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dir-prd Terry Gilliam
dir Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam
with Craig Warnock, David Rappaport, Kenny Baker, Malcolm Dixon, Mike Edmonds, Jack Purvis, Tiny Ross, John Cleese, Sean Connery, David Warner, Ralph Richardson, Katherine Helmond, Peter Vaughan, Ian Holm, Michael Palin, Shelley Duvall
release UK 13.Jul.81, US 6.Nov.81
restored UK 26.Aug.13
81/UK HandMade 1h56
Somewhere in time: Connery and Warnock (above), and the bandits (below)
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
I remember watching this film at a press screening at AMPAS in October 1981 and being gob-smacked at the imagination on display. It took me awhile to formulate a coherent review. Especially after I ran into Katherine Helmond at the screening, and she signed her photo in the press kit for me. Now more than 30 years later, with a terrific digital restoration, I was surprised to find the film is still thrillingly creative, as Gilliam propels us into an otherworldly dreamscape straight from our childhood imagination. It's funny, freaky and more than a bit insane. But it's sheer magic on a scale of invention we almost never see any more.
Here's my original review from the weekly newspaper The Clause, 5 November 1981. This is the fourth film review I ever wrote:
Your name is Kevin, you are 11 years old and your parents send you to bed so they can watch their favorite TV game show, "Your Money or Your Life." You get in bed and, as you're drifting off to sleep, you hear a rattling at your closet doors. Suddenly a knight on horseback, from the dark ages, splinters the doors, gallops through your room, leaps across your bed and disappears through a wall. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? Ah, but this is nothing! Just the opening scene of the film "Time Bandits", which opens tomorrow.
The next night, Kevin (played by Craig Warnock, also aged 11) is ready. He puts his robe on over his clothes, keeps a flashlight and Polaroid in his hand, and waits. This night there is no knight in armour. There is no horse. There are instead six bumbling dwarfs who work for the Supreme Being, who, in creating the world, left some holes in time and space. The dwarfs have stolen the only map to these holes and plan to rob the world (past, present and future) before He catches up with them.
When the Supreme Being comes into the room after the map, Kevin is so terrified that he follows the dwarfs through one of the time-holes as they escape. The film then follows these time bandits as they visit, and rob, Napoleon on his Italian Campaign, Robin Hood in Merry Old England, and King Agamemnon in Ancient Greece. They also wind up on the sinking Titanic and participate in the final confrontation between good and evil.
What a film! "Time Bandits" is a fantasy/adventure/comedy. The tone of the film is light, but there are some serious ideas lurking beneath the outlandish surface. The battle between the Supreme Being and Evil is the climax of the film, as we finally realize the purpose behind the events: a God in control, even though sometimes things appear to be out of control.
That "out of control" feeling is what makes "Time Bandits" so much fun to watch. The comic routines are unexpected, and very, very funny. Performances in this film are also comic. Ian Holm is excellent as a self-conscious Napoleon, who is very short, and surrounded by very tall aids (he loves the small time bandits).
David Rappaport, Kenny Baker (a.k.a. R2-D2 in "Star Wars"), Jack Purvis, Mike Edmunds, Malcolm Dixon and Tiny Ross are superb as the off-beat band of time bandits But the most outstanding performances are given by Sir Ralph Richardson and David Warner as the Supreme Being and Evil, respectively.
This is a film that should not be missed. "Time Bandits" was written by members of Monty Python, and the humor is typically theirs, and typically British. This looks like a big budget film, but it has a gritty, real texture to it. The special effects are fantastic, but don't dominate the screen. So "Time Bandits" doesn't have the look of a major film, but it entertains more than most major films do.
"Time Bandits," rated PG for a bit of make-believe violence, is a film that can be enjoyed by almost everyone. At the least it is a comedy capable of inciting hysterical laughter from an audience. But the good versus evil side of the plot should not be taken lightly.
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