FT Top 100 Films

Okay. Confession time. I stole the Time Bandits script from Borehamwood library. It was a nice big hardback which had the entire script with plenty of on set photo’s and scrawlings on by Gilliam, including production designs which proved that Gilliam really does know what he is after when he does designs. He also knows how to get it (unfortunately as his career has progressed this has also turned out to cost a fair bit of cash). I still have it, it sits on my film book shelf, towering over script books of The Searchers and Get Carter (Sight And Sound like punting these books out). Somehow its giganticism represents much of the film too, the giant in the film coming out of the ocean, but also the huge personalities of Gilliam’s six dwarves.

What is nice about Time Bandits is its free wheeling approach to storytelling, mythology and history. On paper it is little more than a string of historical sketches, heres a funny robin Hood bit, Sean Connery as Agammenon (Brian Cox eat your heart out). But tying it around the adventures of a boy and these six very stupid dwarves it suddenly resolves into the best kind of childrens storytelling. Dark (Kevin’s parents die, teh universe is nearly destroyed), silly and pretty much the kind of thing a lonely kid with too many mismatched toys could invent on his bedroom carpet. In the final battle, where cowboys, death rays and Sherman tanks all vie for attention, it is still the human drama of the death of one of the protagonists that sucks us in. No-one tells stories quite like Terry Gilliam, often because no-one thinks of stories like Terry Gilliam.

Which brings me to What’s Up Doc. This was a Saturday morning kids show, up against the BBC behemoth of Going Live, way back in 1988. The usual second hand Looney Tunes cartoons and pop bands. And one week, Terry Gilliam. Looking a bit sheepish, he waved around a few video copies of Time Bandits. Andy Crane, interviewing him, seemed unclear on what questions to ask – so he kept reiterating how great the film is. Halfway through the conversation it became clear why Gilliam was there. The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen had gone tits up, they had run out of money and all Gilliam could do was hawk his old videos to try and get extra pennies.

Now there’s a devoted film-maker. And that is why I have always had a soft spot for Time Bandits.