Sky Bandits (1986 film)

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Sky Bandits
Sky bandits poster 01.jpg
Directed by Zoran Perisic
Produced by Richard Herland
Written by Thom Keyes
Music by Alfi Kabiljo
Release date
  • 31 October 1986 (1986-10-31) (US)
Running time
105 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $18 million[1]
Box office $2,295,500[2]

Sky Bandits, also known as Gunbus, is a 1986 British adventure film about two outlaws from the Wild West, drafted to the battlefields of WWI, who enlist in the fledgling Royal Air Force flying early warplanes called gunbuses.

The film was directed by Zoran Perisic and made extensive use of the Zoptics technique he had developed for the flying sequences on Superman (1978). The production holds the record for the largest film crew on a fiction film (582).


In the dying days of the old west, two bank robbers, Barney and Luke, find themselves fighting in World War One in France.



The film was directed by Joran Perisic, a Yugoslavian who moved to England when he was 15. He moved into special effects and did the flying work on Superman (1978). He was known in the industry as "the man who made Superman fly".[3]

Perisic learned how to speak English by watching films at a cinema at Huddersfield and later said "I suppose you could say the Western scene in Gunbus is kind of a Western hommage to Huddersfield".[3]

The film claimed to be the biggest wholly independent movie made in Britain in 1985, the year of British film, with a reported budget of £13 million. The film took eight years and three million dollars to get into production. It was produced by American Rick Herland, whose previous film Steppenwolf took seven years to go into production.[3]

Perisic came on board the project in 1982 to work on its effects. Brian G. Hutton was meant to direct. However a few weeks before filming was to start Hutton pulled out. Herland said, "He [Hutton] wasn't prepared to bet with us unless the money was on the table. And since we didn't have the money from the City Institutions to make the movie until a week before filming you can see there was a problem. Zoran had been on the film for so long and always wanted to direct, it just seemed perfectly logical then to let him do so."[3]

The film was shot at Pinewood studios.[3]


The film was released in the US as Sky Pirates with a $3.5 million ad campaign but the film was a financial failure.[4]

The Los Angeles Times said the film "has a few inspired comic touches which might work well with younger audiences, but its heroes are so hokey and its plot so pokey that it never zooms into high gear."[5]


  1. ^ The 12th Annual Grosses Gloss Thompson, Anne. Film Comment; New York Vol. 23, Iss. 2, (Mar 1987): 62-64,66-69.
  2. ^ "Sky Bandits". Box Office Mojo.
  3. ^ a b c d e Late lift-off The Guardian 29 Aug 1985: 11.
  4. ^ BRITISH 'SKY BANDITS' HANDSOME BUT UNEVEN Kehr, Dave. Chicago Tribune 31 Oct 1986: J.
  5. ^ 'SKY BANDITS' DOESN'T QUITE SOAR Goldstein, Patrick. Los Angeles Times 1 Nov 1986: G5.

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