The Adventures of Baron Munchausen appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Overall, the transfer satisfied.
Sharpness usually appeared solid. A smidgen of softness occasionally marred some wide shots, but the majority of the flick looked crisp and concise.
No issues with jagged edges, shimmering or edge haloes, and grain felt natural. In terms of print flaws, a speckle or two materialized, but otherwise the movie seemed clean.
Gilliam imbued the film with a nice golden tone, and the image seemed rich and lush. Colors looked fairly bold and vivid throughout the movie.
Black levels seemed deep and strong, and shadow detail appeared good, with nice clarity in the low-light shots. This turned into a compelling presentation.
The film's DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack was good for its age, as it presented a moderately effective soundstage, with a definite emphasis on the front. The forward range offered some appealing stereo imaging.
The audio tended toward the center, but a fair amount of sound emanated from the right and left speakers. Those elements managed to contribute some zip in the action scenes. Music offered strong stereo delineation as well.
The surrounds didn’t dominate, but they popped to life during various action scenes. They tended to seem passive during less violent sequences, though.
Audio quality appeared dated but acceptable. Though dialogue could be a bit thin, the lines remained intelligible and without much edginess.
Music was smooth and lively, with nice range. Effects could feel a bit rough at times and became the mix’s weakest link but they managed reasonable dimensionality. All of this felt like a “B” soundtrack.
How did this Criterion release compare to the 2008 Blu-ray release? Though I expected the two soundtracks to seem very similar, the Criterion track came across as more dynamic and it also showed a better delineated soundscape.
Visuals showed moderate improvements, with superior colors and definition from the Criterion. Both got identical “B+” grades, but the 2008 disc leaned toward the “B” side whereas the Criterion nearly got to “A-“ territory, so despite the same “B+” marks, the newer issue did seem stronger.
The Criterion version mixes old and new extras. On the movie disc, we find an audio commentary from writer/director Terry Gilliam and writer/actor Charles McKeown.
Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat in which they discuss sets, locations and design, cast, characters and performances, story and social interpretation, costumes and makeup, effects and music, and the many challenges and problems during the shoot.
Gilliam seems completely unable to ever bore as a speaker, and he adds a lot of zest to this track. As usual, he relates all the movie’s difficulties with almost a perverse glee, and I don’t think Gilliam’s happy unless he runs into complications. We get a good overview of a mix of issues during this consistently informative and entertaining piece.
A separate extras-only disc starts with a documentary called The Madness & Misadventures of Munchausen. Presented in three parts, it runs a total of one hour, 12 minutes, 18 seconds as it gives us movie clips, archival pieces and interviews.
We hear from Gilliam, McKeown, producer Thomas Schuhly, executive producer Steve Abbott, former Columbia Pictures president David Picker, Film Finances president Richard Soames, production designer Dante Ferretti, first AD Lee Cleary, US casting director Margery Simkin, UK casting director Irene Lamb, editor Peter Hollywood, production executive Joyce Herlihy, optical effects supervisor Kent Houston, and actors Jonathan Pryce, Eric Idle, John Neville, Sarah Polley, Bill Paterson, and Robin Williams.
“Madness” looks at the project’s origins and the development of the script, issues with producers, budget and financing, the flick’s crew and working in Italy, visual design and Gilliam’s take on the tale.
It also goes into cast, characters and performances, continued production and money problems, conflicts between the Brits and the Italians on the set, script changes, post-production, test screenings and further intrigue along with the film’s eventual release.
If you expect the usual fluffy reminiscence here, you’ll not find it with “Madness”. Nor should you, as a production so fraught with problems needs to be told with negativity at the forefront, as anything else would be completely dishonest and pointless.
Heck, even with all the horror stories on display here, I don’t know if we get the full picture for what a mess the production was. Nonetheless, “Madness” provides a wholly absorbing look at Munchausen.
It certainly delves into a mix of issues, spats and breakdowns as it chronicles the absurdity of life on the film. This is a fascinating program that benefits from the presence of so many participants, as I sure never expected to see Robin Williams here. Expect the show’s 72 minutes to pass quickly.
Special Effects presents a 16-minute, 10-second compilation accompanied by narration from Gilliam. While we watch aspects of the movie’s visuals during various stages, Gilliam offers details about the work. We get an informative and engaging show.
A collection of Storyboards arrives next. We get three of these: “The Baron Saves Sally”, “A Voyage to the Moon”, and “The Baron & Bucephalus Charge the Turkish Gates”.
These come with intros and “afterthoughts” from Gilliam and McKeown, and taken all together, the set fills 29 minutes, 35 seconds. We see filmed renditions of the boards along with script narration and other audio bits to act out the scenes.
All are good to see, as they show unfilmed aspects of the flick. “Moon” is definitely the most fascinating of the bunch since it so strongly differs from what we see in the final product.
Four Deleted Scenes come next. We find “The Rules of Warfare” (0:51), “Extended Fish Sequence” (0:56), “Mutiny Onstage” (0:57) and “Gull and Turkey Leg/Alternate Opening” (1:09).
“Rules” makes a joke clearer than in the final cut, though I actually think it works just fine there, as I always got the point. “Fish” and “Mutiny” offer a couple minor laughs.
“Opening” starts the film on a somewhat more elegant note. None of these are especially memorable, but they’re worth a look.
A mix of components arrive under Marketing Munchausen, and we open with Preview Cards. It runs 11 minutes, 50 seconds and comes with narration from Gilliam.
He goes through a mix of positive and negative viewer comments. We get a fun look at the reactions from a random audience, especially since so many focused on their love of Sting.
With Taglines, we find a three-minute, 51-second piece that offers more narration from Gilliam. We get a look at “taglines” proposed by the studio in this entertaining reel.
Meet Baron Munchausen lasts four minutes, 16 seconds and Gilliam details aspects of the movie, sometimes with fantasy involved. He mixes promotion and honesty in this unusual chat.
Along with the film’s trailer, “Marketing” concludes with a Production Featurette that spans seven minutes, 59 seconds. It offers notes from Gilliam, Neville, Idle, and Polley.
Most of the piece sticks with the usual advertising blather. However, a few useful elements emerge, so it offers a bit of value.
The Astonishing (And Really True) History of Baron Munchausen goes for 17 minutes, 20 seconds and presents a “video essay” from critic David Cairns.
As implied by the title, “Astonishing” delves into the historical Munchausen and the character’s use over the years. We get a nice view of the topic.
After this we find a 1991 episode of The South Bank Show that looks at Gilliam’s life and career through Fisher King. It fills 47 minutes, nine seconds and mainly includes comments from Gilliam along with a little from Python Michael Palin.
Gilliam discusses the aforementioned topics and also shows us props in his personal collection. As a life overview, the program seems rudimentary but effective, and the glimpses of Gilliam’s “museum” add value.
The disc ends with Miracle of Flight, an animated film Gilliam made in 1974. It runs five minutes, 24 seconds and depicts a comedic history of man’s attempts to fly.
The style will look very familiar to Python fans, as will the comedic tone. Flight becomes an amusing short.
Finally, a booklet presents art, credits and an essay from critic Michael Koresky. Though not one of Criterion’s best booklets, it adds value to the set.
While not quite a classic, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen offers pretty good entertainment. It suffers from a mix of problems but creates an interesting and amusing fable. The Blu-ray provides very good picture an audio as well as a consistently fascinating set of extras. I like the presentation of this fun movie, and the Blu-ray brings it home well.
To rate this film visit the prior review of THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN