The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen 2-Disc Spectacular


Fate seems to have it in for Terry Gilliam: Brazil’s battle for release, Don Quixote’s shutdown, Heath Ledger dying midway through his latest, The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus... On the other hand, time has been kind to the ex-Python. The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen was called an over-budgeted, underperforming fiasco 20 years ago. Today, its Oscar-nommed art direction and FX seem barely dated, while there’s enough silliness and spirit to waft the clouds from a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Inevitably, with Gilliam’s imagination at the reins, plot takes a backseat. Amid the jumble of cannonball rides, trips to the moon and star walk-ons (Oliver Reed, Robin Williams) it’s easy to forget that the 18th Century Baron’s on a mission to save a besieged German town from marauding Turks. Luckily, the carnivalesque chaos is anchored in stage actor John Neville’s charismatic lead turn. Not that it’s hard to root for a hero who evades capture in a hot-air balloon sewn from ladies’ knickers…


Such blooming escapism belies the on-set tensions exposed in the extras. It’s not quite Lost In La Mancha 2, but refreshingly vicious doc The Madness And Misadventure Of Munchausen allows cast and crew to vent their grievances. Eric Idle’s description of the shoot as “one of the most unpleasant experiences I’ve ever been through” seems particularly heartfelt. And if you think the finished product a tad over-ambitious, make a point of checking out the un-filmed storyboards. There are some places even Terry Gilliam won’t go…

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