Sunday, August 08, 2010

Time Bandits

Time Bandits is a 1981 fantasy film, produced and directed by Terry Gilliam.

Gilliam wrote the screenplay with fellow Monty Python alumnus Michael Palin, who appears with Shelley Duvall in the small, recurring roles of Vincent and Pansy. The film is one of the most famous of more than 30 theatrical features produced by Handmade Films, the London-based independent company backed in part by former Beatle George Harrison.

Gilliam would work with many of this film's cast again in 1985's Brazil, including Jim Broadbent, Ian Holm, Peter Vaughan, Katherine Helmond, Michael Palin and Jack Purvis.


Kevin is an 11-year-old boy whose parents ignore him in favor of keeping up with the neighbors by purchasing all the latest gadgets. Without their attention, Kevin has become a history buff, particularly of the Ancient Greek period. One night, Kevin is awakened from his sleep by a knight on horseback bursting through his wardrobe and riding off into a forest that has appeared in place of his bedroom wall. When Kevin investigates, he finds nothing amiss in his room. The next night, he is again woken by sounds from the wardrobe, but this time six dwarfs stumble out. The dwarfs discover that the bedroom wall can be moved, and as they push it along down a long hallway, a large floating head shows up and starts to chase them. Kevin escapes with the dwarfs, and as the hallway ends, they fall into the blackness of space.

Kevin learns that the dwarfs are employees of the Supreme Being, the floating head that chased them; their regular job is creating small bushes and trees. They have stolen the map of space and time which they are using to travel through time and steal treasures from across history. They are also being watched by a malevolent character called Evil, who seeks the map for himself to recreate the universe to his liking. They all travel through several time periods, meeting Napoleon Bonaparte and Robin Hood. Kevin becomes separated from the group and ends up in Ancient Greece, where he meets Agamemnon, who treats Kevin like his son. However, the dwarves catch up with Kevin and drag him away through another time hole. Kevin becomes angry with them for ruining his happy respite.

The dwarfs then make their way to Evil's Fortress of Ultimate Darkness, believing an epic treasure, "The Most Fabulous Object in the World," awaits inside. However, the treasure turns out to be a trap set by Evil, and the dwarfs are forced to hand over the map. Trapped in a cage hanging over a bottomless void, the group is able to use a photograph of the map Kevin had taken earlier to identify holes they can use to recruit help and recover the map. The dwarfs make an escape and put their plan into action, bringing soldiers and equipment from across time to face down Evil, but Evil is able to conquer them all. As Evil is about to unleash his ultimate power, he is suddenly turned to cinder by The Supreme Being, now appearing as an elderly gentleman. The dwarfs apologize to the Supreme Being, who acknowledges that it was all part of his plan and thanks the dwarfs for returning the map. He orders them to remove all of the "concentrated Evil" from the area. Kevin is left behind as the Supreme Being disappears with the dwarfs. Kevin finds that a piece of Evil has been left, and his vision goes dim as the smoke emanating from the chunk of black rock overwhelms him.

Kevin wakes up in his own room which is filled with smoke as the house is on fire. A firefighter breaks in and rescues him. The firefighters find that a toaster oven was the source of the fire, and hand the unit over to Kevin's parents. Kevin, upon seeing a fireman that resembles Agamemnon, discovers the photographs of his travels still in his satchel. When his parents open the toaster oven to reveal a piece of concentrated Evil, Kevin warns them not to touch it, but they do anyway and promptly explode, leaving Kevin alone.


As discussed in a DVD interview with Palin and Gilliam, the film came out in the fall season (after the blockbuster summer films, but before the hit Christmas season) and became extremely successful at the U.S. box office, making over $40 million. Critical reception since it came out in theaters has been positive overall, and it still enjoys a good reputation on DVD, having gained a 94% at Rotten Tomatoes.


Robert Hewison, in his book Monty Python: The Case Against, describes the dwarfs as a comment on the Monty Python troupe, with Fidget (the nice one) as Palin, Randall (the self-appointed leader) as John Cleese, Strutter (the acerbic one) as Eric Idle, Og (the quiet one) as Graham Chapman, Wally (the noisy rebel) as Terry Jones and Vermin (the nasty, filth-loving one) as Gilliam himself.


* Craig Warnock as Kevin
* David Rappaport as Randall
* Kenny Baker as Fidgit
* Malcolm Dixon as Strutter
* Mike Edmonds as Og
* Jack Purvis as Wally
* Tiny Ross as Vermin
* David Warner as Evil
* Derek Deadman as Robert
* Jerold Wells as Benson
* Michael Palin as Vincent
* Shelley Duvall as Pansy
* John Cleese as Robin Hood
* Sean Connery as King Agamemnon/Fireman
* Katherine Helmond as Mrs. Ogre
* Ian Holm as Napoleon
* Ralph Richardson as Supreme Being
* Peter Vaughan as Winston the Ogre
* David Daker as Kevin's Father
* Sheila Fearn as Kevin's Mother
* Jim Broadbent as Compere
* Tony Jay as Voice of the Supreme Being
* Terence Bayler as Lucien
* Preston Lockwood as Neguy
* Derrick O'Connor as Redgrave
* Neil McCarthy as Marion


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