Sunday, January 1, 2023

Review: 'The Adventures of Baron Munchausen' Blu-ray

Terry Gilliam found the perfect vehicle for his peculiar brand of weirdness and silliness, as well as his 17th-century-engravings aesthetic, when he decided to adapt Rudy Raspe's Baron Munchausen's Narrative of His Marvelous Travels and Campaigns in Russia. The time period and oddness of Munchausen's fish stories were right up Gilliam's alley and perfect for providing some shape for his fancies. 

The resulting film was still a touch messy around the edges, but its charming aesthetic and wonderful performances from a fabulous cast (John Neville as Munchausen! Young Sarah Polley as his most ardent fan! Eric Idle as the fastest man in the world! Oliver Reed as the God of Fire! Jonathan Pryce as the baddie!) iron out any issues. Gilliam was rewarded with a fair share of critical accolades and Oscar nominations, but limited distribution caused The Adventures of Baron Munchausen to bomb at the box office. Its second life on cable, where it was a fixture in the late eighties/early nineties, helped it build a strong cult following.

That following will be most pleased with Criterion's new Blu-ray edition of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The image is sharp with rich colors and textures and a natural grain that does get a touch noisy at times (such as when the screen fills with sky) but is lovely overall. You can see the smears of makeup on Robin Williams's scenery-chewing floating head, and who wouldn't want to see that?

Supplements are nearly overwhelming. Along with the standard commentary (a 2008 talk with Gilliam and his co-writer Charles McKeown, who also plays the superhuman marksman Adolphus in the film), there are nearly four hours of bonus material... so much that it necessitated its own disc. There is a 75-minute making of documentary in three parts from 2008, 17 minutes of special effects footage with director commentary, a few minutes of deleted scenes (also with commentary), storyboards, a video essay by critic David Cairns, a gorgeously restored cut-out animated short Gilliam made during his Monty Python days, 11 minutes of him angrily reading test-audience response cards, and a 48-minute episode of  The South Bank Show in which he discusses his career in his bizarre house from 1991. Michael Palin also appears in that one as a bonus within a bonus.

All written content of is the property of Mike Segretto and may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.