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Category:    Home > Reviews > Fantasy > Time Bandits (Anchor Bay DVD/Divimax Edition)

Time Bandits (Divimax Edition)


Picture: B- ††††Sound: B††† Extras: B ††††Film: B-



While Time Bandits (1981) may not be Terry Gilliamís best film, it certainly has had a following over the years.Perhaps its biggest downfall is that its mentality appeals to a younger audience, while itís overall design and storyline are more adult natured.This would be Gilliamís first real adventure into the world of fantasy only to be followed up by Brazil (1985) and Twelve Monkeys (1996).Gilliam has been highly influenced by Italian director Federico Fellini, in that his films revolve around the world that just borders Fantasy and Science Fiction.Both Gilliam and Fellini have ideals about escapism and existentialism that pops up from time to time.


That brings us to Time Bandits, which would involve the idea of crime against time, in other words being able to transport through time to make changes in order to better the future, or does it better the future?Now rather than take the Spielberg approach and tell the story through the eyes of a child, Gilliam supported the child role with a bunch of dwarves, which makes for an out of the ordinary partnership as they are the same size as the child, yet are grown up.By doing so the story has validity more than just through the eyes of just the child.Movies in the tradition of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial and The NeverEnding Story are examples of why using the child as the main perspective can have mixed results, especially when childish and child-like get blurred.Even the two E.T. cuts have added to the confusion.The Princess Bride utilized storytelling by an adult to a child in order to rework the story so that the believability or credibility is not lost.


As with many titles being re-issued again and again onto the DVD format, this is Time Bandits third time!Originally released by Anchor Bay early on with no special features, they have decided to go back and issue the film upgrading into what Anchor Bay is calling their Divimax Series, which are High Definition transfers that utilize the entire space of the disc, similar to Columbia TriStarís Superbit Editions.The intent of the series is to offer optimal sound and picture quality as well as supplements, which are on the second disc.Thus far they have issued Manhunter, Halloween, and Day of the Dead (see those reviews on this site).Now, there is still one more issue of Time Bandits and that was the now out-of-print Criterion edition (itself a recycling of their 12Ē LaserDisc set), which was superior to Anchor Bay's original issue.The Criterion disc was an approved transfer from Gilliam, but was a non-anamorphic print cropped to 1.80 X 1.The DVD versionís sound was too thin.The print also had dirt and debris, aside from a very inconsistent focus and softness.


So now the biggest question at hand is thisÖis the new Anchor Bay edition superior in picture, sound, and extras to make the Criterion Edition obsolete?The answer is both yes and no.True fans will always want both versions because there are extras that differ on both.The main difference is that the Criterion disc has the audio commentary with Gilliam, whereas the Divimax Series contains no commentary.However, that Criterion disc went for almost double what this new edition does.


As far as picture and sound go, the Divimax is superior in just about every way imaginable.The picture is cleaner, sharper, and colors seem much more accurate.Detail is more in focus; black and white colors are appropriately light or dark.That is not to say that this edition does not have some drawbacks and the film still could look better, but this is the best thus far. This new print is not as cropped either keeping much closer with the original aspect ratio of 1.78 X 1 (near British 1.75 X 1 widescreen), and does not look nearly as reddish as Criterionís print, but then again one must ask if this was a directorís intent to begin with.It could also simply be a problem with it having been meant for an older analog format.


The new Dolby Digital 5.1 EX mix is a real delight giving more depth and spatialness to what was a really thin original mix of the film, which had a Dolby A-type analog theatrical soundtrack in its original release.The previous DVDs had a Pro Logic recreation, though limited.Going the extra mile, Anchor Bay chose to encode an EX (middle rear) channel to enable a more surround experience.By doing so the left and right rear channels are able to have a more enclosed feel for those capable of having a sixth channel placed behind the viewer.The only question at hand though is why these Divimax (if their intent is to offer better picture and sound) that they would not offer a DTS audio option and take full advantage of the higher bit rate.The only title they decided to do DTS on was Day of the Dead, which was a nice touch, especially since they did the DTS-ES mix, which once again enables six discreet channels of sound.†††


And now from the extras!The new Divimax Edition is a two-disc set with all the extras residing on the second disc.There are essentially two programs that take up the most time on Disc Two.The Directors: The Films of Terry Gilliam is a retrospective on Terry Gilliam and his lifeís work with interview with many of the cast members that he has worked on films with. The second program is more of an interview session in which Gilliam and Michael Palin as they address Time Bandits more exclusively.Some may find this to be somewhat repetitious, especially for those that checked out Lost in La Mancha (see that review on this site as well).


With the Criterion edition out-of-print (with barely a few up for sale as of press time) and the new Divimax offering far better picture and sound only those with a few bucks to burn might try seeking after the Criterion disc just for the commentary.Others will find this new edition to be spectacular, not to mention cheaper.Remember that Criterion disc went for $35 or more when it was readily available so who knows what some places may charge now.It should also be mentioned that the Divimax also includes some other little perks like a foldout map of the Universe with liner notes, two theatrical trailers, and a DVD-ROM section that features the original screenplay.I think itís fair to say that Anchor Bay has thrown in enough goodies to make this edition a sought after disc set.



-†† Nate Goss


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