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  • Writer's pictureAndy Ross

Time Bandits

I first saw Director Terry Gilliam’s 1981 movie “Time Bandits” back when I was in high school, at the peak of my Monty Python fandom. I know you’ll find this shocking, long-time readers, but yours truly was the stereotypical Monty Python nerd in high school (I even had a theater teacher who hated me for it). The film was Python member Gilliam’s second film as a solo director, and it was co-written with fellow Python cohort Michael Palin, plus John Cleese another member of the legendary comedy group turns up in the film as Robin Hood.

“Time Bandits” is a sprawling comedy fantasy that is about a kid named Kevin who gets swept up on a journey through time and space thanks to a group of travelers who have stolen a map of time and space from The Supreme Being. As the unlikely group takes a wrong turn, they land in Kevin’s bedroom. Kevin is a bright lad who is interested in history and as he winds up an accidental passenger with this merry band’s journey of looting treasures from various points in time, he finds it to be a great deal of fun.

The pedigree of the people both on and off screen for “Time Bandits” is impressive as well. The great character actor David Warner shows up as the Evil Genius, Sean Connery as King Agamemnon, and Shelly Duval and co-writer Palin have a fantastic recurring bit as lovers at various points in history. The film was also produced by George Harrison as part of his HandMade Films company that originally began for the Python’s previous movie “Life of Brian.”

The first time I saw the film was on a DVD by The Criterion Collection, which has released the film in every format they’ve ever worked in, including Laserdisc and blu-ray. They’ve now revisited the title yet again by bundling their previous blu-ray with a grand new 4K UHD blu-ray disc of the film. The new 4K restoration was supervised by Terry Gilliam and the original stereo soundtrack is presented in an uncompressed, lossless format.

Like most of Criterion’s 4K discs, this one is presented in Dolby Vision and it looks absolutely stunning. I recall this movie looking a bit dull the last time I saw it all those years ago, but this new 4K disc gives the film a great-looking, rich color pallet with sharpness and detail that looks like you’re watching a pristine 35mm print of the film, the original camera negative was used as the source for this 4K restoration.

All the bonus material has been carried over to this release from the previous blu-ray, including the very good commentary track with Gilliam and other creative people from the film that was first recorded in the late ’90s for the Laserdisc release of the film. A great clip with Duvall on Tom Snyder’s “Tomorrow” show from 1981 is one of these features, as is the very funny trailer, a still gallery, and a short documentary on the production design of the film.

As beloved as “Time Bandits” is I admit it’s not my favorite of Gilliam’s work, but it’s a fun comedy/fantasy film that is accessible for all the family that is well welcomed in a great 4K edition from the good people at Criterion. Fans of the film will be more than pleased with the upgrade. See you next week.

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