With Time Bandits
, only his second movie as director, Terry Gilliam's barbed humour and hyperactive visual imagination got themselves gloriously into full gear. Sketched out in a matter of weeks over Michael Palin's kitchen table while Gilliam struggled to get his dream project Brazil
off the ground, this is a children's film made by a director who "hates kid films" and all the "mawkish sentimental crap" that goes with them. The 11-year-old hero, Kevin, finds himself lugged out of his suburban bedroom and off through a series of wormholes in time and space by a gang of rapacious, bickering midgets in search of loot, en route encountering (and casually despoiling) a gallery of eminent historical figures that include Agamemnon, Napoleon and Robin Hood, along with assorted ogres, giants and monsters. As co-screenwriters, Gilliam and Palin cheerfully filch ideas from everyone from Homer and Jonathan Swift to Lewis Carroll and Walt Disney, while the sets--as always with Gilliam--ingeniously work towering miracles on puny budgets.
"The whole point of fairy tales", according to Gilliam, "is to frighten the kids" and Time Bandits taps into some archetypal nightmare imagery. But the whole farrago is much too good-humoured to be seriously scary. Not least of the movie's pleasures are a series of ripe cameos from the likes of Ian Holm as an irascible Bonaparte, Sean Connery good-humouredly spoofing his own image as Agamemnon, John Cleese's version of Robin Hood as inanely condescending minor royalty ("So you're a robber too! Jolly good!"), David Warner hamming it up gleefully as the Evil Genius, and the great Ralph Richardson playing the Supreme Being as a tetchy public-school headmaster.
On the DVD: Time Bandits on disc comes with a generous wealth of extras. Along with the expected trailer--sent up Python-style by a disaffected voice-over--we get excerpts from Gilliam's storyboard and notated script, filmographies for Gilliam, Palin, Connery and David Rappaport (the leader of the vertically challenged gang), stills, production shots, a scrapbook with cast photos and drawings, notes on the film and plenty more background data, plus a cheerfully relaxed 27-minute interview with Gilliam and Palin. There's also an informative and appealingly unpretentious full-length commentary shared between Gilliam, Palin, Cleese, Warner and Craig Warnock, who played Kevin. The transfer, clean and crisp, is in the original full-width ratio, and there's a choice of Dolby Stereo or Dolby 5.1 sound. --Philip Kemp
DVD Special Features:
Ltd Edition Map
Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound
Biographies: Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, David Rappaport and Sean = Connery
Production Photo Gallery
Missing Story Board Scene
Story Board Extracts
Interview with Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin
Hidden Spiderwoman Story Board and Photo with Script