Time Bandits: Special Edition on Blu-ray – The DVDfever Review

Time Bandits

Time Bandits is one of my all-time favourite films. I grew up with it and it captured my imagination.

I love anything to do with time travel and this was combined with the fact that it allowed a young boy (Craig Warnock as Kevin) to escape his dull life and seek adventure throughout all time and space – something any similar lad would sell their soul for.

And while this has been out on Blu-ray before, this release has been restored from the original 35mm camera negative elements and the original magnetic tracks. The film was scanned and graded in 2K resolution* and the restoration work was carried out using a combination of software tools and techniques. Throughout the process, care was taken to ensure that the film’s original texture, details and grain structure remained unaffected by digital processing.

(*A high-defintion TV has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 – i.e. 1080p, while 2K is 2048 x 1080, which retains the vertical resolution but has 128 more pixels of width. Some films are shot digitally in 4K, which is four times the amount of resolution of a high-definition screen, while 8K is 16 times HD – about as close to the human eye’s quality as it gets. Here endeth the techy lesson)

There are some elements of background grain and the odd fleck on the print here and there, but as the disc goes on to explain, these are part of the original print and not a fault of this new transfer, a transfer which has been approved by Terry Gilliam himself. And when the map appears at the very start of the film, the lush blue colour is outstandingly beautiful. It’s never looked that gorgeous before! I’ve given the picture a score of 10/10 because of this fact and that there’s nothing to detract from your viewing, and that if you wanted to rid the print of every single last blemish, you’d have to find a way to get the original print from when it was mastered, say, by going back in time… oh, hang on…


In the early 80s, everyone was obsessed with new technology, especially Kevin’s parents (David Daker and Sheila Fearn) who, like a lot of people, were also so afraid of spoiling their new three-piece suite that they left it wrapped in the plastic packaging in which it arrived. Those are the sort of parents who need a good slap just for that. Enjoy your new furniture! They also need a slap for the fact they basically neglect their child by ignoring anything he has to say and only feeding him takeaway meals out of foil ‘plates’.

Frustrated by his home life, he goes to bed and is woken by a knight on horsebreak breaking through the wardrobe door, smashing up his room and disappearing off into the nearby forest… Pardon? Exactly. A moment later, it’s all back to normal. Either he’s got an incredible imagination, or there’s some really weird stuff going on…

The next night, he’s visited, via the same entrance, by a group of dwarves who turn up out of nowhere, mistake Kevin for the ‘Supreme Being’, whose map they stole, and then inadvertently end up taking Kevin with them just as the map’s owner makes an appearance to reclaim his property. Their intention is to travel from one place in time to another, using the map to steal riches from foreign dignitaries and escape with the loot before they get caught, sometimes back to a moment in time before the person they robbed was even born!

Their ultimate goal, however, is to go in search of the most fabulous object in the world…

Gilliam’s films occasionally don’t work for me, but at other times everything comes together perfectly – Twelve Monkeys was an example of the latter – and Time Bandits is faultless. I couldn’t even single out one member of the cast as better than the rest because it’s an ensemble piece and, with different actors in their place, it just wouldn’t be the same.

And if I had one quibble about the subtitles it would be near the end when David Daker’s exclamation, “My super deluxe teasmaid!” becomes “My super deluxe steamer!”


The film is presented in the original 1.85:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high defintion, and I’ve already gone into detail about the quality.

For the record, I’m watching on a Panasonic 50″ Plasma TV with a Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player.

The sound has a DTS HD 5.1 option, but while I selected that, I didn’t spot any scenes where it felt like it had been used, except for when the Supreme Being appears in ‘face’ form, and it mostly felt like I was listening to a standard stereo soundtrack.

The extras on this disc are as follows – most of which are in HD, too. Sadly, none are chaptered, nor have subtitles:

  • Chasing Time Bandits: An interview with Terry Gilliam (20:07): The director talks about how this film came about because he couldn’t get Brazil off the ground; how Craig Warnock was rather accidentally cast – and note that he hasn’t really acted since; the Pythons who star alongside; the cast and crew; producer Denis O’Brien’s insistence to get some George Harrison songs in there – although Gilliam says they just kept the final song over the end credits and about how the song itself was a series of notes to Gilliam, from Harrison, about the film and Gilliam’s behaviour; and The clever way in which the film retained its downbeat ending.

    It’s a shame Arrow haven’t bothered to chapter this piece, especially since it’s broken up into a number of definitive sections.

  • Writing the film that dare not speak its name (16:05): Michael Palin interviewed in similar style, and this extra takes its name from how Terry Gilliam originally referred to the film’s synopsis when he presented it to Palin and wanted him to help flesh it out. Topics include whether this was considered a Python or a Gilliam film, its success in the U.S. and casting David Warner as Evil.

  • The Effects of Time Bandits (15:28): Kent Houston, part of the optical effects team, goes into detail about how the effects were carried out. Given that he’s just talking and there’s no images to accompany what he’s talking about – early on, some of it went over my head a bit. And it was a bit distracting that he’s sat by a large window, in front of a street that’s been dug up and, unfortunately, just as a City of Westminster refuse truck is going about its business…

    He talks about effects such as the blue line at the edge of the time holes and the head of the Supreme Being.

  • Playing Evil: David Warner (8:43): One of my favourite actors gets to talk about this iconic role, and he received an interesting gift from George Harrison.

  • The Costumes of Time Bandits (13:21): Costume Designer James Acheson shows off all the sketches of the outfits for the characters to wear, going into detail about them and his time working on the film, as well as discussing how Time Bandits is perceived today.

  • The Look of Time Bandits (10:43): Production designer Milly Burns talks about meeting Terry Gilliam and how you can be economical with the sets when you have a director like him who knows the vision prior to building the sets and how he’s going to film them to get the full effect, rather than building massive sets which get hardly used and cost a fortune. She also mentions ideas for sets which never made it to the big screen.

  • From Script to Screen (8:33): Milly Burns takes us through the process, and how it’s an organic one, going into detail about how Morocco doubled for Ancient Greece and why it was an ideal place to film. And for Craig Warnock, we know from earlier in the extras that this was the first scene filmed. Imagine your first ever scene in a film and you’re starring alongside Sean Connery!

  • Trailer (3:09): One of the best trailers I’ve ever seen for anything. Presented in 4:3, this is Monty Python doing a spoof pretending that it’s being voice over by Orson Welles.

  • Restoration Demonstration (2:43): Digital restoration of any damage on the original print on a frame-by-frame basis, along with colour grading, i.e. restoring the colour that has faded.

All versions of this release include a Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic James Oliver, but I didn’t receive one of those with the review disc so I can’t comment on what’s in there.

Overall, the extras are short, compared to some Blu-ray releases, but they pack a lot of information in, which is better than those which can ramble on and on, adding little as they go. I would’ve liked to see more interviews from the cast members, as we’ve only really got David Warner in there. Of course, sadly, a few of them have since passed on. I knew Ralph Richardson and David Rappaport had, but I didn’t realise Jack Purvis (Wally) had also.

As you put the disc in, the menu bursts into life with clips from the film and a piece of the theme: George Harrison’s Dream Away. You get a reasonable chunk of the song compared to most Blu-ray & DVD menus, so that is most welcome.

There are subtitles in English, but for this Special Edition the chaptering is anything BUT special with the usual 12 that so many films get these days. Very lazy.



Detailed specs:

Running time: 116 minutes
Year: 1981
Released: August 26th 2013
Chapters: 12
Cat.no: FCD839
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD 5.1
Languages: English
Subtitles: English
Widescreen: 1.85:1 (Spherical)
Disc Format: BD50

Director: Terry Gilliam
Producer: Terry Gilliam
Screenplay: Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin
Music: Mike Moran

Kevin: Craig Warnock
Randall: David Rappaport
Fidgit: Kenny Baker
Strutter: Malcolm Dixon
Og: Mike Edmonds
Wally: Jack Purvis
Vermin: Tiny Ross
Robin Hood: John Cleese
King Agamemnon: Sean Connery
Pansy: Shelley Duvall
Mrs. Ogre: Katherine Helmond
Napoleon: Ian Holm
Vincent: Michael Palin
Supreme Being: Ralph Richardson
Winston the Ogre: Peter Vaughan
Evil: David Warner
Kevin’s Father: David Daker
Kevin’s Mother: Sheila Fearn
Compere: Jim Broadbent
Reginald: John Young
Beryl: Myrtle Devenish
Knight/Hussar: Brian Bowes
Lucien: Terence Bayler
Neguy: Preston Lockwood
Theatre Manager: Charles McKeown
Puppeteer: David Leland
The Great Rumbozo: John Hughman
Robber Leader: Derrick O’Connor
2nd Robber: Neil McCarthy
3rd Robber: Declan Mulholland
Arm Wrestler: Peter Jonfield
Robert: Derek Deadman
Benson: Jerold Wells
Cartwright: Roger Frost
Bull-headed Warrior: Winston Dennis
Greek Fighting Warrior: Del Baker
Greek Queen: Juliette James
Giant: Ian Muir
Troll Father: Mark Holmes
Supreme Being (voice): Tony Jay
Supreme Being’s Face: Edwin Finn