Time Bandits (1981)

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Released 8-May-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Fantasy None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1981
Running Time 111:06
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Terry Gilliam
Studio
Distributor
BMG Entertainment
Rainbow
Starring John Cleese
Sean Connery
Shelley Duvall
Katherine Helmond
Ian Holm
Michael Palin
Ralph Richardson
Peter Vaughan
David Warner
Craig Warnock
David Rappaport
Case Six-Sided Star Clamp
RPI $9.95 Music George Harrison
Mike Moran
Trevor Jones


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, but it's part of the plot
Action In or After Credits Yes, a little at the end

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

"All the dreams you've ever had...and not just the good ones..."

    Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits is commonly considered to represent the first of his "Dreams" Trilogy, all of which are characterized by the common theme of a character escaping from a their dull reality through the instrument of imagination. The others in the sequence are Brazil, which focuses on the dreams and fantasies of a middle-aged desk clerk and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, which explores the fantastically exaggerated memories of an old man recounting past adventures. Time Bandits is specifically presented from the point of view of a young boy, who's dreams and aspirations are mostly concerned with historical figures and heroes. Being Gilliam's first truly independent film (well, technically it is his second, Jabberwocky was the first), he takes the opportunity to pay homage to several movies, books and other inspirations in his career. Amongst these many references to lookout for, are: the Supreme Being, which is reminiscent of "The Wizard of Oz"; "The Chronicles of Narnia" in reference to the first time-hole, which appears in Kevin's bedroom wardrobe; Evil's elaborate headpiece which is in the famous style of Giger's "Alien" designs; and finally Piranesi, a 17th century artist whose engravings inspired the design of the "Fortress of Ultimate Darkness". In addition, speaking of inspirations, I find that the way the dwarves dress and equip themselves, reminds me somewhat of "The Wombles"--you know, 'making all use of the things that they find' without really understanding what their true purpose was, for instance: watch out for the stainless steel steamer being used as a hat.

    As far as the story is concerned, Time Bandits is a quirky fantasy revolving around a young English boy named Kevin (Craig Warnock), in the latter half of the 20th century, as he is unwillingly dragged on an adventure through space and time, by a rag-tag group of vertically-challenged, inter-dimensional, criminals (David Rappaport, Tiny Ross, Kenny Baker, Malcom Dixon, Mike Edmonds and Jack Purvis); our Time Bandits. As it becomes apparent, our group of mini-bandits have stolen the only existing map of time holes from none other than God, ahem!; sorry, the Supreme Being himself (Sir Ralph Richardson).

"Who was that man?"
"That was no man. That was the Supreme Being."
"You mean God?"
"Well, we don't know him that well. We only work for him."
The Map, is the only known document of all of the inconsistencies that exist in the fabric of the universe as a result of it being rushed into completion in just seven days. And our group has been assigned to go through them and fix them all up, once and for all.
"You see, to be quite frank, Kevin, the fabric of the universe is far from perfect. It was a bit of a botch job, you see. We only had seven days to make it. And that's where this comes in. This is the only map of all the holes."
But, rather than using the map to repair the holes as they were instructed, our inter-dimensional time thieves decide instead to become filthy rich by jumping in and out of time, robbing as many of the famous characters in history as they possibly can.
"Well, why repair them? Why not use them to get stinking rich?"

    So begins Kevin's roller-coaster ride through space & time and the opportunity of a lifetime, to not only see and visit some famous periods in history, but also to meet many of his history-book heroes. Unfortunately for Kevin, he is about to learn, that the real person behind the legend rarely lives up to their expectations as heroes; and herein lies the fundamental moral of the story. The first stop after Kevin's bedroom wardrobe places the group smack-bang in the middle of the battle for Castiglione in 1796, where they chance to meet up with Napoleon (Ian Holm). They quickly seize an opportunity--and after successfully drinking Napoleon under the table, they make off through the next time-hole with as much loot as they can possibly carry (believe me, this is actually quite a bit considering their size). Then, before you know, they are instantly transported to the famous Sherwood Forest during the middle ages.

"Hey, where are we?"
"Where are we? Well, that's obvious. We're, uhh. ... In the middle ages. Five hundred years before the man we just robbed was even born."
There are no prizes for guessing that before too long, they meet up with the inimitable Robin Hood (John Cleese) who, much to Kevin's disappointment, is not the true hero of the people, fighting against poverty and state corruption that he expected; rather, he is quite out-of-touch with reality. Regardless, Robin Hood does manage to convince our Time Bandits to give up their loot from Castiglione by way of some innocent misleading.
"Yes, well, now, let's just see what we've got here. This is going to be so much help in our work."
"No, you don't understand. All this stuff is ours. We stole it."
"Oh, yes, I know, and believe you me, the poor are going to be, well, not just absolutely thrilled, but also considerably less poor."
Being less than thrilled about loosing their first major take of proceeds, the group begin debating who and when they are going to rob next.

    It is about now that the adventures of our group finally catch the attention of "Evil" (David Warner) who seeks the map for himself, so he can escape from the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness, where he is trapped in the Time of Legends. Evil begins making plans to create a new world, in his image instead of God's:

"If I were creating a world, I wouldn't mess about with butterflies and daffodils. I would have started with lasers, eight o'clock, day one. (Zzzap!) Sorry."
And so Evil begins to set a trap, by telepathically controlling one of the group and enticing them to bring the map to the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness in search of the Most Fabulous Object in the World.
"I've got an idea forming in my head."
"You haven't had an idea for thousands of years."
"There is a place where we could find the greatest thing a man could want. The goal of everybody's hopes and dreams."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"The most fabulous object in the world."
"That sounds like a good idea."
Fortunately for the group they are rudely interrupted at that moment by the sudden appearance of God who is also seeking the return of the map. During the panic that ensues, Kevin finds himself separated from the gang when he mistakenly enters the wrong time-hole, taking him directly to early Greece, during the rule of King Agamemnon (Sean Connery).

    Kevin manages to befriend the kind King who decides to take him as his own son, and thus, become heir to the throne of Mycenae. In celebration, the King throws a mighty banquet, during which the Time Bandits cleverly manage to recapture Kevin and rob the court, before escaping through the next time-hole to arrive shortly thereafter on the S.S. Titanic. They very quickly accustom themselves to life on the upper decks of the famous luxury cruiser.

"Six more plates of caviar, please. Anyone else want any?"
"No, not for me, thank you. I'll stick with the quail's eyeballs. The caviar makes me throw up, you know."
But, as fate would have it, this time was not to last and very shortly our group find themselves desperately floating in the middle of the freezing Atlantic Ocean with no escape in sight. It is here that Evil seizes the opportunity and quickly brings the group, map and all into the Time of Legends. Now this is where things start to get a little weird.

    What follows from here is some ingenious camera work, lots of incredible models and some reasonably interesting story telling. This mini-adventure through the Time of Legends, introduces us to a less-than-threatening Ogre who is suffering from a terrible case of back-pain, a massive giant, in the middle of the ocean who is wearing a real pirate ship for headpiece (I did warn you that it gets a little weird about now, didn't I?) and a seemingly never-ending desert wasteland. Eventually the group literally walks into the gateway that separates the Time of Legends from the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness.

"What is it?"
"I don't know, but it hurts."
"It's some kind of invisible barrier."
"Oh, so that's what an invisible barrier looks like."
Of course,our greedy Time Bandits can't wait to claim their prize, the most fabulous object in the universe, and so without care or consideration they rush into the Fortress and soon encounter Evil, who presents himself as a typical American game show host from the late 60's. It is under this guise that Evil manages to capture the group and claim the treasured Map.
"Yes, folks, Moderna Designs present the latest in kitchen luxury. The Moderna Wondermajor all-automatic convenience centerette."
"And here they are, the winners of the most fabulous object in the world. The answer to all their problems, and yours, is here for them tonight."

"But before they collect their prize, let's just have a look at what made it possible for them to be here with us tonight. The map, please."

    To relay the remainder of the story here would simply spoil it, suffice to say that eventually the group have a final showdown with Evil who ends up being destroyed (maybe), the Map ends up being returned to the Supreme Being (mostly) and Kevin finally makes it back home (well, sort-of). The final scene deserves special mention however, as it is home to some of the last, great lines that have allowed "Time Bandits" to remain so firmly in my memory over the years.

(SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) Amidst the confusion of the final showdown with Evil, Kevin suddenly finds himself being rescued from his bedroom by a fireman, and dragged outside to safety where his mother and father are arguing:

"Let go. I've got to save it, Trevor."
"Don't be a fool."
"I'm going in for the toaster."

"Honestly, Trevor. If you'd been half a man, you'd have gone in there after the blender."

"Mom, dad, it's evil. Don't touch it. . . . Mom? Dad?"
And thus, Kevin finally finds himself all alone, asking whether it was all a dream, or was it real?

    It almost goes without saying, that the fantasy/adventure genre would have to be one of the most difficult genre's to attempt as a film maker, with very few succeeding to achieve mass audience acceptance (LOTR notwithstanding). Terry Gilliam's attempts are no exception to this rule, however they have managed to find a fiercely loyal and appreciative group of fans whom are attracted to it for a variety of reasons, not least of which must be on it's scripting and artistic merits. Time Bandits is fairly unique, in that the story not only revolves around a major character who is a young boy, recall the age old directors rule--"never try to get children and/or animals to act", but, it actually visually tells the story from the point of view of a child. In other words, all of the cinematography was done with the camera as close to the ground as possible, in a similar vane to the filming of "The Dark Crystal" by Jim Henson. This unique presentation, combined with a wonderful support cast of "vertically-challenged" & well-known actors, and a witty script written in a Monty-Pythonesque style, creates a movie that will always have a loyal following despite what many critics may say. I for one enjoy it and thus sign off with my last favorite quote from the film:

"Look, do you want to be leader of this gang?"
"No, we agreed: no leader."
"Right. So shut up and do as I say."
It is lines like these that keep me coming back time and time again to enjoy this film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Although the local release of Time Bandits is arguably the worst transfer of this film to DVD in any region, it must be said, that acting in its favour is/was the budget pricing of sub $10. In addition, when I first reviewed this title, the only real competition was the Criterion release from the US, which carried a significant import price tag of greater than $50, was not 16x9 enhanced and the transfer was only NTSC. Well, all that has changed! For all the juicy details please read below. If you just want to know which version is best and a summary of why, then you'd best skip forward to the Region Comparisons section.

R4 Release -- Rainbow

    Without a doubt, this version of Time Bandits is the most poorly mastered and poorly packaged release currently available on DVD. There are just so many things wrong with this release, that it is almost too painful to list them all. That said, at least Rainbow had the decency to never even attempt to charge full price for this release and thus is the only thing acting in their defense.

    The PAL transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 PAN&SCAN and is obviously derived from the open-matte source materials. Originally recorded on 35mm film, it was theatrically presented at a widescreen ratio of 1.85:1 using a soft-matte to cover up the top and bottom portions of the frames. Seeing as how the Rainbow presentation is not fullscreen; this means that important details that are meant to be visible, as intended by the director, are not displayed in this release.

    The transfer detail is very inconsistent, varying dramatically from scenes with highly detailed, sharp images to scenes that are very soft and almost out-of-focus (1:34, 32:40 and 78:10 are good examples). There is also plenty of film grain to be seen, with some scenes being affected much more than others. I didn’t notice any low-level noise worth mentioning but then again the black levels in the presentation are so far off that it would be difficult to tell. Unfortunately in addition to the extremely poor black levels, shadow detail suffered terribly with many dark scenes becoming so non-distinct that at times the shadows lost the details entirely, reducing the whole screen to an off-black colour (6:08, 7:34, 11:10, 14:16 and 59:39 are extreme examples). The white levels were thankfully not as bad, suffering more from a slight reduction in intensity that anything else, although one scene ends up being significantly overexposed (99:03). This combination of poor black levels and the reduced white levels results in the image having a compressed feel to it, lacking any of the dynamic range of brightness and contrast you typically expect from DVD. The black and white levels are, more than anything, the one thing I would like to see addressed in any subsequent remasters of this film.

    The colours start out early on with some over-saturation in the reds (6:19), however this quickly clears up and is subsequently replaced with a fairly noticeable and continuous blue-cast, which is most visible during the Titanic scenes when the champagne (56:50) and cigar smoke (58:28) take on a distinct, and unnatural blue colouration. The colours in the remaining part of the presentation are mostly acceptable, well saturated and well balanced, with skin tones looking reasonably natural, if not perfect.

    MPEG artefacts are surprisingly absent and I’m almost tempted to go back through the presentation yet again and find the ones that I must have missed whilst I was looking at all the other artefacts. Either that, or Rainbow really have done a fine job on the compression. There is some telecine wobble present throughout, but it was never enough that you couldn’t adapt to ignoring it. Aliasing is not common, only showing up in a few places with varying degrees from mild aliasing on the kitchen edges at 1:28 and the cage bars at 79:08 to some fairly distracting aliasing on the stair edges at 77:59 and 78:28 for example. Aliasing is also apparent alongside some minor moire effects at 0:01 and 0:45 in the opening credits.

    There are many, many film artefacts preset. The least problematic of these, is the almost constant background presence of various white and black flecks (the scenes at 10:52 and 23:23 are the worst offenders). Somewhat more distinct however are various persistent lines and scratches (20:35, 46:23 and 59:47), some water damage marks (61:45 and 69:48) and the inevitable hairs (97:54). As a direct result of the open-matte source materials, we are also privy to several instances of splice marks (28:03, 47:04, 68:18 and 76:56 are good examples) and one amusing case for variety, where the first splice mark is darker (106:46) followed almost immediately by another splice mark which is lighter (106:49).

    There were no subtitles recorded on this disc. This is something that I would dearly love to see fixed in a re-release. As an aside, the chapters on this disc are amongst the worst I have ever encountered on any DVD. Not only are there significantly less than required, they are also placed quite arbitrarily, even being placed in the middle of some scenes.

    This disc is not an RSDL disc, thus there was no layer change.

R1/R0 Release -- Criterion

    The US Criterion release, whilst fairly well restored, suffered from at least two major problems, the first being a lack of resolution and the second being a colour cast.

    The NTSC transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and it is not 16x9 enhanced. This framing appears to be identical to the original theatrical framing. Unfortunately, the transfer resolution suffers terribly as a direct result of the combination of NTSC presentation and the lack of 16x9 enhancement. This practice was standard amongst the first hundred or so Criterion releases (up until Insomnia), however thankfully, they have now adopted 16x9 enhancement for all their newer releases which are presented at 1.66:1 or wider.

    As a direct result of the lack of 16x9 enhancement and the lower resolution, NTSC mastering; the transfer sharpness is generally a little soft throughout, with some scenes becoming very soft (4:17 for example). The black levels start out, during the credits practically perfect, however once the main feature starts (1:24), the black levels change slightly and become approximately +5ire too bright (subjective). As a direct result, the shadow details tend to suffer somewhat, although they are still fairly good. There are no other major sources of any obnoxious noise and there is only moderate film grain present. Colours are the second area where the Criterion transfer is let down, although the colours are quite saturated, there is a very obvious red-cast present which has a tendency to become over-saturated at times (95:07) and invariably affects the skin tones throughout, causing them to blush significantly. The only scene that actually appears to benefit from the red-cast is the scene in Mycenae, Greece with King Agamemnon, however, this is the exception, as most people are more sensitive to over saturation in red than in either blue or green.

    Again, MPEG artefacts are practically absent which is to be expected in a Criterion release. There is some minor telecine wobble present throughout, but it is never enough to detract from the presentation. Much more common is aliasing which is most likely as a direct result of the lack of 16x9 enhancement. Aliasing first appears during the opening credits 0:13 and continues throughout affecting almost every sharp edge or high contrast border (78:51 is a typical example). A really good comparison example can be seen during the scene at 52:00 which is badly affected by several aliasing artefacts in the fine details, yet the equivalent scene in the 16x9 enhanced, R2 Anchor Bay release at 49:42 is completely unaffected.

    Film artefacts in the form of black, white and other flecks (62:31) and various water damage marks (64:33) are visible throughout, almost continuously, however, unlike the R4 Rainbow release, they are not quite as severe, nor as distracting.

    There be no subtitles present on the Criterion release. The Criterion and R2 Anchor Bay releases both share the same, identically placed, 23 chapters, which are placed at the start of each major section/scene within the presentation.

    This disc is an RSDL disc with the layer change occurring at 62:25. The layer change is reasonably well placed and is neither disruptive to the visual nor audio flow.

R2 Release -- Anchor Bay

    The Anchor Bay release is most assuredly the best version currently available on DVD. I say currently, as this release still suffers from a few minor issues that prevent it from being considered perfect; these being a lack of vivid colour saturation and a very slight, ever-present, green-cast. Apart from these relatively minor quibbles however, the package, as a whole, is simply fantastic and an absolute pleasure to watch.

    The PAL transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced. The framing appears to be slightly larger than the Criterion release, opening up the matte a smidgen on all four sides. Whilst this is not generally a problem, it does lead to some (rare) moments where the edge borders become somewhat distracting--a good example of this can be seen at 4:36, where the roof of the kitchen can be just seen as a bright white line at the top of the frame. Conveniently, many widescreen TV's will display this in the overscan portions and thus it will not typically be visible.

    The combination of a high resolution PAL treatment and 16x9 enhancement has successfully produced a noticeably superior transfer that exhibits almost twice (if not more) the fine resolution detail of the Criterion version. The image is very, very sharp and displays details that are nigh on impossible to see in the other versions. Interestingly however, the R4 Rainbow version has moments where it exhibits almost the same fine detail resolving, although it is very inconsistent. I suspect that the Criterion release and the Anchor Bay release were derived from very similar (if not the same) source materials. Both the film grain and other noise sources are very well controlled and although present throughout, they never detract from the presentation or dominate.

    The black levels are extremely good and coupled with very good white levels, they provide an excellent contrast ratio. Shadow details are also significantly improved over the Criterion release and are considered excellent. A classic example of the differences between black levels and shadow details can be seen at 6:00 which, is clearly much more detailed, as well as being darker than the corresponding scene in the Criterion release at 6:28 and of course than the Rainbow release at 6:00 where almost nothing can be seen, such is the lack of shadow detail and poor black levels. Colours are not as impressive however, exhibiting at least two problems. The first is a lack of vivid colour saturation which is a real pity considering the excellent contrast ratio. A good comparison example for colour saturation differences is the scene at 49:45 which corresponds to the same time index in the Rainbow release and 52:04 in the Criterion release which clearly demonstrates the lack of saturation in the Anchor Bay release, the over-saturation in the Criterion release and surprisingly, the acceptable saturation in the Rainbow release. The second colour problem is a very slight green cast that is present throughout the feature. Thankfully, out of all the possible tint or hue errors, green is one of the most tolerable and, unlike the very obvious blue cast that is present in the Rainbow release and the quite distinct red cast that is present in the Criterion release, the Anchor Bay release only exhibits a very slight cast which is almost imperceptible. Again, another good comparison example is the scene at 58:00 which appears as a highly contrasted, daytime shot in the Anchor Bay release, a "Hollywood Night" (fake blue lighting) shot in the Rainbow release and a late-afternoon shot in the Criterion release at 60:38. All that aside however, the colour representation in the Anchor Bay release is considered to be the most natural of all the available releases.

    Consistent with the other releases, MPEG artefacts are practically absent from this presentation, with nothing deserving any mention. There is only very minor telecine wobble present and it is only noticeable during the credits. Although some aliasing is still present, it is almost totally controlled as a direct result of a PAL transfer coupled with 16x9 enhancement and the absence of any apparent edge enhancement.

    Film artefacts in the form of black, white and other flecks and various damage marks are still present, yet they deserve some special mention. Although all three version have a tendency to share some of the same major film artefacts such as the water damage visible at 61:46, Anchor Bay and Rainbow (64:33, Criterion), it becomes quite obvious, upon detailed inspection of several scenes, that the Anchor Bay source materials have been cleaned up much better than the corresponding Criterion source materials and of course the Rainbow source materials which were really poor. As a result the occurrence of film artefacts in the Anchor Bay release is less than one third of those visible in the Criterion release. A excellent example of this is the Anchor Bay scene at 59:49 which shows several distinct flecks, all of which are visible in the Criterion release at 62:31 along with almost the same number again of additional artefacts, all of which are again a subset of the mess that appears at 59:49 in the Rainbow release (with the extra noise and poor shadow detail thrown in).

    There be no subtitles present on the Anchor Bay release and this is a real pity. The Criterion and R2 Anchor Bay releases both share the same, identically placed, 23 chapters, which are placed at the start of each major section/scene within the presentation.

    This disc is an RSDL disc with the layer change occurring at 67:51. The layer change is non-interruptive to the storyline or the visual presentation (it occurs during a fade to black), however it is slightly disruptive to the audio stream, which is in the middle of playing a musical chord during the change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Considering the world of difference between each releases visual quality and presentation, one must ask the question 'is the audio as distinctly different?' to which the answer is a resounding, yet unfortunate, 'yes'. Again the local Rainbow release is the clear loser in this category, suffering from an impoverished and slightly anemic audio track, whilst the Anchor Bay R2 release is the clear winner with not only a new, remastered 5.1 Surround track, but also a clearer, more precise 2.0 Surround track which is identical, except for pitch, to the US Criterion audio track.

R4 Release -- Rainbow

    This is an average audio track that exhibits a myriad of minor troubles, mostly attributable to age and budgetary constraints. Acting in its favour though is a very aggressive and at times quite immersive surround mix that certainly has its moments. Like most other elements in this release however, the quality was inconsistent.

    There is one audio track only, that being a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Encoded effort. It is most certainly surround encoded and sounds a treat when listened to in Dolby PL-II Cinema mode.

    The audio is very nearly synchronised to the video, displaying only minor lip-sync problems and minor audio sync delay. The dialogue is, for the most part, clear, although at times it tends to be drowned out by the effects.

    The music is a combination effort with Mike Moran being responsible for the vast majority of the score, Trevor Jones takes credit for the Greek dance segment and finally George Harrison composed the end title music (thanks Peter). Almost universally the music carries through the themes and emotions of each scene within the presentation and the mix is both detailed and immersive, being aggressively placed in all channels, but without overpowering the presentation or the dialogue.

    This audio mix exhibits a large dynamic range which at times, does tend to drown out some of the action and dialogue, as special effects blast in all channels. This problem is most apparent in the last chapter during the battle with Evil scenes. The surrounds are also often aggressively filled with the music and effects (10:17 The Supreme Being is an excellent example), and there are several examples of diagonal panning from rear-left to front-right and several frontal pans to keep things interesting. The only complaint regarding the surround mix is that a few times the speakers call attention to themselves directly, thus destroying the illusion of immersion completely. A good example of this can be heard in the left main channel at 30:12 with a desperate cry for ”Help! ...”.

    The subwoofer is alive and well in this transfer, but you will need appropriate bass management that can redirect the significant bass present in the main channels to the subwoofer. The low frequency information is precise and well balanced, integrating well with the on-screen action.

R0/1 Release -- Criterion

    The Criterion release includes not only a clearer and more detailed primary surround mix , but it also comes with a very good commentary track to boot. This is one area where Criterion releases shine--audio commentaries. Unlike other audio commentaries which are transferred, direct and unedited, onto the DVD, Criterion actually record several commentaries (from whomever they can usually get, including the directors, producers and actors) and then they edit these together to form a continuous and interesting multi-party commentary which always keeps pace with the film and never suffers overlong moments of silence or worse, mind-numbing and pointless commentary similar to some other titles I won’t name.

    There are two Dolby Digital 2.0 audio tracks encoded on this disc. The first, the main soundtrack is a Surround Encoded effort, which exhibits a improved clarity and detail over the R4 Rainbow release and is identical (ignoring the semitone pitch differences) to the R2 Anchor Bay release. The second is a fundamentally mono, audio commentary which, as mentioned above, is well worth listening to.

    Lip-sync is practically perfect throughout, except for one section, the Titanic scene (Ch's 13, 14, where it appears to be slightly delayed (this problem seems to only be apparent in the Criterion release). Dialogue clarity is significantly better as a direct result of the increased fidelity and improved channel clarity and suffers much less from being drowned out by the special effects when present as the Rainbow release does.

    The music comments are identical to my comments for the Rainbow release.

    There are some subtle and interesting differences between the Criterion/Anchor Bay 2.0 surround mix and the Rainbow 2.0 surround mix which deserve special mention. Whilst the Rainbow mix suffers from both a loss of fidelity and a significant decrease in the natural encoded ambience, it does have a stronger, more deliberate immersion (or surround activity) during some scenes (in particular the God scene mentioned in the Rainbow Surround section). This increased surround activity is unfortunately very inconsistent and more often than not, detracts from the presentation. The Criterion and Anchor Bay audio tracks also exhibit a slightly greater dynamic range than the R4 Rainbow audio track.

    The subwoofer comments are identical to my comments for the Rainbow release.

R2 Release -- Anchor Bay

    In a similar vein to the video section, the new R2 Anchor Bay release misses out on nothing and most importantly raises the bar by including a newly remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. So, how does it fair? Well, read-on...

    This release includes the original, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround encoded feature track, the Criterion Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround encoded commentary track and a new Dolby Digital 5.1 remixed, surround feature track. The first two tracks are identical, ignoring the semitone pitch difference, between the Criterion and the Anchor Bay release and thus all previous comments apply here. The new 5.1 surround track however is probably more gimmicky than progressive as will become apparent.

    The lip-sync and dialogue clarity is practically perfect with little or no problems discerning each spoken word. The 5.1 surround mix is more precise, with the dialogue clearly being concentrated in the centre channel, further improving the clarity and localisation.

    The music comments are identical to my comments for the Rainbow release, except to add that in the 5.1 surround mix, the music is less encompassing and ambient, being brought firmly into the frontal soundstage and relying on stereo imaging.

    It is in analyzing the surround activity that the main differences between the original 2.0 surround encoded mix and the new 5.1 surround mix become apparent. In general the 5.1 surround mix exhibits improved clarity, higher definition and more precise sound field placement, however this is at the expense of much of the ambience and atmosphere that is present in the original 2.0 surround mix. It achieves this by emphasizing the centre channel for improved dialogue, however it also de-emphasizes the surround channels which causes the loss of ambience. As a result, the 5.1 surround mix has a tendency to sound almost flat and somewhat clinical or unnatural in comparison. A good example of this can be heard at 39:00, 41:11, 41:28 & 90:50 where the 2.0 mix is clearly much more ambient and pleasant to listen to than the 5.1 mix, especially when you listen to the ambient echo's which in the 2.0 mix came from the rear whilst in the 5.1 mix they come from the front/sides.

    The subwoofer comments are identical to my comments for the Rainbow release. The subwoofer channel in the 5.1 mix carries all of the sub-80Hz information and thus does away with the need for any integrated bass management in your equipment.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Ahhh, now this is yet another area where all three releases differ significantly. Unsurprisingly, by now anyway, the Anchor Bay release again comes out on top, by missing out on nothing and even including a few additional extras just in case.

R4 Release -- Rainbow

Extras

    None. Absolutely none at all, which is extremely disappointing.

R0/1 Release -- Criterion

Featurette -- Scrapbook

    Duration 3:13. A series of pictures, models, props and some excellent production photo's of the cast and crew.

Trailer -- Theatrical Trailer

    Duration 3:11. A very humorous trailer for the movie. Very much like the movie, that is, not at all like what you would expect.

SMPTE Color Bars

    Duration 0:16. SMPTE Color Bars for calibration. This is a standard inclusion on all Criterion releases.

Audio Commentary

    An excellent audio commentary starring: director Terry Gilliam, co-writer and actor Michael Pallin and actors John Cleese, David Warner and Craig Warnock. This is one area where Criterion releases shine--audio commentaries. Unlike other audio commentaries which are transferred, direct and unedited, onto the DVD, Criterion actually record several commentaries (from whomever they can usually get their hands on, including the directors, producers and actors) and then they edit these together to form a continuous and interesting multi-party commentary which always keeps pace with the film and never suffers overlong moments of silence or worse, mind-numbing and pointless commentary similar to some other titles I won’t name--"Big Trouble in ...something... China" comes to mind :).

R2 Release -- Anchor Bay

Same as for Criterion

    In addition to all of the extras present on the Criterion release, the new Anchor Bay release adds the following:

Featurette -- Interview with Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam

    Duration 27:15. This interesting interview with the two story writers is only let down by a very poor audio recording with lots of sibilance. Michael and Terry detail the original concept and development of Time Bandits which was intended to be a movie that was "Intelligent enough for children, yet exciting enough for adults". It is presented at an aspect ratio of 1:78:1, 16x9 enhanced.

Storyboard Extracts

    19 pages. Details an extended version of the "Citadel Sequence" or "Fortress of Ultimate Darkness" where the team recover the map from Evil.

Deleted Scene

    18 pages. Includes storyboards and scripts for the missing SpiderWoman scene, which is an extended leadup to the Citadel entrance and was chopped due to budgetary constraints.

Story Treatment

    46 pages. This is the complete, original treatment plan for Time Bandits, before the development of the final script. This makes for a very interesting read for anyone so inclined to see how it all started.

Gallery -- Dream Facts

    9 pages. Small series of photos that demonstrate how various elements of Kevin's real life are incorporated directly into his subsequent adventures.

Gallery --- Production Gallery

    13 pages. A series of black and white pictures, taken from the production set. Although the resolution is a little low, the material is very interesting in that it shows some of the amazing models in a real life context. Auto 10 second display mode.

Gallery -- Photo Gallery

    33 images. Much higher resolution, full colour images. This is an excellent collection of highly detailed, precise colour images from the set. Very good collection. Auto 6 second display mode.

Filmographies

    Filmographies for Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin, Sean Connery, David Rappaport (Several pages on each person detailing some of their movie history).

Film Notes

    4 pages. A basic summary of the film's synopsis.

Booklet – Collectible Map

    A nice, foldout, A4 collectible of the Map of Time Holes.

R4 vs R1

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

    Although the local release of Time Bandits is arguably the worst transfer of this film to DVD in any region, it must be said, that acting in its favour is/was the budget pricing of sub $10. In addition, when I first reviewed this title, the only real competition was the Criterion release from the US, which carried a significant import price tag of greater than $50 and was a non 16x9 enhanced transfer in NTSC. Well, all that has changed!

    Late last year, Anchor Bay sourced the release rights for the United Kingdom and Europe (R2) and released not only a PAL, OAR Widescreen, 16x9 enhanced version with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround; but they also included all of the extras that were present on the Criterion release and then some. In short, they produced what appeared to be, nothing short of the definitive version of the film, worldwide. So good in fact, that it seemed to be almost too good to be true--hence the need to find out. So, with the gracious loan of the US Criterion release from one of the sites readers, Luke Hooft, I set out to compare all three versions to determine which one was the best and the results are somewhat surprising.

    First the bad news: The new R2 Anchor Bay release is not perfect; it suffers from a minor, but ever-present, green cast throughout the film. The good news however, is that the new R2 Anchor Bay release is quite simply, the best version available today, bar none. Not only have they done a better job than Criterion of cleaning up the source materials, both visually and aurally, they have also managed to keep all of the Criterion extras and even added a few more for good measure. Add to this the increased resolution of the PAL formatting which really stands out, the 16x9 enhancement, the extra packaging and reasonable price, and I do believe we have a clear winner. So … if, like me, you have been waiting, then it's time to get out your credit card, signup to your favourite UK-Online DVD retailer and place your orders, you will not be disappointed.

    Below is a summary of all of the differences between each of various releases worldwide. For detailed and specific comparisons between the Criterion release, the Anchor Bay release and the Rainbow release please visit the Video and Audio Review sections where I delve into significant differences between the various versions.

R2 Release -- Anchor Bay

The R2 Anchor Bay release misses out on:

R4 Release -- Rainbow

The R4 Rainbow release misses out on:

R0/1 Release -- Criterion

The R0/R1 Criterion release misses out on:

Other Releases -- Worldwide

The R1 Anchor bay release misses out on:

Summary

    After watching Time Bandits several times in row now, over and over again, I can honestly say that I haven't tired from it as much as I expected I would. Instead I find that each viewing exposes some other interesting nuance or feature that I hadn't noticed before. And now, finally, I have a version that is worthy of repeat viewing, the R2 Anchor Bay release. My recommendation to any fan is to toss your R4, forget the Criterion and pay a quick visit to your nearest online R2 supplier, today.

    Video Quality: The R4 Rainbow is highly variable and occasionally very poor, the R0 Criterion is good but lacks resolution, the R2 Anchor Bay is excellent and only suffers from a moderate lack of colour saturation.

    Audio Quality: The R4 Rainbow is good, the R0 Criterion is very good and the R2 Anchor Bay is also very good.

    Extras.The R4 Rainbow version ... Please wait, accessing files ... Status: Missing. The R0 Criterion version includes a reasonable selection of extras and a very good commentary. The R2 Anchor Bay version extends the Criterion collection by including all manner of additional extras, making it a very appealing package indeed.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Michael S Cox (to bio, or not to bio?)
Friday, July 26, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplayJVC Interiart Flat 68cm Display 16:9. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3802
SpeakersFront LR - NEAR MainMast, Center - NEAR 20M, Surround LR - NEAR Spinnaker DiPoles, Rear LR - NEAR MainMast-II, Subwoofer - NEAR PS-2 DiPole

Other Reviews NONE
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