Dreams: Time Bandits Questions

Edited by Phil Stubbs
Here are some answers to some Bandits questions...
Why did Gilliam use dwarves in the movie?
At the start of the film, the bandits appear to Kevin by stumbling out of a wardrobe. "I had an old circus gag in the back of my head for that," said Gilliam, "I always loved those little cars that would stop in a circus ring and expel a limitless number of clowns. And I loved the idea of working with a whole gang of little people throughout this particular picture. There were a couple of reasons - one was practical, one was not. My silly side was just tickled with the visual outrageousness of it all - with how I would be able to contrast the bandits' height with other objects in the film. From the very beginning, one of my ideas for Time Bandits had been to shoot the entire film from the eye level of a child. However, I then had serious reservations as to whether the kid could carry a whole movie. So I and my cowriter - Michael Palin - came up with the idea of using a gang of really short people who were the same size as the boy. Being able to get away with my original idea was the primary reason we ended up using little people on Time Bandits. A lot of the film is shot with the camera about three feet off the ground or down in a hole - which is very hard on an operator's back. Nevertheless, I had no regrests. Until Time Bandits, no-one had ever given little people a chance to be normal heroes in a film. So my actors all really threw themselves into their roles. They tried to do the most incredible things. In fact, I had to be careful to keep them from trying too hard and hurting themselves."

Who are Myrtle and Beryl?
In one memorable scene, the Bandits encounter an invisible barrier, which shatters when a skull is thrown at it. The dark fortress is revealed behind it. This scene was not in the shooting script. Says Gilliam, "That was another desperate moment, mainly because that sequence was an afterthought. Mike Palin and I had originally written another whole sequence about two spider women who ensnare some of the bandits in their web. We actually filmed this - and it was marvellous. But it now required a scene on either side to get us from the giant to the fortress, and we had run out of money. So we needed a very cheap way of getting from point A to Point B. An invisible barrier is pretty cheap, so we shot that." The spiderwomen were Myrtle and Beryl (to be found in some Time Bandits credits). From the shooting script, the following was to be the method of getting the gang from the spider cave to the fortress:

The gang rush out of the cave dragging KEVIN. They scramble out of shot.

CUT TO gnarled root. The GANG stumble into shot and collapse.

KEVIN (slowly coming round) "Where are we?"
RANDALL "I'm, not sure exactly"
KEVIN "Did we save them?"
RANDALL "No, we saved you"

KEVIN starts to struggle angrily.

RANDALL (pulling out map) "We've got to find the pointing fingers"
FIDGIT (who has been looking above them) "Uh...Oh..."
WALLY (looking up) "I think we have"

CUT TO their P.O.V. Great hand/trees rise all around them, their fingers/branches reaching for the sky.

FIDGET "Let's get out of here"
RANDALL (getting up) "No, we must be close now...c'mon"

The GANG make their way thropugh this strange forest of gigantic hand/trees. Horribly gnarled and twisted roots form the bases of these unpleasant growths. In the distance a WOOD CUTTER is chopping down a hand/tree. With each blow of the axe, the hand writhes in agony. They pass several fallen hands clawing at the ground. This is a truly awful place. The GANG stop. Some of them start to shiver. Even VERMIN has lost some of his bounce.

FIDGIT "Let's go back... now..."
RANDALL "We can't...we've got to go on. Follow the pointing fingers"
KEVIN "It's a trap"

STRUTTER starts as a huge hand/tree comes crashing down near hium. They are all highly nervous, almost hysterical state after their recent experiences.

STRUTTER "I'm not going any further... no-one knows what the hell we're supposed to be doing"
OG "Yes! Yes! Yes!"

OG has suddenly become very agitated. He is staring over their shoulders and pointing at something behind the group. They turn around. There. visible through the gap created by the felled tree, is a massive turreted citadel.

Why did Gilliam kill off Kevin's parents?
"A basic theme of Time Bandits [was] the notion of this little boy searching for his heroes and finding most of them coming up a little short. Napoleon is a drunken runt obsessed with height and Robin Hood is an upper-class twit who hasn't a clue about poor people. Even Agamemnon, who treats the lad well, turns him down when the boy wants to learn swordplay. Instead, Agamemnon teaches him magic tricks which he says at one point are far more useful in life. Kevin's having learned to deal realistically with hero worship is one of the reasons I left him alone at the end of the film without his parents. I felt he was now capable of looking after himself in life - not only because he had been through this adventure, but also because he had discovered that heroes are not usually what they're cracked up to be."

Where can I get hold of the soundtrack?
You can't. The soundtrack was never released, but the closing song, performed by George Harrison, is called Dream Away, and can be found on his album Gone Troppo.

Other Information

  • Evil's headpiece is an intentional homage to Giger's Alien face hugger.
  • In one scene, Evil turns himself into a pincushion to avoid the pain of arrows. For this scene, Gilliam inserted a huge thimble and a cotton reel into the shot. "Unfortunately, not many people seem to notice that. I suppose it's because I edited it as a quick wide shot. Some people think that instead of a pincushion, Evil has turned into a giant tomato!"
  • The look of the dark fortress is based largely on the engravings of 17th Century Italian artist Piranesi.
  • The tank is actually a Land Rover encased with a mock-up shell.

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