Time Bandits on Blu-ray
by Jef Burnham
Available on Blu-ray August 24, 2010 from Image Entertainment.
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In the late-1970s, George Harrison (yes, the Beatle) co-founded HandMade Films in order to help his pals, the Monty Python troupe, complete their picture Life of Brian when their original funding fell through. Harrison’s company would subsequently produce some of the most iconic films to come out of the UK in the 1980s. Now, Image Entertainment is bringing to Blu-ray for the first time in the U.S. four titles from this golden era of HandMade Films, including Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits, Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa, The Long Good Friday, and Withnail and I, all of which I’ll be reviewing individually.*
Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits, about a time-traveling gang of bandit little people who thieve their way through the ages whilst being sought after by both The Supreme Being and Evil himself, was an integral and beloved part of my childhood. It inspired me creatively and even at an early age, sparked an interest in me in the mysterious power of cinema to manipulate people’s emotions. I was and have always been upon viewing Time Bandits at once wholly entertained and disturbed, especially in terms of Gilliam’s matter-of-fact, almost gleeful approach to death. Yes, even as an adult, certain portions of this children’s film genuinely creep me out. But that’s what I love about it. It is the rare, challenging children’s film— one that I guarantee my own children will be brought up on.
As such, I am very sad to report that, in terms of picture quality, Time Bandits is probably the weakest of the releases in this series of Blu-rays from Image Entertainment. The print used for this HD transfer appears to be entirely un-restored, leaving some sequences plagued heavily by scratches, specks and various other bothersome artifacts. Even though the look of this release is certainly in keeping with the film I grew up, viewed on HBO and the occasional rental VHS, this Blu-ray is not necessarily better than any of the DVD releases. However, a quick Amazon search reveals that, as of the Blu-ray’s release on the 24th, it will in fact be the cheapest version available, since these titles are budget-priced around $12. So if you don’t already own a copy, this is certainly the Blu-ray’s biggest selling point. Plus, it is actually the only Blu-ray in this series of four to include a special feature besides the theatrical trailer: an 18-minute interview with Terry Gilliam.
Now, in terms of the film itself, if you haven’t already seen it (and shame on you if you haven’t), there is perhaps no greater recommendation I can give than to simply mention some of the incredible people involved in its production. It is, of course, executive produced by George Harrison (who also provides music); directed by Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame; co-written by Gilliam and fellow Python alum, Michael Palin; and co-starring Palin, Sean Connery (who I shouldn’t have to mention was James Bond!), John Cleese (Monty Python, A Fish Called Wanda), Shelley Duvall (The Shining), Ian Holm (Alien, The Lord of the Rings), Jim Broadbent (Hot Fuzz, The Young Victoria), Ralph Richardson (Tales from the Crypt (1972), Long Day’s Journey Into Night), and David Warner (Tron), who is absolutely terrifying in his portrayal of Evil. And if THAT’s not good enough for you, refer back to my previous statement about the time-traveling bandit gang and see if your interest isn’t piqued.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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