Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Director Terry Gilliam applies his eccentric style to The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, the real-life 18th century figure who liked to regale his guests with boastful stories of his various adventures. In Gilliam’s film, he aptly applies his Monty Python skills to the stories as Munchausen (John Neville) enters the fray of a war he claims to have started with the Ottoman Empire and tries to end it. This war, where firing isn’t allowed on Wednesdays, takes the Baron and his companions on a journey to the moon on a cannonball, where the disembodied head of the King of the Moon (Robin Williams) tries to imprison him for seducing his wife; he lands in the belly of whale; and narrowly escapes a beheading.
Gilliam gives the film his visual flair, his madcap and surreal sense of reality. It closes out the loose cinematic trilogy which included Time Bandits and Brazil. Although it did not do as well with fans or critics as the two previous films, it has gained some momentum over the years as a cult favorite.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen was restored in 4K resolution by Sony Pictures Entertainment. The 4K wet-gate scan of the 35mm original camera negative was done by Cineric, Inc. in New York. Digital image restoration was done by Prasad in Burbank, California and HDR color grading was handled by Sheri Eisenberg at Roundabout Entertainment in Santa Monica, California. The color grading was approved by director Terry Gilliam.
Criterion offers the film on 4K Ultra HD in a 1.85:1 HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) Dolby Vision encodement. The restoration looks masterfully filmic with excellent granularity. Textures are crisp and three-dimensional. We get strong depth of field in this transfer. The Dolby Vision color grading has superb ‘pop’ with flames that leap from the screen, nuanced shadows, vibrant reds, and lots of sheen on water and in the stars. The reference scene on this disc is the “Belly of the Whale” chapter that begins with the colorful, on the water scene and goes to the scenes in whale with brilliant reflections on the water and superb shadow details.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen comes with the 2004 5.1 upmix. It has been restored by Deluxe Audio in Hollywood. It has clear dialogue, good dynamics and an exciting use of the surround channels.
Criterion Collection pack this release mostly with previously issued bonus features (on their own disc) but they are all worth going through.
- Audio recorded in 2008 featuring writer-director Terry Gilliam and writer-actor Charles McKeown.
- On a Special Features Blu-ray Disc:
- The Madness and Misadventures of Munchausen (1080i; 01:12:18) – Three-part documentary series on the making of the film produced by Constantine Nasr in 2008.:
- “Flights of Fancy”
- “Caught in the Act”
- The Final Curtain”
- The Astonishing (and Really True) History of Baron Munchausen (1080p; 00:17:20) – New 2022 video essay by critic and filmmaker David Cairns about the history of the Baron Munchausen character.
- Behind-the-scenes footage of the film’s special effects, narrated by Gilliam
- Deleted scenes with optional commentary by Gilliam (1080i):
- Gull and Turkey/Alternate Opening (00:01:09)
- Mutiny Onstage (00:00:57)
- The Rules of Warfare (00:00:51)
- Extended Fish Sequence (00:00:56)
- Storyboards for unfilmed scenes, narrated by Gilliam and McKeown (1080i):
- Introduction: “As We Once Dreamed It” (00:00:42)
- The Baron Saves Sally (00:02:53)
- A Voyage to the Moon (00:21:14)
- The Baron and Bucephalus Charge the Turkish Gates (00:04:46)
- Marketing Munchausen — Original marketing materials including a trailer and electronic-press-kit, featurettes, as well as preview cards and advertising proposals read by Gilliam:
- Preview Cards
- Meet Baron Munchausen
- Production Featurette
- Miracle of Flight (1974), an animated short film by Gilliam (1080p; 00:05:24)
- Episode of The South Bank Show from 1991 on Gilliam, hosted by Melvyn Bragg. (1080i; 00:47:09)
- PLUS: An essay by critic and author Michael Koresky
- New cover by Abigail Giuseppe
The Final Assessment
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen loses a bit of steam while watching, but it is still a fun film with stunning visuals and a funny sense of humor. The Criterion Collection’s 4K Ultra HD release, restored by Sony Pictures Entertainment, is a masterful release that fans should definitely pick up.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is out on 4K Ultra HD Combo January 3, 2023 from the Criterion Collection
- Rating Certificate: PG
- Studios & Distributors: Prominent Features | Laura Film | Allied Filmmakers | The Criterion Collection
- Director: Terry Gilliam
- Written By: Charles McKeown (screenplay) | Terry Gilliam (screenplay) | Gottfried August Bürger (novel)
- Run Time: 126 Mins.
- Street Date: 3 January 2023
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
- Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
- HDR Format: Dolby Vision (HDR10 Compatible)
- HDR10 Metadata:
- MaxLL: 1000 nits
- MaxFALL: 746 nits
- Primary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
- Subtitles: English SDH