The first of director Terry Gilliam’s trio of epic fantasy adventure films finally debuts in the ultra-high definition format looking to find a home theater generation of families to appreciate the 1981 classic.
Time Bandits (Criterion, not rated, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 116 minutes, $49.95) introduces viewers to Kevin, a bookish 11-year-old boy (Craig Warnock) eventually working alongside a sextet of pint-sized human bandits as they travel through time to steal valuable antiques and relics.
Having stolen a map from the Supreme Being, their former employer, the bandits can easily target portals to visit various periods and moments in history such as the Battle of Castiglione in Italy, Mycenaean Greece, and even Sherwood Forrest and the Titanic.
However, while being chased by their boss, the embodiment of Evil (Ralph Warner) also desires the map, luring the group into his lair, the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness, for a dimensional showdown.
As one might expect, “Time Bandits” has a Monty Python-esque flair thanks to the director (and cowriter) being a member of the legendary comedy troupe and another brethren Michael Palin co-writing the script.
That means embracing the absurdity of chaos, the randomness of existence, chewing on a cynical world view, accepting the child-like nature of life and laughing at humans with bad teeth exploding.
The most surreal moment crafted belongs to a mutistory giant in undies wearing an ogre’s ship on its head and stomping a hut with a pair of creatures arguing while they meet their demise. Where did these guys come up with that level of bizarre?
Mr. Gilliam also hooked an all-star cast including Ian Holm (Hobbit Bilbo Baggins) as Napoleon; Sean Connery (James Bond) as King Agamemnon; John Cleese (Monty Python) as Robin Hood; Shelley Duvall (“The Shining”) as Pansy; and Kenny Baker (R2-D2) as the Time Bandit Fidgit.
4K in action: Supervised by Mr. Gilliam, the new restoration created in 4K resolution on an ARRISCAN XT film scanner from the 35mm original camera negative embraces the peepers of viewers who will appreciate the presentation’s rich colors and clarity throughout during its screen-filling presentation.
Most will focus on examining the elaborate costuming worn during the various time periods visited by the bandits such as soldiers from Napoleonic Wars, the ornate gold masks worn by kidnappers in ancient Greece and Robin Hood’s bright green garb.
Make-up visual effects and landscapes to admire include a gruesome gooey skullcap worn by Evil (looking ripped from an H.R. Giger painting); a rotting jaw of a horse head worn by a Minotaur-fighting Agamemnon; a sprawling desert outside of Mycenaean; the ominous and endless carved rock formations at the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness; and the bandits running on top of a massive maze,
Best extras: A varied collection of previously released digital goodies starts with an optional commentary track originally exclusive for Criterion 1997 DVD release.
Participants were recorded separately and include Mr. Gilliam, Mr. Palin, Mr. Cleese (basing his Robin Hood after the Duke of Kent), Mr. Warner and Mr. Warnock.
Although viewers will love the information from Mr. Gilliam including calling the bandits “greed little bastards” and talking about how he almost broke Miss Duvall’s neck falling on her, it would have been magic if the three Python alums were in the same room watching the film together.
Next, viewers can watch a vintage, nine-minute interview with Miss Duvall from NBC’s “Tomorrow” show with a squirrelly Tom Snyder from 1981, and a 23-minute production retrospective featuring production designer Milly Burns and costume designer James Acheson.
Best of the video segments is an 80-minute interview with Mr. Gilliam by film historian Peter von Bagh conducted at the Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankyla, Finland, in 1998 that touches on much of the filmmaker’s life and career.
The packaging includes a holographic style, lenticular slip cover and a fold-out Bandits’ map with the essay “Guerrilla Fantasy” by critic David Sterritt on the back.