Released in 1981, Time Bandits is one of writer/director Terry Gilliam’s most inventive and fantastical movies…which says a lot when you consider he also made 1985’s Brazil and 1995’s 12 Monkeys. Now this thirty-three year-old classic is getting the Blu-ray it deserves, courtesy of the good people at Criterion.
After being dragged off by a group of misfit adventurers who stole a map from a giant floating head with a deep voice, eleven-year-old Kevin goes on a wild adventure that has him traveling from ancient Greece to Sherwood Forest and beyond. But that head dude isn’t the only one trying to get that map….
As you’d expect from Criterion, Time Bandits looks amazing here, far better than the previous Blu-ray edition released by Image Entertainment four years ago. Given a new, 2K digital restoration that was overseen by Gilliam, the film looks cleaner and more crisp than it has in years. Granted, we are talking about a movie that’s in its mid-’30s, so it certainly doesn’t look brand new — especially not when the special effects kick in — but it does look better here than it has since it first appeared in theaters.
The Criterion Blu-ray of Time Bandits also sounds good, though it’s not like the earlier edition sounded bad.
Of course, Criterion aren’t just known for making movies look and sound good, they’re also known for making good Blu-ray collections. And Time Bandits is no exception. First up is a running commentary by Gilliam, co-writer and actor Michael Palin (Vincent), actors John Cleese (Robin Hood), David Warner (Evil), and Craig Warnock (Kevin) that was originally recorded in 1997 for Criterion’s DVD edition of the film. But while it is informative, and absolutely worth listening to, it could’ve been better had the five of them been in the same room at the same time, watching the film, and were reacting to what they see on screen as well to each other, which would’ve made the commentary more entertaining.
Equally educating, but a bit more engaging (even if they two do overlap a bit), is an hour-and-twenty minute long conversation between the Gilliam and film writer Peter Von Bergh from a 1998 film festival.
The Criterion Blu-ray of Time Bandits also includes a new, twenty-three-minute-long making-of featurette called “Creating The Worlds Of Time Bandits” that has interviews with costume designer James Echeson and production designer Milly Burns, as well as behind-the-scenes footage and photos. Though while it largely centers on how the characters and sets were dressed, it also goes into how the characters were created.
This also has dozens of production and set photos, as well the original trailer (which, sadly, hasn’t been given a visual upgrade). They even found a 1981 interview with actor Shelly Duvall (Pansy) from NBC’s Tomorrow show, during which she spends nearly nine minutes talking to Tom Snyder about “The Time Bandits” (as he hilariously keeps calling it) and the rest of her career.
Sadly, though, the Criterion Blu-ray of Time Bandits doesn’t include the rather interesting, twenty-minute-long interview with Gilliam from the Image edition.
Still, what really makes this worth getting — even if you have the original Blu-ray — is the movie itself, which is still as wild, imaginative, and exciting as it’s always been, but looks decidedly better here than it has in years. Which is just fantastic.