- The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
name = The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
caption = Theatrical release poster.
Terry Gilliam Charles McKeown
starring = John Neville
Sarah Polley Eric Idle Oliver Reed Uma Thurman Robin Williams Peter Jeffrey
released = 1988
runtime = 126 min.
language = English
imdb_id = 0096764
amg_id = 1:918
budget = $23.5 million
(actual cost $46.6 million)|
The film begins in an unnamed and war-torn European city in the late 17th century (dubbed "The Age of Reason" in an opening caption), where, amidst explosions and gunfire from a large Turkish army outside the city gates, a fanciful touring stage production of Baron Munchausen's life and adventures is taking place. Backstage, city official "The Right Ordinary Horatio Jackson" (
Jonathan Pryce) reinforces the city's commitment to reason (here meaning uniformity and unexceptionality) by ordering the execution of a soldier who had just accomplished a near-superhuman feat of bravery (Sting in a cameo), claiming that his bravery is demoralizing to other soldiers.Not far into the play, an elderly man claiming to be the real Baron interrupts the show, protesting its many inaccuracies. Over the complaints of the audience, the theater company and Jackson, the "real" Baron gains the house's attention and narrates through flashback an account of one of his adventures, of a life-or-death wager with the Grand Turk, where the younger Baron's life is saved only by his amazing luck plus the assistance of his remarkable associates: Berthold ( Eric Idle), the world's fastest runner; Adolphus ( Charles McKeown), a gunman with superhuman eyesight; Gustavus (Jack Purvis), who possesses extraordinary hearing, and sufficient lung power to knock down an army by exhaling; and Albrecht ( Winston Dennis), a fantastically strong man.
When gunfire disrupts the elderly Baron's story, the importance of saving the city eclipses the show. The Baron wanders backstage intending to die, until the exuberantly enthusiastic questioning of Sally Salt (
Sarah Polley), the young daughter of the theater company's leader, convinces him to remain living.
Insisting that he alone can save the city, the Baron escapes the city's walls in a hot air balloon constructed of women's underwear, accompanied by Sally as a stowaway. The balloon expedition proceeds to the Moon, where the Baron, rejuvenated the adventure of escaping to the moon, finds his old associate Berthold, but angers the King of the Moon (
Robin Williams), who resents the Baron for his romantic past with the Queen of the Moon ( Valentina Cortese).A bungled escape from the Moon brings the trio back to (and beneath) the Earth, where the Roman God Vulcan ( Oliver Reed) hosts his guests with courtesy and Albrecht is found. The Baron and Vulcan's wife, the Goddess Venus ( Uma Thurman), attempt a romantic interlude by waltzing in air, but this cuts short the hospitality and Vulcan expels the now-foursome from his kingdom into the South Seas.
Swallowed by an enormous sea creature, the travelers locate Gustavus, Adolphus, and the Baron's trusty horse
Bucephalus. The Baron (who again appears elderly after being "expelled from a state of bliss," in his words) struggles with the conflicting goals of heroism and a peaceful death, before deciding to escape by blowing "a modicum of snuff" out into the sea creature's cavernous interior, which causes the sea creature to "sneeze" the heroes out through its whale-like blowhole.
Back ashore, the Turkish army is located but the Baron's associates are now too elderly and tired to fight the Turk as in the old days. The Baron lectures them firmly but to no avail, and he storms off intending to surrender to the Turk and to Jackson; his cohorts rally to save both the Baron and the city.
During the city's celebratory parade, the Baron is shot dead by Jackson. An emotional public funeral takes place, but the denouement reveals that this is merely the final scene of yet another story the Baron is telling to the same theater-goers who were attending the theater in the beginning of the film. The Baron calls the foregoing "only one of the many occasions on which I met my death" and closes his tale by saying "everyone who had a talent for it lived happily ever after."
An ambiguous finale reveals that the city has indeed been saved, even though the events of the battle apparently occurred in a story rather than the film's reality. The Baron rides off on
Bucephalus. As the Baron and Bucephalus are bathed in the light of the sun parting through the clouds, they apparently disappear, and the credits roll over a triumphant blast of music.
Baron Munchausen is a character from "The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen" (or "Baron Münchhausen's Narrative of his Marvellous Travels") by
Rudolf Erich Raspe— a collection of tall stories published in 1785, based on the German adventurer Karl Friedrich von Münchhausen, but with many debts to earlier works. The tales were adapted and re-published in German by Gottfried August Bürgerin 1786 as "Wunderbare Reisen zu Wasser und zu Lande, Feldzüge und lustige Abenteuer des Freyherrn von Münchhausen" and became much more popular in this edition.
The stories were also made into films in 1911 ("Les Aventures du baron de Münchhausen"), 1943 (Münchhausen, script by
Erich Kästner) and 1961 ("Baron Prášil"). His most famous adventures are referenced in a 1979 movie "Tot samyi Münchhausen" by Russian director Mark Zakharovwhich depicts Baron Münchhausen as a tragic character, struggling with conformity and hypocrisy of the world around him. Gilliam's film has many visual similarities to the 1943 version and the production company was legally obliged to add a disclaimer to the film's posters and closing titles to the effect that Gilliam's "Munchausen" was an original movie unconnected to the earlier version.
*John Neville as
Eric Idleas Berthold/Desmond
Sarah Polleyas Sally Salt
Oliver Reedas Vulcan
Charles McKeownas Rupert/Adolphus
Winston Dennisas Bill/Albrecht
*Jack Purvis as Jeremy/Gustavus
Valentina Corteseas Queen Ariadne/Violet
Jonathan Pryceas The Right Ordinary Horatio Jackson
Bill Patersonas Henry Salt
Peter Jeffreyas The Sultan
Uma Thurmanas Venus/Rose
Alison Steadmanas Daisy
Ray Cooperas Functionary
Don Hendersonas Commander
Robin Williams(credited as Ray D. Tutto) as The King of the Moon
*Sting as Heroic Officer
The film is one of the most famous
fiascos in film history. Coming in over budget (originally $23.5 million, [ [http://www.halleonard.com/item_detail.jsp?itemid=314112&order=41&refer=browse&start=L&end=M&catcode=05 Hal Leonard Online ] ] but finishing at $46.63 million [ [http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=adventuresofbaronmunchausen.htm The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989) ] ] ), it put a black mark on Gilliam's career from the studio's point of view. However, the film has gained cult favorite status over time, and Gilliam's career did not suffer substantially. In the United States, the film was not widely released due to financial issues at Columbia Pictures, which was in the process of being sold at the time. Its widest release was 117 theaters and it was reported to have done well with audiences in the places where it could actually be seen. Box office revenue was approximately $8 Million. [ [http://allmovie.com/cg/avg.dll?p=avg&sql=1:918 allmovie ((( The Adventures of Baron Munchausen > Overview ))) ] ]
Young star Sarah Polley, who was nine years old at the time of filming, has described it as a traumatic experience for her. " [I] t definitely left me with a few scars ... It was just so dangerous. There were so many explosions going off so close to me, which is traumatic for a kid whether it's dangerous or not. Being in freezing cold water for long periods of time and working endless hours. It was physically grueling and unsafe." [ [http://www.aintitcool.com/node/32573 Capone Sits Down With The Lovely Sarah Polley To Talk About Her Directorial Debut, BARON MUNCHAUSEN, DAWN OF THE DEAD & More! - Ain't It Cool News: The best in movie, TV, DVD, and comic book news ] ]
Gilliam was left somewhat embittered by the experience and in interviews has often used "Munchausen" as a shorthand for a fiasco. However, in a commentary track on the DVD edition of "Tideland", Gilliam now says that Munchausen is one of the films that his fans most often cite as a favorite. Gilliam noted the irony of the situation, adding that an artist can never really tell what work they produce will actually endure.
Home video releases
laserdiscof the film was released with features such as a commentary track by Gilliam and deleted scenes. [ [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096764/laserdisc The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) - Laserdisc details ] ] The first DVD edition of the film, however did not include any of these or any other extras. [ [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096764/dvd The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) - DVD details for ] ] A 20th anniversary edition was released on DVD and Blu-ray Discon 8 April, 2008. It includes a new commentary with Director Terry Gilliam & co-Writer/Actor Charles McKeown, a 3-part documentary on the making of the film, Storyboardsequences and deleted scenes. [ [http://www.sonypictures.com/homevideo/catalog/catalogDetail_DVD043396162198.html Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The 20th Anniversary Edition - BD ] ]
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