Time Bandits: A Monty Python Director Gets Small With A Big Movie

Entertainment | June 25, 2021

Source: (filmax.it).

Terry Gilliam, other members of Monty Python and George Harrison of the Beatles created a production company called HandMade Films in 1978 to finance Life of Brian (1979). Harrison and Denis O’Brien, who was the head of the company, came up with the $5 million to produce Time Bandits, and Harrison even mortgaged his office building to pay for the film. Harrison also provided the song, “Dream Away” for the film. Terry Gilliam, who wrote the screenplay with Michael Palin, has said that Time Bandits was the first in his “Trilogy of Imagination,” which includes Brazil (1985) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988). All three films examine the struggles created by society, and how we try to escape them using our imagination. Time Bandits approaches this from the perspective of a child, Brazil, from a man in his thirties, and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, from an old man’s point of view. In Time Bandits, they filmed the movie from a lower perspective to connect it to the child’s point of view.

Source: (IndieWire).

Bandits With A Map

In the film, Kevin, played by Craig Warnock, is an 11-year-old with a fantastic imagination, and a love of history. Craig Warnock’s brother initially auditioned for the role of Kevin, as Warnock thought he was too tall for the part. However, Gilliam was impressed by him. Kevin’s parents are a little too focused on buying new gadgets to keep up with their neighbors. One night, a knight on a horse bursts through his wardrobe, and Kevin hides. When the knight rides off into a forest, Kevin looks out and sees that his bedroom has returned and a picture of the knight is similar to what he had seen. The following night he packs a bag with some supplies and a polaroid and waits. A group of dwarves, the bandits, emerge carrying a map they have stolen. They are looking for an exit from Kevin’s room, and push on the wall to discover a long hallway. They fall into a void at the end of the hallway, and the adventure begins. 

John Cleese as Robin Hood. Source: (Pinterest).

Jumping Through Time

The bandits, whose characters were based on the personalities of the actors who played them, lead Kevin on an adventure across time. They first land in Italy, during the Napoleonic wars, where they encounter Napoleon, played by Ian Holm. Kevin learns that the bandits had been working for the Supreme Being, and, while working to repair holes in the spacetime fabric, they steal the map they were using to repair these holes. With the stolen map, they jump through time to steal riches. After leaving Napoleon, they visit Robin Hood, played by John Cleese. 

David Warner as Evil. Source: (The Criterion Collection).

Evil Wants The Map For His Own Purposes

Unbeknownst to Kevin and the others, Evil (played by David Warner) has been tracking their movements and is plotting against them. Evil is obsessed with technology and is planning to steal the map so that he can remake the universe so that it fits his design. Once Evil causes Kevin to become separated from the bandits, he ends up in Mycenaean Greece, where he meets King Agamemnon, played by Sean Connery. Kevin helps Agamemnon, who adopts Kevin until the bandits find and kidnap him, taking him to the RMS Titanic. Once the boat sinks, Evil manages to transport them to his realm. Kevin discovers that he can use the Polaroid pictures he has taken to help them escape. The Supreme Being, played by Ralph Richardson, arrives just as Evil attempts to unleash his ultimate power. 

Sean Connery as Agamemnon. Source: (IMDb).

Landing A Big Name

The cast includes Monty Python members Michael Palin and John Cleese, as well as Ian Holm and Shelley Duvall, but it also includes Sean Connery who was at the height of his career. When Gilliam was working on the script, he indicated that Agamemnon should look like Sean Connery. He didn’t believe they would get Connery to play the role, but Connery got ahold of the script and said that he wanted the role. However, he didn’t only play Agamemnon in the film, returning at the end as the firefighter, as per Connery’s own suggestion. The film also features a big small actor who had achieved fame in 1977: Kenny Baker, who played the role of Fidgit as R2D2 in Star Wars movies from 1977-2015.

Source: (Common Sense Media).

Financial Success

After the film was first released in the U.S. on November 6, 1981, it opened at number one, remaining there for 4 weeks. It grossed $36 million in the U.S. and Canada during that first release, and after its rerelease on November 12, 1982, brought in an additional $6 million, and became Gilliam’s breakthrough U.S. hit. Not bad for a film with a budget of $5 million.

Tags: George Harrison | John Cleese | Monty Python | Sean Connery | Terry Gilliam

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Linda Speckhals


When she’s not out walking her dog, or taking in a baseball game, Linda loves learning about history, science, and philosophy. She will travel wherever the wind may blow, and happily loses herself in a book, whenever she can. At heart, she is a music loving tree-hugger.