With Monty Python’s Flying Circus having finished its TV series in 1974 the six writer-performers went their own separate ways. The team had already shot a film of their most famous sketches in 1971 under the ironic title ‘And Now for Something Completely Different’ but each of them had moved on to their own projects. John Cleese who had left after the third series did a sitcom, Eric Idle did his Beatles spoof Rutland Weekend Television, Graham Chapman was battling with his alcoholism and Michael Palin and Terry Jones made their hilarious Boys Own TV series ‘Ripping Yarns’ and as for Terry Gilliam…. Well he’d always been the outsider in the group. His surreal animations that gave the TV show its look was always a visualist and having co-directed Monty Python and the Holy Grail and driving Cleese nuts with his fastidious attention to medieval detail realized that he should plough his own furrow and continued the medieval theme with his 1977 directing debut feature Jabberwocky inspired by the Lewis Carroll poem. It was very Terry Gilliam with his distinctive visual flair and often warped humour. But it would be his next film Time Bandits that would really set him apart from other directors.

Wanting to make a children’s film he came up with the story of Time Bandits, a band of time travelling dwarves jumping from era to era stealing treasure as they did so with school boy Kevin caught up and dragged along in their adventures that sees the Supreme Being and the Evil Genius battle it out. Co-written with Michael Palin who played a supporting role opposite Shelley Duvall as a couple whose love for one another is thwarted throughout the ages, Gilliam assembled a fantastic cast headed up by Sean Connery who was persuaded on board as he played golf with Denis O’Brien one of the film’s producers. But joining the cast was also Ian Holm, Ralph Richardson, John Cleese, Peter Vaughan and David Warner along with six vertically challenged actors who had cornered the market in roles requiring small persons most notably by the late Kenny Baker who played R2D2

So the film is essentially a series of sketches that took in ancient Rome, Napoleonic wars, Robin Hood and even the sinking of the Titanic with the Time Bandits and Kevin running through all of them causing chaos wherever they went all with the distinctive flair that was singular to Terry Gilliam. Released in 1981 the film was a big success especially in the US where its surreal humour and the adulation that the US still afforded anything Python was still high. It would perhaps be one of Gilliam’s easiest productions (although almost inevitably he fell out with producer Denis O’Brien about the films ending) because though he went on to make the bloated short film The Crimson Permanent Assurance for Monty Pythons The Meaning of Life, he would make 1985’s ‘Brazil’ and its notoriously troubled history of once made trying to get it distributed.

But Time Bandits is one of Terry Gilliam’s most accessible films with stunning and often surreal imagery (a horse charges out of a bedroom cupboard, a massive ogre with a ship strapped to his head tramples through a landscape ) that has made it a favourite with children and adults alike and over forty years later still holds up and is as good if not far better than most modern children’s films and like the best of the genre there’s an immense amount for adults to enjoy too.

Now released on 4K UHD the film has been lavished with a load of bonus features that includes:

4K (2160p) UHD Blu-rayTM presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible)
• Original uncompressed Stereo 2.0 PCM and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio options
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Chasing Time Bandits – an interview with Terry Gilliam
• Writing the Film that Dares Not Speak Its Name – an interview in which Michael Palin discusses co-writing and acting in Time Bandits
• The Effects of Time Bandits – an interview in which Kent Houston, founder of the Peerless Camera Company, discusses Time Bandits’ optical effects
• Playing Evil – an interview in which actor David Warner remembers producer George Harrison and playing Evil in Time Bandits
• The Costumes of Time Bandits – an interview with costume designer James Acheson
• The Look of Time Bandits – an interview with production designer Milly Burns
• From Script to Screen – an animated featurette in which Milly Burns takes us through her production notebooks, location photographs and storyboards revealing how twentieth century Morocco was transformed into ancient Greece
• Original Trailer
• Double-sided fold-out poster featuring original theatrical artwork and a recreation of the map seen in the film
• Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by critic James Oliver

Time Bandits was made on a small budget and yet it was far better and also performed far better at the box office than many of the other films released that year which included Mel Brooks similarly styled History of the World Part 1 as well as fantasy film Dragonslayer and kids film The Great Muppet Caper.

Time Bandits remains one of Terry Gilliam’s best and most loved fantasy films and this re-issue is a reminder of just how brilliant Gilliam is.

related feature: Monty Python films rated

related feature: Terry Jones obituary

related feature: Warwick Davis talks about George Lucas at the premiere of the Willow TV show

Here’s the Time Bandits trailer……

Time Bandits is released on 4K UHD on 28th August 2023


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