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Time Bandits

Year: 1981
Production Co: HandMade Films
Director: Terry Gilliam
Producer: Terry Gilliam/George Harrison
Writer: Terry Gilliam
Cast: John Cleese, Sean Connery, Michael Palin, Shelley Duvall, Iam Holm, Katherine Helmond, David Warner, Kenny Baker, David Rappaport, Jim Broadbent
The possibilities hadn't quite caught up to Terry Gilliam's vision and the special effects are a bit rough around the edges, but it's as original a premise as a film's ever had.

A gang of former angels-turned-robber dwarves make off with a map they've stolen from a supernatural realm that's heaven in all but name. The map signposts marks magical doorways that exist all throughout history where it's possible to move between times and places, and the gang intends to use it to line their pockets with the riches of the ages.

All this is unknown to Kevin, an imaginative boy whose parents are too cloistered in their world of modern appliances and TV to notice him. When a succession of fantastical beasts appears in his bedroom as the gang of dwarves flee their overlord, hot on their trail to return the map, he accidentally joins them on their adventure.

Crisscrossing time from Napoleon's Europe to ancient Greece, the deck of the Titanic to a world beyond ours where they meet a nasty ogre with a bad back, the group takes Kevin on the time of his life as the Evil Genius (Warner) plots from the underworld to get his hands on the map and rule the universe.

Seeing it mas a kid I expected a Monty Python film and was only really interested in John Cleese as a overly-polite Robin Hood and Michael Palin as the less-than-masculine Vincent. But the benefit of hindsight in knowing what kind of director Gilliam is lets you watch it in a very new way.

Not quite as surreal as Brazil, dark as 12 Monkeys or zany as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, it's kind of slow paced and not Gilliam's best despite very inventive visuals that needed more money and better technology to bring some of them fully to life.

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