Time Bandits: Special Edition (1981)

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Released 28-Aug-2009

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Audio Commentary-with T Gilliam, M Palin, J Cleese, D Warner & C Warnock
Theatrical Trailer
Interviews-Crew-with Terry Gilliam & Michael Palin
Interviews-Crew-Clapperboard 1981 interview
Gallery-Film Notes
Gallery-Photo-Dream Facts
Gallery-Photo-Production Photo Gallery
Storyboards-Missing Storyboard scenes
Storyboards-Storyboard extracts
Storyboards-Hidden Spiederwoman Storyboard with Photo & Script
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1981
Running Time 111:08
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (67:51) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Terry Gilliam

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring John Cleese
Sean Connery
Shelley Duvall
Katherine Helmond
Ian Holm
Michael Palin
Ralph Richardson
Peter Vaughan
David Warner
Craig Warnock
Case Amaray-Opaque-Dual-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Mike Moran
Ray Cooper
George Harrison

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, some cigar smoking
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, one scene after the credits

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Plot Synopsis

   Time Bandits is a unique film because it is an adventure that appeals to both children and adults, but it is cinematically presented from the viewpoint of a child (the Pixar animated films also have a similar premise to their plots, which makes them highly successful). This was done because the central character is a child, Kevin, an 11 year-old boy whose parents are materialistic and seemingly addicted to watching television game shows. Kevin's parents neglect him and Kevin spends his time thinking about his heroes from history that he has read about, such as King Agamemnon. One night he falls asleep and meets six dwarves who travel through time with a map they have 'borrowed' from The Supreme Being, who use the map to rob famous people throughout history and become rich. Kevin thus meets the famous people he has looked up to and read about in books such as Napoleon, Robin Hood and King Agamemnon, the trouble is that Kevin's heroes aren't quite what they seem to be in real life.

    Time Bandits was financed by Handmade Films, a production company set up by Beatle George Harrison and Denis O'Brien in 1978. The first film they financed was Monty Python's Life of Brian in 1979 and Time Bandits was the third film they financed after The Long Good Friday. Time Bandits was successful at the box office in 1981 and has since become a cult hit in the ensuing years, as can be judged from the many DVD releases of the film since 1999. The question remains for Region 4 fans of the film.... is this 2-disc release by Umbrella Entertainment the definitive version of the film on DVD? Read on to find out more, but in the meantime, fellow MichaelD reviewer Michael Cox has written a detailed review on the previous Region 4 DVD, including a comparison with the Region 1 Criterion Collection version and the Region 2 Anchor Bay version. It is an excellent and comprehensive review and it can be referenced here.

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Transfer Quality


    This Region 4 release by Umbrella Entertainment is a port of the recent Region 2 25th Anniversary re-issue by Anchor Bay in 2007 which was also a 2-disc release.

    The aspect ratio of the film is 1:85:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions. This is a huge improvement over the appalling Pan&Scan 1:33:1 full frame release by Rainbow in 2002

    The main feature occupies 5.7gb on a dual-layered DVD, with an average bitrate of 7.2 mb/sec. Despite the healthy bitrate, the picture transfer remains soft with artefacts still in the transfer. However, it is sharper than previous releases such as the Region 1 2004 US release or the Criterion Collection release.

    The colour is muted but contrast is more evident in this transfer than previous DVD releases.

    There are some instances of telecine wobble, for example in the credits and film artefacts occur from time to time, as mentioned previously, but these do not distract from the viewing as they are often brief. There are also some occurrences of macro-blocking evident in the transfer, for example the picture breaks up slightly at 50:21 and 50:29.

    There are no subtitles provided, as is normal practice for Umbrella Entertainment and personally I find this abysmal. However, in Umbrella Entertainment's defence, most other releases of the film on DVD have no subtitling included either.

    The RSDL change occurs at 67:51 during a scene transition that fades to black, unfortunately the film's soundtrack is paused at this point and thus the layer change is noticeable for the viewer.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The DVD case states that there are three audio soundtracks, a Dolby Digital 2.0, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtrack. In fact the main feature has a remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtrack while the audio commentary utilises a Dolby Digital 2.0 track. The original Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack that was included on the 2007 Region 2 Anchor Bay 25th Anniversary release is not included on this Region 4 version of the film.

    The main feature has an upgraded Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 448 kbps and a DTS 5.1 track encoded at 768 kbps. The audio commentary is encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 kbps.

    Dialogue is clear and synchronised perfectly throughout.

    The music by Mike Moran, with Trevor Jones credited in the Greek scenes, is both subtle and dynamic when incorporated in action scenes that contain conflict. During these scenes the soundtrack comes to life, with every channel employed to good effect, including the subwoofer. Unlike other reviewers of this DVD worldwide, I personally enjoyed the upgraded 5.1 soundtracks with the DTS track having more range than the Dolby Digital one.

    The sound effects are separated equally between the front and back, with dialogue coming from the centre speaker as is traditional

    The subwoofer is also used to good effect to support action scenes, especially during conflicts and explosions.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Audio Commentary by director Terry Gilliam, co-writer and actor Michael Palin and actors John Cleese, David Warner and Craig Warnock

    This is the identical commentary that first featured on the Criterion Collection version from 1999 and the Region 2 Anchor Bay release form 2002. It has been recorded separately with most input from Gilliam and Palin, with Cleese, Warner and Warnock discussing their scenes in the film.

Theatrical Trailer

    The original theatrical trailer is presented in a 4x3 full frame transfer and is notable for referencing Star Wars from 1977 with Kenny Baker who performed in both films.

Interview with Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin (27:15)

    This interview was done for the 2002 Region 2 original Anchor Bay release and is 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions. The two screenwriters of the film still maintain a good rapport many years after the film was done. I found the premise for the film interesting in that it was made originally due to Gilliam's next film Brazil being delayed. Also, the anecdote about Sean Connery getting the role of King Agamemnon is a good laugh, as the original script mentions a Sean Connery type who is 'cheaper' to cast. This was until Connery was actually contacted and expressed interest in the role. The rest is history as they say.

Interview - Clapperboard 1981 interview (17:01)

    This interview was originally done for the film magazine show, Clapperboard. Gilliam and Palin discuss the premise of the film that is aimed as entertainment for the whole family, the role of the delay of Brazil and the casting of the dwarves David Rappaport, Kenny Baker, Malcolm Dixon, Mike Edmonds, Jack Purvis and Tiny Ross.


    This Photo scrapbook of the cast includes wardrobe shots and sketches of scenes.

Gallery-Film Notes

    Six text-based pages of notes on the film.

Gallery-Dream Facts

    Includes 10 images showing scenes with elements from Kevin's bedroom.

Gallery-Photo-Production Photo Gallery

    22 black and white and 31 colour still images from the film.

Storyboards-Missing Storyboard Scenes

    This extra shows storyboard scenes and parts of the script not shot.

Storyboards-Storyboard Extracts

    This extra shows Storyboard scenes used to shoot the movie.

Storyboards-Hidden Spiderwoman Storyboard with Photo and Script.

    This extended extra shows the Spiderwoman and the den Storyboard scenes and parts of the script not shot due to expense.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Time Bandits has been released in many versions worldwide, including three times each in the United States and the United Kingdom.

    The original Anchor Bay Region 1 United States release was not 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions and included the theatrical trailer and cast and crew biographies for extras. The Criterion Collection Region 1 release was also not 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions. It includes the original ambient Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio soundtrack but the video transfer is hazy and red. Extras include an audio commentary with director Terry Gilliam, actor and co-writer Michael Palin and actors John Cleese, David Warner and Craig Warnock, a Time Bandits scrapbook and the theatrical trailer. The 2004 Anchor Bay Region 1 re-release has a video transfer 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions (finally!) and a boosted Dolby Digital 5.1 EX soundtrack. Extras include an interview with Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam, a documentary on the films of Terry Gilliam, a Terry Gilliam biography, a Collector's Booklet including Liner Notes, a map of the universe foldout, the screenplay in text format and theatrical trailers.

    The original Anchor Bay Region 2 release has an audio commentary with director Terry Gilliam, actor and co-writer Michael Palin and actors John Cleese, David Warner and Craig Warnock, a deleted scene script and storyboards (17 pages), an interview with director Terry Gilliam and actor and co-writer Michael Palin (27 mins), Storyboard extracts (19 pages), a Production photo gallery (22 pics), Dream facts (10 pages), "Time Bandits" scrapbook (2 mins 53 secs), Theatrical trailer (3 mins 12 secs), Production notes (5 pages), a Photo Gallery (31 pics), and Cast and crew biographies of Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin, Sean Connery and David Rappaport. The image is 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions and the audio transfer includes the original Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack and an upgraded Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The 2007 25th Anniversary Region 2 Anchor Bay re-release has an additional DTS 5.1 soundtrack and the 17 minute Clapperboard interview with Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin. The 2009 Optimum Home Entertainment release uses the same audio soundtracks as the 2002 Anchor Bay release and the same video transfer as the 2007 25th Anniversary release. The audio commentary is dropped for this version and only an interview with Gilliam, the Scrapbook extra and theatrical trailer are included as extras.

    The Region 2 Studio Canal French release is virtually identical to the Region 2 Anchor Bay 2002 release, while the Region 2 German and Scandinavian versions of the film are basic single-disc versions, although still better than the appalling and abysmal previous Pan&Scan Region 4 release by Rainbow which also had no extras!

    In my opinion, the 2007 Anchor Bay Region 2 25th Anniversary release and the Region 4 2009 Umbrella Entertainment releases are the best versions of the film currently available on DVD.


    Time Bandits is the first film in Terry Gilliam's Dream Trilogy which includes 1985's Brazil and 1989's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The film has clever references to things from Kevin's bedroom throughout the historical scenes and the final act scenes in the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness, have a look for them the next time you view it. The actors that Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin were able to get for a small budget help to make the film memorable, especially with Sir Ralph Richardson playing The Supreme Being and Sir Sean Connery playing King Agamemnon.

    The current release by Umbrella Entertainment is the best release available on DVD, easily eclipsing the quality of the previous Region 4 release by Rainbow. However, the original film elements require restoration work as all releases on DVD (and even the 2009 Region B Blu-ray release by Optimum) are soft and contain minor film damage. Until this is done, fans of this cult classic by Terry Gilliam will not see the film in a definitive version that they deserve.

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 019), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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