Review By Paul Mount, 3.5 out of 5

Terry Gilliam is probably up there with my favourite film directors. His films ?and his canon of work isn’t enormous ?are rich with bizarre imagery and his twisted, surreal imagination pervades every frame of his often dark, disturbing movies. But he’s also a very frustrating director because his films are invariably sloppy, formless, meandering works where story comes a very poor second to his own requirements to turn contemporary film on its head and create images which are quite unlike anything else out there. TIME BANDITS, released on DVD at the tail end of 2002 and now widely available at a reduced price at your local DVD retailer (thank you, God, for the concept of New Year Sales) is one of Gilliam’s first post-Python efforts ?and whilst the spirit of Python lives in the film’s style and themes, it’s a Gilliam film through and through.

Ostensibly a kid’s film, there’s enough darkness and violence here to satisfy even the hardiest adult fantasy fan. The story? Well, according to Gilliam and co-writer Michael Palin, a bunch of dwarves (am I still allowed to call them that? Look out for the politically-correct Police!) have taken possession of a cosmic map which enables them to jump through time holes to travel across the ages (and, it transpires, the domain of fantasy) committing heinous robberies. One of their trips takes them into the bedroom of a young boy named Kevin who ends up travelling with them on their breakneck adventures with the forces of the Evil Genius (David Warner), who craves the map, hot on their heels.

TIME BANDITS is maniac stuff but it’s classic Gilliam. Never less than superbly-directed, the story is all over the place, excusable here perhaps as the whole endeavour is about travelling from adventure to adventure, often not even pausing for breath. The visuals are remarkable considering the ? million budget and the cast bulges with star names and veterans like Sean Connery, John Cleese, Ralph Richardson, Katharine Helmond and a young Jim Broadbent. The whole thing falls apart at the end when it’s quite clear the story has run out and it all seems a bit ad-lib but, like Gilliam’s later legendary disaster THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN (a beautiful but entirely insane film) it’s never less than watchable and it’s always a lot of fun.

THE DISC: The transfer is clean enough but there’s a little print damage with the odd flicker and fleck visible. The menu promises loads of extras but most of it is text-based stuff including, disappointingly, one ‘missing scene’. However, Gilliam provides a lively commentary and there’s an interesting newly-recorded twenty-odd minute ‘interview’ (more of an informal reminiscence session) with Gilliam and Palin. Biographies and picture galleries complete a nice package which is worth picking up at its current budget price

More to explorer