This week at Barking Mad About Films we chose to watch the 1981 classic Time Bandits. A film we were reminded of following the sad news that actor Kenny Baker, probably best known for being the man inside R2-D2 from Star Wars had passed away.
Kenny plays Fidgit, one of the Time Bandits of the film, directed by Terry Gilliam, who also co-wrote the film with his Monty Python colleague, Michael Palin.
The film also is special to me as it was the first film, my parents rented for my brother and I when our family got our first video recorder.
The film, I am pleased to report, still stands up well to this day, and remains probably Gilliam’s most accessible film to date, whereas his other also excellent films remain in cult-classic territory, films such as Brazil; The Fisher King and Twelve Monkeys.
The film centres around a history obsessed young boy called Kevin (Craig Warnock) and the adventures he goes on with the ‘Time Bandits’ when he finds his wardrobe contains a Time Hole!
The Time Bandits are 6 ‘small actors’ led by Randall (David Rappaport); Fidgit (Kenny Baker); Strutter (Malcolm Dixon); Og (Mike Edmonds); Wally (Jack Purvis) and Vermin (Tiny Ross)
The bandits have stolen a map, which can take them anywhere through time, to escape their employer The Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson)
Using this map, they hope to go to various places in time to find valuables and create great wealth for themselves so they don’t have to ever work again. Kevin, upon seeing the Supreme Being’s head in a vision, requesting the map back, agrees to join the bandits on their adventure.
We then follow the bandits to various points in time, starting with them having to appear in a sort of talent show for Napoleon (Ian Holm); Come face to face with Robin Hood (John Cleese); Ancient Greece where we meet Agamemnon (Sean Connery); End up on the Titanic, where we meet Vincent (Michael Palin) and Pansy (Shelley Duvall); we even meet an ogre called Winston (Peter Vaughan)
On their journey, the bandits and Kevin eventually end up at the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness where they must face Evil himself (David Warner) if they are to steal the ultimate treasure.
This film is a refreshing change from the modern day CGI obsessed blockbusters we now have that fill our summer box office. This is very much like other Eighties classics of the time, such as Labyrinth; The Goonies and The Princess Bride.
It stands out for being different, not many other films would hand the leads to short people, but this film is all the better for it as the 6 bandits are wonderfully cast
It also has a few genuine scary moments and lots of fun too, including one of the Bandits being turned into a pig and one of Evil’s henchman gets turned into a dog, its ‘Barking Mad’
The film also has a great ending, which is so different to all other modern day films and unlike say The NeverEnding Story has not been tarnished with a poor sequel.
This really is a great classic film and British too! The film is also great given the film only had a £5 Million budget, you would certainly guess more and this, of course, must go down to the visual genius director and animator for the Pythons, Terry Gilliam.
We really recommend this family classic, it is a shame that Kenny passing away, is what took us to revisit it, even sadder is the story of some of the other Bandits, Rappaport suffered from depression and committed suicide and Purvis is now a quadriplegic after breaking his neck in a car crash, Ross also passed away in 1994.
Edmonds and Dixon are both, at the time of writing still alive and well and you can probably find them at a sci-fi convention near you.
Have you got a favourite Terry Gilliam film? What was your favourite family film of the Eighties? We would love to hear from you here at Barking Mad About Films
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