"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
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
But history turns out not to be all it's cracked up to be. Napoleon is crippled by an inferiority complex stemming from his small stature; Robin Hood is a patronising liar and his 'merry men' are a bunch of violent filthy animals. Only in mythical Greece does Kevin come close to realising his dreams.
The film retains a dark edge throughout. As Gilliam explains in his DVD commentary, by casting small people as the bandits, led by the delightfully arrogant David Rappaport, he hoodwinks the audience into swallowing their extreme cupidity. The innocent Kevin (played by a child actor deliberately selected for his shyness) finds himself swept into company even more mindlessly greedy than that of his parents'.Read more ›