(Here at Hammer to Nail, we’re all about true independent cinema. But we also have to tip our hat to the great films of yesteryear that continue to inspire filmmakers and cinephiles alike. This week, our new addition to the site, “The Curbside Criterion” continues where HtN staff can trot out thoughts on the finest films ever made. This week Brad Cook dives into the new 4K UltraHD edition release of Time Bandits, the all-time great Terry Gilliam film.)
Some movies just hit different, as the Gen Zers say these days, when you see them as a kid. Case in point for me is Time Bandits. I grew up on Monty Python reruns on PBS (with no censorship!), so I was primed for this movie when it came along. I didn’t get a chance to see it in theaters, but I remember watching it on TV and just sitting there, dumbfounded, after it ended. There was no way to rewind it or pause it or start it over, so all I could do was ruminate on what I had just seen. In particular, I’m talking, of course, about the ending. So did all of it really happen or was it a dream or…? To this day, I love how the movie has a recursive quality that prevents it from being wrapped up in a neat and tidy package as the final credits start rolling.
I’m sure you’ve seen it a bunch of times too, and likely have bought it at least a handful of times on home video, so I’ll skip the plot recitation and get to the parts you care about. Criterion has a long history with Time Bandits that has likely culminated in this new 4K UltraHD edition. (8K exists, but 4K is really the end of the line for most people, given typical home theater setups.) The company boasts that the film was restored in 4K and director Terry Gilliam supervised the effort.
The movie is also found on an included Blu-ray disc, where the bulk of the extras are housed. I’m not sure if the version on Blu-ray is based on the 4K restoration too, nor do I know how many bonus features from previous editions are missing here. Given the film’s long home video history, I’d imagine completists will want to hang onto the older releases. The bonus features lead off with a commentary track that’s been kicking around since Criterion first recorded it in 1997; it’s found on both discs. Gilliam and actors Michael Palin (who also co-wrote the film), John Cleese, David Warner, and Craig Warnock were all recorded separately and pop in and out when it’s relevant. Gilliam dominates the track, of course, and he has plenty of great stories to tell about the making of the film.
The rest of the extras include:
• Creating the Worlds of Time Bandits (24 minutes): Gilliam’s movie worlds are typically unique and detailed, and this one is no different. Production designer Milly Burns and costume designer James Acheson explain how they approached a story that takes place in a variety of time periods.
• Terry Gilliam and Peter von Bagh (80 minutes): From a 1998 film festival in Finland, this is an in-depth conversation in which film scholar Peter von Bagh talks with Gilliam about not only the making of Time Bandits but also his childhood in Minnesota, his pre- and post-Python career, and much more. It’s a great, wide-ranging conversation.
• Shelley Duvall (9 minutes): This bit is from a 1981 episode of the Tomorrow show on NBC. The actress mostly talks about this film but also touches on her work with Kubrick on The Shining and with Robert Altman on his movies Brewster McCloud and Nashville.
A still gallery and the trailer round out the disc. Ported over from Criterion’s Blu-ray release of the movie is a fold-out with a replica of the iconic map on one side and an essay by film scholar David Sterritt on the other side.
– Brad Cook (@BradCWriter)
Criterion 4k Blu ray; Terry Gilliam; Time Bandits movie review