) and King Agamemnon (Sean Connery, The Untouchables). They also meet an ogre with a bad back, and try to avoid the Evil Genius, wonderfully played by David Warner (Tron). All the while they try to keep a step ahead of the Supreme Being, who we don’t see until the end, but is done very well by London theatre giant Ralph Richardson, who appeared in Richard III, among other memorable films.
The movie is full of good humor, but also contains a Gilliam-type ending, along with many other visuals Gilliam has made his own. It’s a pretty nice film that made a lot of money in it’s time, and Anchor Bay decided to release this as part of their Divimax series.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX track however, was far less consistent, with dialogue almost at a whisper level for the first 30 minutes of the film before settling down to a louder, more respectable level. Granted, I don’t have a center rear channel to get the full effect, but there was very little in the way of surround activity on this soundtrack. I hesitate to say this, but maybe the Dolby Surround 2.0 track is the better option here?
Anchor Bay gave Time Bandits a new 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks solid, and is an upgrade from the early (non-anamorphic) Criterion version. The Divimax transfer brings out more detail than the earlier Criterion version as well, and it’s apparent that Anchor Bay’s Divimax line is improving and starting to provide consistently sharp transfers. Though there were still some artifacts I caught when watching it, it didn’t detract from the overall picture.
Anchor Bay includes a 2nd disc of extra material, starting with an interview of Gilliam and Palin. It appears to be from the initial Anchor Bay UK release, and runs about a half hour. The two discuss how they got Sean Connery for the film, as well as the financial help they received, and Gilliam enjoyed mentioning the joy in poking fun at historical figures. They also reflect on the box office success, and their thoughts on the film now. While this feature was OK, it feels like some of it was replicated in the liner notes for this release. A lengthier feature on Gilliam as part of The Directors series is here to, totaling just under an hour. Featuring interviews with actors he worked with such as Shelley Duvall, Brad Pitt and Madeline Stowe, among others, the piece sums up his work in directing. He starts off slow, not giving too much time to his earlier films, but things start to pick up in informative terms when Time Bandits was released. Everyone in the piece also talks about why they came to work for Gilliam and their thoughts on him, while Terry himself talks about his friendship with Cleese, as well as some interesting thoughts on the Python films. And as is the case with most retrospectives, a healthy dose of clips from the subject’s films are included too. All in all this was a decent piece. Two trailers, one international and one US, are here, along with a biography on Gilliam that totals 33 pages by navigating with your DVD remote, along with 2 additional pages of Terry’s filmography. Those who have DVD-ROM drives will find a .pdf file that contains the original screenplay, and the liner notes fold out to a map of the universe.
It’s not too often that this can be said, but despite the disappointing audio track, the extras cancel out the Criterion version, while the pretty anamorphic transfer push it over the hump, and those who debated about getting this should rest easy. If you’re new to Gilliam, this may be the movie to introduce you to his world, and if you see this copy next to the Criterion one, this one is the better way to go.
Special Features List
- The Directors: The Films of Terry Gilliam
- Interview with Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin
- Director Biography
- DVD-ROM Material