Time Bandits (1981)

Anchor Bay Entertainment
Region : 2, 
Certificate : PG, 
Length 116min
Sound : Dolby 5.1 English
Format : 1.85:1 enhanced for 16x9 television


To check out the complete cast and credits

Cast in Credits Order

John Cleese....Robin Hood
Sean Connery....King Agamemnon
Shelley Duvall....Pansy
Katherine Helmond....Mrs. Ogre
Ian Holm....Napoleon
Michael Palin....Vincent
Ralph Richardson....Supreme Being
Peter Vaughan....Winston the Ogre
David Warner....Evil
David Rappaport....Randall
Kenny Baker....Fidgit
Malcolm Dixon....Strutter
Mike Edmonds....Og
Jack Purvis....Wally
Tiny Ross....Vermin
Craig Warnock....Kevin
David Daker....Kevin's Father
Sheila Fearn....Kevin's Mother
Jim Broadbent....Compere
John Young....Reginald
Myrtle Devenish....Beryl
Leon Lissek....1st Refugee
Terence Bayler....Lucien
Preston Lockwood....Neguy
Charles McKeown....Theatre Manager
David Leland ....Puppeteer
John Hughman....The Great Rumbozo
Derrick O'Connor....Robber Leader
Neil McCarthy....2nd Robber

Directed by…Terry Gilliam
Written by …Terry Gilliam Michael Palin
Produced by
Terry Gilliam....producer
George Harrison....executive producer
Denis O'Brien....executive producer
Neville C. Thompson....associate producer
Original Music by
George Harrison (songs and additional material)
Trevor Jones (Greek dance music)
Mike Moran
Cinematography by…Peter Biziou
Film Editing by Julián Doyle
Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits was the most critically well-received children’s film in nearly two decades – At the dawn of the 1980’s, filmmakers appeared to have lost the knack for making the kind of film that could entertain and provoke children and their parents—films that carried young characters to other times and different worlds, but said something about our reality. Disney was thrashing around in search of a future as something other than a film museum. Steven Spielberg had yet to issue his cute, cuddly sci-fi hit E.T. and Ray Harryhausen was entering retirement. “Space Fantasy” was popular, thanks to George Lucas’s Star Wars, but with the exception of Harryhausen’s valedictory Clash of the Titans, none of the crop of kid films showed an awareness of any storytelling tradition.

Though Gilliam hadn’t read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when he made Time Bandits, some viewers may hear echoes of C.S. Lewis as Gilliam fearlessly brings the logic of children’s literature to the screen. Plunging headfirst into history, myth, legend, and fairy tale, Gilliam sends his characters – a boy and six good-natured if rather larcenous little persons (i.e. seven dwarves) – careening through time-twisting interactions with Napoleon, Robin Hood, and Agamemnon (played, respectively, by Ian Holm, John Cleese, and Sean Connery). The landscape is populated by the giants, ogres, and sinister crones of legend and fairy tale, all in the service of Gilliam’s weird, ecstatic vision.

Amid the breakneck pacing, Gilliam gives a nod or two to other films (the first appearance of the Supreme Being looks and sounds a lot like the introduction of the Great and Powerful Oz from MGM’s 1939 fantasy-musical; Kevin’s toy robot activating on its own in the middle of the night, to no special plot import, tweaks a famous scene from Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind). And the script resounds with echoes of J. R. R. Tolkien’s religious storytelling—specifically “Leaf by Niggle”—with respect to the work that the dwarves are supposed be doing, i.e. designing plants and trees for the Creator.

The core of Time Bandits’ immense appeal lies in its ability to make an audience willingly suspend disbelief and accept storytelling on this level. This is a children’s film that appealed to kids and allowed their parents to accept it as though they too were children, with none of the cynicism or intrusions of logic that normally cause the collapse of such fantasies.  There are subtleties, of course, that aren’t always obvious: the entire film was shot from a camera angle intended to present a boy’s point of view; the evil-ones castle is populated with stuff from Kevin’s bedroom; and apart from the fairy-tale conceit, the presence of the dwarves was intended to give the young hero a band of companions with whom he could stand as an equal.

One can also watch Time Bandits for inklings of Gilliam’s later films.

You can see that the story is framed by a larger, but not overemphasized, social commentary (especially about modern consumerism) that prefigures Brazil. The plans of David Warner’s Evil Genius take the form of building without purpose – he intends to re-create a world to suit his own needs, starting with computers and fast-breeder reactors, when his castle is in fact made of Lego©.

In sharp contrast to the Time Bandits, who created trees and shrubbery before they got above their station. Kevin’s parents reveal themselves as unknowing and uncaring agents of Evil with their fixation on blind consumption, the mortal corollary to the Evil Genius’s desire for construction for its own sake. Their fate – utter destruction as a consequence of ignoring their son’s warnings – makes for the perfect denouement.  That part of the ending was disturbing enough to cost Time Bandits unqualified raves from the least imaginative of critics.
In many respects, Time Bandits has a surprisingly conservative philosophical vision, and parts of the script’s conclusion recall the underpinnings of Lewis’s Space Trilogy, with its emphasis on the restoration of a strict order to life and reality. That the film found fans across a vast spectrum of filmgoers, signifies the power of Gilliam’s visual storytelling and the material he’d tapped for this, his most genial and accessible film.

Bit about the Disc and extras to follow - some time
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April 2003