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by Tony Lee editor of
The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen
126 minutes (PG) 1989
Director: Terry Gilliam
Cast: John Neville, Sarah Polley, Jonathan Pryce, Oliver Reed, Winston Dennis, Eric Idle, Charles McKeown, Jack Purvus, Uma Thurman
review by Tony Lee
There have been two other versions of this true story: a 1943 German film, made in an
early colour process, and a part-animated Czech production, made in 1962. Both have
been shown on TV, but neither of them are anywhere near as good as this.
Writer and director Terry Gilliam has excelled himself, in this third fantasy
epic, which neatly completes the movie trilogy, he began with 1981's Time Bandits.
In some fanciful manner, it's as if the boy in that film, matured during 1985's Brazil,
and is now an old man - Baron Munchausen. This is the greatest film of the l8th
century, adapted from the stories by Rudolph Erich Raspe. It chronicles the strangest
adventures ever, of the biggest liar in history! Made with the kind of budget that
could save Ethiopa, The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen stars Shakespearian
actor John Neville (in the title role) who turns in a strong performance but is
almost upstaged by youngster, Sarah Polley, as Sally. The daughter of Henry Salt,
leader of a theatre company, whose stageplay about the old Baron's life, opens the
After this lenthy prologue, necessary to set the story up and introduce the
characters, the Baron makes his escape from a city under seige, promising to return
and save everyone later. He goes to the Moon and back, searching for his servants. A
motley crew of assistants, who are capable of feats that would tax even Superman! The
Baron struggles against highly improbable odds, as he encounters the lunatic King of
the Moon (Robin Williams), Vulcan - the god of fire (Oliver Reed), the whole Turkish
army, and even Death itself! With one mighty bound The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen
leaps to the top of the all-time great fantasies chart, challenging Excalibur
for the number one position.
Technically flawless, with some dazzling effects, richly artistic designs, and
magnificent photography, this is a spellbinding picture by a movie magician. Bolder
than Jason's Argonauts, it out travels Gulliver and all the voyages of Sinbad. And
when the balloon finally goes up, the Baron triumphs over reality - in a gloriously
spectacular battle that will leave you gasping in amazement.
Er, you do believe me, don't you?
originally published in Strange Adventures - Summer Special 1989
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