If you’re reading ScienceFiction.com, you’ve already seen ‘Time Bandits.’ How could you not have seen this brilliant, hilarious and twisted 1981 sci-fi epic from the fertile mind of Terry Gilliam and his Monty Python colleagues? The film follows the adventures of a boy named Kevin (Craig Warnock) who escapes his typical 80’s American consumption-obsessed parents to join up with a gang of time-traveling dwarfs. They travel through time together, stealing first from Napoleon (Ian Holm) and Agamemnon (Sean Connery) just to have their treasures confiscated by an overly cheerful Robin Hood (John Cleese).
The gang is using a map of all the time portals that they’ve stolen from the Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson) to know how to zig and zag through the different eras, a map that Evil Genius (David Warner) is desperate to get his clutching, evil hands on. Will the lads get away with their crimes? Will they get more caviar and champagne before they realize that the luxury liner they’re on is actually the RMS Titanic? Will they figure out how to find the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness and attain The Most Fabulous Object in the World?
Well, obviously, you’re going to need to watch the movie, right? No spoilers here!
And if you are going to watch it, I highly recommend the Criterion Collection remastered edition on Blu-Ray. Not only has the famously detail obsessed production company at Criterion created a painstaking 2K digital restoration from the original print of the movie with director Gilliam assisting, but there are some interesting extras included with this edition too.
As with most behind-the-scenes content, the extras are a mixed bag. It’s fun to watch a dorky Tom Snyder interviewing and flirting with Time Bandits actor Shelley Duvall from his 1981 TV show ‘Tomorrow.’ The interview with production designer Milly Burns and costume designer James Acheson is terrifically interesting and modern enough that they reference ‘Game of Thrones.’ Pay attention to the description of scenes and characters that never made it into the final film too: Makes me long for an extended director’s cut that added ’em!
On the other hand, the 1998 interview between Terry Gilliam and film scholar Peter von Bagh recorded at the Midnight Sun Film Festival was quite boring and I didn’t finish watching it. People walking in front of the camera constantly didn’t help that footage be engaging either. Your experience may vary.
In addition to the beautiful new copy of the original film, what most stood out to me was the hilarious and insightful audio commentary track, featuring Gilliam, Michael Palin, John Cleese, David Warner and Craig Warnock, who played young Kevin in the film. They trade quips and bring a remarkable amount of depth to the film, sometimes completely rambling about shooting and production challenges during a scene and other times illuminating specific things in the frame that a viewer would otherwise miss. I actually watched ‘Time Bandits’ twice in a row, the first time with the standard audio track and a second time all the way through just to enjoy the reminiscing and behind-the-scenes anecdotes from this stellar circle of professionals.
And it’s quite amusing to hear Craig Warnock repeatedly observe that he had fairly few memories of the production, and hear him complain about how all the adults partied after hours and at one point wanted to all get naked and swim in a pool, so he was sent back to his hotel room, much to his frustration. And another amusing bit: The production involved so much after-hours work for nighttime shots that the crew’s nickname for the film was actually ‘Overtime Bandits.’ Who knew?
If you’re a fan of this film, you’ll love the commentary track and the interview with the production designers, and if you haven’t seen ‘Time Bandits,’ then what in blazes are you waiting for? Get it. Watch it. Enjoy it. One of the many creative and original films from the brilliant Terry Gilliam.
Time Bandits (The Criterion Collection), Blu-Ray edition, is available on Amazon.com.