The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Theatrical release poster.
Directed byTerry Gilliam
Produced byThomas Schuhly
Written byTerry Gilliam
Charles McKeown
StarringJohn Neville
Sarah Polley
Eric Idle
Oliver Reed
Uma Thurman
Robin Williams
Peter Jeffrey
Distributed byColumbia Tristar
Release date(s)1988
Running time126 min.
LanguageEnglish
Budget$23.5 million
(actual cost $46.6 million)
All Movie Guide profile
IMDb profile


The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is a 1988 film directed by Terry Gilliam, starring John Neville (as the Baron), Sarah Polley, Eric Idle, Jonathan Pryce, Oliver Reed, Uma Thurman, and Robin Williams.

Synopsis

Enlarge picture
Baron Munchausen (John Neville) in the process of making a wager
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Berthold (Eric Idle) is given the task of running from the Sultan's court to Vienna in order to fetch some Tokay — a mere 1000 miles
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Venus (Uma Thurman) catches the Baron's eye


The film begins in an unnamed and war-torn European city in the late 18th century (dubbed "The Age of Reason" in an opening caption), where, amidst explosions and gunfire, 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 exuberance of Sally Salt (Sarah Polley), the young daughter of the theater company's leader, convinces him to remain living. She sees a large black Reaper-like creature approaching the Baron and chases it off, stalling the Baron's death.

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 to the appearance of a younger man by the preceding adventure, finds his old associate Berthold, but angers the King of the Moon (Robin Williams in an uncredited cameo; listed as Ray D. Tutto in the credits. Note that in Italian "Ray D. Tutto" sounds like "King of Everything", as the King of the Moon claims to be in the film.), who resents the Baron for his romantic past with his Queen (Valentina Cortese). A bungled escape from the Moon leads the trio back to (and beneath) the Earth, where the Roman God Vulcan (Oliver Reed) hosts his guests with courtesy and Albrecht is found. An unwelcome romantic incident between the Baron and Vulcan's wife, the Goddess Venus (Uma Thurman), ends the hospitality and the now-foursome are expelled from Vulcan's 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) becomes depressed and settles down to play cards, ignoring the protests of Sally. The Reaper shows up again, scaring Sally into knocking the cards out of the Baron's hands. At first angry at Sally for not letting him die peacefully, the Baron ends up deciding to escape with "a modicum of snuff," 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. After a stern lecture from the Baron, who storms off intending to surrender, his cohorts rally to save both the Baron and the city in a fantastic extended battle scene.

During the city's celebratory parade, the Baron is shot by Jackson. A grey, emotionless doctor approaches and only Sally and the Baron can see it as the Reaper. Sally tries to chase it off, but her father, thinking she is upset, drags her away leaving it to take the Baron to finally die. An emotional public funeral takes place, but then is revealed to be only the final scene of yet another story the Baron is telling to the same theater-goers from early in 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."

A somewhat 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 theater audience and troupe feel a boost of morale from the Baron's story and allow him to lead them to the city gates, ignoring Jackson's threats that anyone who proceeds will be shot. The gates are open and they see that outside of the town is empty, although there is clearly evidence of a battle. Bucephalus appears and his master climbs atop him and attempts to woo a young lady in the theater troupe (also Uma Thurman). He is interrupted, however, by Sally, who comments "It wasn't really a story, was it?" The Baron responds by throwing Sally a scarlet pimpernel (as opposed to the other women he met, whom he gave roses to), rides off on Bucephalus, and the credits roll over a triumphant blast of music.

Background

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 Bürger in 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 de baron de Münchhausen), 1943 (Münchhausen, script by Erich Kästner), 1961 (Baron Prášil) and 1979 (Tot samyi Münchhausen by Russian director Mark Zakharov). 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.

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John Neville's depiction of the Baron appears to have been strongly influenced by this caricature by Doré


Quite unusual for a Terry Gilliam film, the movie ends on an upbeat note, without Gilliam's usual trademark "final dark plot twist."

Status

The film is one of the most famous fiascos in film history. Coming in over budget (originally $23.5 million,[1] but finishing at $46.63 million[2]), 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. (It should be noted that 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. 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.[3]

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."[4]

Gilliam was left somewhat embittered by the experience and in interviews has often used Munchausen as a shorthand for a fiasco. Among Gilliam's films released on DVD, Munchausen is the only one without a director's commentary track (he did, however, record a commentary track for a laserdisc, which, as of June 2007, has not been re-released on DVD [5]). 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 (along with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Brazil, 12 Monkeys and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas). Gilliam noted the irony of the situation, adding that an artist can never really tell what work they produce will actually endure.

References

1. ^ [1]
2. ^ [2]
3. ^ [3]
4. ^ [4]
5. ^ [5]

External links

Terry Gilliam

Birth name Terence Vance Gilliam
Born November 22 1940 (1940--) (age 68)
Medicine Lake, Minnesota, U.S.
..... Click the link for more information.
Terry Gilliam

Birth name Terence Vance Gilliam
Born November 22 1940 (1940--) (age 68)
Medicine Lake, Minnesota, U.S.
..... Click the link for more information.
Charles McKeown (b.1946) is a British actor and writer, perhaps best known for his collaborations with Terry Gilliam. The two met while shooting Monty Python's Life of Brian, while McKeown was doing bit parts in the film.
..... Click the link for more information.
John Neville, CM, OBE (born May 2 1925) is an English theatre and film actor who moved to Canada in 1972. He enjoyed a resurgence of international attention in the 1980s as a result of his starring role in Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.
..... Click the link for more information.
Sarah Polley

Birth name Sarah Polley
Born January 8 1979 (1979--) (age 28)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Died

Spouse(s) David Wharnsby
..... Click the link for more information.
Oliver Reed

Birth name Robert Oliver Reed
Born January 13 1938(1938--)
Wimbledon, London, England, United Kingdom
Died May 2 1999 (aged 61)
Valletta, Malta


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Uma Thurman

Thurman at a Cannes press conference.
Birth name Uma Karuna Thurman
Born March 29 1970 (1970--) (age 37)
Boston, Massachusetts


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Robin Williams

Robin Williams entertaining the crew of USS Enterprise in the Persian Gulf in December 2003
Birth name Robin McLaurim Williams
Born July 21 1951 (1951--)
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Peter Jeffrey (18 April 1929 – 25 December 1999) was a British actor with many roles in television and film, he is best remembered as Inspector Trout in The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), and Dr.
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Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. is a film and television production company. It is part of the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, which is owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, a subsidiary of the multinational conglomerate Sony.
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Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von Münchhausen (11 May 1720 – 22 February 1797) (sometimes spelled Munchausen), was a German baron who in his youth was sent to serve as page to Anthony Ulrich II, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and later joined the Russian military.
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-1988- 1989 1990 1991  1992 .  1993 .  1994 .  1995  . 1996  . 1997  . 1998 
In home video: 1985 1986 1987 -1988- 1989 1990 1991     
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Film is a term that encompasses individual motion pictures, the field of film as an art form, and the motion picture industry. Films are produced by recording images from the world with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or special effects.
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Terry Gilliam

Birth name Terence Vance Gilliam
Born November 22 1940 (1940--) (age 68)
Medicine Lake, Minnesota, U.S.
..... Click the link for more information.
John Neville, CM, OBE (born May 2 1925) is an English theatre and film actor who moved to Canada in 1972. He enjoyed a resurgence of international attention in the 1980s as a result of his starring role in Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.
..... Click the link for more information.
Sarah Polley

Birth name Sarah Polley
Born January 8 1979 (1979--) (age 28)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Died

Spouse(s) David Wharnsby
..... Click the link for more information.
Jonathan Pryce

Birth name John Pryce
Born May 1 1947 (1947--) (age 60)
Holywell, Flintshire, Wales.
..... Click the link for more information.
Oliver Reed

Birth name Robert Oliver Reed
Born January 13 1938(1938--)
Wimbledon, London, England, United Kingdom
Died May 2 1999 (aged 61)
Valletta, Malta


..... Click the link for more information.
Uma Thurman

Thurman at a Cannes press conference.
Birth name Uma Karuna Thurman
Born March 29 1970 (1970--) (age 37)
Boston, Massachusetts


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Robin Williams

Robin Williams entertaining the crew of USS Enterprise in the Persian Gulf in December 2003
Birth name Robin McLaurim Williams
Born July 21 1951 (1951--)
..... Click the link for more information.
The Enlightenment (French: Siècle des Lumières; German: Aufklärung; Italian: Illuminismo; Portuguese:
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The Right Honourable (abbreviated The Rt Hon., The Right Hon.) is an honorific prefix that is traditionally applied to certain people in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Anglophone Caribbean and in other Commonwealth Realms, and elsewhere.
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Jonathan Pryce

Birth name John Pryce
Born May 1 1947 (1947--) (age 60)
Holywell, Flintshire, Wales.
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STING (Sequence To and withIN Graphics) is a free Web-based suite of programs for a comprehensive analysis of the relationship between protein sequence, structure, function, and stability.
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Grand Turk can mean:
  • (historically) an informal western name for the Great Sultan of the Turkish Ottoman dynasty
  • (Geography) see : Grand Turk Island
  • Tall ships : see Grand Turk (frigate)

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Charles McKeown (b.1946) is a British actor and writer, perhaps best known for his collaborations with Terry Gilliam. The two met while shooting Monty Python's Life of Brian, while McKeown was doing bit parts in the film.
..... Click the link for more information.
Jack Purvis (1937—November, 1997), was a British film actor. Purvis was a dwarf, and thus was mainly cast in roles requiring actors of short stature. Purvis appeared as a different alien creature in each of the three films of the original Star Wars trilogy, and also appeared
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Sarah Polley

Birth name Sarah Polley
Born January 8 1979 (1979--) (age 28)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Died

Spouse(s) David Wharnsby
..... Click the link for more information.
Robin Williams

Robin Williams entertaining the crew of USS Enterprise in the Persian Gulf in December 2003
Birth name Robin McLaurim Williams
Born July 21 1951 (1951--)
..... Click the link for more information.
Valentina Cortese

Born January 1 1925 (1925--) (age 82)
Milan, Lombardy, Italy

Years active 1941 - 1993
Spouse(s)
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